Tuesday, July 22, 2014


this is a postcard from my travels: swirls of dust grasses yellowed and bone dry a peek thru the scrim of trees reveals clear-cuts from the lumber co. vast swaths of treeless desert but at night in the meadow the sky light neon stars and waves of gases from the milky way where i point upward toward the fast moving satellite and wonder if it is broadcasting a sitcom or radio show and think upon this thin view of an enormity that sits mute and indifferent of my gaze and my awe

Sunday, July 20, 2014

let us now praise a famous man

being on holiday means, for me, being outside the news cycle.  i hadn't read a paper all week, or access the internet.  i read today's, sunday, sacramento bee [anna and i are long-time subscribers to the newspaper, in paper form], and i was reminded of some of the writings of second and third generation NYC school poets who often, it seemed to me, write about this and that including getting the NY  TIMES and declaring that 'there was nothing good in there.'  the news is bad, always.  i am tempted to say, same old same old, but that is rather crass.  instead, the world is fucked up.  each dip into the news cycle proves that axiom.

when i got back yesterday afternoon anna filled me in with the latest in world atrocities.  some local.  some international.  she told me, too, that the actor james garner died at the age of 86.  a nice span of life.  a beautiful actor who played his characters with humor and lack of ego.  i grew up in the '70s and '80s.  i am a child of the '70s and one of the great TV shows of that decade is the rockford files.  james garner played the PI jim rockford who lived in a trailer in a parking lot at the beach with his father whom he called by his first name, rocky.  the show would always open with a phone call to rockford's answering machine.  the entity calling was usually a collections agency trying to get rockford to pay a debt or some unhappy client who is so pissed off. . .

that phone call set the tone of the series.  jim rockford was a laid-back everyman who managed to get the job done and solve the crime.  garner played rockford with such grace and wit, such laid-back charm.  i remember one episode when two thugs are waiting for rockford inside his trailer.  when jim walks in he knows the two men are there to cause harm to jim.  rockford does not get all bad-ass and beat the bad guys to a pulp.  rather, he says something along the lines of, aw man! then gets the shit beat out of him.

there are very few of us who lived through the 1970s who do not love the character of jim rockford and the actor james garner who played the character with such precision. 

garner also starred in one of my favorite western comedies of the late 1960s, support your local sheriff! [1969].  garner's character is a bit of a charlatan who takes the job of sheriff for the pay.  he uses his wit and ingenuity to become a great lawman.  my favorite scene, which anticipates garner's role of jim rockford as a charismatic everyman who uses laid-back charm and wit to either cope or conquer, garner's sheriff finds that the cells in the jail have no bars to keep prisoners in the cells.  a local painter is refurbishing the jail with red paint.  garner's character asks for the paint can.  then he splashes red paint on the floor where the bars would be at the jail cell.  when garner's first prisoner notices the lack of bars in the cell  garner casually draws the prisoner's attention to the splashes of red paint on the floor of the door of the cell.  he says, 'that's what happened to the last prisoner who tried to escape'.  the stunned prisoner jumps back into the cell and stays there.

in the history of hollywood there are not a lot of actors with the pnaache and cool of james garner.  he was sort of a bodhisattva of actors.  he seemed to lack ego.  garner's characters were men who were flawed but wise and stuck around in their wisdom to teach us all how it means to be alive.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

what i'm at

i've been on a week-long holiday.  last week were the preparations.  this week was the actual vacation.  the source word for 'vacation' is 'vacant' which means back in the way olden days persons of means would leave their abodes vacant for part of the year and live in their summer homes.  nowadays we all know what we think we know about vacation, particularly in the united states: two weeks off work.

i like the word 'holiday' better.  it is more of an occassion.  'holiday' means a day or days reserved for special celebration.  we go on holiday to escape our ordinary lives.  we go either physically and/or mentally to a space and/or a place and hope we can participate in a few activities we normally don't do and for our efforts we can relax.

