Saturday, March 27, 2021


Why would someone name an appliance company Whirlpool? Don’t whirlpools suck things down? Things like ships. And sailors. The Corryvreckan whirlpool between the Jura and Scarba islands of Scotland is the third-largest whirlpool in the world. It’s believed to be unnavigable. Why anyone would consider navigating such a phenomenal whirl of water is beyond me. There’s a smaller whirlpool nearby called Little Corryvreckan. Divers who explore the area consider it as one of the most dangerous dives in Britain. And why? Why would you do that? I’ve done some imprudent things in my life (like choosing to become a writer in a postliterate age), but not that. Our refrigerator is a Whirlpool. Not literally, of course, or I’d be struggling to stay afloat every morning I went for some juice & eggs & a column of whirling water came roaring out. Not that that hasn’t happened a few times already. But that wasn’t a whirlpool that was just life being weird & awful. Old Sow is one of the largest whirlpools in the Western Hemisphere. Situated off the shores of Deer Island in New Brunswick, it’s formed by an extreme tidal range of opposing currents coming together, accelerated by the unusual seafloor topography of the area. The whirlpool makes a pig-like noise. Maybe it’s trying to converse. Imagine having a conversation with a whirlpool. You’d get lost. You’d get sucked into pig noises and strange paraphrases & even odder analogies.  I’ve been in conversations like that. You get sucked down & down & down & then you get up heavily & struggle to get your coat & get the fuck out of there. I once had a whirlpool of hair on the back of my head. I called it Implication, because of the implications, & now that area is bald. Has anyone fallen into a Whirlpool washer & lived to tell the tale? And what kind of an oxymoronic machine is a Whirlpool dryer? Whoever heard of a dry whirlpool? Or a whirlpool you carry around in a basket & pour out on a bed to fold? Whirlpools don’t like being folded. You can find yourself suddenly sucked into a shirt & lose all sense of time & place & go out unwittingly into public with a pair of underwear on your head.




Wednesday, March 24, 2021


I remember staring at the Rocky Mountains of Colorado from my grandparent's guest room window in Denver. The mountains fascinated me. We lived in Minnesota. There are no mountains in Minnesota. The land is flat, sometimes hilly, sometimes forested, but there are no mountains. Mountains were mythical, storied, extraordinary, colossal rocks, colossal outcroppings, vast mysterious forests of evergreen concealing bears and gold mines and old wooden buildings where armed outlaws and desperados played poker and drank whiskey from shot glasses. Mountains captured my imagination. And nothing compared to the reality of being on a mountain. On it, in it, through it, over it. The smell of pine was potent. Water ladled from a big oak barrel by my uncle’s cabin was the purest & coldest water I’d ever drunk. The water seemed primal. If you drank enough of it it could turn you into a dinosaur. Or a bear. I’d like life as a bear. Or so I thought. Now that I’m old I prefer life as a human. It’s easier to find food on a grocery shelf than stand in a mountain stream swatting at trout, dig up a toothsome root or claw honey out of a hive. I love honey, but I wouldn’t want to spend hours looking for it. I’m a spoiled human. Civilization has spoiled me. I have electricity to warm me & cook my food or keep it fresh & cold in a refrigerator. I have lights & TV & a laptop to hear music & see what people are up to. But no mountains. If you want to see a mountain you’ve got to go to a mountain. Climb the mountain. Sit on a rock & ponder the sky. And wonder where the air of the ordinary ends & the sky begins.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Deed Of Stone

