Saturday, May 31, 2014

today's  soundtrack goes like this

i heard a story on NPR this afternoon about earworms: songs that get stuck in your head.  we all have our favorites.  for the past week or so i've had the following song stuck in my head.  'soul dracula' by hot blood, is a, i'm guessing, novelty record made during the disco era of the 1970s.  take a listen.  stupid and goofy as hell the song may be it is catchy and might the worm might turn in your ear too.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014


late for work i nearly ran the 2+ miles i arrived at the office dripping with sweat

* * *

in the food court at the nearly deserted mall i saw a young woman walking with her boyfriend he was holding her leash

* * *

he said yes you do have to be a good person but i'm developing my theory of assholism

* * *

the carbonated hiss of a newly opened bottle of beer made a sound like yes

* * *

he was sleeping in the doorway with his head and his feet sticking out of his blanket his feet were blackened his hair was perfect

* * *

the sky was blue and so are you she said it sounds like a song

Monday, May 26, 2014

before heading off to the pool with anna and nick i reread a couple of essays by joseph brodsky.  what put me in mind of brodsky was a story i heard on NPR last week [the past two weeks re the working life has been intense leaving me little time but to return home every night and regroup for the next day] about commencement addresses.  i'm not one to care terribly much about such occasions.  i'd rather do the job and then get out.  i suspect if i were to win the nobel prize [yes, i know, a snowball has a better chance for survival in hell than little ol' me, an obscure alt-lyric poet with a common name from california, of getting a nobel, but one can dream, okay] i'd attend the ceremony.  of course i would.  but for graduation ceremonies is a big deal for a very many; but they are not for me.

at any rate, i wonder at our self-importance.  there are 30 million californians.  there are over 300 million people living in the u.s.  there will soon be 9 billion people on our planet.  each person is unique, i grant, but how individual and famous can one person want or need?  fame is illusory, especially for a writer, particularly for a poet.  an oxymoron: a famous poet.  given the sheer numbers of people on the planet one should cultivate humility and gratitude for the opportunity of being alive and having the skills and gifts of reading and writing.  as for fame, writerly immortality even, the numbers ain't good.  get on with your work, celebrate what you love and let that be enough.

but why did i reread brodsky in relation to the story on commencement speeches broadcast by NPR last week?  the late u.s./russian poet and pain in the ass published a commencement speech in his last book of essays, on grief and reason [noonday press; 1995] titled 'in praise of boredom.'  to illustrate his thesis of boredom is undiluted time, nee infinity, which is larger than all of us, brodsky recites a short poem by the late german poet peter huchel to the dartmouth college class of 1989.

    "Remember me,"
    whispers the dust.

according to brodsky we are less than dust before time therefore we must practice humility.  for in boredom we stare infinity in its face.

    For boredom speaks the language of time, and it is to teach you the most valuable lesson in your life
    -- the one you didn't get here, on these green lawns -- the lesson of your utter insignificance.  It is
    valuable to you, as well as those you are to rub shoulder with.  "You are finite," time tells you in a
    voice of boredom, "and whatever you do is, from my point of view, futile."  As music to your ears,
    this, of course, may not count; yet the sense of futility, of limited significance even of your best,
    most ardent actions is better than the illusion of their consequences and the attendant self-
    For boredom is an invasion of time into your set of values.  It puts your existence into its perspective,
   the net result is precision and humility.  The former, it must be noted,  breeds the latter.  The more
   you learn about your own size, the more humble and the more compassionate you become to your
   likes, to the dust aswirl in a sunbeam or already immobile atop your table.
i quoted this passage at length because i love the beauty of its prose and the message of its author.  remember the dust because of its insignificance it is charged with life.  this is the kind of commencement that perks up my ears and charges me with significance.  for if i am less than dust and i am conscious i can appreciate, as rimbaud says at the end of his a season in hell, salute beauty and love life.  death is the mother of beauty, as another poet said.  i believe it.  humility and gratitude for the gifts of a thinking mind [however wobbly it is] and a life in language, no matter how minute its source, is a source for a good life packed with significance.  i am one of 9 billions poets on our earth.