but what about our ordinary workaday world?  shall that be fit only for drudgery and toil?  this i have found, often when we make that attempt toward making a special celebration, when we attempt to leave vacant our ordinary lives, we find that our lives stay with us even so.  we take our turmoils and troubles with us and those activities that are meant to leave us feeling relaxed can add to our stress.  we can't escape the inexorable fact of being us.

what then and how.  at any rate, i've driven several hundred miles.  nick, anna and i spent a few days on the coast of california near the village of mendicino.  the beauty of the mendicino coast in breathtaking.  the eco-lodge [there were art and lit journals in the room!  and and and there were lit journals and art mags found at the check out counter of the local grocery store!  holy shit!  i was in heaven] was wonderful and the adjacent vegan restaurant was top-notch and delicious.  nick said he found a place that he feels like he fits in.  then nick and i went camping for a few days with his cub scout pack.  everything in that camp: leaves, trees, animals, tents, food, hands, clothes, coffee, water, even dirt, was covered in a fine layer of reddish-brown dust.

but when we got home we had a birthday party to go to for our great friends' child's 11th b-day.  i scraped off as much reddish-brown dust off our things as i could.  i shaved off my hobo beard.  now we've just returned.  i'm am pleasantly exhausted and happy to be home.  in the end, i couldn't make vacant my ordinary life.  i found i could make a holiday of the life i have been given.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

the ten thousand things years

a couple of days ago i was listening to a radio program while running a few errands after work.  the story: how to build signs or symbols that can be understood by people living ten thousand years from now.  to teams of eggheads were given such a task.  the reason: nuclear waste has a half-life of like forever.  it is deadly for several millenia.  how do you make warning sign of the dangers of nuclear poison for people who will not know our languages, not know our cultures very well, when meanings change over time.  how do you communicate with people who will develop into something we can't know.

which got me thinking about my own silly ego.  my writing/reading.  all the ten thousand things that try us, burden us, worry us to an early grave.  seriously, even shakespeare won't last for ten thousand years.  all our quibbling and bickering, our jockeying for a small space of light, will amount to nothing.  i'm not saying why bother.  i'm suggesting that the ego can get in the way.  in the end if it doesn't matter in ten thousand years, why fret.  do your work.  get on with it.  and don't practice assholeism.

ah shit, crudely said there.  but you get the drift.

which put me in mind of my own beloved art and the people who practice it.  i want to celebrate all of it, poets, poetry and poems.  i want to read and write until i die.  i want you to do the same.  i try to give up my ego.  i belong, to quote a poem by james dickey, to the world.  i will do what i can.

which brings me to the canadian poet michael dennis.  i've quoted him here and there on this blog before.  i wrote to dennis a few weeks ago telling him how much i love, what i've read of it, his poetry.  he responded by sending me three of his books.  i'll write a review come november for eileen tabios' review zine galatea resurrects.  in the meantime i want to talk a little about dennis' chapbook forgiveness, my new sideline [proper tales press; 2009].

the poems in this short chapbook are travel poems.  the poet and his wife journey to croatia and russia.  dennis writes a deceptively simple poetry.  these are poems using common language.  they are usually narrative.  and they have an open humility that i find lovely.  take for example this poem.

     Hockey Night in Croatia

     in the last month I've butchered six languages
     and misunderstood six different currencies
     today, in Croatia, on a small island, Cres
     hidden on the Dalmatian coast
     a store clerk, where I bought a notebook
     and another bottle of cold gassy water
     refused to believe I wasn't Russian
     I practically had to sing my national anthem
     and show him my hockey scars

     not that Russians don't have hockey scars
     but Canadian doctors sew a straighter line

 a short, clear, concise piece of travel writing.  what i find astonishing is how dennis breaks the line.  each line sings its piece and leads toward the next line.  the fluidity of the language is remarkable.

dennis is also a poet of our insane world too.  domestic intervals and travelogues populate this book but so do the turbulence of terrorism.

