Saturday, November 20, 2021

Hot Air

Old walls fascinate me. Especially if they're covered with moss and lichen. Or cracked. It makes me want to sing. But the song must be cracked. And covered with moss and lichen. And the voice must be cracked and burdened with regret. Or creamy and resigned like Billie Holiday. Or ripped apart like Janis Joplin. Or warm and silky like Etta James.

When was the last time I trembled with emotion? Was it in Ecuador? Have I ever been to Ecuador? Given the right context, trembling can be quite romantic. It can also be awful. Trench warfare. Bombs. Shrapnel. Barbed wire. Tanks. The world Jacques Vaché occupied for four years. And helped give birth to surrealism. Interesting response to a world gone mad.

I smell pineapple-upside-down cake in the kitchen. Sweet, like a harmonica answering nocturnes during a sibilant horizontal anticipatory knickknack exhilaration.

The hibiscus is a member of the mallow family. Ponderation opens by writing. Apricot cargo in a state of fog. Where do we go from here? I scratch the air. Objects fall out. Things I never thought were there. Things I never expected to see fall out of the air. Like passports. Stamped with heaven. Sounds like a nice place. Maybe I’ll get to go there one day. Fantasy is easier. Though not quite as satisfying. Things need weight to make them real. Substantial. Thought is weightless. But not the brain. The brain is eight pounds of daylight. And chrome is everywhere.

The jungle is thick with moisture and vines. Chili flaunts its beans. Peru goes by in a bamboo airscrew. Words get dressed in a salad fork. The outcome is hazy, but briefly gustatory. A leopard prowls the long eelgrass proud as a regal duke. We dive in the water. The clarity is so strong we mutate. We become more vivid versions of ourselves. And fly to the forest canopy.

Campo Viejo: pine box under the coffee table. Two different tones of wood. I see it peripherally. Sitting on a couch. Watching a movie: I’m Thinking Of Ending Things, with Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons. Kaufman’s movies are strangely absorbing. Not much happens, but when it does, it doesn’t proceed from anything logical, it makes unexpected turns. Time is folded. Space is expanded. People appear haunted by their own desperate need to feel real. Which eventually entails a trip to the basement. Or orchids. Or crawling through the mind of John Malkovich.

I needed to shut the water off to the toilet a minute. I turned the valve clockwise as far as I could and the water still wouldn’t shut off. Plumbing is maddening but not as maddening as computers. Plumbing, if you work hard enough at it, will eventually begin to make sense. Computers, on the other hand, lure you down rabbit holes so deep and convoluted they collapse into metaphysical slinkies and slink away into darkness as your wallet empties of money and your patience empties of sanity.

It’s only natural to become domestic in one’s later years. The world outside is moving too fast. The world inside keeps retreating to the past. But it can only go so far. The visions are vivid, but nobody’s skin is real, nobody’s voice is audible, nobody’s eyes are looking at you again, the way they used to, alert, bright, and full of glee and imagination.

Every symbol of love deserves protection. But keep in mind, it’s only a symbol. Symbols get lost in symbolism. The junkyard is full of them. The junkyard is a symbol. The seagulls are talkative. They make very poor symbols. Toss one a French fry and it’ll drop on it immediately. This is unbecoming of symbols. Symbols don’t do well in reality. Too many ambiguities. Too much mud and junk. This is the province of the seagull. The unsymbolic gull. Gourmand of refuse.

I can’t in all honesty say that I know what it is I’m doing. Shall I assume that a lifelong investiture in books makes me a proponent of language? I shall assume that I’m a clangor of symbols. And signs. How do you jingle a symbol? How do you pickle a sign? A symbol is an idea packed in the Styrofoam of the unconscious. A sign is a sign that signals are significant. Me, I’m looking for a metaphor. I’ve heard the air is full of metaphors. Air itself is a metaphor. It’s invisible but it’s there. It’s a function of breathing. It’s a function of life. It takes air to say air. If I hold a balloon & blow, the form of the balloon is fulfilled by breath. It is the same with words: they need breath to be heard, to become unfurled, to go sailing into someone’s consciousness.

