Wednesday, December 29, 2010

COLORS OF THE SEA (new song demo)

A fairly rough demo. Tossing it out there to see it has any sea legs.

Words & music 2010 -- Tim Buck
All tracks -- Tim Buck

Colors of the Sea

Who knew there could be someone like you?
Who could have guessed you would really exist?
I have a fantastical imagination
But I was stunned when you emerged from mist.

That mist was made of many thousand miles
and many pieces of moonlight beguiling.
That lunar sphere hovers inside my head.
I see what it does to the waves where you're smiling.

You write in profound and complete sentences.
You write to me, each word is a treasure.
How could I deserve your glance of friendship,
a mystery beyond earthly measure?

I want to sit with you for just one hour,
float in the current of your special power.
By candle light on a terrace I'll breathe,
then I'll wade into the colors of the sea.
I'll disappear into the colors of the sea.

Time is such a capricious thing.
Upon a dream, it turns outside-in.
And this shipwreck came alive down in fathoms
to a chorus of Neptune's Nereids singing.

Liquid emotions swirl amid fishes
with fins that slice a preposterous volume.
I come up for air, grateful you simply know me,
but it's my nature for things to go solemn.

I want listen to what your eyes impart,
hear what you feel when you speak of the arts.
Perhaps touch your hand in warm breeze,
then I'll return to the colors of the sea.
I'll dissolve into the colors of the sea.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Tom Waits on the Danube (for Lu, Sonja, and Lu)

Big bundle of a spirit moaning,
he gots to float past the castle.
And you better be there waiting,
under the pink moon and shocked
just like them vodka-washed stars
can't believe their blinking eyes.

When Tom Waits navigates Serbia,
all the frowns must leak off and boil,
so he can catch them in his crazy bag
and turn them into infinite laughing.

It's not too dark in the pink moonlight
that will fall at an angle to your river.
After each song of swirling catharsis,
that balladeer will fizz up with giggles.
He'll stand in a shallow-draft Jon boat,
with a ten-foot long paddle to plow
through the wet-color, watery Danube,
and he'll moan till the golden fish dance.

And he'll come here for you, my sweet dears.
And he'll come here to sing, my sweet dears.
And he'll come here where all things go hard
to sing you great kaleidoscopes for bridges.

And his song might wake up the dead.
Ruined ghosts on ramparts will shout
on syllables of black-bearded strife
like Blues from a great battled Fate.
And the air will jazz out like fingers
to a sward before rocks sloping down,
where young hearts beat to a dreaming,
where hands hold, wringing out ironies.

When ole Tom Waits wails in Serbian,
things are gonna jump up like magic.
Smoke will curl beneath the Danube
like gentle nightmares in candlelight.

When Tom Waits comes down the Danube,
big soul will pour from his mouth and eyes.
When Tom Waits floats Danube water,
accordions will swell unknown waltzes.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


A small boy in the dark back seat
looks steeply out of the window
of an Oldsmobile, spiraling in fog
down through the mountain night.
An Oldsmobile going down steeply
toward a sleeping impossible town.

The road and the town and 1960
are all tilted, and the lights ghostly.
Things get stuck on looking eyes,
so nothing will ever make sense.

And the mountain is too dark for providence.
All spirits asleep in their legends and glories.
And the Oldsmobile rumbling goes on tilting
through the Arkansas fog full of meaning.

His father drives so steeply down
from wilderness dark, on a mission.
And less like a town than a village,
that valley has just one shop open.
On the logic of a dream, he drives
as if the world no longer is breathing.
And the boy has forgotten to breathe
as they approach that one light glowing.
It is yellow and pale and seems speaking
about things beyond all impossible towns.
Of a heaven where nothing has meaning,
while his father and mother go shopping.
They drove here so steeply on a mission
to purchase a chiming wood mantle clock.

Because the boy got so stuck looking,
the future of fog holds no chiming.

Does she know the day? (for Karla)

I came to know her from darkness,
since she came on soft crow wings.
She flew on black angles, with eyes
lit by the autumn's stray starlight.

