Friday, December 29, 2017

"My Little Numbskull"

There were no separate beds we fell from but there were different doors we left through, giving a kiss over steam and burnt toast only to vanish into dimensions that both played the worst music on stations cursed with the grittiest static a white man could invent. Later , over french fries and cold cuts left over from some party or other, we discuss the news we heard twenty four hours ago. This was before the internet and phones that poked you in the ribs or purred against your privates when something / anything / nothing at all was happening somewhere / anywhere / nowhere you could name happened, is happening, or is about to happen soon, can’t say when. Cigarettes to smoke, a column to write, a costume to draw perchance to stitch , drinks and then fairy tales, stories from books, lazy diction and funny accents of farm animals in short pants carrying tools to the barn where they are building a big boat as dark clouds form over the horizon of a grey, roiling ocean.
There were no separate beds, as I said but after an hour of saying good night and sweet dreams, we drifted into our different acres of nodding mist, I in a car and then flying, no plane, over all the rooftops of houses I’ve lived in here and there and anywhere I recollect, you, as you said later, in a boat that comes up to a grand hall and you’re somehow now in front of the stairs in the best gown ever made waiting for a man of fortunes known and mysterious to arrive and take you to places where there is only harmony, nothing but sweet notes as you pour the milk into your cereal and sip coffee that tastes of spirits that would circle you toe to the part of your hair and keep you loved,warm , safe from my worst habits and best intentions.
You told me that when you were mad at me. I lit a cigarette and gave it to you and then lit another and took a drag. “My little numbskull” you said to me and I don’t think I’ve been as happy since then.

Saturday, December 23, 2017


(for Jill, Violette and Emily)

Her singing was off key
and her daughters
swung their dolls
barn dance style
repeating after Mom
laid down the ladle
and laid down the law
of this tiny kitchen
and every kitchen
from now   on
until the sun rises
with a nod
rather than a wink

we got the beat!!!


Big sunglasses,
floppy hats
big frilly dresses
shoes too big
and socks
so loud they
wake the sleepiest
of feet,
the tiny women dance
as the drums pound hard
and the guitars   crash
into one another,

It's here
I realize
half awake
that breakfast
will wait
or be not at all
because there is no  time
like the present
and, Mom  says
who   needs to eat

Thursday, December 21, 2017


We named the cat Fidel  until there were no more scratches at the door after the bars closed
and the stereo’s tone arm played the edge of the red Columbia label.
The noise it made, the bald needle bouncing off the spinning circle of company brand and song titles  was the sound we heard when neither of us spoke.
The unending clicks  and whispering scrapes,  the scratch at the door, a scraping sweep of claws  and a low rumbling growl.
We awoke in absence of one thing, the familiar violation of the silence  which never quite happened.
We go tout of bed and put on our pajamas , walked around the apartment, poked the bushes and circled the trees as if thinking Fidel would surrender,  paws raised, and stop his nocturnal adventure so some of us may sleep in fields of odorless amnesia.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Dream Poem

Nothing goes as we dream it would
if dreaming is all we do
when awake in the world,

All these streets of noise
and the bad language
of an accelerated life
that became accelerated
beyond the speed
our feet can walk, leap or run
without a stumble
or demand to know
where  one is going
with these bags
and bricks we carry
back and forth
across the street,

These items espied
on the tops of tables
and wet bars
that come to resemble
random small change,
a paper clip
and a torn post it
with a phone number,

no name attached,

The dream of
rooms of empty walls
leading to another room
where you sat
at the other end,
your paintings
and hanging around you,

you lifting your head
from a phone call
to nod at me,

And then I was
on a rooftop
over a skyline
of shifting designs,

I am on a boat
sailing into the bay
and finally
the ocean,
the skyline
gets smaller,

I am back home
suddenly awake
and wanting to
call you
'though I know
you're on another  call
in the cloud.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Philosophy of Aroma

The philosophy of aroma
puts me in meditation
as the fresh pillows are tossed
on to the bed spread,

Scented stitches among the madras flowers,
trees I climbed, the smell of my mother's hair
when she kissed me good night,
(painting by Jill Moon)

Many long moments staring at the moon
holding a stone you gave me and wrapped my hand around,
the gardens behind our apartment, mire and fertilizer
sharp to the nostril,
the smell of your hair against the
pillows now three days from the wash
and full of our odors
which bless the currents
we created as we come and go
through rooms alive with
scents of wet paint and spices,

The room now reeks of bourbon
because I played my harmonica
after too many cocktails,

Your breath   on my neck
as you looked down as I typed
another poem about nothing
in particular
and everything I could
disguise my best memory with,

I write about nothing
I said
and you snorted
c'mon, tell me
what all this means

I took a deep breath through
my nose,
each nostril flaring
like the pants we used to wear,

I am saying I love
the smell of the bedroom
we've done it all
for the night,
and every sheet and pillow casing
is signed with
the staggering funk
that are ours
til the end
of time.

