Wednesday, May 19, 2021

The Sacred Juice Of The Jukebox

Sound is a negotiable medium. You can hammer it into words. You can garden it with drums. You can chew it around in your brain and heat it in the furnace of the heart and shoot it out of the mouth in the form of words. Bullets of sound. Patterns of sound. Madrigals and rhubarb. Music is patterned sound. Language is patterned sound. Music doesn’t burden itself with meaning. It can have meaning but the meaning is mercurial and shifts around. Language goes around adorned in meaning but when the lighter-than-air giddiness of music gets into it and shivers the tonsils and smacks the palate with the tongue it gladly takes on the burden of meaning and spreads it out onto the table like big silver coins. That’s what poetry is. It’s language engorged with music. Not necessarily assonance and alliteration and rhyme and meter. Those are jingly & nice but that’s not the essence of music. Simple sentences can have music. Nothing ostentatious. Nothing flashy. The music is in the syntax. The music is in the lightness of the words. Not light in the sense of superficial. Light in the sense of supple. Light like the bones of birds.

You can put words into music and that will make a song be a song. But a song isn’t a poem. A poem goes unadorned into the air. It has a charge. A song derives its power from rhythm and drums and people shouting and howling and murmuring and carrying a melody. A poem paces the room like a prisoner in a jail cell. It’s never happy with the meaning it has it wants the keys to the jail. It wants out. It wants to be music. Poetry always wants to be music because music has the music to be music. Language is pulled down by semantic weight. Politicians use it to trick people. Lawyers use it to confuse people. Poets use it to blow the prison up.

Any discernment of patterns in experience will lead to nudity. Emotions laid bare. Emotions popped out of their containment and squirted into the world like notes from a trumpet. The rodeo on the radio is audible in Idaho. Snorts, stomps, kicks. The bull wants you off his back. The words don’t want your meaning to ride them where you want to go. The words want to go elsewhere. This is what makes discourse happen and conversation and arguments and friendships and unanticipated renaissances that shift everyone’s thinking and upturn the dominant paradigm. Nobody is ever truly in control. Poets make this clear. Poetry is the opposite of control. And this makes it the most dangerous most subversive energy of all time. Life itself is subversive. Even the musicians agree. Poetry lights the walls of hell with the radiance of its actualization.

Language works by fixed association: symbols with a reference ingrained by convention. This is where music comes in. Music - as an audible dynamic pattern free of fixed association - floats, drifts, meanders. Ascends, descends, glides. Its autonomy is exhilarating. Inject this spirit into a body of words and language becomes an enthralling numinous voltage whose definitions are volatilized by the sacred juice of the jukebox. Music gives language an impassioned immediacy, an untethering that expands its power of evocation. But the real magic, the power that drives both music and language, is interrelation. Music is an interrelation of tones and tempos and pitches and keys. Language is an ebullience of syntactical energies bound by semantic intent. Language is always a little envious of music. Its rules and symbols crave the immediacy of music. Not assonance. Not alliteration. That’s just tinsel. What language wants is a ticket on the train. That woman in a dream. That seat by the window. That herd of wild horses spilling over the hill. 