I came to know her in darkness,
and she's still in my mind's eye...
wings turning the night's long page.

She showed me strange music,
gave permission for madness,
explained the hearts of Libras,
and laughed with a rare “Ha!”

How fiery her words burn
and passionate her heart is!
How alive in old legends
and as faithful as a child.

She taught me strange music,
with her gypsy skirt swirling,
the sound of loping tuba stride
like a wounded soul smiling.

And so many other records
from so many other genres
and all of them cool-rocking.

I would be a damn fool liar
if I said she wasn't alluring.
And it took me many moons
to cherish simple friendship.

And now when the night hangs
on the mystery of sad dreams,
I can't quite ever picture her
in the brightness of a dull sun.

When the night turns Poe pages,
with poems of melodrama...
I ponder a strange question:

does she ever know the day?

Nabina Das -- I call her "spirit"

And that might make her mad. Unless she accepts that word “spirit” as meaning mental motion, humanistic aura, or something else with a more symbolic than superstitious connotation.

Nabina and I have had our disagreements about a certain controversial topic. But we've managed to remain on speaking and joking terms. Her emphasis, it seems to me, is on social manifestations and temporal constructions. In contrast, I tend to drift off on waves of metaphysical resonance.

My friend is from Hyderabad, India. And she commutes to the States for annual teaching residences in Ithaca, NY. Nabina is also an editor and writer – both prose and poetry. Her novel Footprints in the Bajra was published this year to glowing reviews:

Nabina likes theater performance, occasionally participating. In her college days, she did it much more – classical, folk, modern stuff. Nabina is involved physically and “spiritually” in areas of social justice. She is wry and witty and funny and, sometimes, deadly serious. I feel privileged to be a Facebook acquaintance. Oh...she also finds water and fishes to be deeply alluring.

What I wish to highlight here is Nabina's poetry. I am impressed by many of her poems. An artist's intuitive flair and an unteachable talent come through in many of her poems. There is a certain quality or aspect to these poems that I envy. Once a month, I swear an oath to myself that I will begin trying to write my own poems more in that manner. It's a hard thing to put into words. But I'm always cramming impossible stuff into words, so I'll give it a shot.

It's how a good poet allows ego to slip into the background only of a poem. The poet's weight of experience is implicit, not paraded or whined to the far shores of being. Coming from one of her poems, you don't sense that you've been drenched by salty tears. Your inner ear is not buzzing with maudlin melodies. Your heart is not flopping around like an unrequited amorous fish. Rather, living, moving tableaux are arrayed deftly across the lines of Nabina's poems. These depictions of life and being outside the ego make the experience of a poem vibrate with interest, with fascination. Here's one I especially like:

Dead River Longings

That was a poet who pined for a sickle-curved river
Golden perhaps or emitting a glitter through its ripples
The river name evoked glinted crop crowns; he wrote about
Jade paddy fields sliced by crow yells and bloodied streams.

That was a poet who walked the morose city streets alone
Uttering words usually unspeaking, like flow and tide;
In stumps of concrete habitats he did graffiti of a rising sea.
In such forgetfulness, some say drunken stupor, he died
Cut by a car when street cleaners came dusting the morning.
Or was he beaten unconscious and thrown by the police?
Out on the dirt, because the bugger wouldn’t stop chanting

About his mist-shadowed river of dying ivory dolphins
That buried incoherent songs in soft mud made softer by
Human waste. What haste hides is that he came back after
Moon’s wane, on his lips: that river, ujani, is still my bride.

Copyright 2009 by Nabina Das

Now...I don't wish to leave the impression that this way of writing is the only proper way. Or that I don't also enjoy poems sung from the inner courts, sung as melancholic spasms (I write such myself). It's simply a difference. Nabina's style is a refreshment. Navel-gazing is allowed to become a gaze onto alterity.

In that first link above – Nabina's blog “fleuve-souterrain” – you can find many of her poems.