Monday, September 4, 2017

The local legend used to be

Image may contain: one or more people, car and outdoor

In this light history is no longer a safe bet
or an answer to a  question you haven't asked yet,

there are hard shelled tourists
of all sorts diminished in ques
outside tavern doors that offer nothing
less than the same bottled bullshit
and tattoo'd fists in the face
for no offense other than
merely being available
and visibly unsure
as to how change  is made
around here,

i take my time staring at signs
that used to scream something about
locks and plumbing
and fat lettered screams of LIQUOR
burning the avenue dusk
that is less seduction
than it is a direct order,

at night men without shirts
and aggravated aromas
take their seats under the
signs of banks and succumb
to the sediment they've  accrued
with the skin they cannot shed
fast enough, they tell their stories
the intersection traffic that stops and goes again
in search of a future they don't have to be afraid of,
cars blurred in red and white zags that slice the night
and screams of sitting, shirtless men
explaining themselves to ghosts
and whispers that emerge from
cracked mortar and mail box slots,
the traffic moves on, the neon gets loud,
insect sounds everywhere near the beach,
even the ocean is all foam and babbling
at the   shore where little breaks
but bottles and pauses in between prayers
that have yet to find a cloud worthy
of the poetry of beseeching,

at the end of the road there is a wood fence
and traffic signs attached,
there is the blackness of a canyon
that swallows up the light
of whatever homes dare the dry, desiccated foliage,
this world is only a pack of cigarettes
away from being meaningless and charred beyond use,

half the world is trying to sleep
as the other half
finds a new belt to wear
for whatever funerals
their wanderings award them with,

miracles seem a memory
of the last time
something truly
fucked   up happened
to someone you hoped
would live in increasing waves
of aggravated existence,

crazy , miraculous laughter
recalling the glory days
and marking the date
on a calendar since I leaned into a punch
i saw coming,

the air is full of static,
a crackle of mosquito bites
and spider bites,
heat rash and lost appetite
to the scrape  of passing shoes
and half uttered phrases
comparing the sneers
and hang overs
bar to bar,
harmonica blues makes the night
even more difficult to trace
original intent
and documented cases of men and women sane in the decisions to
play in traffic, to smoke same old cigarettes,
recollect their lives
in the present tense
as if  history were a crossword someone had already completed
and memory was just  the nagging rhymes of pop songs
muffled by ear phones, a sanctimony of tropes
one would trip over if the bass and vocal
didn't make you think
of someone being beaten
badly behind a dumpster in an alley
closer than you cared to consider,

the local legend used to be
"tonight the surfers and the Mexicans
are gonna have it out
under Crystal Pier, mother fucker",

the local legend used to be
"welcome to Pacific Beach",

the local Legend used to be.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

christina's world

for Andrew Wyeth

brown hills of grass
where she slept

until the light
slides under
the surface of things,

she rises
as a fish 
patrolling a lake's still surface,

there is someplace to be,

in a chair
at a table
with a place setting
of one plate, one fork,

one empty glass.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

remarks concerning Wallace Stevens

What our eyes behold may well be the text of life but one's meditations on the text and the disclosures of these meditations are no less a part of the structure of reality. " -- Wallace Stevens 
Logic by itself is over rated certainly, but unalloyed intuition is equally the subject of excess estimation, and is, in fact, a recipe for perceptual disaster.

Stevens realized this and made a body of work that provoked( successfully I think) thought and discussion about the interaction of imaginative and materialist approaches to appreciating and divining the corners and contours of the earth.
"All the great things have been denied and we live in an intricacy of new and local mythologies, political, economic, poetic, which are asserted with an ever-enlarging incoherence. " --Wallace Stevens 

Intuition and imagination are the things that give the world outside our bodies the shape and scope, and logic is that no-less human tendency to discover the order of raw sensory data and thus engineer ourselves usefully within it.