On today’s run around the top of the hill, I see the word ‘alchemy’ staked to the ground on a stick. It’s a real estate sign. Why would a real estate company give itself the name of ‘alchemy’? What connection exists between the practice of alchemy and the practice of real estate? “Real estate is the practice of law regardless of jurisdiction dealing with matters relating to ownership and rights in real property including but not limited to the examination of titles, real estate conveyances and other transfers, leases, sales and other transactions involving real estate, condominiums, cooperatives, property owners associations and planned developments, internal ownership and external ownership.” Alchemy is “the medieval forerunner of chemistry, based on the supposed transformation of matter. It was concerned particularly with attempts to convert base metals into gold or to find a universal elixir.” I’m trying to see some relationship here. I’m not seeing it. Real estate is essentially concerned with ownership, and there is little, if any, mention of ownership in the annals and alembics of alchemy. House flipping – “property that a real estate investor buys, fixes up, and then sells too another buyer at a higher price than they paid for it,” is a form of transmutation. But this would be a very shallow analogy, if I were to try in earnest to assemble one. Alchemy is transcendent. Real estate is not. Alchemists seek the philosopher’s stone, a mythical substance with the power to change any metal into gold or silver, cure all diseases and prolong life indefinitely. Its discovery was the supreme object of alchemy. A Jungian interpretation would cast the philosopher’s stone more symbolically, as representing the transformation of the psyche, a guide to the depths of the unknown. The Philosopher’s Stone is the alchemist’s grail, a quest for self-realization, for becoming whole or holy. It is difficult to look for a similar symbology in real estate. Ownership is exclusion. You exclude others from the private enjoyment of what you own. You can share it if you choose, but the principle is the same. It is exclusionary. Alchemy is a holistic perspective, an ongoing process of synthesis, of bringing opposites together and achieving a state of equilibrium. It is a private journey, but there is no intent to exclude for the sake of exclusion, for enjoying the exclusive use of things. This is an unnatural position to take in a universe whose dynamic is one of constant interplay. So why would someone choose to name a real estate company with a term that has grown somewhat antiquated? It’s curious. Facts have a way of compelling recognition of themselves and may also contain a perception of contraries such as precipitates a fomenting agitation, and bubbles frantically, seeking distillation. It’s unlikely I’ll find the right solution, but it doesn’t matter. The fun is in bringing two unlike things together in a way that might make sense, or grow into an endless reverie of incongruous vocabularies, hoping something might emerge, an emulsion in which every sort of confusion is revealed within us, having an effect on us like magic.


Thursday, March 18, 2021

Whenever I Listen To Messiaen

Whenever I listen to Messiaen I’m never quite sure whether the music is crawling, gliding, or flying. Sometimes it moves quietly like a broad river at twilight, the surface dimpled occasionally by fish or insects, & sometimes it glides like a desert wind moving over sandstone, sculpting arches & angels. Sometimes is slithers like a snake with a colorfully patterned body. And sometimes it flies with the grace of an albatross, the oscillations of an organ braiding the air into ribbons of black & red & brown. And all of it mingled, like the minerals in Dead Sea mud. Takashi Kokubo, on the other hand, is nature singing itself into the fullness of being that is its true music. Music always wants fulfillment. It’s always ascending and descending, expanding and contracting. Its oscillations are the oscillations of oceanic consciousness, dilations of trance. Enchantment. Dispersion. Satori. The mingling of purity and mud. The thing itself, raw or cooked. Perhaps stored in a sunflower lapping at the sun’s bounty. What is Such-ness? Is it such a big deal? Is it good for old people? I’m green at this. Never made it to India. But old age engenders its own India. The topography varies from day to day. Some days it’s a Great Awakening, some days it’s arthritis and retail, and some days my knapsack is full of unsalted peanuts and Oreo cookies. If stirred up sediment is left alone the sediment will settle to the bottom and a clear pool of water will appear. When feelings settle at the bottom of the paragraph the rest of the words fall asleep. Dream arise. And this is a cause of igloos. Subaru windows fogged up on a street in Seattle. Where all kinds of things occur. And don’t occur. Occurrence is a strange phenomenon. It often occurs before you know it’s occurring. And then you realize something. You can put a plume in your hat and quack. Or run around naked as a jaybird shouting lagniappe! lagoon! lassiez-faire! Because it’s there. And because you can. There are things I will not do. I will not put lipstick on a lion. I will not wear the uniform of death, which is camouflaged in propaganda. But I will get a hammer and build something, a birdhouse or a rapid vibration of words that lead to satori. And what then? I’ll enjoy two mugs of coffee and get in a long wide sentence leading nowhere. Imagination gives you everything. The bizarre. The ineffable. Hostess Cupcakes, horses, and introversion. The rest of my day is a postmark predicated on Ava Gardner chopping the shit out of a lobster in a Mexican kitchen. I mean, we all like to talk, don’t we? I wonder what a conversation with the Covid virus would look like. I think it would go something like this: where are you from? Covid: silence. Are you here to make human beings disappear so the planet can heal itself? Covid: silence. Are you surprised that decimating the human population would be this easy? Covid: silence. Are you ... cough, cough ... excuse me ... cough, cough ... I'm sorry, I'm not feeling well, can we do this another time? Covid: silence. Covid speaks in code. In DNA. Figure. How odd that these little squiggles, these marks on paper or a computer screen, these little loops and sticks, a bit bigger, maybe, than the legs of a small insect, can carry the weight of so much history, so much conflict and pain, so much love, so much tender perception, so much provocation for another pair of eyes, another being attentive and appreciative of these marks. There is, at present, a gross insensitivity to it which is consistent with the fall of empires. But there are a few who still bring themselves to make them walk, fly, crawl, struggle like a dying moth beating at a window to make a light in someone’s head.




