Wednesday, December 16, 2009

workaday life can wear you raw and sensitive to banal beauty

Wonderful wonderful meditation at red table, black coffeeee . . . Pershing Square across from Grand Central  (cntr of univrs) w/Auden -- men w/jackets and cases sit in foyer on phones -- 8am -- everyone on street, cabs, clatter, scarves, coffee, caps, cops -- traffic cop in leather winter hat scolding cab for quick curb exit, near crash -- woman in red jacket, bouncy hair, runs crosswalk -- kamakaze pigeon sweeps up in time to avoid trailer truck windshield . . . semi?! (hate to drive that here) -- black woman, a blonde braided goddess in zebra shawl strolls among gloomy winter folk down 42nd -- tall cloaked man gives direction to asian w/passport half his height -- Oh goodness! Christmas lights, reefs, colors on street posts, over pass, and windows of Grand Central! -- back of woman waiting to cross street in nice tapered hair, nice tapered coat, and shitty baggy pants -- broken man, rough face, hooded sweatshirt rumbles through paperstand papers, then enters cafe with loose change for coffee . . . why not street-cart coffee for 75 pennies? -- energy is increasing and people become more attractive, more garrish, more feminine on street . . . Why? . . . coats of colors now? -- now broken man re-enters foyer and sorts through trash and change on bench . . . an excuse to stay outta weather? -- nice hair, big ring, tall boots, civilized gestures dance before prim seated posture . . . she and her guest look 'round self-consciously after fallen fork

Monday, November 9, 2009

Manliness and Sunflower Seeds

The first time I remember trying to eat sunflower seeds was when my big brother offered me some out of Dad's bag as we laid the stone skirting of our trailer home.  I couldn't get Nic's directions right away and didn't think I was meant to.  I thought he was acting and didn't know either.  We were boys and sunflower seeds were meant for men.

My dad was respected among working men.  Around 9 and 10 years old, Nic and I started working construction with Dad and quickly learned what made a manly man: beer for lunch, cigarettes or chewing tobacco, always, blaring classic rock on the stereo, always, foul language, always, and hairy muscles.

Dad had none of these as far as I could tell.  He always wore a shirt to protect his Scandinavian skin -- sometimes he even wore long sleeves in summer -- so I never saw his muscles, though he had a red beard large enough to beat all the hairy backs and chests I'd seen.   He didn't like having to yell over music, so he didn't allow it on the job.  He never touched booze or tobacco, and he never cursed. But he'd juggle a trowel and bucket of mud, while scaling scaffolding and arcing sunflower seed shells out over his beard.  So I thought men must've revered his seed skills, and his beard.

"You gotta put it in your mouth, suck the salt, then crack the shell in front, then dig out the seed with your tongue and teeth, then spit the shell," Nic said.

"How does Dad do that with a whole bunch in his mouth?" I mumbled and mangled a seed.

"Try one first."

I swallowed as many shells as I did seeds till I got bored with the one-at-a-time and threw a handful in my mouth.

"Kyle, bring some stone around the mud board," Dad said.

I ran the wheelbarrow around the front of the trailer, where the skirting had already been freshly laid, and loaded it with the best remaining stones.  I held off loading for a second while I focused on the seeds.  It was no use.  I'd get one on the opposite side of my mouth from the bunch, but as soon as I'd try cracking it, the rest would crowd my tongue.

"Kyle! Where you at?"

I quickly clanked a couple more stones in the wheelbarrow, and then, while straining the load back to Dad, I crunched down on the load in my mouth. "Crap!"

"What?" Dad said.

"Nothin'."

While unloading the stone, I chewed the seeds all up till they expanded and filled my mouth.  I tried to spit them out . . . half came out in a spray of spit and broken shells; the other half dribbled down my chin and shirt.  Nic gotta big kick out of the show, but he was nice about it.  "Don't take so much," he said.