pleasantly tired from two days at the pool

greeting the start of summer

feeling like a right lazy bastard home from

work and school exhausted without two thoughts

in this small noodle but to recharge?

too early to tell

summer's here the temperature outside proves

the theorem of blue sky + 90 F multiplied by three days

= BBQs and swimming

i think of thom gunn's own equation of holidays

there is no reason why we can't bring holidays into

the working life of towns unless

people possess some homeostatic device

that defeats them as they are learning their freedom

Sunday, May 18, 2014

bits & pieces

it may or may not be a secret that i've been suffering a spate of mild blues that comes and goes these past several weeks.  no big whoop and nothing, in the words of the late george harrison, to get hung about.  still, this weekend, with gorgeous weather, i was doing my usual mope and drag.  perhaps it is a bit of pressure and stress as the cause of my moroseness because last week was crazy busy and this week is crazier busier yet.  this afternoon i had a couple of hours to myself.  i wrote a book review for eileen tabios' galatea resurrects.  still i was feeling like rl burnside after he a long night at the juke joint.  then i went shopping at trader joe's and listening the satellite radio, the old school alternative show with bands like sleater-kinney, misfits, fugazi.  yesterday nick and i went to see godzilla [more on that later, perhaps] with b. and j.  before the movie i was discussing music and bands with b. and c.  i told c. one band i would love to see live is slowdive.  if they every reunited, i said, and got close to sac, i'd fucking see the band!  guess what.  i learned as i pulled into the driveway via the old school alternative show that slowdive has reunited and are on tour this summer with all original members!  holyfuckingshit!  they are playing festivals and the closest they get to sac is los angeles.  nope, not even for slowdive will i drop my life to chase down a chance to see the band live.  they have to get closer like the bay area for me to rearrange my schedules.  at any rate, the news of the slowdive reunion jumped me -- just like that -- out of my blues.  it was like turning on a switch of pure energy.  i leaped for joy and here i am tapping out these goofy words from a middle-aged poet about a band that broke up 20 years ago and i am happy as a goddamned clam.

* * *

do check out these wonderful articles and poems by and about venezuelan poet rafael cadenas translated by guillermo parra.  please, please, oh please guillermo publish a book of your translations of this magnificent poet!

* * *

found this cool video of omar perez reciting a poem 'rigmarole' during a walk along what looks like the amsterdam waterfront.  i can't embed the video so click here to watch it.

* * *

yes, i did see godzilla.  it was worth the price of admission.  the pic had some really cool spooky special fx but the story was rather dull and predictable.  but when we got back to b.'s house we watched a very good indie feature called little birds [2011] about two teenage girls who leave their home in the salton sea for a few harrowing adventures with three street kids in l.a.  b. knows i love decrepitude and the salton sea so he turned the tv on and streamed this flick via netflix.  the film, directed by elgin james, who, according to b., was a fixture in the straight edge scene in boston.  the girls were utterly without guile and completely believable as awkward and dumb teens.  their adventures climax to one intense scene where one girl proves herself a survivor and loyal friend while the other is still rather obnoxious.  thus is the beauty of this flick, james is not afraid to produce characters who are unlikable because they are so flawed.  these kids do not rise above their vulnerabilities and relative stupidity.  they are, like many of us, messy human beings.  this pic was a breath of fresh air. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

it may seem that i've given up on movies because i've not written or published a review of a flick for some time.  perhaps i have.  there are still so many movies from the distant and not-so-distant past that i haven't seen yet.  one only has so much time.  between reading, writing, working and trying to conduct myself as a fairly decent human being i have only so much time. 