Sunday, March 14, 2021


Coming home, finishing our usual three-mile run around the crown of Queen Anne hill, R spotted an object in a round patch of dirt in which a tree had been planted by an apartment complex. I thought it was a root that had surfaced and which resembled a human figure, with two stout legs and a narrow torso. I moved in for a closer look. It was a rubber giraffe. The color of the giraffe was remarkably similar to the color of the tree. Funny we use the same word for arms and legs – limbs – as we do for the branches of trees. We are walking talking trees with a bush on our head. “O, he’s a limb that has but a disease; Mortal, to cut it off; to cure it, easy,” wrote Shakespeare in Coriolanus. My left arm is still a little sore from my Covid vaccination shot earlier today. The vaccination procedure was smoothly organized at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center. After the shot, which I barely felt, I was instructed to go sit in a booth with a strip of blue cardboard sticking up, indicating it had been sanitized, and wait there fifteen minutes, just to make sure I wasn’t going to be in jeopardy if I had an allergic reaction. I was given a timer, a cylindrical, drum-shaped implement with a dial that felt surprisingly heavy. A patch of blue lessened by the second into a smaller and smaller crescent. When it dinged, I raised my hand, and a health official appeared, a young woman with long black hair. She took the timer and put it in a tray marked “dirty timers.” I felt very little, if any, effect for the rest of the day. A tiny bit woozy, maybe. The word ‘vaccine’ comes from Latin and means “pertaining to cows, from cows.” Latin for cow is ‘vacca.’ The word ‘vaccine’ was initially used by British physician Edward Jenner for the technique he developed for preventing smallpox by injecting people with the similar but much milder virus. Vaccines trigger our immune systems to produce proteins that fight the invasive virus without being overwhelmed by it. T and B cells recognize distinct structures (or antigens) sourced from the virus. T cells detect and kill infected cells. B cells produce antibodies that neutralize the virus. Since the antigens in the vaccine are sourced from the weakened or noninfectious material from the virus, there’s little chance of severe infection. Everything seems to be besieged, one way or another. What I look forward to the most is no longer having to dodge people on the sidewalks and streets when I’m out running. I will still wear a mask, just to be on the safe side, but I won’t worry so much when I go whizzing by someone within a few inches. I also look forward to being able to go into a library again to check out a book. Why libraries had to remain closed while gyms and nail and hair salons got to remain open is a mystery to me. And the nice feeling that we won’t be barred from the rest of the world, which will also be relaxing its restrictions, people resuming the flow and circulation of the agora, that aorta of the social pulse.