I have reevaluated the evidence of Plato and Aristotle for ecpyrosis, periodical conflagration, in Heraclitus. Right around the time Mobil began to sponsor Masterpiece Theater on PBS. And what I’ve discovered since then is simply astonishing. The conflagration was required to cleanse the universe. What an idea. But really, not entirely surprising when one learns early on that a big part of creativity is destruction. One must destroy to create. Is that what we – humankind – is doing? Doing unconsciously? Every time I hear a siren I think: ecpyrosis. And sometimes – oftentimes – the sirens are silent. Or tiny. The tiny sound of a fire crackling through a sequoia. But is there? Is there a moral force to this? Or are we just supremely talented at telling stories? Baptiste. Miss Scarlet. Unforgotten. All Creatures Great and Small. Brought to you by ExxonMobil.

Just imagine how people felt about mosquito noises in the heyday of yellow fever.

There’s a parallel between anatomy and music: Sticky Fingers, Lord of the Thighs, Balls to the Wall.

There are no credibility gaps in poetry, but there are incredible expressible tentacles.

Rousseau perceived that technological progress was not taking us in a good direction and if the brakes weren’t applied to slow it down it would cause humankind to forget what it is essential. Rousseau is one of the first to point out a malaise in civilization. It's paradoxical: you might think that the faster things go, the more movement there is, the more dynamics there are, and the more one is on the side of the living. But this hyperactivity is rather the order of a panic which turns against the living. The proof: carried away in the panic of an obligation to accelerate, we lose the feeling of life.

Warm meaty air blowing from the ventilation duct at Molena’s Taco Shop on West McGraw.

 Cold, wet, rainy day today. Only one zombie. Long fronds of a fern sticking out from a rockery, wiggling in the wind. Sound of a foghorn, wet sand beneath my feet, tingle of moisture on the skin.

I thought I understood life but maybe I don't. When I think of all the people I've known during my life, each one taught me something, each one opened a new dimension in me that I didn't know I had. In some I discovered a poet. In others I discovered a grump. In some I discovered compassion. In some I discovered rage. One person is many people wrapped in a single body. And it takes one person to unwrap it, and people the air with words. 


Thursday, November 18, 2021

The Travel Bug

It’s got a word, dromomania, a compulsion to travel, which Rimbaud certainly had, and Kerouac, whose adventures on the road became famous, more than famous, became a way of life. I’ve had it briefly. It occurred when I was lost. It was a form of escape, but that’s just the surface, the enamel that gives it easy definition, a shiny explanation, the nacreous hues of lenience, the graciousness of distance. Going somewhere gives you a purpose, but a very vague one, the vague promise of renewal, of finding elsewhere what you’ve been able to find in your current location. But the real kick for me was the hypnosis induced by driving a car long distances at a time. Getting so inured to the rhythms of the highway that it gets into your viscera, your cells, and when it stops, when the car brakes and the engine is turned off and you get out of the car, the world for a few minutes truly seems wondrous. Things come into focus. The sound of the lid on an ice machine, a door slamming, wind in a row of poplars, creak of a postcard rack, even the sunlight hitting the granite of a bank or courthouse seems pronounced, beatific, full of grace. 

Now it’s just the opposite. I don’t like to go anywhere. I like to go for a run, the longer the distance the better, but I don’t like getting into a car. I don’t like being anywhere but home. Close to the kitchen. Close to the bathroom. Close to furniture. Places to lie down. Be it a carpeted floor or an old couch. I like inertia. I like quiescence. Stillness. Rest. Idleness. Repose. Because I’m old. I’m done with goals. Done with destinations. I’m ready to surrender. Ready to go. Ready for the big journey. The one that brought me here in the first place. And will take me away when the time has come. And all behind me like the froth at the stern of a boat. A wake.

