Thursday, February 26, 2015

quote unquote

Esse non est percipi. We live on a planet that is a small ball turning round a reasonably ordinary star, itself located in the outer reaches of a galaxy that is, in turn, just one of billions or possibly hundreds of billions. We share this world with about 1,000,000 named species, of which about 800,000 are animals. Of the animals, around 600,000 species are insects, and among these there are approximately 350,000 species of beetle. In the face of these numbers, a little humility is in order. While it may be consoling to believe that humans are the crown of creation and generate reality by means of consciousness and perception, the evidence tends not to support this position.

--billy mills [sustainable poetry]

a quick word from me.  i hope billy mills doesn't mind my quoting a chunk of his essay.  i reread that essay this afternoon and mills hits the notes of my own concern.  we are finite creatures on a small planet that orbits an ordinary star.  we must learn our humility.  to think we are the center of the universe is quite arrogant.  we -- me -- can barely comprehend large time.  a billion years is an abstraction.  i have only 6 or 7 or 8 decades on this planet.  in the presence of large time i am but a blip.  if even that.  and yet while i am alive i can enter into language and participate in the weave of presence.  i am neither above or below that weave.  i am a fraction of its part.  for that fraction i am grateful.  for me poetry is a life's practice of happiness.  even in misery.  i suppose i can work out a theory of happiness.  instead i shall live and write and let that be its mark.

when ISS passed over our house sunday night there was a flash of blue light that surrounded the space station.  i saw it.  anna saw it.  nick saw it.  i'm sure it was light refracted thru the atmosphere but it was amazing to see it.

the DVD renaissance is over.  in the early part of the last decade DVD companies sprouted up.  they lovingly restored many obscure arthouse, horror and exploitation films.  i have hundreds of beautiful discs.  now i stream movies.  in fact i have netflix cued up as i type.  i found a half dozen jess franco pics on netflix.  cool.  there are a handful of jean rollin [french director who specializes in a kind of glazed eroticism] too.  but only one dario argento film.  i miss those companies [yes, there are companies who produce DVDs but the excitement of discovery for old crazy films, and the fact that most DVDs do not have a shitload of extras as they did 10 years ago, underscore the bald fact that the DVD market is shrinking].  i hope online streaming services find their own renaissance.

the world is always in transition.  and yet i think the world is being transformed into something we don't know.  tech is driving these changes.  so is the economy.  so is the changes to our ecology.

i have hope but i worry about our future.  

Sunday, February 22, 2015

about a half hour ago nick and i went outside to watch the international space station pass overhead.  we waited for 10 minutes.  i read on a NASA website that the ISS will fly over my neck of the woods around 6:51 pm.  waiting.  waiting.  waiting.  it is a very clear sky.  i described the ISS to nick.  it will look like a solid spot of light moving thru the sky.  very fast.  it will look like a satellite in the sky.  it will not blink like a star.  then i see thru the branches of a tree a solid spot of white light NW.  i say to nick, there; i think it is coming our way.  a few more seconds pass.  then yes; here comes the ISS.  we watch.  it flies directly over our house.  due south.  we watch until it disappears under the horizon.  we come inside to eat leftover pizza.  delicious leftover pizza.  cold pizza is one of the great pleasures of the world.  the oscar telecast is on the TV.  anna and i watch the in memoriam portion.  that portion just ended.  i have no interest in the rest of the oscars.  i am half watching a documentary on TV about the architecture, the past, present and future, of cities based on the work of a photographer's time-lapse photos.  i am thinking of getting a mobile phone. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

bella luna

i am trying to rid myself of my habits.  little ones.  like the routes i take to and from work.  i love urban settings, streets, buildings, people.  i work downtown.  i live in east sac.  my neighborhood is not downtown but still fairly urban.  at least for sacramento.  i've been an avid walker for nearly 16 years.  i have walked the same paths so often i have left furrows in the sidewalks.

