Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Down For The Count

When I lost my phone recently, it had a lot of my personal info in it, so I've been advised to abandon a lot of my online presences and emails. Hope to see you in a couple months in a safer place. Thanks for understanding!
MP

Friday, November 11, 2011

Tear The Roof Off The Sucker

I bet you never thought you'd see Spraycrete in a poem. Mwah-ha-ha.

Four Seasons Storms

We were warned to expect extreme conditions;
We decided to ignore that, and create our own.
Nature's forces executed a home invasion
In every space we tried to occupy.
One a sauna crackling with static--
It killed all connections, took out the tech.
We were racing to get to the plane to the desert
When the hurricane winds tore the roof off
Another haven, and the rains sluiced in,
For steamy weeks. Now there are mushrooms
Growing through the floor. We boarded
The life raft as the humidity rose and the chill
Spraycrete ceiling dripped stalactites. I know
It's your sweat or your spit only by its warmth.
I could stand back and admire for a while
The Pollock palimpsest the weather has made
Of the walls, or we could run for the open
Field, when the lightning strikes--Here.
They say to lie flat. I'll cover you.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Situational Awareness



The Recurring Nightmare

The forest is burning,
The street is heaving,
The plane is crashing,
The tide is rising,
Again. Very bad-cat-at-the-door,
The way it comes around, right?
Home to hack up a bit of
Undigested bone, from some poor
Creature he shouldn't have eaten.
Some petting and pills, and the house
Is quiet again. Oh, our dear fond
Fears, our familiar terrors, the threats
Any reasonable person would run from,
The typical villains on the lists,
The shades and shapes and eyes
We've been taught to watch out for--
Oh, we're ready for that.
We've been practicing our whole lives.
We put our faith in preparation.

And then, one night, on the horizon line
Snakes the long black neck and ragged
Feather form, black against the sky
That never really gets dark anymore.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Solace With Saturn

The Singing Acupuncturist keeps quoting a Browning poem to me about "love me for love's sake," part of the ongoing campaign to get me to think of myself as a spirit rather than as an object that needs to lose ten pounds and get a pedicure. Of course I'm still dwelling in the sense that it's all too late for that, that I've run out of time or spent too much time Doing It Wrong, and a salon blowout might be a better investment than any amount of cultivating inner beauty. Time, as always, will tell.

The Store of Breath

Can those who never knew love as children
Ever truly love others? They tell us no.
But they've always told us no. We've never listened.
I remember times strangers set to care for me
Would try to tempt me with food, and I'd refuse,
Thinking it a trick. I am ashamed now of my rudeness,
As I was then of my need. Could this have been
A pleasure for them, I wonder, like the cat that pushes
His head into your hand, yes, he is wild but soft,
And he believes he's the one who has surrendered,
But it is your hand that delights, you hold the secret
Of that moment of trust, it is a triumph and testament
To your patience, your even breathing, your ability
To keep a soft, appealing tone. You have gone back to dreaming;
It is where you do your work, and you growl
At creatures you chase there. I slow my breath;
And smoothing my skipping pulse, soothe yours.
No one has truly loved us but each other,
But within us we hold centuries of lives, the source.


Here's the Browning (Elizabeth):

If thou must love me, let it be for naught
Except for love's sake only. Do not say,
'I love her for her smile—her look—her way
Of speaking gently,—for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day'—
For these things in themselves, Belov├Ęd, may
Be changed, or change for thee—and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheeks dry:
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
But love me for love's sake, that evermore
Thou mayst love on, through love's eternity.

And the Browning I like best, Robert:

All, that I know
Of a certain star
Is, it can throw
(Like the angled spar)
Now a dart of red,
Now a dart of blue;
Till my friends have said
They would fain see, too,
My star that dartles the red and the blue!
Then it stops like a bird; like a flower, hangs furled:
They must solace themselves with the Saturn above it.
What matter to me if their star is a world?
Mine has opened its soul to me; therefore I love it.

Photo: NASA

Monday, October 10, 2011

Rememory

As always, My Special Camping Trip provides much inspiration. Hope some happy ones will follow--it was a good time, tho you'd never know it from these lugubrious lines.

Four Desires and Forgetting

That burning cross becomes a decoration to dance beside--
Dancing, my hair whips, free, a transgression,
Our naked feet on the grass, another kind of transgression,
WIth every step another rule is broken; every breath, stolen.
My desire is to dance. Not to know.

It's a hard job to find a mirror in this place,
One that isn't dark, clouded, or even flecked with piss.
My desire is to be in the place past caring.
Because it will always be denied me, it has become
My greatest desire. How by some physic, slant or blessed,
Has the sharpness of the word and symbol been blunted?
A toy weapon, then a pencil sketch of the weapon,
Then a crumple of paper to ignite a bit of tinder.

On the second day I tell you I will do anything you desire.
Forgetting your own desire to follow another's feels like freedom.
This finds me on the most holy day a little drunk
And following orders from a German. I am myself a German.
The third desire, I grasp at every day:
I want to have no part in them. I want to call another
The other, to draw a hard line in the sand.
We all know what happens to sand.

We have forgotten more atrocities than it is possible
For us to mourn. We could look at the grass beneath
Our bare feet and see symbols of each one, and
Numbers, too, see them, there in the crushed blades?