Okay. I called Nabina a “spirit.” What do I really intend with that word? She doesn't go in for mumbo-jumbo and crystal healing and gypsy auguries. If an occasional "spirit" flits through one of her poems, it is an ironic incursion. I cherish such moments of poetic license.

Nabina is grounded to the ground, where life happens, where human beings suffer, where children sing and play. But I discern a numinous luster surrounding her poems, her personality, and her humanism. No ones knows what Being is – we barely manage to get a grasp on being. So...I push onto Nabina the term “spirit” as a way of acknowledging her own inexplicable arising into form and action. As my own mystic way of coming to terms with her artistic channeling of experience into vivid, resonant words.


One tepid sip of red wine
and another......
then a third.......

How quickly it changes,
that aching in all the veins,
that long virus of the unreal,
fever of her unheard laughter...

All those places I have been
that do not exist but are ripe
with a scarlet hour of sequins
sparkling and new smells...

All those pieces of encounter
that could never fall into time
require only three sips of wine
to sink beneath my breathing.

Then deeper into this bottle's velvet,
to make a ritual of obscurantist night.
Yes, to sing a silent wordless hymn
in unison with a cold winter dove.

I now tip an invisible felt hat
toward an untouchable smile,
curving, fading on foreign lips.
I tip my hat of no known color.

On this canvas of a distant angel,
I'm pinned like Jakob saying "uncle."
And take the role on with aplomb --
wisecracking, raconteuring uncle.'s almost Christmas time!
I'll don a charming Santa suit
and click my heels for chuckles.
And make a dream inside a gift,
a box that hides a scene of snow.

But this is all too much for drinking.
Such thoughts now sink on swallows
below the surface of some old sea.

Uncle must sit and pour his minutes,
no longer thinking of brilliant corals.

He shall sit and breathe a rhythm
of gratitude for a splendid “niece.”

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Thanks to Yael Tomashov-Hollander...

...for opening me up to another dimension of poetry.

Yael is the editor of a poetry journal -- Almanac. She lives in Tel Aviv. She has recently persuaded me to try recording some of my poems. What a groovy experience for me! Now...whether or not I am a good reader is not the point. And I might or might not put some of my readings on a page-player.

What's important and fascinating to me (someone who has never done public or private readings) is how the lines can come to life. With characterization, with expressiveness. Sometimes the poem conceals its inner life. Sometimes certain aspects are only implicit or latent on the silent page.

This reminds me of what the pianist Alfred Brendel said about some of Mozart's concertos. About how they lack many markings -- dynamic indications. About how the interpreter has to gauge the overall tone or context of the piece and, from that, discern when and how to provide emphases and inflections.

I've recorded three of my poems so far. Simply reading the poem on the silent page is one thing. One moves through the general tone, through the prosody, through the lines breaks. But some things, I think, are missed, or only halfway excavated. Reading the poem aloud, one breathes into it those emphases and inflections. Discovers those little places for a pause. Discovers a word here and there that can be given a certain coloration -- ironic, bemused, chagrined, enchanted.

I'm sure that most of the poets I know here are experienced public or private readers. But this is new for me, and I'm enjoying it a great deal.

Thanks so much, Yael!

the wine party that got slightly out of hand (part six)

part six (departure)

The rocket-powered helicopters began landing at sunrise, as previously instructed.

Kris had managed to recapture into his black box the surviving, singed demon-ghosts and dragon-spirits. Fortunately, no alter-geists had made the inter-dimensional jump last night. After much pleading and theatrical gesture, we persuaded Kris not to attempt a take-off from the roof. Instead, he would hitch a ride with Nabina. To India, which would get him fairly close to Australia. He could then paraglide the rest of the way, over sharks and stuff.

People came out in pairs of themselves and boarded their respective transports, back to their private worlds and a semblance of sanity.

As the Paulas stood waiting for their helicopter, I pulled the real one aside.

"Paula, I need to tell you something -- part explanation, part apology."