we are also in the midst of the summer blockbuster season.  i have little interest in investing any time and energy on the x-men and spiderman.  most of these large pg-13 rated hyper special fx explosionathons make me want to weep for our lack of creative ingenuity.  there is a large exception to my sadness this summer.  i am looking forward to the newest iteration of godzilla.  the pic opens tomorrow.  it stars bryan cranston of breaking bad and it is directed by gareth edwards whose last film was the visionary low-budget horror/sci-fi monsters.  edwards possesses an eye for detail and gritty realism that is evident of the various trailers for godzilla if you care to look at them.  i'm stoked to see this flick.  so is nick.  we are seeing it this weekend.

there are two more indie, small-budget features set for release this summer that have nearly restored my faith in movies and subsequently humanity.  i've been reluctant to post trailers for upcoming movies because i've become superstitious.  each time i post a trailer for a movie i am looking forward to that movie generally sucked.  but i'm working against my superstitious nature and posting a trailer for one of the two movies i am totally psyched for.

the rover stars guy pearce and robert pattinson.  set in a near-future australia where it appears lawlessness is loosed upon the land pearce is a man who has lost it all and crushes what gets in his way.  his car was stolen and he sets on a bloody journey to get it back.  i've never seen the twilight movies but i'm guessing pattinson as an actor can do more than sparkle in the sunlight.  in this pic he is coated in grime, sweat and blood.  i am unfamiliar with the director david michod.  by the strength of the trailer michod looks like he's crafted a formidable film.


Sunday, May 11, 2014

tales of a saturday

the weather today was in the low 80s but with gusts of very strong wind.  it's not the temperature but the dry hot wind that makes one feel a murderous rage.  the wind is like what vincent van gogh called the wind when we lived in arles, the devil mistral.  that devil causes the synapses to misfire and the eyes see red.  working in the garden becomes a torturous chore.  because it is not only the hot wind that makes you feel like you need to shower but that devil is blowing pollen like it was confetti at a high prom.  ugh!!!

yesterday was much better.  the temperature hit the mid 70s and the wind was light.  i volunteered -- my second year to do so -- to be a docent for the east sac garden tour 2014.  east sac is our neighborhood and the garden tour is where seven houses open up the gardens for people to visit in order to raise money for the local elementary school.  nick's is a third grader at that school and i hear the students whose parents volunteer to work the garden tour get a break from homework.  last year nick didn't have homework for the last month of school.  this year he gets only a week's reprieve.  bummer. 

below is a pic of me and nick at the house where i had my assignment as docent.  the house and garden were gorgeous.  a restored 1913 craftsman bungalow with a fairly large backyard lot.  the owners painstakingly restored the house and grounds for over 10 years.  one of the owners, j., a retired mechanic for the state regaled me with stories on his and his wife's agonies and ecstasies of 10 years of house restoration and garden maintenance. a good man and an excellent storyteller.  the tour had the people coming and coming.  a very busy saturday.  sunday, today, was even busier because of mother's day.  i forgot about the crowds until i drove to home depot for our own garden needs.  a grand event for a good cause.


yes, we have no bananas

learning to not fear, fear, that dark bastard.  i've been on my knees before fear my whole life.  sometimes he -- i assume fear is a male, it could be female, it could also be of both sexes and no sex, but since i think fear is often the mirror image of ourselves i think of fear as a he -- takes the shape of a generalized anxiety.  sometimes fear drives a neurochemical spike thru the brain when the fight of flight instinct is set into overdrive.  that fucker has no sense of humor.  i make up for that blighted fact by insisting that life is written by a comedian.  a very black comedy that is funny nonetheless.  e.g. a couple of years ago i had a spike in potassium levels when i got blood drawn for a physical.  high potassium levels can cause heart attacks.  i confessed to my physician that i eat 7 to 8 bananas a day.  i'm addicted to the yellow fruit.  could that be the cause for my potassium to be so high?  perhaps.  so i went cold turkey.  for months.  out of fear.  then one day i thought -- with much guidance from anna on the subject --  out the risks and resumed my banana habit but at a lower rate.  i have two bananas for breakfast every morning.  sometimes three.  i read that there is only one commercial variety of banana left, the yellow banana, out of what were scores of varieties of bananas and if there is some banana pestilence to spread among the yellow banana that would be the end of bananas, forever.  i am fearful of that and of our hubris to diminish the varieties of nature in pursuit of commercial exploitation.  i buy two or three bunches of bananas every few days.  like last friday.  after a long day at work i stopped at the store for some victuals and beer, and bananas.  it is a friday night and the store is packed with mostly young people with their beer and booze at the checkout lines.  and here i am, a middle-aged husband, father and poet, in line like everyone else with my victuals, beer and bananas.  i think i am the only one on the planet to buy so many, so often, bananas.  but then i glance at the cart of the young man behind me.  i expect to find loads of beer and/or booze.  lo!  his cart is stuffed with three to four bunches of bananas!  nothing more.  and i fear that he may possess a similar fear that we are on the verge of a world without bananas because we have, in the pursuit of money, wiped out all the varieties of bananas but for one.  and so he grabs as many as he can while he can.  because bananas may not, like us, make the long run.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