There are the travels one does in the mind. Coleridge’s “Kubla Kahn.” Baudelaire’s L’invitation au voyage. Just about any book you can grab from a shelf and dive into headfirst will take you somewhere. These voyages become more fulfilling than actual voyages. Though this is not to dismiss actual voyages. Being elsewhere is always stimulating. But discovering countries and landscapes inside you is a potent and remarkable discovery. It might not be up there with weightlessness, but it’s a close second. The brain becomes a fuselage. A forsythia in the window sill becomes a universe. Is a universe. There’s a universe in everything. There’s even a universe in the universe. How far out you go is entirely up to you. You’re the astronaut. And the alien.

Williams talks about a classmate in anatomy class dropping a human brain from a third floor window onto an organ grinder. He doesn’t describe the grinder’s reaction, which I would have to assume would be one of surprise. We all look for cause and effect when confronted with a mystery. What is it about my playing that induced the heavens to drop a brain on me? Is there a message for me in this? Or were there medical students laughing from above? Like I say: open a book and you don’t know where you’ll be traveling to. The body likes being still, but the brain can’t wait to get going. Grind some music out of an organ. Squeeze the sky until it rains. Rains brains. Sweeps across ocean waves in a fury of spindrift & wind. And opens a door to Xanadu. 


Friday, November 12, 2021


Oak: the very word alone conjures ideas of hardness, integrity, durability. It’s all over Shakespeare: “under an oak whose antique root peeps out / upon the brook that brawls along this wood,” “under an oak, whose boughs were moss’d with age,” “the worthy fellow is our general: he’s the rock, the oak not to be wind-shaken,” “If thou more mumur’st, I will rend an oak / And peg thee in his knotty entrails till / Thou has howl’d away twelve winters.”

I smell whiskey in its barrels. Oak is the ideal choice to store whiskey for several signature traits. Thanks to a large volume of medullary rays in the wood structure, oak is remarkably strong. Also, the cells of white oak contain tyloses, outgrowths on parenchyma cells of the tree’s xylem, the vascular tissue in plants that conducts water and dissolved nutrients upward from the root and helps bring density to the wood; that, in addition to water-conducting cells called tracheary elements, makes oak impervious to leaking. Whiskey steeped in casks of oak will evoke caramel. Vanilla, toasted almond, coconut, maple syrup and joviality. Is joviality a flavor? Always.

Everything about oak speaks to the things of this world that are strong and dependable, and invite trust and goodwill. Robin Hood and his merry band camped under the broad leafage of a giant oak in Edinstowe, England, that is said to be anywhere from 800 to 1100 years old. Fondly known as Major Oak, the tree has a trunk circumference of 36 feet and has an estimated weight of 23 tons. This tree is regal. There is wisdom in its branches. It invites camaraderie. It provokes a quest for justice. It stimulates the imagination. It arouses scenes of merriment and carousal. Errol Flynn swaggering into a castle banquet with a dead deer on his shoulders and a glint in his eyes. Wealth redistribution comes from a place of ancient wood. The deep dense grain of a Druidic oak, its branches extending in all directions.

More than 2,000 oak trees in more than 200 French forests are to be felled to replace Le forêt of Notre-Dame de Paris which was destroyed in the fire of April, 2019. Le forêt – in English, The Forest – is the lattice of beams and supports that supported the 315 ft-high spire designed by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc to replace the earlier and shorter spire completed in 1230, which - due to the ravages of time - had begun to show signs of decay in the 18th century, and was taken down in 1792. Viollet-le-Duc’s spire was unveiled on August 18th, 1859. The spire, covered in lead, weighed 250 tons, and was supported by the four pillars of the transept. The oak trees felled to replace their medieval counterparts have been carefully measured. The trunk must measure a minimum of three feet in width and sixty feet high. After each oak has been cut down, it will be left to dry for eighteen months; humidity will need to be less than 30%, for the wood to be workable. Too dry, it will crack. Too wet, it will warp. And this is how oak teaches wisdom.