"Yes, Tim. Please do. Something was just a teeny bit 'off' last night. So...spill the beans. Ha, ha!"

"Okay, see...I knew you didn't imbibe, that's why I ordered ginger ale and told Jasper to serve it just for you. So I figured your...tipsiness...last night was simply a physical manifestation of spirit. Then I became suspicious, eventually interrogating Jasper. He finally confessed, amid an obnoxious outburst of guilty tears. He had a crush on you. But he knew he was an uncouth and unsightly redneck. So he developed a theory: you might possibly fall for him if he substituted wine for your ginger ale. That's why you got...'verbally enthused'...and then passed out a couple times. I'm so very, very sorry about that."

"I thought that Jasper fellow was eying me funny last night. Hmm....well, Tim...just don't let it happen again. Ha, ha..."

An hour later, everyone was gone, even the rednecks. I was standing alone in front of the odd skyscraper.

A sadness came over me, and I wasn't sure why. I began walking absentmindedly around the clearing. Until I heard the hissing of Nabina's lawn sprinkler. I guess she'd left it going all night.

The water had formed a good-sized pool, almost a miniature pond. With the new sunlight hitting the tall sprinkler spray and then falling back into the pool as pieces of wet brilliance, my sadness shaded into melancholy. Parting had become such bittersweet sorrow. Now, my coming days would be burdened with a new pitch of chronic disquiet. Oh, well.

As I mused, I noticed that a glowing white lotus blossom had spontaneously emerged inside the wondrous pool. I splashed through the ankle-deep water and picked up the flower. It was shaped like a kiss never to be kissed. I smiled strangely (most likely) and then put the lotus blossom back, to float beautifully within the natural liquid poem.

Then I heard what sounded like a lawn-mower engine overhead. I looked up. It was a large black zeppelin. It was directly overhead. And a dozen ropes fell from it. And a dozen Special Forces soldiers slid down the ropes toward me. I was arrested and taken, for temporary lodging, to the Tupelo Jail.

NASA had detected the Tesla-blast and contacted Homeland Security. Homeland Security contacted the President. The President informed the Pentagon.

So far no one in official capacity believed my account of last night's events. They would detain me indefinitely until I said something that made sense to them.

And here I still sit, in the Tupelo Jail. Waiting for whatever may come. The sheriff was nice enough to slip me paper and pencil. To pass the uncertain time, I wrote down the above account. The deputy was kind enough to, surreptitiously, mail this account to my alter back in Jonesboro.

In fact, he's probably typing this whole thing up right now and will soon post it on FB.

The End. :)

the wine party that got slightly out of hand (part five)

part five (crisis)

Concern settled over the crowd. Several gasps. One of the gowned Hobo women shrieked. Sonja disengaged the safety. Joseph kept filming.

I don't think these beings had an intention to frighten us. I don't think this was a traditional haunting. I think these were old and innocent apparitions.

But then something happened. As they moved around and over the blaze, they caught on fire and howled with incorporeal agony. A supernatural fume was released like a gas into the room. Everyone breathed in the ghost smoke and began acting somewhat melodramatically.

"Excellent!" said Kris, with a dreamy look in his eyes.

As it turned out, they were not flaming with real fire. Being ectomplasmic, a kind of dubious combustion had occurred. It only appeared to be truly on-fire ghosts and spirits. But as they went a-gliding above and a-swooping among us onlookers, we did not know this. We panicked, melodramatically.

The Hobo guys and gals went nuts and bolted for the stairwell. I think they were used to wine-drinking -- they ran unwaveringly, like Olympic sprinters. The rest of us -- being poets and artists of various stripes -- held our ground. This was all too amazing and awesomely terrifying to miss. Even the rednecks stuck around, probably because I hadn't paid them yet.

But, oh, did we scream. It is fun to scream in communal delirium. Except for Joseph (filming) and Sonja (aiming). Also, Miriam, Lisa, and Fatima maintained their cool, even if the ghost smoke made their eyes look a bit funny. But they were not spazzing and gaping. Miriam, Lisa, and Fatima stood next to one another, with an air of sane observation. Their expressions said: panic is bothersome and leads to no good result.