"If you're talking, you're not working.  If you got a boy at work, you gotta man.  If you got two boys at work, you got half a man," Dad said and slung mud on the wall, cut and smoothed the excess with his trowel, and shot seeds under the house through the hole between the stone and skirting.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bus from Baltimore to NYC

Bus ride from Baltimore to NYC—with load of passengers boarding at Wilmington, Delaware, 2 girls hop on—both tall, thin, attractive, both dressed same—tight black pants and gray hooded sweatshirts. After sitting and texting and adjusting her bag and standing to take off her sweatshirt, the brunette sits back down next to me and she smells nice. She pulls out a book of theology and highlights some phrases as she reads. College? Must be. But I get a kick outta how she enjoys being seen. She catches my glance while she leans forward to text. She smells good. Like soft clean clothing. Light fragrance. Nothing special or particularly alluring—just nice to smell something other than bus funk and old lady hair and Chick-fil-a and even my own musty smoke laden clothes. Small legs, thin—funny. I find her attractive but no thought of sex, just thoughts of college years and energy and youth and different priorities—that attractive life. Keys, phone, iPod btwn her legs on seat—she juggles them—changing tunes or txting friend who sits in front of her—texts of me or reading or nonsense or whatever? As I sit up to write this, she settles for the first time ‘cause I’m hunched over journal and she has no chance of side eye glance. Maybe I’m giving myself too much credit. But she smells nice. A small comfort on a long trip. She stands and startles friend with tap on shoulder before walking to restroom in back. Her bag has Andy Warhol’s face and banana on it. I’m incredibly curious about her school but don’t have courage to ask. But mystery and thought stimulus are better than movie. Thinking now that she’s probably a moron slut—why not? She only peaked my interest with her reading theology. And I’m the chubby hairy guy sitting next to her that smells of stale smoke. How many times have I looked out the window since starting to write this, to think and not look at her tiny funny legs pants boots? She's back.  Yeah, she’s definitely texting her friend in seat ahead. “Anne, Fordham University” reads her badge attached to keys as she stands to leave parking bus.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Walking Stiff Blues #28-#30 (B-sides)

(criteria of WSB)

I've failed, as my faithful readers have already recognized, in my goal for WSB -- one a day for 30 days.  So, I decided to wrap the last three up in one fell swoop by posting B-sides of WSB.  These weren't written today, but were rejected journal entries of past days.

#28
round tables, wood chairs on St. Marks...
douch bag's voice
ruins turkish coffee buzz

#29
breasts in lace and lights
pass windows of Q train.
bosoms of another era 

#30
scratch balls
bobble in pants
baby maker

And some bonus tracks...

flat chested asian woman
with white toe nails
sings and sways in the subway car

survival of fittest is E 42nd sidewalk --
walking canes, purses, cigs --
you'll poke you're eye out!

Rachmoninov piano concerto no. 2
through the birth canal, loss of
innocence, grave, and sky

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Grandma Miss Ella Martin

This morning, Black guy on Saturday Q was having living-room reminiscence with Miss Ella Martin in his head, out loud, real loud -- he spoke 4 or 5 character dialogue. He gasped between characters and spoke as fast as possible.

"Miss Ella Martin, what color did the number 7 train used to be?
Sky blue on October 7, 1983.
Miss Ella Martin, what color was the number 7 train in 1977?
Sky blue, sky blue, sky blue, sky blue, sky blue.
Sky blue?
Yes, sky blue.
Miss Ella Martin, in 1983 what color was the number 7 train on Friday, October 17?
White.
White?
White.
Coleen, do you remember what the doors of the number 7, what color they were?"

The man pauses, looks around when the train stops, rocks from side to side. The white noise of train movement begins and he begins again.  His head's on a swivel, attempting eye contact with all on train.

"Holly, do you remember what color the doors on the double R train, in 1877?
Orange, they were orange, Miss Ella Martin.
That's right, Holly, I was there when your great grandma died, I was there."

He covers his right ear as if he's talking on the phone and picks up his bag and sits directly next to a redhead.  He leans toward her and continues his dialog as loud as before.

"Miss Ella Martin, where did you used to live?
Queens Burrough Bridge, Coleen, that's where I used to live.  Do you remember what color the Queens Burrough Bridge used to be?
Grey, Grandma Miss Ella Martin.
That's right, grey, in October of 1973 it used to be grey. And do you remember the double R train crossed the 59th bridge into Queens Burrough, and what color doors it had?
Sky blue with an orange pinstripe, Grandma Miss Ella Martin."