Each capacity, with all their attendant subdivisions and distinctions, cannot be divorced from the other, the mind cannot exist sanely sans the capacity to know when the imagination ends and uncompromisable reality begins. This is the basis of Steven's work, his central idea: all the great poems of Heaven and Hell have already been written, and what remained to be examined ,in the kind of intensified investigation that poetic language allows us, are poems of the Earth, not the least in this subject matter being the ceaseless contradictions and conflicts of humanity's desire to name the world he lives in and control it.
"To regard the imagination as metaphysics is to think of it as part of life, and to think of it as part of life is to realize the extent of artifice. We live in the mind. " --Wallace Stevens 

The world, the Earth, Nature itself, of course, can be imagined in any number of ways, and humanity itself may well come to believe his abstract definitions as implacable facts, but Nature goes on in its own set of processes that man is finally subject to.

However reshaped into man's image (or the image of the God man believes himself to resemble), nature pushes on, grows, expands, decays, renews, recycles, re-molds , destroys and creates anew, constantly churning, upsetting and moving through the convulsions and rough beauty that are the evidence of its life cycle.

All this renders the hoary substance of humanity's definition into so many fictions, supreme and less so, a poetry that nears special knowledge but which lacks the final gaze beyond the last, final veil. Our language is our method for beautiful guess work. Stevens gave a poetry that centered around this, to which his last message might well be that we have Poetics that cast itself in perpetual awe.

What we draw from a poem like "Sunday Morning" is his penchant for addressing everyday occurrences in terms that approach the mythological. We can suss and hacked through the ornate textures of the writing and found the "common place" events and emotions that Stevens loved to broaden in scope with his righteously writ rhetoric. This, I think, is precisely the sort of reading he would hope a reader would embark on.

You've also given us a vivid time line with your deciphering of Stevens' lush tones, and have opened the door on his grand theme, that our world as we build it, live in it and contemplate its larger moral and aesthetic worth, is connected with a habit of mind, a quirk of human personality , that has never left us.

As with other modernists of his period--Eliot, and Pound, certainly-- Stevens viewed the material world as evidence of myth-creation, objects, art and philosophies that are extraordinary less for what they reveal about fixed and permanent virtues, but more the poetic ingenuity in the language created to make their case. Here, with a simple Sunday coffee by the sea and an incidental twinge of guilt, we are linked to legends and sins of cultures worshiping allegedly alien gods.

Our reality , composed as it is with particularized aesthetic rigor and moral complexity, is no less a supreme fiction. Behind the fictions and the dimensions of the respective paradigms they allows us to live within, lies the differentiated mass of humanity, constantly creating the grand poetry that is the essence and unseen breath of their lives.

I don't know why there's all this defensiveness about whether Stevens is "obscure" or not. Erudition is generally a description of someone who is versed in many subjects that are outside thhe scope of the everyday; such knowledge is by nature obscure.This needn't be a veiled insult, though, because in the hands of a supreme poet, it's not a bad quality at all.

The real issue comes down to readability , I think.It's the crucial distinction here between what Stevens gives the world with his splendid blend of intellectual rigor and musicality, and what this week's poet tries to slip under the door.

Steven's verses are with abstract ideas, subjects by their nature obscure and requiring rarefied terms and jargon to describe dimensions that don't readily lend themselves to streaming, concise captions. Stevens' ideas are smoothly parlayed to a larger world by way of addressing his emerging ideas of phenomenal existence through the lens of the world whose intransigent knowability he interrogates.

His is a world that retains its mystery and wonder and which is still capable of creating actual, unsentimental awe in the curious and alert mind. "Notes toward a Supreme Fiction", "The Blue Guitar", "Emperor of Ice Cream" have that rare musical curve and sweep that set up paradoxes and then resolves them in ways that make their perception as much a part of natural process as anything else a species creature like man might.

Friday, January 6, 2017


You think of another city
That comes between this gas station
And the “x” on the map we’re driving towards,
Sounds something like
Goat cheese,
you joke,
A smile
For every mile that went
Silent behind us,
Goleta, I tell you,
And tap beats on the
Steering wheel,
Billy Joel is getting out of Allentown
With his piano and acoustic guitar,
Sing me a song, I ask,
Sing me something
That will make me sad
And glad to be breathing,
You drop the magazine to your lap,
Smile, as you do,
When mystery discovers the
Parts of your psyche
No one could find
On a map
Of all the bumps on your head,
You place the map,
Folded in three wrong directions,
In the glove compartment,
You stare to the highway,
Santa Barbara is nearing,
A Sad song, you repeat,
And croon, husky and low,
“Happy Birthday to you..."