Thursday, March 11, 2021

My Crude Arena Shirt

This is my crude arena shirt. It has forty buttons of fire shoveled from a theory of Martian cats and a fat vagrant collar of wandering veins. The sidewalk flu is sitting in an armchair waiting for a nerve report and fizzes like Pakistan in the rain. It's a hectic day moved around the world by a giant porcelain shadow. I have a mania for asking my steps where they’re taking me. They respond with oozing desire. They don’t know anything. They cut the lazy day into beautiful strips of blue and yellow to provide us with mollusks and paprika. They know how to do this. But they don't know how to explain anything. There is an abandoned glass of buttermilk resting on a chestnut commode by the eye of a glaring candle. How can anyone explain that? Extension enters its needles and a small blue mass propels itself across the open field drinking the darkness of thorns. And in broad daylight, too. To say nothing of the sun and its ruby mouth kissing the lavender of Provence. This is where grenadine and pearls encounter one another. And now the evening is in knots. I knew this would happen. There’s a quantum hornet on my shoulder and an awesome amalgamation of splashes in my silverware. Just open the drawer. You can hear it. It sounds like the radical gelatin of an ingenious whale regatta as it experiences the universe descending from your eyes as you read this sentence in your private realm. I’m assuming it’s private. I could be overstepping my bounds. But isn’t that what we all do? Sometimes I just stand and stare at the face towels in the bathroom. It isn’t the same as gazing at the surface of Mars, but it offers a verisimilitude of drool to the squeak of morning as the sediments of earth crawl into their reclusive realms and a woman’s scarf blows through the hollow of a sandstone arch.



Monday, March 8, 2021

Dead Rabbit

Today as we were beginning our usual three-mile run I was first to get to the top of the hill. I looked down and saw R staring at an object on the sidewalk. I imagined it was a bit of clothing, jacket or sweater someone accidentally dropped. R came up and told me it was a dead rabbit. It looked fresh, the skull crushed and blood still coming out. We decided to deal with it later. It was lying in front of the house next door, a duplex, a set of young Russians upstairs and a young couple downstairs who had moved in several months ago and began making their own furniture, much to my irritation. I don’t deal well with noise. When we got back the rabbit was still there. R went to the park to feed her two blue jays and I showered and dressed. We proceeded with our usual routine of having dinner and watching a series on Netflix, this time season three of The Sinner, with Bill Pullman. The main suspect in a car accident whose details arouse deepening suspicions in Pullman’s gray-bearded, world-weary detective Harry Ambrose is experiencing difficulties of a complex & mysterious nature. His beautiful wife is pregnant and he complains of feeling numb. He can’t find his feelings. This appears to have been the reason he got in touch with his old friend from 18 years ago with whom, it appears, he shared an intense friendship based on a mutual obsession with twisted Nietzschean principles & death mania & the imp of the perverse. We pause the show and I do the dishes. R decides to go remove the rabbit from the sidewalk. She gets a pair of surgical gloves for the both of us and two plastic kitchen trash bags and we don our masks and go down to get the rabbit. I wonder how, if it got hit by a car, and was killed instantly, did it end up on the sidewalk? It wouldn’t have been able to crawl there. Did something hit it on the sidewalk? A bicyclist? That seemed very unlikely. The laziest of rabbits would’ve moved. When we got close to the body we could see the eyes were missing and there was a wound in its belly caused by an animal with sharp talons. We guessed a raptor, an eagle or a hawk or an owl. There has been an uptick of raptors in the neighborhood due to habitat loss, a combination of wildfires and insanely aggressive home construction in the Cascade foothills. R wrapped the trash bag around the body and I lifted it. It still felt soft and supple. We put it in the trash, which felt disrespectful, but it’s what the city recommends for dead animals under 15 pounds. One thing did flash through my mind: there are regions in the U.S. that would’ve had no problem making a dinner out of br'er rabbit. I once implied the same scenario to a lady in the suburbs about the local squirrels. She told me it had already begun: squirrel apocalypse.