Friday, October 9, 2009

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Walking Stiff Blues #23

(criteria of WSB)

On 42nd, walk past man laughing
at blackberry, woman crying
in cell phone, circus music from delivery truck

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pajama Jazz

Mrs. Okie and I were listening to Mozart piano concertos and drinking coffee in our apartment on a lazy Sunday when I went to turn the album over and heard some nice jazz coming through our open window.  I said "Is that coming from the street?"  Our neighbors tend to play rap, Micheal Jackson, and crummy elevator jazz.  Sure enough, I looked out the window and saw a keyboardist and bassist playing on the subway overpass, and a gathering of locals on the other side of the street.  We shed our pajamas, slung on some jeans and t-shirts, and grabbed the camera.

The murals are painted on a particle board barrier that surrounds a vacant lot next to the subway station.

IMG_2287

IMG_2272


A Brooklynite in front of a mural of Brooklyn in Brooklyn.

IMG_2280


Sylvia's condiment portraits were my favorite.

IMG_2297


And here are the culprits of swinging street jazz.

IMG_2277

IMG_2291




These were all locals affiliated with plgarts. Days like this make me glad we can no longer afford to live in Manhatan.

He looks like rain

I'm going to say nothing but that I recorded this song with my beloved brother 6 years ago.  He plays the guitar while I sing. This song is for him and about him.  I love you, Nic.



Saturday, October 3, 2009

Friday, October 2, 2009

Walking Stiff Blues #20

(criteria of WSB)

midnight coffee mug and candy
wrapper table, lamp light shadows
and Rachmaninov fill room

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Walking Stiff Blues #19

(criteria of WSB)

uniformed man sitting high in
delivery truck morning traffic plays
charismatic drums on steering wheel

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Walking Stiff Blues #13

(criteria of WSB)

cops cops cops cops cops
cops cops sirens sirens cops
U.seless N.uissance cluttering streets*


*I don't typically damn the man, unless he encroaches on my lunchbreak.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

Walking Stiff Blues #9

(criteria of WSB)

big boobs, high hair, mascara,
tight pants and loud shoes
Queens broads exist on L train at 3pm


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Walking Stiff Blues #5

(criteria of WSB)

3 a.m. car ride to Brooklyn with 300 lb
driver proselytizing Carlos Mencia.
I fade with Manhattan lights


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Walking Stiff Blues #4

(criteria of WSB)

bellies butts bags boobs bunched
in rush hour train car, Spanish
voice lilts above 'em


Monday, September 14, 2009

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Walking Stiff Blues #1


light reflects off wet pavement
E Village Saturday night
skinny kids and cigarettes


Walking Stiff Blues (Criteria)

Ed White suggested to Jack Kerouac: "Why don't you just sketch in the streets like a painter but with words?"
  1. I'm going to write a handful of improvised 3-line poems (not haiku) each day for 30 days.
  2. I'm not going to edit them.
  3. Each day, I'll pick one and post it.
  4. Each poem will be written within a specific place/time of my day.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hal

Excerpt from the rough draft of a novel/memoir/whatever that will likely be completed in 2011. This is my first time placing an excerpt of my fiction on here. But this is a short piece, and what the hell.

Hal loved a long drive for many reasons. He came of age in the golden era of the car and highway -- and I don't know how much nostalgia inspired his cravings for the road later in life, but rain or shine he'd often say "Today's a good day for a long trip." And he drove fast! He squealed the tires 'round the twisted mountainous highway of Northern California till I demanded he pull over so I could puke. I came outta the gas station bathroom to see a stranger laughing at me. Hal had told him what I was up to and why I was up to it.

"Damnit, Hal, slow down!" I yelled. He was at it again. "You're squealing the tires!"

"I can't hear it."

"You're half deaf, of course you can't hear it!"

He laughed while sliding into the passing lane, rounding a peak, and flying by a Winnebago.