When time is done ticking, oak will remain. When the cathedral of the universe is done expanding, and space trembles with the explosive energy of stars, it will be supported by oak. 


Tuesday, November 9, 2021

The Dialectics Of Hay

My thesaurus horseshoe wants the savor of bronze. It is this mat that puts dimes to fantastic homogenization.  It’s not rocket science, no, but it is gobbled as dairy. The dampened mocha poses on the ledge. Love results from electrolytes. Though it has often been said that the thermometer of the iconoclast registers twelve different forms of heat and cold, depending on the vagaries of the chin, the lines of the hills, and the inquiries at the church. There’s a werewolf standing on my shoe. It’s a lucky thing I’m not wearing it. When light travels through a prism, it splits into seven wavelengths of color, one of which is hydrogen, one of which is pencils, one of which is jeers from a jeep, another of which is socialism, another of which is misrule, another of which is guano, and the seventh is a werewolf standing on a shoe. These are the very colors of crates, the pharynx of a grocery store manager yielding flares of noontime pine. And I thought I was menstruating! I know what it’s like in the cattails. The nexus of meanings turns magenta in the light of the crucible moon. The ovulation does its hydroplaning across the dish of our prayers. The disbursement has its fanlights, but the bank has its ledgers, and the heartbeat of the sentence causes the musk ox to turn north toward the northern lights and the opals of permafrost coming undone beneath the mosses & lichens. There’s nothing occult about a pickerel. I will further this patronage by the profusion of salsa amid the ticking of exemption. There are bowls in the cupboard. Think of them as words to put things in. Goggles & dice. Epicures and the politics of the shrug. The mermaid speaks Russian, which makes it all semantic, highlighting the luster of the chandeliers and the tinkling of bells in the distance. The dialectics of hay maintain the looms of the mesmerized. Let me confide my knob to your estuary. I think it’s time to come clean. The quiet is plush as a ransom slipped under a door at midnight. I admit the gulls are outcasts. But the dextrose glows like digits in a clock radio. And it’s beautiful. More beautiful than the door to fairyland, or that onion in your hand, which is gesturing to the gloom with its many layers of crinkly femininity. I didn’t see you come in. Or maybe you’ve been there the entire time, a pair of eyes creating these words as you read them, like we all do when we’re alone with a book. I hope the truck starts in the morning. It’s so cold here. The dials are infrared and a soft blue gargoyle rides a peacock across the octave of a savage allegory. No matter. We can connect the gerunds later, when the ideas pirouette on the ceiling. Physique is invaluable, is it not, especially when you need it to get something across, a new haircut, tie clasp or religious feeling.



Friday, November 5, 2021

Between The Notes

Music is patterned sound. Though it may not always seem that way, especially when I see Mick Jagger strutting and thrusting on a stage in a gigantic stadium, the recognizable sounds of their better-known songs diluted by terrible acoustics, vitiated by the inherent vulgarity in a structure built for sports, the collisions of men, the mock battles of competitive sports. But it’s there. The lifeblood of music is there. Rhythm, metallic whine of guitars, Jagger’s sparkly shirts and uncanny athleticism, reinforce the sense of music as a transcendent force, a dynamic of perverse power, rendered in the swagger of aging men. Keith Richards bald. A wrinkly but thin and supple Jagger dancing in front of a beautiful young woman. Sound is a negotiable medium. You do this, I do that, you say this, I say that, until things get so weird a membrane snaps and we find ourselves in chaos once again, throwing balls of light at one another.

“Like bodies, language produces and reproduces itself; in each syllable lies a seed (Bīja) that, on being actualized in sound, is a vibration emitting a form and a meaning.” Octavio Paz, Blank Thought.

I mean, who wants to read Faulknerian sentences on Kindle?