Miriam shook her head while fixing an accusatory eye on one of the also-screaming, pyrotechnic demon-spirits. She declared, "Oy! I expect you to clean up any mess you make, after you've had your little fun!"

Lisa appeared to be sympathetic to these flapping, martyred effusions of old Earth and uncertain mythology. Fatima was taking it all in under her cool black hat. Her studious demeanor seemed one of pondering a new problem of content and form, of process and being.

But we others had turned into human pin-balls, bouncing off one another in happy gooseflesh terror and yelping mindlessness.

As I said, Sonja had been training her weapon on the flying, flaming nether-forms. Before Kris could shout, "Sonja! Don't shoot em. It'll bring me bad luck!" she squeezed off a couple plasma rounds at a dragon-spirit undulating through the air. It let out a hideous, polyphonic squeal, like copulating wolverines. And then went poof, disappearing into nothingness. Sonja rolled on the ground like a ninja assassin and took up a new position. She swiveled the barrel and locked in on a demon-spirit passing in front of Peter's special telescope.

She fired. The neon-green beam from her weapon arced across the room and just missed the creature. Instead, the sizzling Tesla-blast went straight into the lens of the telescope. As the Tesla-energy, coursing through the telescope tube, continued out the other end, a tennis-ball sized hole was blasted through the window glass. The green energy spattered and sparkled, onwards and upwards into space, toward the distant M-brane.

In the next instant, a blinding flash filled the party room. When we could see again, we saw this: our counterparts from the alternate universe were in the room with us. They had been sucked into our world though inexplicable Tesla processes. Yes, they were truly our alternates, our opposites.

Alter-Olga was dressed in a black-ruffled Berlin dress from 1920. Like a chanteuse with arms upraised, she sang in extreme soprano something about the joys of immodesty and recommending the destruction of all societies.

Alter-Charles was a goateed beatnik, howling verse that was laced with obscenities, dripping with superciliousness.

Alter-Miriam, a retiring wallflower, just stood there doing nothing. Real Miriam walked up to her and said, "What?!...Are you going to just stand there like a gornisht statue? Move around. me. I'll show you how to do a modern dance that will release your pathetic, pent-up alter-soul!"

Alter-Yael was a Valley Girl, annoying the hell out of real Yael: "And he was all, like, 'don't have a cow,' and I go 'that's so bogus.' And he goes, 'then I'll meet you at the mall,' and I'm, like, 'will you buy me those white vinyl knee-boots? That would be so radical'".........

Alter-Nels was a sleazy corporate executive, with beady, predatory eyes.

Alter-Robyn was a brow-furrowed schoolmarm, holding a punitive wooden ruler in one hand and a length of didactic chalk in the other.

Alter-me sauntered up to me, like a debonair Buddy Love from Jerry's Lewis's The Nutty Professor movie.

And so it went -- each person trying to form some kind of relationship with their opposite self.

A few minutes later, I found Peter and whispered to him:

"Any ideas on how we get them back to their world?"

"It's not possible. I'm afraid they're here to stay."

I pondered this for about 15 seconds, then:

"Oh, well. I guess we can each take our other self home with us. For room and board, the alters can do our chores, even go to our jobs for us. That way, we can all spend even more time on Facebook!"

A few minutes later, it was so decided. Everyone -- real and alter -- thought this was a dandy solution.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Lift me on melody to join you by mountains
shocked into sweating gods above the rivers.
Lift me on thoughts altruistically, and I will come
in the wet flick of a strong mermaid's flashing tail.

Dream your world into me, into narrow creases
of my imagining, into pores of my dreaming skin.
Crystal blue water, hallowed beneath mountains,
will make a numinous surface for weary eyes.
It would be such refreshment to stand in the dawn,
as wisps of sea fog float into new-breathing lungs.