Monday, May 17, 2021


Here comes a moment. I can feel it. Feel it coming. It will be here in a moment. I can feel its momentum. Its mood. Its mooring. Its arrival from space. It has the weightless force and heat of a soul, an indefinable energy, an oscillation of waves. Nothing defines it. It’s a loose, indeterminate emergence of time, the debris of time, no specificity, no particularity other than the sensation of forward momentum. The moment a mimosa blooms. And the moment it dies. It’s fundamentally a bump in time. The flight of a wasp: erratic, but fiercely determined. When something is indefinite there’s a temptation to throw words at it. Sometimes a shape will emerge, a vague geometrical form. And that will be the moment the moment arrives and is gone. But is it? If you can dispute a Renaissance you can be a Renaissance. Every day is a Renaissance. We hear thunder. The clouds crack open and the rain pours down. You can smell it: negative ions. When molecules of air break apart, you get the imprimatur of chaos. Random irregularities which are the outward ragout of an underlying pattern. Fractals, interconnectedness, feedback loops and rubber bands. A butterfly flapping its wings in Texas causes a typhoon in Taiwan. And it’s a fragrance like no other. An energy on the loose. There’s a suggestion of fuchsia, of femininity, and fireworks. Bacchanals. Champagne spurting out of a bottle. Bubbles and alcohol. Stemmed glasses. Weddings and enzymes. It’s not easy to change a mind but it’s easy to alter a mood. And maybe when all is said and done changing a mind is easier than you think. I was eager to see the shadows remove their shoes & dance on the walls of my grammar. Here’s the thing: I crave the sun’s heat to go into my bones and take a quick look around. Or something to that effect. There are certain desires that can go on & on & on for billions of years. It’s now late in the play & I’m getting dizzy from being this old & wondering if I will have enough hair at the end of my life to do a credible performance of “Paint It Black” at Glastonbury. But is hair the issue? Find yourself in what is different. Producing a play means scenery, costumes, and nerve. Most recent productions suggest GAD: Generalized Anxiety Disorder. But I’ve got a prescription for that. We’re all plagued with one thing or another. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Said Susan Sontag. I have gustatory rhinitis, benign prostatic hyperplasia & chronic hypergraphia & so I try to extract whatever wisdom I can from sunsets, turpentine & Jack Kerouac. I think density is mostly mass with a dash of thickness. For example, quarks crackle in my new Hawaiian shirt, but the electrons in my eyebrows are totally insane. Ideas are mostly ribbon. But thoughts are pure goldish. The great thing is that when symmetry is pushed to its limits & gets asymmetrical the punchbowl groans like a window into the unknown, which is served with a glass of crisis. 


Friday, May 14, 2021

The Sleep Of The Armadillo

I feel the exultation of stone. Heat ascends my paraphernalia. I’m doing this out of sheer patriotism. I love a deep rich dirt deepened by the subtlety of rain & engines of mist & heliotrope. I think to heat up my face. It generally works best in the dark. This is where the ghosts hang out. Each one is holding a phone conversation. A ruby has faith in itself because an armchair calls for boiling. This happened once in a dream & another time in the open where the words appeared to carry it away in a circus. No gun is truly cosmetic. There’s a poet in Los Angeles who stuffs all of his metaphors with exotic adjectives & this makes life tolerable & occult. I laugh sometimes when the moment calls for luxury. The queen of jiggles slides easily out of her box & stands there nude as an embankment. There are needs that need expression & needs that need a sound to make them silver. It’s because the river sews itself up that the current heads for Las Vegas on a wild sewing machine. This is flowing now & works like a skeleton dancing crazily on a rose-colored pessimism. The night is broken into drops of breezy rain. And then I got up to see what the universe was doing outside in a cartoon. My mouth goes to sleep in a foggy state & wakes up on another face looking back at me from the bathroom mirror. But hey I haven’t mentioned how all the patterns ran down the tarmac looking for a good denouement. The top drawer makes a spectacle of itself whenever I go looking for a new pair of socks. I see it as a conflagration of diamonds on a Sunday in Cornwall. Meaning is hard to find when it’s so frankly yearning for a kiss & a hug that people just walk by ignoring it. Yellow inflates a shape of thoughtless bliss & then topples over after a piece of reality punches it with a fist of mathematics. Grammar is always so sad. The articles try to frame things in a more exalted manner but the prepositions get lost in their cooking. The salt is up when the pepper is down & the infatuations are in a heap in the kitchen sink. Forks are claws and the lucidities are nestled in spoons. The kettle begins to whistle in its state of constant reverie. It looks like I’m moving but I’m standing still. The lung barometer is old and the alembic hangs from a hip of Thursday. Is any of this beginning to resemble a cynical bonfire tangled in plastic? I hope not. Winter still hangs a little in the spring air. The axle of the text allows the words to roll forward thereby creating furniture and calories to rattle in the eyes like swans. Can it be that pearls of sugar are the result of a high fever? Yes, and the soul of a shadow that comforts the sleep of the armadillo.


Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The Differences

The differences are spreading. And spreading. But spreading differently. The differences differ in undulation. Transparency. Opacity. Sometimes a difference resembles a mastodon and the mighty animal moves with the elegance of massive muscle and bone, a studied rhythm, an intelligible squint in a large deep eye, the blink of a god, a deity with tusks. And this is different from a clam, because a clam doesn’t have tusks, but it does have a stomach, and a kidney and gills, and a mouth and a foot and labial palps, and moves by foot if on land and by currents if submerged, and these things are different from one another, and keep spreading, the differences spread into indiscriminate objectives, and flurries of pertinence, and recoiling and spurs. Icicles drip from an ichthyologist’s hut. Drumsticks are dissimilar from pedals, but this doesn’t mean that nibbling is international, it means that nibbling is emotional, and there is a face gazing out of a window. A face is different from glass and glass is different from news and this makes the differences spread into pluralities of bread and energies endowed with goodwill and estuaries where improbable biologies find sustenance and sunlight and this is different from butter. Necessities are sometimes necessary but the difference between a hardship and an adversity is in the economics of meaning, which is grooves and history, and rolls forward on a contradistinction. The axis of the world is greased by change. The sky today is different from yesterday’s sky which was different than the sky that occurred last Sunday, and these are differences that distinguish one day from the next, and spread into a thesis of flux, and clouds, and fingers of air gripping a bulb of words, no two words alike, and each a filament of light.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

A Very Special Relationship

I have a very special relationship with the world. I live in a thimble with an immense and highly immoral robot. Together we peruse guitars and hum the songs of herrings. We are inchoate. We are modern and postmodern, simultaneously, the way manuals are written, and ski poles become paternal, with integrated flasks in the hollow of the pole. The fuselage in which we postulate iconoclastic hiccups is made of a derelict glass. This makes the subjunctive hoot like a drum. Life becomes incandescent, a large fat exuberance with iron rails and a lecherous smokestack.  And so suddenly there’s a kangaroo on a beach, and the setting sun creates a long shadow, which I later find folded neatly in my back pocket, and take it out and give it a shake and find that it’s endowed with grunts and maelstroms of sock. This can change so swiftly inside a sentence that even as the words collect and gain momentum the homilies drop from sight and the atmosphere turns funerial. Everything revels in hazel when it is realized that words are only substitutes and behind them is nothingness, and all the horseflies in the world cannot make a truer beginning than a man walking out of a saloon in a suede indemnification. But a beginning of what? And is there ever a real beginning to anything? Isn’t what is beginning already begun? So how can anyone say that a liquor is onyx when it tastes like kumquat? Clearly, it is intuition that nominates the reefs of a small island and mopeds that bounce around in a ledger full of duplicate fathoms. And what was initially perceived to be privilege is only another onus disguised as a lexicography. This is why I hunt with a pack of question marks and bend the ironic to make dew.


Friday, May 7, 2021

A Very Stupid Haiku Tattoo

The man taking our orders for burgers this afternoon at Provisions on Queen Anne Avenue North had a clipper ship tattooed on his forearm. I asked if he liked clipper ships, hoping for a good story. Yes, he liked clipper ships. He said something else which I couldn’t quite make out. I thought he’d said he’d been a cook on a clipper ship, which would be a pretty good story to go along with a tattoo. But he didn’t say that. I don’t know what he said. The kitchen was loud. The prevalence of tattoos over the last several decades has been phenomenal. I’m not sure what it means. I’ve never had the urge to get a tattoo, but if I did get a tattoo, what would I get? I’m thinking a haiku. It’d put it on my forearm, for easy readability. And I’d want it in Japanese characters. Something by Basho, maybe, or my own composition. “A bottle of antibacterial gel / keeps the wind / from stealing our napkins.” Or maybe a physics equation. The wave equation, or Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. On my forehead. Looking at you – wavily - with strange quizzical symbols. But these thoughts pass lightly through my mind without stirring up much sediment. I don’t need uncertainty pricked into my arm with the deep black ink of an afternoon tattoo. My needs are simple. Food, warmth, affection. Laptops aren’t needs laptops are luxuries. But I wish I could save my old laptop. It was killed by a haiku. It wasn’t. Not really. But that would make a good tattoo. A very interesting tattoo. A haiku murdering a laptop. Like Moby Dick smashing the Pequod to smithereens. But haikus are small, very slight, very subtle phenomena. That would be a dumb haiku. A very stupid haiku tattoo. Riding the forearm of a man imagining life on the open sea while taking a sip of frozen lemonade on a May afternoon.


Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Wood Is So Beautiful

Wood is so beautiful it demands a second look. The poet’s rattle confirms this with bits of bone from the carcass of an albatross. My jokes fall flat. Not equally but more like a river that flows through the conversation with ducks and canoes. The ducks are funny but the canoes are tragic, like innocence. I think it’s time we produced a movie, a dramedy pale as heartwood, starring muscle cramps and Brad Pitt as a cocker spaniel. Backyards are for rumination. This is where your employment begins. You, the reader, plying your way through this sentence, which is muddy, and firm as Miro’s grip on color. Put this harness on. You’ll need it for the spasms. Orange debris drifts through a biography of the universe, which began as a stone, singed and unearthed from a misunderstanding. The sun gets to heaven fast down in New Orleans. A bronze Buddha smiles with the gentle acceptance of a brush moving over a head of thinning hair. I feel a thrill moving up the spine. Our postulates are opals. Our conclusions are knobs. Death clenches an echo. The red mind of an osprey sparkles under a blue sky. I’ve got a habit of imitating food long as a grocery receipt. Art deals with the imponderable. No fire is bashful that burns with its own development. The smell of creosote imbues the meaning of an afternoon with desolation, which sits on the horizon like a charred stagecoach. The map is not the territory. But the trees celebrate their leaves with ramification as the stylus swallows its eyes and a noun bounces across the moon mud, flames blooming from the tip of an index finger. The tea is green as a barn full of Pythagorean cows, a glob of spit on a palette of luminous paint. I’m all wrinkles & aggression, a fizz of undecided bones morose as a book shelf in a Parisian attic, the night’s sublimity apparent in an upheaval of stars. The guests are leaving, their rockets burning far out in space. The smell of burnt toast disguises all the blooming going on. Why are ruins always so romantic? What’s romantic about death? Did you notice that as I said that the sidewalk murmured something about napkin rings? Umber is the lumber of slumber. It takes years to build an abstraction. London has its needs. We endure these emotions by explaining them. The imitations are soaked in blood. A locomotive in the hallway bespeaks the interior snaps of a fiction embedded in a handful of words, each one a supposition, and everything a hypothesis, which triggers cartilage and flexibility, enough to knot a tie, open the door and enter the world.

Monday, May 3, 2021

The Persistence Of Art

Art persists it isn’t dying not yet anyway it’s still here still a cause for meaning and the search for meaning bankers and lawyers are always looking for loopholes and so are artists they wrestle shadows they echo the unknown they pull it here and shove it into people’s ears and eyes and noses and let it be understood that mass is massive yes but so is the tallow of the ice age caves art began in silence and dark we are surrounded by invisible powers look at the way insistence works crabs walking sideways guitarists bending notes. What is it about art that makes you want to do art is art a power yes I believe there’s power in art just as there’s power in tractors and cows this is me mooing salmon swimming around my knob the bank is opening its doors the tellers are telling jokes the whispers are chisels and there’s chemistry in the exchanges between people once some pain gets here we can talk about supposition and how the imagination opens the eyes peregrines bursting out of a landscape painted in delicate hues nuances of purple and green everything is wildly tangential Franz Marc bends to tie his shoe and there are Bedouins dancing on the dunes Norseman scattering runes the language of art bears the sparkle of presumption breeds tin and dissonance the heart is a red machine heed its feelings just skim a few pages and see what you need what you’re looking for may be a moment’s notice or an old woman scraping the meaning out of her life with great meditative force and courage. I’m going to start a paradigm now dangle some horses from a balloon words are timeless entities tubs full of laundry men and women in a chronological dance starlings demonstrate the brilliant fluidity of connectedness I’m running on the spars of a ghost ship I’m washing my shirt with a lovely new detergent I wonder how it happens that things arise in the mind Aphrodite rising out of a wave. Here’s a sky put it on do the clouds fit does the air feel good there’s a herd of buffalo grazing on prairie grass fingers are masterpieces of dexterity human biology is not above crawling now and then your slither is titillating we persist in our dream of a future as if the grain were thriving in a delta the murmuring of earth’s vulva turn red with propulsion a bat roars out of its cave hopes are constructions beauty is more than a bar of soap it’s subversive it’s redemptive it’s dangerous and locomotive I sit here in confusion and shiver I have no doubt poetry expands consciousness especially when there’s no other port in sight and the hurricane is coming the winds are spurred by words nobody learns to march in procession without a good reason and yes pears are delicious but some of us are boiling inside pensive like Cézanne on a train gazing at the landscape as it passes by a butterfly on a loaf of sourdough the sky is crying its tears glue the rainforest back together ambiguity gets shiny from swimming a jade bowl brimming with tea reflects the moot investigations of calculus books on a shelf hooves in the rain hope blankets our despair but the temerity of art upturns the cart and we slip on our assumptions and find there is merit in depiction tonics in string.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Reflections On A Slag Heap