just a small change in your paths is refreshing.  the city looks different on other corners other streets.  there is a boom in building downtown on account of the construction of a new arena for the basketball team the kings.  i'm no sports fan.  i think i've gone to two kings games.  one at their very first arena.  the second game at their second and now -- according to the team and the NBA -- way out of date arena.  oh, i've seen several concerts at both arenas.  that's important.  like depeche mode in the late '90s and ozzy osbourne in the late '80s.  i thought i'd see ozzy before he killed himself with his reckless lifestyle.  bassist geezer butler and drummer bill ward, of black sabbath, was part of ozzy's band.  it was great. 

well then tonight i left the office.  it was late.  the city was painting her face for the night.  i stepped past my usual route and stopped at a traffic light to cross the street on a street with many constructions vehicles use.  i see the buildings from a new angle.  i noticed a daycare facility.  i knew that facility was there but now i see it.  look into its windows.  it looks like the office of a mid-level manager.  very tight corners and surrounded by concrete and steel.  i love cities and the buildings, homes, shops and offices of our daily lives in the grids of urban construction.  cities are alive.  the coolest apartment building in the core of downtown is called the el cortez.  the apartment building is nestled in a tributary of k st.  directly across the street is the state capital.  el cortez looks like an old NYC tenement.  it is surrounded by urbanity.  i love it.

my journey home takes me thru streets that i know but rarely walk.  people, groups, couples and singles, throng the night as the night shows off her beauty with early spring weather.  i look to the sky.  the western sky and see the moon.  a thumbnail sliver of moon and right below the moon on its left is venus.  i am agog with their beauty.  my view is framed by two skyscrapers.  i trip over my feet.  i am walking east.  my head is tilted up toward the west.  i don't see where i am going.  such is the mystery of life.  i hardly ever see where i am going.  i think this would be a poem.  no.  it shall be a bit of prose.  no.  it shall be a few sentences of one man's life.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


tho the day is nearly done
for me
the cats are racing
chair to chair

bookshelf to bookshelf
back again to chair to chair
rock&roll lives for felines
noah stops his play

glances at my fingers
tacking this keyboard
and takes a big swipe
tho he misses his mark

he readjusts his aim
gives a squeal
wrestles with ollie
all thru our room

as i gambol thru
the 'net
and as
sleepy as i get

i chant my own
mantra loud enough
for ollie and noah to hear  

quote unquote

No limit
to kindness--
winter violets

--mitsu suzuki
[a white tea bowl: 100 haiku from 100 years of life; rodmell press, 2014]

Monday, February 16, 2015

books books books!

i have the great good luck to have friends in life and art that have sent me books these few weeks.  the world may be all digital but i still still still love to be surrounded by books.  the real physical things with spines and paper.

a shout out is overdue to lars palm, stefan hyner, klipschutz, jonathan hayes and marton koppany.  nine bows to each of you for sending me chapbooks and tomes!

thank you gentle hommes.  you made this ol' dude weep in pleasure and gratitude.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

the poet philip levine

i just learned philip levine died yesterday at age 87 in his home in fresno, ca.  some people you think will live forever and for me this poet was one of those people.  when i reentered school at the age of 25 i took a poetry writing course from dennis schmitz [a terrific poet in his own right].  i've been reading poetry since i was in my teens but it wasn't until my mid-twenties when i discovered levine's book what work is [knopf; 1992].  the book blew open my mind.  levine was a working class guy writing about working class people in a style that was influenced by spanish surrealism.  i knew his people.  i grew up with them.  and that he made his home in fresno corroborated by belief that poetry can be written anywhere and about anything.  you don't need to escape to paris and starve in a garret.  you don't have to make NYC your home.  you can live in the central valley and create a poetry as vivid and as vital as any written by rimbaud or ted berrigan.  schmitz invited levine to read at sac state in 1992.  i was in the audience and was awestruck by levine's earthy humor and poems.  when a student entered the classroom -- for levine read in an auditorium style classroom -- late levine stopped what he was saying and said to the student, 'hi, i'm dennis schimtz'.  perfect timing.  just this morning i was looking at the books on my shelves and looked at the spine of levine's memoir the bread of time [knopf; 1994].  i found that book in a remaindered bookstore that year.  i have treasured levine's poetry for these many years.  from one working class bloke to another, philip, you are missed.