He loved waking to a new landscape each morning. He loved the pure freedom of flying 'cross America and everything that represented. To Hal, you were rich if you had a car and some time to drive it long and fast. But more than anything, he loved to feel the rumble and roar of the engine beneath his crotch as he passed it all -- signs, cars, mountains, life -- always screaming forward to the next thing, whatever that was.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Ambivalence and Valence

Image ripped off avesonprojectsc1

Had a nice time out with Robert, Laurie, and Ken last night. They are always refreshing because, like D___ in Tulsa, they are above the quarter-life crises bullshit. Though I'd like to think of myself in that way, I'm not really there yet. I'd like to grasp and live the idea that Robert posed: "An artist is simply a lover of life." But then Mary Oliver comes to mind: "Don't love your life too much."

The conflict in my feelings toward transcendentalism and humanism is reflected in my ambivalence toward high brow and blue collar literature.

Whitman was both, though he used loose structure.
William Carlos Williams claimed to speak in colloquial language, though his concepts were all but.
Hunter S. Thompson ever was a satire of reality in order to better hold a mirror to reality.
Rilke was transcendent and humanistic, not blue collar.
Lorca was high brow, other worldly, though he wished to write of the p
eople.
Salinger may fit all the above because he somehow managed to talk about it all with and without his tongue in cheek.
Dostoevsky was all.
O'Connor was all.

As in other areas of life, to be honest is to be. I shouldn't think of molding myself, but should be myself.

Over the last 10 years, the three closest to me in friendship and geographical proximity have all been over the age of 60. They're above the ambition, relationship drama, idea of cool, etc.

Maybe I'm closer than I think. Maybe I should stop thinking.

"A dissonance
in the valence of Uranium
led to the discovery


Dissonance
(if you are interested)
leads to discovery"


From William Carlos Willaims' Patterson



Saturday, August 8, 2009

Family

My baby brother, Drew, has had a tough last few years. He ran away from home a couple times last year, lived in his car, and scrounged food and gas money where he could when he wasn't at work delivering pizza. He's 18, now back at home, and can't help but give my parents grief. Can't say I didn't give 'em a little hell myself at his age.

At 7:30 yesterday morning I received news that he'd fallen asleep while driving a friend's new Dodge Ram truck. His truck veered across the lane of on-coming traffic, shattered a concrete culvert, flipped end-over-end, and landed top side up. He was life-flighted to the nearest major hospital in Joplin, Missouri. He was alone in the truck.

Around noon, I received a text message from my sister saying that he was allowed to drink water, which meant he didn't need surgery. But they were still waiting on tests.

At 4 p.m., my mom called to say they were driving home with him asleep in the backseat. She said he had scratches on his hand and his chest was sore from the air bag. She said he was okay and that he still didn't realize he was a living miracle. She said he was back to acting selfish (the family hadn't eaten since that morning and spent 6 hours in the waiting room, but Drew didn't want to stop because he was embarrassed to be wearing scrubs).

After I received the first notification that he had been in an accident, a crazy collage of images screamed through my head. I had lost a high school friend in a motorcycle accident on the same road. After his crash I received a similar notification: "He's been life-flighted to Joplin. He's conscious, but has a couple broken bones. He was wearing his helmet and is talking." The next day he was dead from internal bleeding.

I was talking to my mom on her cell phone when they pulled up to their home. I asked if Drew was awake and if I could talk to him.

"Hi, bubba," I said.

"Hey."

"I'm glad you're alive."

His voice started to shake when he said, "Yeah".

"I'll let you get some rest. I'm glad you're still here. Let me talk to Mom."

And then I heard him yell for Mom to come and grab the phone. And she said Yogi, his dog, needs to stay in the bathroom because Kylie, my 2-year-old niece, is in the house. And he said Yogi should go outside. And she said but Yogi runs into the neighbors yards. And he said she should take him on a walk. And...

Parents and siblings. Baby brother is on far right.

I have a big messy southern family, which I love dearly. During times like these, I love them even more.




Sunday, July 26, 2009

Whipping Muses

I'm always encouraged when I hear of an outstanding writer's frustration with the necessity of sitting at the desk each day.

I'd like to be a spirit that glides--

my toes floating inches above
the sidewalk, my spirit rippling
in and out of me like a girl's
summer dress around her skin
in the breeze.