Friday, March 5, 2021

Everything You Need To Know In Life

Should a poem be hard or soft? Can there be a softness so soft it’s hard? Can there be a hardness so hard it’s soft? What silly questions. I must be going soft. It’s hard to go soft. It takes a lot of hardness to let yourself be soft. Being is soft. And hard. Hard to be. Hard to be soft. Nobody sleeps on granite. Except the sky. The sky takes its clouds off and lies down on the mountain and that’s called night. The sky gets up and puts a soft cloud to its face and that’s dawn. You know what I mean. Everything you need to know in life is in the small of a woman’s back. I like the way curves insinuate what they’re doing, which is sly, and gracile, and flourishes in subtlety. The appetite is sharp. The mind is hungry. But not for knowledge. The mind wants chicken fingers. Songs and fluidity. The mind flirts with the universe and the universe flirts back. Marriage soon follows and books and nuclear fusion. This is why people sit in their parked cars gazing at the lights of Los Angeles, or the glitter of the Mediterranean, or nothing at all. “Let’s go surfing now, everyone’s learning how, come on a safari with me.” What is going on in your head this minute? Never mind. As soon as Julius Caesar passes, someone shoot him with a rubber band. Empires suck. And no. I don’t have a utopia. I’m fresh out. I thought I saw one go by a minute ago but it was just a float from a Macy’s parade lost in time and space. This much we know: feelings have shapes. But then why would the ghost of a cow appear to us as a steak? Death is nothing but sugar skulls. Despair is more circular, more like a tiger with a snake between her teeth. Faith comes to us dressed as a Gregorian chant. It’s ok. It looks fine. Just put the fucking turkey in the oven. Let your mind wander a little. Imagine the life of Lesley Gore. You don’t own me. Nobody owns me. I don’t own me. I don’t even have a warranty. What I do have is an embroidered shoe, a lobed Delft dish with a swan, and Constance Hopkin’s beaver hat. Meanwhile, The Band sings “The Shape I’m In,” which gives me speed bumps. I tell you. It’s been quite a trip. When did it begin? I try to find an answer in Gustave Courbet’s The Origin of the World. Until I wrote this, it did not exist, and so by writing it into existence, have I brought myself closer, a little nearer to the centrality of the situation? I don’t remember much of my arrival. I was probably wet, and crying, and very confused. And here I am many years later still crying, still confused. But writing. Bringing things into existence. Is that a cala lily at the end of this sentence? The indefinability of Being wiggles a finger in the slippery core of the universe. And the universe gets excited and expands into a first lieutenant standing on a hill. Watching the sun set on the Potomac. Which is my current understanding of water. I’ve pinned a little here, in the form of spittle. Don’t worry. It’s already evaporated & floating over an amusement park. What I mean to say is that I’m led to feel what I feel and I feel what I feel when I’m led to feel what I feel. But what leads me to say these things? Skeeter Davis? The Songs That Shaped 1963. Dinosaurs and surgeons and conjecture. My life has been an odyssey of fugues and curious latitudes. Irritations spur streams of consciousness but not as much as you think. Sometimes they just make me want to watch sunlight pass through a glass full of Chablis. Nothing is ever so near to us as a diving board. Here I go, leaping into space. Destiny is for swans. Space is for larks.



Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Strange Medicine

Next came trickling a series of surgeons. It was a rough experience, apt to include despondency at odd moments, like at the state fair, when you wore a crown of codeine and a dress made of reindeer tears. Then, at seventeen, came rites of passage and endless bottles of beer. I fell in love with negative ions and the smell of rain. An air charged with shadow. Lightning in the veins. When the poem first arrived it was starchy and anemic and we had to drag it out of the classroom into the open air where we could resuscitate it. I battled for twelve years against discouragement, poverty and debt to sustain it, to keep it going, to climb onto it with the help of a stepladder and a friendly reflection named Chacha. When the landlady discovered a dead baby in my closet, and she believed it to be her own dear William whom she’d buried the previous week, I was fortunate that the face was still intact and that anyone could plainly see it was a ventriloquist’s dummy named Johnny B Goode. I’m not that rash, and when called to do an operation, I bring a drill and a dueling pistol. It is an art to secure an accurate history of wax. Sooner or later – insensibly, unconsciously – the iron yoke of conformity is upon our necks: and in our minds, as in our bodies, the force of habit becomes a sport bra, a kind of steerage for fatty tissue and warm ocean currents. Do you want to boogie? While subject to the laws of logic, I believe that cross-examining a strawberry depends entirely on the technical proficiency of chewing. Knowledge of the significance of physical signs alone is useless unless the river flows over itself and combines revelation with treasure. And by treasure I don’t mean rubies and Anglo-Saxon helmets, I mean emptiness, spicy, lopsided, sparkling emptiness. The kind you don’t have to launder and fold because it doesn’t exist. There’s a close analogy between clinical music and medicine. Just imagine hearing Randy Meisner sing “Take It To The Limit” as the propofol kicks in. One may know harmony and counterpoint, but without the crackle of an index finger on your skin the softness of a woman’s back is just geographical. Technique in music produces beauty of tone; in romance it secures accuracy of data. There are many sources of error in diagnosis; you need to tell the difference between a thigh and a vestibule, a rib and a nasturtium, or a breast and an afternoon in Provence. Think of the penis as a value-added activity increased at each stage of its performance. The vagina as a tray of Andalusian silver. And isn’t a head really just a roller derby of bad attitudes and snappy punchlines? It’s also a nice place to put hair. It is here that the poet steps into the sounds straining to make themselves into elevators, throbs of exaggeration, emotive locomotives on the shiny rails of the marvelous.