Friday, February 13, 2015

city of the living dead [1980]

the high temperature today was 77 F.  pretty warm for this time of year.  not all that unusual.  we average a few spring-like days in february.  but the temperature set a record.  warm sunny day.  lovely warm blue night.  when the weather turns from grey mist to gold warmth i think of movies.  really bad movies.  and this flick, directed by lucio fulci, suits me just fine.

i don't know what the hell the plot is about.  something like the suicide of a priest opens the gates of hell in a small new england town.  it is up to a pair to try to close the gates before it is too late.  but you don't watch a fulci flick for narrative cogency or decent acting.  you watch because fulci achieves a dream-like state, a cheap surrealism, that delights the eye and ear and tells the mind to go fuck itself.

for this movie fulci worked with his best crew, screenwriter dardano sacchetti, fx genius gino de rossi, and cinematographer sergio salvati.  it doesn't get much better than that for large-sized servings of spaghetti splatter.

what more?  fulci lifted the idea for this story from h.p. lovecraft.  the pic starts christopher george and catriona maccoll.  the grue is awesome.  the photography is spooky.  and fulci's direction is, um, an acquired taste.  fulci's films of this period are similar i think to joseph cornell's boxes.  a shitload of detritus arranged in beauty.  may not be your kind of thing but if you watch and make it to the end of this pic you will have endured much pain and a great beauty.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

ai weiwei: never sorry [2012]

a fascinating documentary about a fascinating artist and activist.  not much to say about this pic but for the filmmaker's presence as weiwei was beaten and later detained for 81 days by the chinese government she was cool and calm as she showed the utterly madness and banality of evil of repression at work.  when we see the police surrounding and videotaping weiwei as he was eating in a restaurant with his group of assistants the police look like ordinary functionaries in uniform and not, at least to my eye, as fearsome thugs.  such is evil.  it rarely comes in flashy clothes.

another thing that caught my attention: the ascendancy and necessity of digital media.  weiwei took to the internet to publish his dissent.  twitter is a vital tool for weiwei.  the artist watches via the 'net the nobel committee's award of the 2010 peace prize to dissident writer and activist lui xiaobo.  for weiwei the internet is a critical tool for his activism.

i think we as writers do worry about the future of literature particularly when the internet is the dominant mode of information dissemination.  but the internet is the dominant mode.  it long ago stopped being a luxury and is now a necessity to live and participate in our present day.  weiwei understood this and took to writing in the ether.  his writings, and his non-comformist politics, pisses off the government of china.

personally, i don't worry about the future of literature.  poetry will survive in the pixels.  as will music, movies, painting, performance and who knows what future forms of art.  but as i was watching this excellent documentary last night i kept wondering about present-day chinese dissident poets.  why have we not heard about them?  surely there are several good chinese poets who also publish their work online.

i also don't worry about the necessity of the book.  books, physical print and paper, shall be with us as long as we stay human.  i do worry about our human being tho.  the future is unwritten and uncertain.  there are bright spots to be sure.  ai weiwei is one of those bright beacons.  this movie is a testament to that.


Monday, February 09, 2015


now that the deluge is over
so hard so strong so blue
i recall ms dickinson looking
out her own window
and exclaim it is all too much
how does one live
i wonder how can
we know a state of not-life
we only know a state of life
with all this muchness how can one live
but we know nothing but life
we don't fathom ourselves
before birth
we can't know ourselves
after death
we only know life right now
and sometimes it is good

Wednesday, February 04, 2015


got up at the usual time
ruff nite
vivid dreams in black&white
penny ante
for the whole pot
whistling on the way to work
plus 1 plus 0
the practice of compassion
and the return to normal

Sunday, February 01, 2015


where the hell did i leave my glasses
looking for them everywhere
even on my face

i went outside to ride the tide
and heard a crow land
and then burp in my tree

brushing my teeth i move
my foot to make room
for a trail of ants feasting on a dab of toothpaste

there is only this life
except when i sleep
then i can have as many as i want

i don't remember my dreams
but for this one
i am standing in line

did you have to tell me
that the world doesn't revolve
around me, please

my favorite food?  that's easy
if only i could remember
the taste

tao of the rockford files
is why we susbscribe
to netflix