But, of course, it always comes
back to sucking it back in, no dress
but a wet plastic bag against skin, and
holding it steady within for a moment
while the fingers chomp at the keys.

Holy Spirit

My favorite experience is to be paralyzed by beauty.

I was just at my table reading when Bach's Tocatto came over the stereo. Until then, I'd only heard the piece in spoofs of horror films or in comedy sketches. The music ended before my eyes came back into focus on the word I'd stopped on 3 minutes ago. Then a holy shudder spun through me.

One of the most stunning poetic stanzas I've encountered, Rilke's beginning of the Duino Elegies, best phrases this experience:
Who, if I screamed out, would hear among the hierarchies
of angels? And if one suddenly did take
me to his heart: I would perish from his
stronger existence. For beauty is nothing
but the onset of terror we're still just able to bear,
and we admire it so because it calmly disdains
to destroy us. Every angel is terrifying.
And then there's Jeff Buckley. Has anyone replaced him as the siren of a generation's soul cry?




Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cows

For Saxon Little

I'd like to think that cows know the best conditions for the finest grass cuisine.

If they graze on a plot of land that dips and rises, they know that the grass in the lowest part of the dip is too sweet from sitting rain water and -- like expensive chocolate -- is saved for dessert, and that grass on the top of the rise has thin soil and maximum drainage, making the grass good jerky -- minimal nutrients but good for gnawing.

Pink Floyd’s “Atom Heart Mother”

Cows are kings of meditation.

They have 4 stomachs! You think wine connoisseurs are pretentious with their sniffing, swirling, swishing? Cows chew grass till they're bored, swallow, regurgitate, and then chew till they're bored for another stomach. If they take that much time to chew a bite of grass, I'd like to believe that they take time to pick a good bite. They may even pick a bite based on their mood. Charlie Cow is depressed and thinking "F%@$ All", so he goes to the fenceline and gnaws on a bite of weeds through three stomachs before spitting it out to the ground... because "F%@$ All".

Anyway... I like to think about all this because I compulsively meditate. It can be a good quality if you think of meditation in the light of poetry and deep things. But it's also annoying when you send an email and jump to the sent box and read your email eight times, wondering about the path of facial expressions the receiver went through while reading the line of your feedback on his third stanza....

So I like to think about cows being selective with their meditation because I'm not.

But maybe I'm missing the point. Cows meditate/masticate till they're bored because that's their nature. For better or worse. I'm no scientist, but I think it's highly unlikely that every 5th cow cultivates a new style of mastication or a new strategy for grass selection. Instead she just gravitates toward the next patch, whatever or wherever it is, and is surprised by the array of stimuli it spins her through.

Ah, that's nice. So here's hoping for another patch like Rilke.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

WCW's Paterson

Here is an excerpt of a letter to a poet friend.

In the 1949 introduction to William Carlos Williams' Selected Poems, Randall Jarrell mentions that TS Eliot's Four Quartets is "probably the best poem of our time." He goes on to make several comparisons between Paterson and Four Quartets throughout the introduction, in fact he spends a good portion of the intro talking about Paterson -- Selected Poems only has a very silly small section of Paterson.

WCW is one of my favorite poets. I bought Selected Poems over four years ago, and though it's probably the worst way to read WCW's poetry (his cannon all chopped up and jumbled together), every time I come back to it feels like coming home. Pictures of Brueghel was my favorite book of his before I read Paterson, I've just never fucking bought it for some stupid reason. What Dave Matthews once said about the Beatles aptly describes how I feel about WCW's poems: "How do they make these perfect little things?"

Not the least of the many things I like about him is that he always has his feet on the ground. His hands are bloody. His poetry is in the organs of things. Eliot somehow delicately pin pricks the Spirit down onto cork board; WCW's poetry is in the soul and intestines.


William Carlos Williams
To Paterson...

I'm not extremely well read in poetry (I'm more immersed in it than anyone I know -- likely aside from you), but this 230 page poem is the greatest treatise on the creative mind I've ever read. His intention was to "use the multiple facets which a city presented as representations for comparable facets of contemporary thought thus to be able to objectify the man himself as we know him and love him and hate him." He does this. But while doing it, he creates a model of the mind itself that can only be represented in poetry. I think this turns me on most. You can't make a movie of James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and you can't do anything else with WCW's Paterson. It has to be poetry.