On the first day I was on my knees on the splintered
Rough wood floor of the uppermost room in the hidden temple.
In transgression I fulfill the fourth desire: To increase the store of bliss
Until it is numbered in the stars.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Who Am I?

Another drive-by record review from the Half-deaf Music Critic, on the road with her family during a trip out to see friends in the far suburbs.

DH (turning off car CD and plugging in phone): I want to listen to this new J Mascis.
DD: Will you play Who Am I?
DH: Yeah, OK. Are you a person, an animal, or a thing?
DD: Person.
Me: Which one was he, anyway? I get all those quirky facial hair guys mixed up.
DH: Who? Are you Michael Jackson?
Me: J Mascis.
DD: Not Michael Jackson.
DH: Dinosaur Jr. Major guitar guy. Hey, he just did a free show at the Kennedy Center. Why are you asking about him?
Me: You said this was his record.
DH: Are you a president?
DD: Yes.
Me: (grabbing DH's leg) Ha! Michael Jackson! Michael Jackson?
DH: This is Stephen Malkmus. And the Jicks.
Me: Ohhh. I thought you said J Mascis. That's the Pavement guy. He's still really cute. I like that button-down shirt thing.
DH: Are you an inventor? See, I'm not just asking are you this person, are you that one. I'm asking real questions.
DD: Yes. I am an inventor.
DH: He said as soon as you're past the lake, you have to make a sharp left. As soon as you see the lake, put your turn signal on. It's on the left. He said put your turn signal on as soon as you FEEL the lake.
Me: I can't hear anything anymore. I can't see. Screw it, I'm old. I'm putting on my turn signal RIGHT NOW. I'm gonna leave it on the whole way. You know, I haven't heard anything that's impressed me much. This sounds like one of Beck's acoustic albums. Remember that show we saw in Miami? That was really good, but it was mostly because of the element of surprise. And all those kids in the audience who wanted to sing along with cheeze whiz. Thwarted! This just sounds like old quirky hipster stuff. Beck's Modern Guilt sounds newer and more interesting than this. And that one was from, what, 2008? I still put that on lots of mixes. It was haunting.
DH: This isn't a Beck record. He just produced it. Are you Benjamin Franklin?
DD: Benjamin Franklin isn't a president! Just because you have your face on a twenty-dollar bill doesn't mean you're a president!
Me: Jesus, there was so much hype about this record. I'm reading about it everywhere. This one has at least got something interesting happening rhythmically to it. Maybe it's just too subtle for me. Hey, that trail looks good.
DH: That's a really good trail. You know what you need to do, you need to go over to Ben's place and get your rollerblades, then practice up in the parking lot for a while, and then you and DD can come out here and do this trail. She can ride her bike. She could get rollerblades.
DD: I want rollerblades too. Can I get rollerblades?
DH: You need to give mommy a little time on them first, then we'll see.
DD: Mommy needs more help than I do.
Me: I have to give it up to Pavement for saving my life in Miami though. Underused. You can say that again. Not feeling like that anymore. Except at work. Wait a minute, is Thom Yorke on this record too?
DH: That's the CD that was in there before. I just unplugged the phone.
Me: Oh.
DD: I feel the lake! I feel the lake!

On the return trip:
DH: Do you want to hear the new Neil Diamond?
Me: Ummm...OK. He just got a Kennedy Center Honor award.
DH: Dave Alvin?
Me: Neil Diamond.
DH: What?
Me: I thought you said Neil Diamond.

The new Dave Alvin is very swamp-stompy and has a great song on it about Johnny Ace. He's a poet. He doesn't really stretch out his voice much. Also, the new John Hiatt is a knockout. Overlooked songwriting from both--when someone picks up a song from either, they can really run with it. I would love to hear two woman musicians I know cover almost anything from either of them.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

I Mean It!

This one's inspired by the GOP and corporate executives and all the rest of you out there who bravely bear up even though everything and everybody is against them at every turn and persecuting them, and they're really not feeling very well, either!

Turkey Vultures

Your cry attracts more scavengers
Than rescuers. The swing shifters
Shake their heads and sigh.
If you've got enough breath to complain,
You can wait for fresh heroes
To haul you up. We're off. We're done in.
They trudge off to have a drink and forget you.
It's easy. Laughter breezes in without you,
All the ones like you, left behind again.

Maybe there's one who stays and waits with you.
A matronly type. Secretly, you're disappointed.
You think you're entitled to someone more in your league.
A handsome one like you are,
And still not yet middle aged.
You smile yet at her kind hand-holding
Out of habit. It never hurts to get your hooks in.
You might need her someday.

She leans close to talk, to help you pass the time.
She tells you: "The vultures, you know,
They're so much more sensitive than we are.
We hear a stifled cry, a brave protest against aid,
And we rush to reward you with more
Admiration and affection. The tale of your courage
Makes you twinkle like a star.

"But the birds, all they see is your weakness.
They don't know from fake. You lie there
And they see: You're weak, you're ripe,
You're going down. Careful what you wish for,"
She chuckles, tucking in the blanket.

You'd smash her teeth to shut her up
In an outraged flash; but no, that was
You years ago; today, you know better.
You put on your best wounds.
The dignity of your protests is impeccable.
You are deeply sorry that she has misunderstood you.
Perhaps it is her plainness that has made her so mean.