Postcard of Keats sitting in a chair Hampstead Heath, retained, for 50 years, under the cover of a book: English Romantic Writers. And written on the back: “In this room two chairs are kept in the same position as in the picture [painting by Joseph Severn, 1821], but fussy tourists keep tidying up the room and put them next to the wall, which amuses and distresses the curator who lives in ‘Keats’ House.’ The picture pf Shakespeare is still on the wall. Preserved is a notebook Keats took notes in when taking a medical course. He drew pretty pictures of flowers in the left-hand margin. The bookcases are gone, but many of the books are still here where he lived.”

Keats rests on hand on his head, the other on an open book positioned on his lap, his elbow resting on the back of another chair, turned toward a large window, a plush red curtain drawn back revealing a tree and lush shrubbery. He looks pensive, resigned, and sad. The painting was done the day Keats wrote “Ode To A Nightingale,” at Wentworth Place in Hampstead.

And here at home, 21st century, top of my desk: a lamp with a white shade, clock, pheasant feather quill I bought at a Renaissance Pleasure Faire 49 years ago, and a paperweight, a glass sphere with a big yellow flower inside, a gift from a friend who I last saw driving a Metro bus across University Bridge when I was out running.

Interiors are funny. This is because consciousness is by essence unstable. Anything that exists between a retina and a source of light can expand or increase abnormally from simple perception to reverie. One sensation can serve as the correspondent grammar of another sensation. The world speaks to us in the syntax of coincidence, the fluidity of concurrence. As soon as I get my pants on, I feel the dribble of cold metal down my legs: coins drop through a hole in my pocket. Another time, the smell of freshly cut grass, roasted chicken and cocoa beans in Honduras. And sometimes, as the moments pass, an inseam can seem seamless, or apparent as a reassurance. 



Wednesday, November 3, 2021

The News Gives Me Nausea

The news gives me nausea. I escape into music. “Don’t Worry Baby.” “It’s All Over Now.” “And Your Bird Can Sing.” YouTube is my time machine.

My God this world has gotten to be a scary place.

They never did find Lew Welch’s body.

I woke up this morning listening to a report on BBC 4 about St. Kilda Island, home to millions of sea birds. Puffin, fulmar, gannet, shearwater, petrel, kittiwake and shags. When the island was populated by people, no man was allowed to marry until he had woven a horsehair rope, thereby proving that he could maintain his wife by being able to hunt for the sea-birds living on the great cliffs. Mail was sent to the mainland by ocean current. The mailbag was thrown into the sea to be washed up eventually on the shores of Norway or Scotland. Which means it had a better chance of reaching its destination than anything mailed now in the post-Covid world.

Warm fur of cat back of my legs as I splash my face with warm water.

Each of us is a universe of cells connecting us to one another.

Last night I fell into a pool of time. I climbed back out dripping with minutes. It took a long while to regain my footing. Normally, I walk around in a bubble of exquisite negligence. I pay little attention to physical laws. I prefer the laws of art and poetry. It’s a special kind of arrogance. It is, in fact, a defiance. And it is out of such defiance that art is born. Time and gravity are suspended like people on a crowded bus holding on to the stanchions and swaying back and forth as the bus negotiates heavy downtown traffic. Which is to say, everything in the universe is reproducible as a comparison, or untucked shirt.

I would be nothing if I didn’t write, yet when I write, I fade away. And this is what I most desire: to thaw, to resolve into a dew. The rustle of wind in the trees as I turn the thermostat up for heat.

I ate too much. Greek pasta. Love that stuff. Now my stomach hurts. Burns. Aches. I think of that lava flowing down the slope of Cumbre Vieja, old mountain of La Palma, which became active September 19th, 2021. The beauty of it, and the tragic consequences it’s had for the people who’ve lived there many years, made a life, spent mornings with a cup of coffee in the hand gazing out at the Atlantic, warm breezes blowing over the skin.

Can’t grasp it, this tenuity, this flash, this poem that might’ve been. My whole life has been a hunt for chimeras, elusive insights, thoughts, images that never quite congeal, or flit through the mind when I’m hardly thinking of anything at all, and as soon as I try throwing a net of words on it, it’s gone, vanished completely. And if words do catch a bit of it, it’s not the same. Steam becomes tea. Tea becomes dregs. The dregs go into the compost. The empirical world clings to everything. All but those random abstract patterns on sidewalk and street. What are they? Equations for a mind more agile than mine, perhaps. Paul Dirac watching Cher on a Florida TV.