Another thing I dig about Paterson is any section can only be completely experienced (and I do mean "experienced" and not "understood") within the context of the whole. Reading sections is a waste of time. And sometimes you have to read 30 pages before you understand a single reoccurring line. It's very much like the mind.

I've rambled for a bit and feel as though I never said what I wanted to say. But anyway. If/when you read some of it, let me know. It's by far one of the greatest books I've read. I'm almost finished with it and look forward to reading it again.


Thursday, April 30, 2009

Encore for Leslie

While black vines of arms spiral
around a guitar that chug chug chugs
a broken moan, a vibration
through the rush hour commuters in the
darkness under Grand Central,
a tall boy lowers his pelvis, with a
wide stance, to his girl,
crotch to crotch,
soft chest to hard chest, and
wraps his hands around her ass.

Remember summer nights in our Tulsa apartment?
We were wrung out and wet, filling
the room with the aroma of sex, exhausting
the ritual of love grip wrapped around hardness.

Two nights ago my dream was shattered
with your sobbing. And then you spoke and
echoed in the hollow of our bedroom, and
I saw New York descending into you,
the spotlight of a thousand comedy basements
penetrating and filling
you with restless shadows,
swelling you with sorrow.

Remember when I'd blush at
your public kiss? In the hum of Brady Theatre
when I dared to touch your hand, colors
spun out the speakers.
I got hard just smelling your hair.

Tonight alone outside Whiskey Sunday,
the spirit of New York is
a ghost of a ghost,
sprawled, aching, crawling
over the tree tops of Prospect Park.
But -- uno, dos, tres and the dishwasher's
apron twirls as he lifts and spins his girl
in the street light of Lincoln Road.

This morning you told me I fondled
your breast in my sleep till I
turned over on top of you --
you said, "Baby, I don't think you're awake,"
and I relaxed, covered you,
pressed you into the mattress.

The long winter is over, baby.
Spring is here.
And you're wilting
among the applause
of tulips in the park, the applause of
footsteps off the Q, the clatter of
early leaves...
and the laughter, the laughter amplified by your own microphone.

And I'm here. I'm applause, too.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Lillies of the Field

When posters of paintings were hung in the Atlantic/Pacific subway station, my first thought was that the economy has become so bad that MOMA thinks they'll replace $20-a-ticket European tourists by advertising to Brooklynites who transfer from the B to the 2 with their morning coffee from Dunkin Donuts.

I liked the Hopper. And the 14 foot "Reflections of Clouds on the Water-Lily Pond" turned-on some commuter so much that he got it half rolled off the tiled wall before he got caught.


Photo by wallyg

I liked that the paintings made me want to stop and observe, though I'd often grab the express Q at 14th Street on my rush home, skipping the transfer all together.

Tonight after coffee and talk with a friend about how writers observe so much that they observe themselves into a fix, being unable to write because every thought is not what they really want to say, I got off the R to transfer to the Q, eager to stop and take in the paintings.

And, of course, they were gone. After 3 months the advertisements were back, and I never took advantage of the underground MOMA exhibit just two stops from my apartment.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Aunt Sylvia (Revisited)

I originally wrote this a year ago as a prose-poem: here. A friend advised me to turn it into a poem so the reader would be forced to face the music of the crash. So, here it is. It's not in it's final draft, but I like it.

Aunt Sylvia buried her brother today

She sits in the darkness
of drawn curtains and finishes
the second of two daily cigarettes she’s
rationed for 40 years

She buried her mother six months ago

She lost her boyfriend 35 years ago
after he saw her swollen head and body
contorted in the hospital bed
     after the paramedics ripped her
     feet from the brake pedal, disregarded
     the banana-peeling skin, and
     assuming she was dead, shoved her eye back into its socket
          after her Benzedrine crash was made
          manifest in sports car confetti—
          shrapnel, hubcaps, axles, glass, blood, oil,
               un-hung ornaments under a Houston-highway lamp post
after her last red-eye as a stewardess

She once mirrored
the grace of the blue
swirling out her cigarette

She once wore
tailored coats and tall heels and
chose who was allowed to give a light