She tells you:
"As soon as you asked for pity,
It was a signal to the skies: You'd gladly die
To get one desiring look. Here they come gliding.
You're so sweet to them. If you stood up now,
How disappointed they would be."

The Post closes its suburban bureaus to save on leasing and equipment costs. The reporters will pick up these costs individually, and they will not have a moment they are not working. The 21st-century news business is now just like the 19th-century one. Every man for himself, and glean your own straw.

Photo: Entrance to Abita Mystery House, Louisiana.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Civil War Surgery

Sorry to be such a lameass correspondent. I was traveling -- road trip through Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Va -- and then to the beach and then camping and then the hospital. Appendix is gone and I'm happy about it, I really am, and I hope it will be happy wherever it goes and I don't bear a grudge in the least. I just want us both to be happy now. But I didn't need the pain. It was too much. Sometimes you just have to let go, even if it is a bodily organ. Just tell yourself it's vestigial, and make that clean cut.

I have a bunch of stuff I'm writing about civil war sites in Mississippi and Tennessee. Very haunted.

If you're in Annapolis, I'm giving a reading Friday at 6:30. Details here. It's an open reading afterward--why not? It's an easy crowd, believe me. They're all hopped up on those oversize chocolate chip cookies.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cosmic Hump Day

Cleaning Out the Attic

It's the cosmic hump day, the sun's spike,
The midpoint. Quarter and cross-quarter
Days slice the sky into a pie. I can't let this
Day pass without thinking of Daisy:
Do you always watch for the longest day
Of the year, and then miss it? We almost missed
The window for spring cleaning.
But it's not too late to get a fresh start.

We keep moving our shards and scraps
From one side of the divide to the other,
Kidding ourselves that we'll sort it out
Someday, but today there's light enough--
Let's take it all out and get a good look.
Sigh. For the rest, it's all berries and gingham,
While we work, our hands accruing
Dust and spores. Fans fruitlessly
Push waves of humidity around the room.
I kneel before you in this inherited kingdom
Of mosquitoes and mold. Old letters, ragged bits
Torn from old notebooks. Water-painted photos.
Full baskets, empty suitcases.
There might be something here.
Something we can use.
Even when the room goes dark, I stab
My finger at the square of light that remains.
Love's amateur archeologists, that's us.

But in that fragment of a moment
Comes release. Let's wash our hands.
All we need to to carry us
Until the longest night is all
We see in each other's eyes.
Let's go to bed now.

We long for a holiday, a walk in the sand,
But in the peace of escape, you find still
Tugging at your ankle, a string of seaweed
Charmed with rattling coquinas.
Pull it loose and let it go.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bubble, Bubble, Barney Rubble

I've been telling people this for years. Demographics are not dollars. If newspapers, which used to provide something of value and still do occasionally, can't find a way to "monetize," how could social media possibly do it? LinkedIn is a ghost site making a cash grab. Groupon should have sold out when it had the chance. Now there are scads of imitators, and Groupon's only strategies are to divide into areas of concentration and/or go microlocal and/or buy up the others, all of which will cost more than they have, even with a vastly overvalued ipo. Or they could hang out and wait for the competition to myspace. That's "myspace" as a verb. I would have said "betamax," but you're too young to get that, I bet.

Actually, hidden in that linked story is an excellent look at why advertising too is dying. Only a few rich people have anything left to spend, and it doesn't take too many people or much imagination to pitch to them. Most of the advertising I get paid to write is pitching the federal government, who's a rich guy no matter what he says.

Sorry, sometimes I have the illusion I'm still in business. I'm fascinated by what the world values and doesn't, and how it assigns these values. Because nearly everything I value has no value to the world. Like right now, I should be writing for pay but Ima write a poem. And speaking of young folks.

Bikram at 50
Beware, young women, beware. I dare
To place my mat square in the front of the room.
Every pop of my knees and hips reports
Like a shot in the dead of night. I am your
Gray and sweaty wake-up call, girls.
I come from an abundant, careless time,
A time before we knew that none of it was good for us.
Weak weed, full bush, lead, white bread
In the balloon-festooned plastic bag.
Bowl after bowl of eight essential vitamins.
Sucked dry by Count Chocula in the heavy metal parking lot.
And look where it got me. A pretty young thing
Orders me: "Down, dog," and I obey.
I am the memento mori among your still life
Of flowers, ripe fruit, shimmering, freshly opened
Oysters. What a spread those old masters
Used to lay out, didn't they? They knew how to live.
But there, in the middle, they'd place
The grinning skull--skulls are forever
Grinning in bad writing, aren't they?
You smile at me and tell me:
"Keep it up. You're doing great."
I grin back at you.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

"This One's From The Hip"




Usually I come back from my special camping trip with short, simple, amusing poems. And lots of em. This time, I get long, drama-laden, prosy stuff. And thank the gods there are not lots of em.

The Great Celebration
I.
When the world failed to end
On the day the preacher said it would,
The day went down in the books
As "The Great Disappointment."
Here's my proof, as if more were needed,
Of how much we humans fear being alive.
Better the devil we know, we say,
Than the angel we may never meet.
Living means not knowing
The appointed hour, and so much can happen
To hurt a soul in an hour.
How often, maddened in love, have I said:
I could die now.
Beneath that pure lotus of acceptance
Spreads a swampland where an
Alligator swims. I'll name him "Wish."
Take me home now, before the party dissolves
Into cigarette butts and muddy footprints.