     Last Words to Allah

     I press this button and all is glow
     all noise begins and ends
     I press this button and I am mist
     I am vengeance
     I press this button and serve my father
     as I turn to deadly rain
     I even the score that morbid more

     I enter this eternal darkness
     thinking glory

     I remember strapping on my future
     like a wedding shawl
     putting the bomb on
     and for the first time in my life
     understanding I had a future
     and what that future was

     hear my last song
     as it rings out of my memory
     and blasts 
     into yours

this poem is quite a feat.  no accusations and no judgment, at least not located in the text.  rather, we are given the mind of a man intent to destroy for god.  we can argue that the act of writing this poem is a political act.  but the content is even-handed and controlled.  it is not sympathetic to the bomber.  the poem exists in its own, to use the phrase coined by the late joseph brodsky, plane of regard.

still, michael dennis is a generous soul.  a person who embodies poetry.  not very many of us would title a book of ours with the declaration of forgiveness as a practice.  he is a poet for the ten thousand things.  who knows, michael dennis might be here still ten thousand years from now.

Monday, July 07, 2014

quote unquote

Those who prefer their principles over their happiness, they refuse to be happy outside the conditions they seem to have attached to their happiness. If they are happy by surprise, they find themselves disabled, unhappy to be deprived of their unhappiness.

--albert camus [from notebooks - 1951 - 1959]
forwarded to me by my friend the poet tim kahl in response to our ongoing discussion about art, unhappiness and happiness

Friday, July 04, 2014

hey baby, it's the fourth of july!

 i've been watching more TV and movies this past week than i have watched TV and movies in months.  i get home from work, do what i need to do around the house, then when anna and nick go to bed -- my usual time to do a little reading and writing -- i turn the TV on to see what's what.  night before last, for example, i watched a couple of episodes of anthony bourdain's travel show on CNN then switched channels and watched an old episode of the x-files -- the earlier ones are the best.  it got be midnight so i crawled into bed and read a few poems by jaan kaplinski before turning out the light.  the night before that i switched on the ROKU and watched a pretty cool horror anthology movie called v/h/s [2012].  and last night anna and i watched a few things we recorded on the DVR but i couldn't keep my eyes open and i crashed before 11:00 pm!

hence my silence here on this blog this past week.  i'm terribly behind on my correspondence and a poetry collaboration.  i feel guilty about that.  i'll get to all y'all, soon, like okay!

today is the fourth of july.  earlier i cleaned up our back garden, mowed the lawn and cleaned the grill.  later this evening we'll have a BBQ -- veggie burgers and hot dogs, macaroni salad, retro sodas, chips and other bits of the usual sundries -- then when the sun sets nick and i will light off things that go boom.

lazy days, indeed.  in addition to the celebration i bring you a video in honor of our country's birthday.  below you'll find the poet gregory corso reciting our nation's declaration of independence.

happy birthday america!


Sunday, June 29, 2014

god said, let there be light; slowdive said, let there be sound


walking along the american river sunday morning the heat already intense the sun a low yellow ball i find crazy cloud sitting with his blind girl on a fallen tree she had his cock in her hand gently playing with the old radish

oh crap, he said when he saw me, here comes another poet

i wished them a good morning and noticed crazy cloud's hand disappearing into the girl's robe and sitting on the mud bank beside him a half-full jug

he took a sip and offered me some i declined mumbling i prefer coffee in the morning rather than an early morning slug

working on your own redthread verse? he teased

i could answer none but how my claims of writing stumble and fall how each morning the stranger's face i shave before i leave for work looks older and less secure about its place in the universe

shut the fuck up, the old man said.  i've heard that before each writer must scribble his own oblivion each writer must find his own interesting noise and when you see that stranger's face in the mirror tell him death is the easy part living is hard tell him to stop fearing dying because he is in the midst of dying right now

have a drink you dumb fuck, said crazy cloud.  then go away and sort out your sobs

no thanks i said and turned to go looking up to the cloudless sky the sun a big yellow ball the sweat starting to rinse my t-shirt i thought i might agree that the process of living is knowing i am dying right now i might agree that i may start with a dying fall