Her face and spine twist and
her eye rolls aimlessly
as she groans a slow sentence
over the phone in awkward rhythms

"Oh, Leon . . . umm . . . umm, my brother couldn't . . . uhh uhh . . . he couldn't let Mama go alone"

She always called her mom to talk
For six months she called Leon,
Now she calls the niece who brings
groceries and cigarettes

She finishes her joke and hangs up the phone

Her head grows heavy and
presses down into the wilting arm chair,
spine contracting like a rusted spring,
until the pressure releases and
wets her cheek

She picks up a third cigarette

and lights it

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Morning Commute

9 a.m. Hopped on the 4 train and sat next to this darling silent girl -- maybe 4 years old. She was a serene angel in a pink dress with huge eyes, sitting and starring at nothing while, next to her, her mother struggled with her younger sister who was whining and flailing. When the train braked, the angel slightly raised her arms out to her sides for balance.

The mother stood and told the younger sister to "come on". The angel slid off the seat and kicked the hell out of her sister. She yelled in her face, "It was an accident!"

Made me laugh all day.


Friday, March 20, 2009

First Day of Spring

It's the first day of spring and it's snowing. I'm happily staring out the window of my office at work, listening to Videotape, and thinking of the weekend. Anticipation is often more exciting than what's anticipated.

I don't want this song to end. My life's wrapped up into this current emotion. There's a vibrating in my chest. The clock says 4:32. All things in my field of vision have risen to a heightened state, and the chair beneath me is falling away. Vibrant colors. A stanza of Mary Oliver comes to mind:
So this is how you swim inward.
So this is how you flow outwards.
So this is how you pray.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Manhattana

Manhattana! I hear your spirit's song,
though it’s weak, it shudders me.

Manhattana! How long will
Brooklyn Bridge be the torch
of what was and is to come?
It's fall
will bleed ears for the lamenting.

Manhattana! your veins of trains
and worn rags of men are crumbling.
Your sun never rises nor sets
but in reflection.
Your birds screech in the ramshackled
steel racket of your mane.

Manhattana! you bastard
born of Jerusalem and Babylon!
Where’s your heart?
I can’t taste it anymore.
Where’s your womb?
Has it turned to dust?

All your poets tore out their eyes long ago!
Their eyes are still alive, and even now, roll together
into a fist that opens and closes on your genitals.

Manhattana! How long can you
bleed your streets overflowing
before your towers fall impotent?

Or are your clumsy spires
already stalactites dripping
into the void?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Wrestling

I wrestled competitively for five years. I quit after my freshman year of high school, picked up the guitar, and began writing songs.

Before and during a wrestling match, I'd create a great pressure over myself. I'd never meet my expectations, even when I won, and the release I felt after the match had ended would often break me into tears. Which was endlessly embarrassing for a teenager.

I later realized that the pressure was created by my eliminating all distractions but the opponent. And then I'd still have to center my energy toward him in order to invade him, inflict pain, and force submission.

This is the reason I didn't enjoy competing. But I still loved practice for another reason -- pushing myself beyond exhaustion. The temperature of the wrestling room was always set above 110 degrees (to facilitate weight loss) and would only increase when 20 to 30 men sparred and trained throughout a 2 hour practice. After wind sprints and sparring, after 50 takedowns and 50 escapes, 200 push-ups and 200 crunches, my body was rubber; but I felt euphoric as the sweat pooled beneath me -- knowing that I'd given my all.

Competition was too much for me and I finally quit. The pressure disappeared after I quit wrestling and started writing songs. I thought it was because I had traded conflict for harmony, but instead, it was because I'd finally eliminated the last distraction, the opponent. Now I was alone with the conflict.

I was ecstatic to discover that the energy needed to pierce through the dissonance, to gain the clarity necessary to write creatively, required greater endurance, training, and dedication than wrestling practice. My favorite aspect of competitive sport had returned, heightened.

Without an opponent, I could never win. But after the coffee cups and the grief, after the red eyes and sleepless nights, after the cramped hands and disheveled hair, after the broken soul, after my mind turned into rubber and the pages gathered around my feet, I would again feel euphoric when I made something true on paper.