II.
A year and three nights
Of drums and frogs and
Our sweat fusing our skin.
It's summertime, and the living is easier
When you don't always get what you want.
You can be certain of me now:
As certain as you were that you would die young,
As certain as you were that you would always be alone,
As certain as you were that the world would end.


For Those Who Won't Take Their Medicine
What I wouldn't give
To give that man a handful
Of something--god knows what
He could use. I'd find something.
I'd take what he gives me, and then--
The direct route. A bungee jump, they tell me,
Into the abyss and out again.
A lifetime of digging done
In a puff of smoke. Take this,
And you will push through
Fifty years of pain,
Just like that.

But the man with the medicine
Won't look my way. And that's okay.
Because it's my way, the hard way.
At the end of the day, my legs trembling,
I sit at the table and struggle to scoop
A small mound of rice with my broken hands.
Damage strengthens muscles.
I train my hands so they will be strong enough
To dig myself out of my grave.

The world conspires against
My ease. I won't be allowed
Pillows and stroking and tea and friends.
These are things others are offered freely
But I can't even bargain for.
The arm, extended in welcome or comfort,
Will not find my shoulder.
If I crumble, not one of you
Will pick up a single piece.
I've always known this in my bones.
My only medicine is the breath of the trees,
Harvested by my own hours spent running, running.
Each journey I make alone.
Each day, I will have to sweat,
And plant seeds, and wait for them
To sprout. Many of them die.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

They Smile In Your Face

Ten of Swords
Wounded Healer


It's been a while since I've kissed the scars
Of someone I love. The indentation in your leg,
The star shape to the left of your navel,
The weal sewn over your heart. No more
Delicate fingertips and wide-eyed awe here.
When you first know a body, you count the scars,
You wonder over them, you hear every story
These marks tell. You are hungry for the news.
You would push the point of your tongue
Into a tiny, still-red canyon, mining
For information, for emotion, for the undeniable
Truths of the past. Now it's an act of faith
To overlook what hurt you so long ago.
It's tempting for us damaged
To worship the wounds, you know.
So I resist, slide my lips quickly over and past
Those places, over and past for you.
These next few moments are what I live for.

The interpretation of this card, counterintuitive as it may seem, is that this could be the card of highest revelation and enlightenment in the tarot. The woundedness forces the subject into deep inner knowing. Think of the swords as acupuncture needles along a meridian, and it makes more sense. His head is turned away from blame or martyrdom and toward the clearing skies.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Let My Freak Flag Fly

Mother's Day means I get all the real grated parmesan cheese I want on the pasta, and that I can get up in the middle of dinner and add some lines to a poem.

Entanglement

I.
I always read while I brush my hair.
It keeps my mind off the pain. I used to cry
When my mother used to brush it,
So she started taking me to the Navy-base barber,
Along with my brother, to get it all cut off.
"Pixie cut," they called it. I looked more like
My great-aunt's skinny chihuahua, shivering
After a dip in the deep end of the pool.
(Oh, for heaven's sake,
Yes, let the record also show that
My mother had five children and a job,
And found time to sew our clothes
And matching Barbie-doll outfits
And crossed the border to Tijuana
To get us the prettiest birthday pinatas.
The fault is not with her, but with me,
For never being cute enough
To carry off short hair.)
I am reading, or trying to read
"Annals of Science" in the New Yorker:
"Dream Machine: The mind-expanding world of quantum computing."
I never took math or science past 10th grade.
My mind leaps to the easy part:
Play with the words, think about sex,
Wonder what this science might tell me about love.
I learn that like a poem (you saw that coming)
No one can really say
What a quantum computer is good for.

II.
We are sweating in your apartment
Over a canvas so large it fills the floor.
You have just moved in, and there's no furniture.
You are trying to show me how to draw
A perfect circle, using a string and a pencil and a pin.
The cord knots up on itself and the canvas
Wrinkles and I give up, tell you,
"I can do it, I can draw it freehand."
And I do. The circle becomes the sun.

III.
My solipsism is not a closed circle;
I am open to new experience.
If I am only just bright enough to learn through my senses,
I would pray you admit that there may be
More of these than five, and I (and those like me)
Might understand in ways we don't yet understand.
I live by language, and today I find myself
In another world, where pronouns
Are entirely ambiguous. Who are you?

IV.
I read: "a brilliant and distressingly thin physicist"
And I feel my hands pressing for (and not finding)
The place in your shoulders where the pain hides.
I read: "The fabric of reality" and I see my hands
Slipping under your shirt. I read: "Quantum mechanics
States that particles can be in two places at once"
And I see the faces in the firelight, and those
Sleeping at home. I read: "two particles can be related,
Or 'entangled,' such that they can instantly
Coordinate their properties, regardless of their distance
In space or time," and I remember staring
Into your eyes, and starting to cry
Without knowing why.

V.
"Einstein found entanglement
Particularly troubling,
Denigrating it as
'Spooky action
At a distance,'
A telling phrase,
Which consciously echoed
The seventeenth-century
Disparagement of gravity."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Of Safety And Surprise


Of course it's not really the end of anything.