two poets / two videos

alan baker


a delight to hear and see baker read his poems even if the sound is rather distant and muddy.  i call him a friend even if a continent and an ocean separates us and i've not met him in the flesh.  i've been reading and rereading baker's selected poems variations on painting a room [skysill press, 2011] and find something new on each reading.  the book is not only highly recommended but a necessary one, for me, for baker is a fellow traveler in the arts of life and poetry.

* * * *

omar perez

i love this performance by cuban poet omar perez.  i don't have much to add to this poem except that it rewards repeated viewings.  perez is a buddhist monk who is interested in the macaronic usages of languages.  i believe he is at work or had already published a collection of poetry titled lingua franca that is not yet available in the u.s.  you can read an excerpt of his hybrid haibun diary called cubanology here.

Friday, May 09, 2014

newspaper clippings

read an article about using old newspaper clippings from the 1940s or so as the basis for a collection of poems.  reminds me of the time when anna and i discovered -- we were looking for our cat, ernie, who had a habit of getting lost in his own home -- a batch of yellowed crumbly newspapers from the teens and twenties of the last century in the attic of our first apartment on G st.  the papers were so fragile they would crumble to the touch.  we also found many prohibition era booze bottles.  what interested me were the series of stories about the murder trial of fatty arbuckle.  arbuckle was one of the biggest hollywood stars of the time.  he was accused of the murder of a young woman in the midst of a drunken debauchery.  arbuckle was innocent of the crime but so lurid were the details of the crime fatty's career crumbled like the yellowed newsprint in my hand.  i don't recall what happened to the newspapers.  i think we had them as long as we could keep them but they all turned to yellow dust in a short time.    

too happy by 1/2
naw can never be too happy
woke up pissed at the world
pissed at me being me
walked to work
asked myself is there
a utility for general pissed
off ed ness
changed my attitude
had a good day
even better evening
drove to pizza place
thru midtown
streets thick with
traffic and people
sun roof open windows open
'no cars go' by arcade fire
on the stereo
no need to sum up

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

dipping into hunger by knut hamsun

oh if only to live with a young family because they won't kick you
out and you won't go
so fat with ego
only the young have such strength

to travel to america by the roof of the train
art is no good without breakfast
as every 50 year old knows
how is sex missing those knowing blows

of late night tears and struggle
semen stains on the mattress and smell of ass
each beserker finds his/her own
as if a mien of serious intent drew 1000 glowing

coals to stoke the train that drove you
to mix fact and fiction
bio notes and a narrative eye

Sunday, May 04, 2014

weekend notes

light day at work on friday -- weekend began at noon

drank beer and discussed our poems that night

told my poems are too happy and slight

perhaps perhaps perhaps perhaps

woke early saturday morning for a behind the scenes

breakfast lecture and river cruise sponsored by

the california state railroad museum

stiff wind from the lee side

freezing fingers cheeks and noses

there are 5 sea lions homemaking the sacramento river

we saw one frolic and bark

today taking a break from gardening and yardwork

to write these notes

yesterday i felt light and fine

today i am the weight of the world