Take me now!...into a long time of amnesia,
a graceful moving to a stark, different world,
where happiness lives and no dire guilt stalks.
Anchor me there, as if I am an old Viking ship
drifting just off a coast of sheer rock plunging.
Be this day's anchor, barnacled and burnished,
with knowledge of fathoms on into shallows.

Under the pagan thrall of those great granite spires!
Into the mornings and noons and evenings of awe!
Yes, bring the wind under a cloud for my transport
to bear me over brash sea, then farther to hinter.

Everything is tilted, and everything is sloping.
That is just how my level-bubble slides off center.
Askew always, so I would be balanced ironically,
sympathetic with angles making the heart flutter.

Scale and diminution! How some of us need terror!
How it feeds the dark death-wishes keeping us alive!
How the scope of impossible beauty shrinks us down
for moments of caesura during symphonic gesture...
as we take new breath before the valkyrie crescendo.

Oh!...and if a storm should thrust in from the sea
and push into a brooding cove's beach of pebbles
and stones long-weathered to round and glistening!...
You might be asked to hold my hand, as a friend,
so my stricken mind's delight does not unhinge me!

And after hours of seaview and rivershore wandering...
before the paused clock of wonder moves once again...
let us leave those shores beetled by the great rock spines
and drift like two ghosts toward gentle hills and meadows.

Will there be pastels of wildflowers I have never seen?
How odd of me to think we would have left all the rivers!
Even here, a shallow vital stream sparkles the afternoon.
And I already know that norns are destining the waterpath.

Tonight, we will wend our way toward a perfect city.
Above us, great plasmas will tremble in aurora colors.
Take me please to these things and into your company.

Copyright 2010 by Tim Buck

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

the refinery

It stands one mile outside of town. The old refinery stands now in twilight. Many pieces have been taken for salvage, for scrap. But the vast skeleton is still there, darker than the evening now going deeper. No longer an architecture and alchemy for chemicals. No longer the pensive men, by day or graveyard shift. No more sound and vapor, dissonance and movement. No dull clicks of billiard balls in the smoky break room.

Down where Arkansas sleeps restlessly, on the fitful, dreaming outskirts of a town, that hulking and scarred refinery changes. It has been changing for many decades into a work of entropic art. A thing now self-sculpted into disturbing lineaments. But even this new thing, this jarring abstract artwork is haunted by migraines, sudden death, and memory.

In night hours, a strange wind will move through girders of the rusted catcracker and water tower, around storage tanks. It is always perplexing to observe this artwork when it wavers, when it takes on tacit skeins and rosy glow, becomes itself again.

Even a dead refinery has a ghost that comes out to breathe.

acrylics on paper, 18 x 24, by Tim Buck

the wine party that got slightly out of hand (part four)

part four (entertainment)

Around 11 o'clock, I told Bow-legged Pete that it was time to break out the case of cheaper wine. By now, most everyone's palate would be too desensitized to know the difference.

I noticed that Sonja had attracted a little crowd, owing paradoxically, to her coiled lack of demonstrativeness, to her disarming, intense self-possession. And most likely also owing to a subconscious sense that she was our general protector. After all, we were out here in the middle of nowhere. Anything could happen.

But so far, the night was going splendidly. Perhaps it had something to do with the number of people. As they say, the more the merrier. I had become gradually conscious that the room had become gradually more populace as the hours waxed. At least a dozen complete strangers -- mostly men, two or three women -- were in our midst. Uninvited. The gents were dressed in black tuxedos, the women in elegant ball gowns. It occurred to me that while in Tupelo yesterday I had seen a poster on the court house door: "Hobo convention tomorrow night." Perhaps, these were Hobos who had caught wind of our party. And had wandered away from their own gathering, then making their way through the forested night to our skyscraper. I hoped the wine would hold out.

"Listen up, everyone!" I declared, becoming more comfortable in the guise of MC as the evening progressed. People began listening up. I felt important.

"It's time for the festivities. You will notice that Peter has set up something for us in front of the large plate-glass window." We all joined him to see what our man of amateur science and professional sardonic wit had brewed up.