Celebration

So this must end
And that must end and
The other must come
To an end as well.
Even a rock will crack
Under such seepage,
Split as sure as rot.
Under a dark moon, void
Of course, here's
The formula, the slime
And vine whose twist
Found the fissure and
Pulled the granite
Beneath the creek's surface.

Photo: Legit and my own for once; Sunday run on Soapstone trail. Nine stream crossings in .9 miles, big fun.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Your Tulips

Got five minutes to write the poem I started yesterday!

Thanks to all who voted for me for Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere(R). I love the registered mark. I'm going to put it after damn near everything from now on. I was not a Winner(R), but I feel very warm inside(R) nonetheless.

Beltane

From early on, I stopped paying
Attention to the numbers
Of books lent, kisses given
And received, numbers of nights spent
Crying, either on each other's sofas
Or in each other's arms, or beers,
Or any rounds passed around--
The return on keeping
Track of these is mean.

But track I did the phases
Of the moon, the path of sun,
The rise and fall of bodies
Of water, the week to expect
Certain fruits and flowers,
When to look for mud or drought
Or storms. The earth's clockwork
Fueled my faith in abundance.
I knew more would be given.
On Beltane, at my feet lay
A nectar-sticky tulip poplar flower,
A full month before blooms of other years,
A full month before the bees
(Fewer every year) come to harvest,
And I felt the outrage of betrayal.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Vote For Me Is A Vote For Strippers and Chickens!


So inspired because my friend nominated me for Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere(R)! Go to this link and vote today because this is your only chance! Vote for me, Maria Padhila, vote for one of the other nominees, check out today's poem about chickens! You will just love it.

Shadow Floyd

He didn't know the word
Shaudenfreud, he thought he'd heard
Something else, under the music, and he looked around
Wondering who I was talking about. That guy
With the powder clinging to his pornstache? The glowering one,
Or the old man wheezing through the plastic tubes,
One hand twitching, in a weak, repeated beckoning?
No, they are themselves, not enemies,
Not projections, not paper targets, not yet
Beings of light. The young man has, like me,
Wanted the curve of her hip under his hand,
Wanted the music to go on all night.
The old man is not like my
Father, who will have the grace
(And let's not forget the money)
To vanish quickly and at some distance removed.
This old man, this young man, will go on and on,
Peeling off bills for the strippers,
With every huff getting thin enough
To pass through the eye of a needle.
A wave goodbye would knock them over
And yet here comes the force of the whole sea--
Overkill. This is where I defy god and say:
Let the angels sing. The song
Is a beautiful mercy, a gift
As they are rocked away.

Image: A detail from Fred Folsom's famous Shepherd Park painting used completely without permission. If you know and love this one, you should check out his recent work on his site. I wish I could buy one. Maybe if I become Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere, fortune will follow.

Update: That old subject/verb agreement thing. Correction made.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Desert Island Dicks

Dag, should wake up early for yoga, nope, writing this instead.

Caesura
"It's easier if I pretend you're on a mission in Antarctica." --Christopher des Sots

I have cultivated a smile that smoothes time over,
Glosses the inevitable awkwardness in the shuffle
From you to you, the span when I am on
My own. I compose a way to face
Not knowing, and hope this calm mien
Will someday be mine, naturalized, spreading
Bright serenity like the daffodils on the lake shores.
Stupid flowers. Tinny little bobble heads. I could sob
And lie down in the mud. But I will frame kind words
And thank you notes, something I never write
Enough of, my gratitude, truly, profound enough,
These days, to shock me, to give the sense that it
Grows outside myself, yes, it dwells in a hole
In the center of the deepest part of the lake
And a stone tossed there would never be recovered.
This is how much I love you (and you, a plural pronoun)
For what you have done. You must know.
I run the caged ramp, around and around,
Up to the caged bridge over the train tracks--
Fences surround me, and looking back,
Well, there's the lake, small and far away.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Tea Party, Donner Party, Hurricane Party

For Preventing the Rich from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and For Making Them Beneficial to the Public

It is a source of sadness for those who walk our cities or travel in the country when they see the streets, the sidewalks, and the buildings crowded with people wearing Louboutins and Armani and driving Mercedes and BMW cars and SUVs. These people, instead of being able to work for their honest livelihood, are forced to employ all their time in aimless shopping, cell phone nattering, and bribery to protect what they believe are their entitlements.

The numbers of the rich do to the present deplorable state of our country a great additional grievance; and therefore, whoever could find a fair, cheap, and easy method of making them sound, useful members of society would probably end up with a building, or an airport or two, named after him or her.

The problem of the rich has proven singularly intractable and has only worsened in recent years. First, there is the matter of their children, who should probably be removed from rich families at birth, if it cannot be that sterilization is applied before the fact. The children of the rich, neglected as their parents pursue their whims and addictions, are uniformly warehoused in a series of schools whose administrators seem to care little how well children are educated. The only concern in our country's schools for the rich is to move the children on into the next class, and the next, on into college, regardless of how they might have failed to earn such advancement. They then emerge to become a drunken menace on our streets, a burden to our hospitals, and spawn more generations of profligacy with their indiscriminate, promiscuous breeding out of wedlock. They rarely excel in any area, from science to athletics, but continue as a drain and burden on society. We who work--in the government, in services, in small and large businesses--can no longer carry these bloated, irresponsible sons of CEOs.