Friday, February 13, 2009

First and Last

This is the first, and likely the last, post that will direct you to another site. I like to challenge myself to strictly write about personal and intimate ideas. But my first impression of this man's work was: "It's comforting to know that such a mind can still exist in this world."

Enjoy!

Click on image to visit artist's Web site.



Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Thoughts

I've been thinking about thinking about thinking and it has stunted my writing. I had my writing on a strict routine in order to lose fat and gain muscular definition, and some how it ended up anorexic. So, this post is likely going to contain all the flaws I've been trying to exorcise (yep, not exercise but exorcise) out of my writing: self indulgence, incoherence, loose styling, rambling, sentimentality, etc. This is a Polaroid of a fat and naked post. It's not one of those high art photographs that makes ugliness attractive. After saying all that, it could be pleasant and interesting, too. I won't know till I'm done 'cause I'm just thinking on paper (blogger).

So back to the thinking. I've always done the thinking-about-thinking bit. For as long as I can remember. It's not going to change. But I can modify my approach to it.

Here's my last disclaimer: this post is likely going to be a list of thoughts, memories, images, scenes of everyday, with no throughline.

Idea for a poem:

(journal excerpt begins)
When I do something out of my weekly routine I'm hyper aware of NY. I can see it as an outsider.

I'm the only passenger w/out headphones and likely the only one enjoying the romance of a 9 p.m. B train ride from Prospect Park to the Lower East side. Suddenly, a wave of nostalgia washes over me in the memory of Ginsberg's "My Sad Self" -- likely 'cause my journaling is mimicking his rhythm/locale. Now I'm borne to the sky and lights over the Hudson, where cold rain shines over Brooklyn bridge -- always Christmas in the NY night of lights. Now diving into the bowels of China Town -- expanse of river cut by buildings, cut by streets, cut by loud howl of subway tunnel darkness...
(journal excerpt ends)

I've been meditating on the idea of longing for quite sometime. Recently, I thought: "Shit! It's back to the ole Buddhist 'Desiring'". And I guess it is. I like James' take on it, though. He opens his book/letter by saying, "Hi, I'm James. Be happy when life sucks." He goes on to say that the trials of our Faith develop patience, and if we let it, lead to "wanting nothing." I prefer this to the Buddhist take because, we don't transcend suffering but are improved by it. I do think both takes are true.

But my thoughts on longing are less spiritual. I was thinking about how we spend our life in longing for something -- a movie, success, happiness, friend, mate, sex, car, vacation, spiritual enlightenment, freedom, alone time, release from pain, release from insanity, release from guilt.... It's not all for material possessions. A lot of it is good longing.

This reflecting on longing made me think about love. Here's an unfinished thought: Is it possible that humans were not made to hold love, but were made to simply long for it? Longing, over a lifetime, takes many forms but doesn't become love till the body and mind no longer encumber it.


I have a memory of a party on a river with high school friends -- a lotta tailgates, ice chests, mosquitoes around the campfire; a hot and sweaty night with a lotta stars and beer. A brilliant guy with long hair, who was a jazz bassist, valedictorian, and later became a scientist, was joking around with one of his friends (a really tough, really small wrestler; one of the toughest guys I've known, who later in life got the prongs of a hammer smashed into his face -- broke his nose and jaw-- and fully recovered). Well, they got in a little argument. The long-haired bassist was making witty jabs, and the wrestler was taking it lightly. They were both plastered drunk. Finally, the bassist said he was going to throw a can of beer at the wrestler; the wrestler said go ahead. The bassist stood as if he were on a pitching mound, shook his head to a couple bad calls from the catcher, then hurled the can of beer. It was a full can. It bounced off the wrestlers head; the bassist and others roared in laughter. The wrestler was dazed but shook it off and rubbed his head. They hugged and made up, and the wrestler said that if the bassist did it again he'd have to hurt him badly.

In writing this just now, I thought: stupid scientist; compassionate brute.

Midtown Lunchbreak on a Cold Day when I'd Rather be at Home with Lap Quilt, Book and Tea

Bare trees.
Fogged windows.
Heavy coats.
Cars pass in silence.
Empty cafe.