"This is a special telescope I built myself." He pushed a red button on top of the tube. The telescope came to life, whirring and gyrating in a slow, elliptical motion. It soon locked onto some distant target way beyond the still cloud-covered moon.

"You see, folks, this instrument is automatically programmed to pick up super-sensitive radiations revealing the presence and location of worm-holes in space. Please line up and have a look. You'll get to see your own eye glaring back at you."

We formed a queue, and everyone got to see their own, alternate eye looking back at them from an alternate universe, on the other side of the M-brane. There were many "oohs" and "ahhs."

Yesterday, the three rednecks had ripped out some load-bearing studs from a floor below. And re-purposed some sheets of wall panels. They built a stage in the party room, against a wall. It was two-feet off the ground and 10' deep by 20' wide. I flipped off all the lights except for two fixtures directly over the stage and then directed everyone to gather for the performances.

Charles read a new poem for the occasion. Several women fainted.

Then, I sang a song about staggering through a bog to reach a magic tree the fruit of which would make me dream in reverse and wake up before anything sad happened. I accompanied myself by playing air-guitar on a house broom that Merle had found in a janitor closet.

Yael and Olga then took the stage. Both were draped in beautiful beige shawls. And in a perfectly synchronized choreography, they performed a Russian folk dance. Amazing! They didn't even know each other. Yet there they were, dancing as if twinned in spirit. Or as Tolstoy might have said -- having set their arms akimbo, their shoulders and waists came alive....their heels clicked the floor as they slowly twirled....where had they learned these mutual motions, these unteachable, soulful Russian gestures? I was so happy that tears fell like raindrops into my wineglass.

When it was over, Olga hopped down from the stage and Matt came bounding upon it, with inebriated aplomb. Yael, with a fluid, dramatic sweep, removed the shawl and flung it out toward the audience. It sailed like an albino manta ray and landed on top of Nels's head.

After a sideways jerk of her head and a grinning hard wink toward the "band," Yael began snapping her fingers like a beatnik. Merle, Jasper, and Bow-legged Pete ripped into the Jitterbug Rag. Believe me, you have not lived until you have experienced such a thing played by xylophone, nose flute, and gong!

Matt and Yael began sashshaying and jiving in rhythm to the music. Then they went crazy. They danced across the stage, swinging wildly and grooving happily. All of us in the crowd below clapped our hands in tempo and wiggled our behinds in sympathy to the spirited big-band proceedings.

Next, it was Chansonette's turn. She set up an easel and placed a fairly large virgin canvas on it. Holding in one hand a wooden palette arrayed with shiny oil pigments and a long-handled brush in the other, she began a spontaneous painting. While slowly, pensively reciting "Three Blind Mice" in extinct Sumerian dialect, she painted with intense concentration. A wondrous abstract image emerged on the canvas. Each of us, I knew, received this fantastic image into our souls to slightly alter our brain-waves forever.

After everyone's glasses were refilled by the circulating redneck waiters, Nabina, Bonnie, Nels, and Regina took the stage. Each had a large white rectangle of poster board on their chest, draped from a string around their necks. Nabina -- "Spring," Bonnie -- "Summer," Nels -- "Autumn," Regina -- "Winter." Performance art was about to happen.

They formed a circle -- like points on a compass -- about eight feet in diameter and then began walking in a druid-like perambulation. Three times, they walked in a circle. Then, they stopped, with Nabina facing us.

"I am Spring. You'll hurt when I sing!"

Three more rotations, then Bonnie:

"I am Summer. My heat is a bummer!


"I am Autumn. Grief knows no bottom!"

And finally, Regina:

"I am Winter. Your soul will splinter!"

They then left the stage to resounding applause.

Now, it was Robyn's turn. She somehow got to the stage with the wine bottle still balanced on top of her head. And now, she was holding two other unopened bottles. While singing "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" (not the real melody -- one scarifyingly morphed into something like Schoenberg's Erwartung), she began miraculously juggling the two bottles. Never did the bottle on her head give the least sign of sliding off. When the performance concluded, Robyn giggled and curtsied.