Not only the children of the rich, but the spouses and the rich themselves seek constantly to further enrich themselves through schemes that suck our government dry. Two of the most prominent of these are the establishment of the "clothing line" and of the "foundation." While there are honest tailors and charitable organizations among us, the rich have been permitted to evade paying their fair share through these types of "make-work" enterprises, sucking money away from community organizers, fair housing organizations, family planning clinics, and others who are actually trying to improve the world, not simply putting up a show in order to avoid taxes.

If the money the rich thus procured were put to any decent use, their schemes might not be so galling; but it has been shown throughout history that most rich people simply don't know how to handle money. Much of what they have appears to vanish. They are like children, stuffing themselves and their homes until they are sick. Our government shows its foolishness in giving money to the rich. The rich promise, over and over, that they will spend the money to make jobs for the many, but again, like children, they forget these promises or slyly lie, spending the money on handbags.

And the burden on our health care presented by the elder rich is greater still. We pay over and over for their surgery and transplantations and tucks. Rare is the rich person who has the will and strength of character to work for better health--they look first to the knife, and ask us to pay for their mistakes and poor decisions again and again. It is not unusual for a rich man to have had three or four heart surgeries--not due to any inherent weakness of the organ, but only to his own weakness for food and drink and cigars.

For this reason, the first proposal and the one that seemed most fitting, that rich people be used to avert the coming food shortages among us, had to be abandoned. They simply are not fit to eat. Their bodies are crammed with toxins; they would, continuing true to form, do more harm than good, even as fodder for animals.

Nevertheless, something must be done with them before they ruin us. I now humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope will not be liable to the least objection. As global climate change continues--a fact rich people also foolishly spend money in order to try to deny--and the waters rise, entire nations are at peril of destruction. But the rich of each nation and their possessions can be removed to the shorelines, forming levees to protect the land of the interior. I have been assured by a very knowing American that the tiles and granite of a single McMansion can easily protect a mile of shoreline, and doubly serve as mausoleum.

I profess, in the sincerity of my heart, that I have not the least personal interest in endeavoring to promote this necessary work, having no other motive than the public good of my country, not myself being rich.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Painting the Roses Red


Lugol's Iodine

First, I trim and paint her toenails,
A coat of sparkle white covering
A coat of sparkle blue varnish. Her choices.
Then, while she's still sitting in the big chair,
Her legs stuck out straight, legs still
Too short for her knees to reach
The bend in the chair, I kneel to her feet
And paint her soles with what I am told
Is the right solution. It smells so clean.
I remember the painted gash
Across my own belly where I was
Opened up twice, once to save my life,
Once to save hers. The stain
Is a soft sepia, the tint of nostalgia,
Of spilled tea, of the evidence
Of a leak in the ceiling, something
You watch spread a little bit each night
As you fail to fall asleep. Is it getting worse,
Or are you just imagining it? You really should
Do something about that, it looks bad, but what?
She wriggles as I hold her
Foot and laughs that it tickles.
She tries to pull away from me,
And I let her foot slip easily from my hands.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Last of the Seersucker


Season Finale
It’s time to find out what happened to your favorites.
Under a sliver of that song you couldn’t get out of your head
All last year, their futures unfold in artful montage.
All over the world, people are watching. They’ve set
Their clocks and arranged their schedules for its sake.
Some, and their number might include me, took time
To compose responses previous to this episode.
Don’t let them fool you. Most of them don’t know
Any more than you do what will happen.
It’s just an old habit of those perpetually
On deadline: Be prepared. A few lines,
A frame, even a full scaffold on which to hang
What you’ll have only minutes to get out there
Once it’s done, can serve you, they say.
But here’s a funny thing: I’ve always trashed
Anything I’ve written in advance. It doesn’t
Measure up to the moment. I demand
Fresh language and images from myself
Even as I’m secretly amazed to see just
What I’ve anticipated unfold. See? I knew it!
With everyone else, I watch the fragments:
The ship tilting, the muzzle flash, the crash,
The embrace, the solution, the hospital bed,
Hoping we will learn everything we want to know
About what happens next. Like you, I will not accept
With much grace a finale that offers us less than this.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Lenny Bruce Is Not Afraid

Don't think it didn't cross my mind that the bill may not ever come due as I tried to bury myself in consumerism to offset anxiety about the end of the world and not think about death. But it's kind of hard to rack up much of a bill when your shopping places are a yard sale and the closing 30 percent off Borders books. The vastly reduced discount haul:

--yoga mat for my daughter, turquoise with a planet inside a peace sign, her choice

--a plastic facsimile of a movie popcorn box for my daughter, her choice again, to keep important papers in, plus a koosh ball and a pair of dangly earrings that look like orbit patterns

--a travel book on Tennessee (hoping to do Memphis this summer, waiting til it gets real hot; won't take long)

--the Vision tarot deck

--an astrology book called "Cosmic Couplings: The Sextrology of Relationships," from which I learned that Virgo men stay hardest longest, Capricorn men have the biggest peens, Gemini women are "typically bootylicious" and Aquarians are most likely to be genderqueer. The relationships I've had that have mattered have all fallen into the Virgo, Capricorn, Gemini, and Aquarius decants, and I'm starting to think there might be something to this here star sign stuff after all. Oh, I forgot the Libra. He's still charming as hell. Hey there Tennessee!