Sometimes I’ll read something, a poem or sentence or paragraph in an essay, and I’ll understand it without understanding it. I’ll know what it means, I can feel it, intuit its meaning, but I can’t articulate it. There’s something in it that resists daylight, rational analysis, but not completely, there will be just enough coherence to make it chewable, an object of contemplation, but the essence will exceed a fully fleshed statement. It won’t have gears, but it will have momentum. And I like that. It opens up a space in your mind. It’s an energy that can’t be caged. It sparks a certain wildness in you, the turbulence of air in a cloud animating it with a luminous ambiguity.

Because of the outage tonight, scented candles burn serenely in the bathroom, and the peace brought about by the lack of access to the internet is sweet and uncomplicated. It just is. How wonderful is is. The question is, the quotient is, the emerald is, the fizz and fuzz and thistle is. 

This thistle this thorn. This thrift. I like this. This this. This morsel of grammar. This demonstrative adjective. This implicative this. This fist of this. This bucket of this. Those sounds buckets make when they’re full of impertinence. This reliquary of irrelevance. This butte. This mine of crystal. This Bristol epistle. This bristle. This whistle. This vision on the verge of epiphany. This moment in time. This germination of manners in a meat locker of the mind. But no. This isn’t it. Not it at all. This is.

I love it when time is perforated, and a piece of time can be ripped from the daily routine, and a creative impulse brings words into being, the energies that were formerly trapped and buried flitter out like moths from a closet in an abandoned house. And I’m the house. And I’m the closet. And the moths fly out of my mouth. And my mouth flies out of my mouth. And I lose my head. And a nebula of interstellar clouds flowers out of my neck & begins feeding on the void.

Think of the books, the mighty thoughts, thunderous words, had Shelley learned to swim.

I’ve got a tendency to put a little too much drama into things. Even the trivial gets flamboyant treatment. A bottle of water becomes a mythology of optics, a facet of infinite life. Even as it lies on the bed, sloshing side to side in a cylinder of transparent plastic, a reminder I paid for the stuff, and shouldn’t, the merchandising of water is an affront, but so, so good. It goes down like nothing else I can say. 


Monday, November 1, 2021


I relish the hectic jabber of bubbles. They nourish my dereliction. We used to eat oysters until the shadow of an infant cubism absorbed our attention. We all felt deeply rooted. We were open to all sorts of manifestation, infestation, protestation. There was snow behind the whisper and an epilogue in the wings awaiting the Baudelaire of a meandering mouth. Destiny meanders, doesn’t it? Right when you expect to assume some power along comes a pretext and spoils everything. My personality wears me out. The circumference of a dream depends on the diameter of the filter. The concertina is botched, but the orchestra may be saved by your locomotive Bach. I’ve tried being more modern but I get fouled up in maroon. The parabola of the spoon is enhanced by a rattan chair in the rain. Can you smell it? Rattan in the rain. It’s the energy of dolphins. Exhilarating. Push audacity. Monotony triggers my elderberry. My breakfast pin is this moose I see in potential, like a charming tomboy or madrigal. Everything has a corresponding sister in the embodiment of our calling. Our own personal song. Which is the song of everything. Don’t mind my nose. My nose is upset with the truffles. My ravenous fuel hungers for velocity. I feed on distance. I feed on nearness. I’m serious as a mortgage. There are curves in space that would nullify all bombs, all weaponry, all war. It’s called void. It’s called AWOL. We have plucked a nail from the heart and called it fiction. I found it wedged in a tree and freed it with a tongue and a story. If the leaves initiate the asphalt they must be answerable to crinkling. The cubes are yawning. We are but the naked undercurrents of ourselves. And rapture in waterfalls.