Monday, March 1, 2021


Fascination with the pale grey softness of my cat’s ear with a bit of lamp light passing through the thin membrane. I wonder what Mick Jagger would’ve looked like if he’d gone bald. That woman I saw come out of Bartell drugs today while sitting in the car waiting for R, reading René Char, thirty-something I’m guessing, with long – and I mean long – black hair, black jacket, black pants, black boots. It seemed to be there wasn’t a single assumption you could make about her. She could’ve been libertarian, an avid Ayn Rand reader, or a doom rock aficionado with a heavy immersion in Black Sabbath or Earth or Sun O))). She could’ve been an ambassador from the planet Clafoutis or an interior decorator with a chichi Seattle firm. She could’ve been a zoologist with a medical degree and a pet boa at home. I have a feeling that if I were introduced I’d be stunned with what she was actually all about. Irritating that the paper napkin I use to protect the desk sticks to the bottom of my coffee mug. I watch a French documentary about Senegal, a group of women canoeing in the Saloum Delta arrive at a beach to dig for oysters, a mountain of oyster shells nearby, nearly as big as the one I once saw by the Ark restaurant in Nahcotta, Washington on the Long Beach peninsula. It’s almost been one year since we last ate at a restaurant, because of the pandemic. I listen to the Martian wind through NASA’s Perseverance rover’s sensors. It sounds remarkably like any wind I’ve heard on Earth. But it’s deceptive. It sounds like home but it’s not. At ground level the Martian atmosphere has a pressure of 6.518 millibars or 0.095 psi as compared to the Earth’s sea level atmosphere pressure of 14.7 psi. The “gear-ratio” for Mars is 226:1, meaning every kilogram of material you send requires a rocket to burn 225 kilograms of fuel.  It is often thus: the clenched fist seeks the anvil, even if it has to smash the wild lilies. Each one of us is sand filtering through the fingers of whatever hand brought us here. Cat on my lap, purring, she looks up at me and I gaze into her eyes, which are a glowing, iridescent green, more like jewels than eyes, and wonder, as her eyes shift about, what might be going through her mind, and what that mind be like, and what is a mind, exactly? That moment when you suddenly realize that the curious object you’re staring at in the bedroom mirror at the foot of the bed is your own head. Is there a limit to knowledge? Only if there’s a knowledge of limits. One thing I’d like to do before I die is watch how a Viking sword gets made. Visit the hot springs and lava fields of Iceland. The Viking World Museum in Njarðvík, Reykjanesbær. Step into the past. Egil Skallagrímsson, Viking skald, sorcerer, berserker, and farmer. Wonder what he grew. What can you grow in Iceland? Potatoes, turnips, rhubarb, carrots and cabbage. “There was a man named Ulf, the son of Bjalfi and of Halbera, the daughter of Ulf the Fearless.” So begins Egil’s Saga, which ends around the year 1,000.