--the Sonic Youth bio, "Goodbye to the 20th Century," which I'm looking forward to diving into sometime before 2012

--an Emily Dickinson collection

--the best of it: a stone chip impregnated with pyrite...a friend's mother was a spiritual practitioner, and after her death he invited others who shared similar practices to take a spiritually charged item from her things. I was moved to take the pyrite...fool's gold, the courage to be a fool. It is sitting near me with an orange candle burning right now.

Because it is foolish to write poetry as a nuclear reactor is melting down. Go Coyote Go!

Breath

Taking my last breath alone, I could survive
Knowing that's coming. It's having just one I love
And not the rest that would kill me, relative
And irrelevant as that would be at that point.
Hands on the wheel and 24-hour news on the radio,
I wonder if the flash will find me in the dentist's chair.
Will my face be broken out when the world ends?
It would be nice to be pretty on my last day
On earth, or at least attractively disheveled,
Like a heroine in a movie, inches away from
The crashed asteroid. Whew! That was close!
I idly assemble a cast for my Decameron--
A medieval frame, like that carved and gilded
Around a triptych on deadly sins, both boundary
And elevation for the realities enclosed within.
You need a little distance, like that. Because this,
This is Scheherazade flipped on her stomach,
This is telling stories not to live another night
But to distract from the night closing in.

[And furthermore!]
Windfall

You might as well yell to the wind to slow
And stop nudging my car into the next lane
Of the elevated highway that affords a view
Of the Pentagon's rooftops, the top
Of the treeline, the hawk, the jet trails.
Engineering has put us all on the same level.
Tomorrow, we have contrived to gain more daylight.
You might as well tell the sea to stop
Rolling in, the rocks to stop rolling
Into the sea, the sea to stop knocking
Over the trees, the jet trails to stop
Flowing into the air, the hawk to drop.

Image: Pasolini cast himself as Giotto in Decameron.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

How To Drain Your Dragon

Faced with contemplating a "terrifying and exciting" experience, I drew a card and determined to go with exciting.

King of Wands
Salamanders' Song

Like you, from fire, we crawled, you rose!
Our King, spring from your wand
Life, our bliss surges in our tongues,
Our bodies once more starred
To herald your return, your right,
Your seat once more yours, so yes, we sing.

One, inquisitive, approaches your throne
With longing, our tiny tongues long
To lick you like flames, our King.
Your wand commands us, ours!
Ascending this day you take your
Right place, sun, we dance in circles,
Present our skins to nourish your visions,
Taste our own tails as sacrifice
To secure your standard's infinity.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Kill the Fat-Free Tofu

I put the Stones' version of Prodigal Son on a mix tape for a loved one the other day, and it reminded me how much I wanted to kick that parable's ass. When you're pretty much born humiliated and humbled and told you're worthless, it's odd hearing that God wants you to be put down even lower, that trying to escape is futile, and that the more you crawl, the more he'll love you.

Luckily, I also understand that there's more to Jesus, that he kicked corporate ass and defended prostitutes. He's not my god, but he's just all right with me, as another song says.

Prodigal

I sleep with swine, I won't deny it even once--
They're smart, they share their food freely,
Like me, true to my true name as I flung
The last bits of my inheritance away from me,
Scattered it all to the sinners and winds.
I couldn't get rid of it fast enough.

I still pray; I pray each night
Not to feel the pull of the road
To the place called home, to the house
Where my father waits with a knife
To draw against the plump throat
Of an innocent and call it celebration,
That place where a family mutters
Under the music of the feast, husbanding their hate
Until after the sun goes down.
You may see my shape against the light
Getting smaller as I move down the road.

Image: The club can't even handle Rembrandt and Saskia right now.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Cartographer, Far From The Truth

Freud put love and work at the top of the list of indicators of mental health. I have overwhelming amounts of both. Truly, I could do without the work, though, or at least do without the kind of work that comes in my door. I neglect my duties. I'll get in trouble.

This is about a copyist in Battista Agnese's shop in Venice while they were working on the map book for Charles V. It's the little things that get you.

Here Be Lions
We don't allude to unknowns at the borders in these days.
We fill that space with cherubim, puffing away
From the twelve directions. These are in my hand,
Not in my name. Nothing of me will live. In the world
We map, that breath fills sails, never sinks a ship.
In the world I walk at night, I never fear
The hot breath of beasts at my back,
But the sweet breath of my angel beneath
The Rialto has the flavor of my death.

Few fear the winds here; as few as fear
The Pope, or the Emperor; a shrug and a smile
And they're banished. We have turned our lions to stone.
We copy the copies of copies of maps
Of lands left to others to chance, and in this repetition
Press out the mysteries and bind them
Flat into a gift for a royal son.
What I fear is each long day's squint at the page.

One thin thread of real silver runs across the map,
Tracing the route the silver in the hold travels, wrested from
What was another world. Now it is our world, all of it.
That gleaming vein, now that, it could resolve into a garrote;
One bead of blood from a scratch with the tip of a knife,
Or a rat-fed flea in my bed--any of these
Will kill me, will have me long
For the past's mercy of fangs and claws.