There’s a slag heap in east Iceland that is the height of a two-story building. It’s a remnant from the Viking age where a lot of iron was made for axes and swords and the rivets and washers for ships. At another Viking smelting site - L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland - the wrought iron was rich in silicate impurities which formed a glassy surface on the iron, protecting it from rust, even when immersed in sea water. The bulk of the iron was made from bog iron, impure iron deposits that develop in bogs or swamps by the biochemical oxidation of iron carried in solution. Oxidation may occur through enzyme catalysis by iron bacteria. What impresses me is the incredible amount of work in smelting this iron. And the artistry & delicate balances involved in bringing the iron bloom to fruition. And a lot of hammering. A continuous ringing of hammer on iron bam! bam! bam! bam! Those iconic images of muscular heathens in bear fur and helmets have the smelt of truth about them. It’s easy to imagine a life hardened by intense cold, jagged rock, bracken seas with huge swells, the monotony of rowing, the rage to live, the rage to kill, the rage to exalt the strange events of life in the ringing metal of a good saga. But why Norse history has such a hold on my imagination is bewildering. It doesn’t make sense. It’s not in me to swing an ax and lop off somebody’s head, to plunder and destroy. Or is it? Is there another me in me I choose not recognize? I do relate significantly to Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents. I know I have impulses that run contrary to the things I value. I’m no stranger to rage. My emotions run the gamut from serene acceptance to fiery opposition. I’ve also been known to go berserk occasionally. Nevertheless, these tendencies are just that: tendencies. I’d make the world’s worst Viking. I lean more toward the unorthodox pleasures of an eccentric, sequestered aesthete à la Jean des Esseintes than a man given to the camaraderie of battle, the lure of adventure and a lust for conquest. What drives my fascination with Viking culture is a more elemental appreciation of life. No cancel culture, climate change or mindless consumerism. One could not ignore the uglier realities of life or the authenticity of one’s inner being with a video game. Norse technology didn’t allow for the palliatives of denial or mental vacuity. And the complexity and subtlety of their literature and art is stunning, especially when you consider the bleak, unforgiving environment of ice and rock in which they cultivated what is undeniably a profound sensitivity, a craving for the marvelous and sublime. Their legacy isn't entirely one of berserker violence: they helped fuel the world's imagination with contrivances of ingenious skill and beauty. They contributed the words 'law,' 'happy,' and 'plough.' The savagery & predation of the Vikings, however, hasn’t gone away. It's just no longer strictly a Viking phenomenon. It's a global, multicultural affliction. War is pandemic. And the weapons are highly sophisticated. The most lethal among them may not necessarily be the nuclear bomb, but money. The ravages of unbridled capitalism. The swords & axes of Wall Street are encased in nefarious hedge funds & deceptive credit expansion. Who needs iron when you’ve got an arsenal of financial instruments with which to bludgeon people & take their money? The violence of bombs is terrible; but so is the violence of austerity and servitude. It's hard to calculate who had the better quality of life, we in the 21st century wearing masks and keeping a safe distance from one another, or the Vikings of medieval Scandinavia. The Vikings didn’t have healthcare. Nor do many of us in the modern age. Life in the 21st century is full of great conveniences, particularly for billionaires, who get to fly into space for a few hours of weightless fun. Those of us with less financial advantage benefit from things like washing machines and wireless internet. We can twitter all day on a smartphone or play Hitman or Valheim while waiting for a pizza delivery. It's a brave new world and nothing beats electric lights or running water. We could say we have some advantages, yes. Penicillin and antibiotics. But life in medieval Scandinavia was enriched with wonderful sagas, prodigious memories & tangible skills. They had sunstones, runes, and intricate arts. We have Netflix, Pornhub, & Pop-tarts.