Image: Library of Congress.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Half-Marathon

Not really the poem I wanted, but it'll do. I was ready to do a marathon in February, but the flesh was weak and the cough was strong. More chances ahead.

Messenger
You cannot shape but fly
Cannot spin but bear
Your weight on one foot, air,
For an instant, and then the other.
And the message, of course, you know that too.
Three words to the king, no more.
No honing, no embellishment, no scrollwork on the shield.
Nothing that screams or dances
With each strike of your foot to the road
Need be told. Not the
Clash of iron and bronze or
Bronze fallen on the field, not
Iron on bone, no picture
Of blood-washed rocks, no words
Of the bronze smell of blood.
Nothing about the secret signal
From one royal family to another:
Retreat now, and your safety is assured.
Nothing about the goats: Their bleats deafening,
And still not enough to keep the pledge
Of sacrifice made to Artemis. Too many dead men,
Not enough live goats.

You are the messenger, and it is
Only later, over wine, that poets
Will invent you, give you a vision
Of Pan on your path, and your last words.
Now, on the road, you smile:
Getting to Athens, after all, isn't as
Arduous as getting to Babylon.
Your feet drum out the child's rhyme as you run.
Three score and ten, yes, and back again.

Update: Had to fix the ending and add a photo. Was working via the phone last night.
Image: Pan on a mixing bowl, photographed by Sebastia Giralt, creative commons share.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Eleven Observations On This Binary Occasion

1. I am a trashy woman who has not yet dismantled her xmas display.

2. I have bronchitis and was up all night the other night coughing and scanning the cable channels when I ran into "She's Gotta Have It." The women in this movie were so cool. Artsy and bohemian and un-really real. With all the humor and subject matter in your face, it's easy to overlook what a beautiful eye Lee shows for composition. Still exciting seeing it. [well, you won't see it here, cause I can't get the embed code right.]

3. Like Nola, I would prefer not to have to choose, but if I had to? Mars Blackmon.

4. I'm not going to compromise anyone's free speech, no matter how violent the rhetoric. Karma is stronger than democracy, however, and it will make you responsible for all your outputs, eventually.

5. Just read a report that Gulf bacteria is doing a great job of eating up the spilled oil. Trouble is, the bacteria also shits, what it shits after eating oil is endocrine disruptors. If you're a man who likes big boobs a lot, well, your future's bright, because pretty soon, you'll have your very own pair!

6. The evil of perfectionism seems to be limiting a lot of women in their 30s and 40s nowadays.

7. I really took Robert Plant for granted as a vocalist for a long time.

8. 127 Hours vs. Black Swan: Both Boyle and Aronofsky deal with people pitting themselves against extraordinary physical and mental challenges. Boyle celebrates the push, for all its hubris and cost, and Aronofsky tells the world, one slip and you're charred toast, see? 127 Hours FTW.

9. Driving home from the grocery store, Joan Jett's I Hate Myself for Loving You on the radio. DD: "She should do yoga." Me: "Why?" DD: "Because yoga teaches you not to be so hard on yourself."

10. I'm hoping dreaming will be easier when Neptune moves into Pisces in April.

11. I wish I could find a kind of bacteria that would do my pay work.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Transformed at the Withers

I'm looking at my Chiron return in March, which is sort of the last stand at the OK Corral to have any hope of budging that kundalini upstream. I'm working hard, truly. Chiron is an area of life where you will be made aware, like it or not; other interpretations say it is where you are wounded and where you have the most to teach.

I have Chiron in Pisces in the 9th, which explains my hopeless inability to get published or educated, and also my lucky ability to learn by osmosis. It is supposed to mean that I am a natural teacher. No one wants to learn anything from me, except about what not to do. I am also supposed to be able to teach psychically and must serve in this manner. Yeah, right. If you would like to know about your Chiron, put your date and TIME and place of birth in the comments or email it, and I'll send you an interpretation.

The Chiron return comes around ages 49 to 51; I'm on the younger side of this one for once. But its looming also signifies that I'm old, and has me reading about things like post-menopausal vaginal atrophy. Which scares the fuck out of me, literally, and has me diving for the Chinese herbs. A cool woman I'd met said she was taking testosterone, and that made me wonder, so I was doing some research. OK, so I don't have to worry about it, technically, for 10 years or more, and OK, it doesn't happen to everyone, but atrophy. Freak. Me. Out. And I'm thinking if it were penis atrophy, we'd have a 24/7/365 Jerry Lewis telethon about it to address this problem RIGHT NOW.

Then again, I'm doing some pay work on prostate cancer, and it's also freaking me out how little is done about this relative to breast cancer, and how often surgery is the first go-to when maybe it's not needed. Who would have thought I'd live to see a time when men go to doctors and don't hear about their choices? Progress?

So here is an old poem that has been aging in the little red notebook since this summer.

Aging Marionettes
What he called us--
The mahogany knob of his--
Wait for it--elbow
Crooked around the cords
Of my neck, hand dangling
At the sanded-smooth
Mound of my breast, pink tip
Only slightly nicked.
Cable-muscled arms and lank of legs
Worn thin by always moving, moving
Both of us still swaying slowly, facing ourselves
In the full-length mirror
In the Holiday Inn.