I looked around for Kris. I had not asked him to perform. But I thought now that he could provide just the right touch to end the entertainment part of the evening.

"Kris, would you mind doing something on stage?"

He thought for a full minute, then:

"Sure. Let me get something from the cockpit." He headed off for the stairs to the roof. Shortly, he reappeared carrying a parachute pack. He unzipped it and removed a shiny onyx-black box, with strange carvings all over its surface. A hinged box, like a music box.

"You flew that plane...without a parachute inside the pack?"

"If you intend to fly, don't plan on falling."

"So, what are you going to perform?"

"First, we'll need to build a fire in front of the stage. I have certain instructions in my head. For what I want to do, a fire is necessary."

"Kris, I really don't think it would be a good idea to make a fire here on the top floor of a building."

"Never question inspiration. Go with what comes. And besides, the floor is ceramic tile. Perfect."

So, I got the rednecks to gather up the wood scraps from the stage construction. Soon, a good-sized blaze was blazing in front of the stage. I asked everyone to come form a semi-circle, to sit cross-legged on the floor around the fire. Everyone that is except Joseph, who continued to wander around with his hand-held camera, under the sway of his directorial muse. Also, Sonja remained standing, aloof in the shadows near a wall, weapon at the ready.

I noticed that Paula had passed out in one of the plastic lawn chairs. I walked over and gently shook her. She burst from her dream with:

"Noooooo!! The Black King has stabbed the White King on top of my besieged harpsichord!"

A few moments later, Kris somersaulted onto the stage, while holding the onyx box. And then addressed the Facebook and Hobo crowd:

"I acquired this special box by selling 30% of my soul to a Calvinist headhunter priest in New Guinea five years ago. I don't mean that he hunted Calvinists. Rather, he had converted. Sort of. A syncretism reeking of predestination and justified corpses. Anyway...I thought you might enjoy discovering with me what is inside this box. I've never opened it. Never even asked that priest what it contains. All I know is that it's some kind of good-luck charm."

He then turned his head toward Bow-legged Pete and gave him a significant nod. The cushioned mallet struck the gong, sending out a resonant, beckoning wave of sound.

Holding the black box out in front of him, like a magician about to conjure rabbits, Kris gingerly opened the lid.

Seven Chinese demon-ghosts and three dragon-spirits wafted out in semi-transparent mode. All of us leaned back involuntarily from the shock of this revelation. Kris's eyes lit up, a fascinated smile enlivening his lips.

The ghosts and spirits began to slowly swirl above the box and then wafted out into the room. All of our mouths hung open as the ectoplasmic creatures zoomed and danced in the air above us.

Monday, December 6, 2010

the refinery (original version as a poem)

It stands one mile outside of town.
The old refinery stands now in twilight.
Many pieces have been taken for salvage,
for scrap, but the vast skeleton is still there.
Darker than the evening now going deeper.

No longer an architecture and alchemy for chemicals.
No longer the pensive men, by day or graveyard shift.
No more sound and vapor, dissonance and movement.
No dull clicks of billiard balls in the smoky break room.

Down where Arkansas sleeps restlessly,
on the fitful, dreaming outskirts of a town,
the hulking and scarred refinery changes.
It has been changing for many decades
into a work of entropic art. A thing now
self-sculptured into disturbing lineaments.

But even this new thing, this jarring abstract artwork
is haunted by migraines, sudden death, and memory.
In night hours, a strange wind will move through the girders
of a rusted catcracker and water tower, around storage tanks.
It is always perplexing to observe this artwork when it wavers,
when it takes on tacit skeins and rosy glow, becomes itself again.

Even a dead refinery has a ghost that comes out to breathe.

acrylics on paper, 18 x 24, by Tim Buck

a 55-word story (a challenge from Bina Gupta)

The circular light shade swung overhead with a sickening glow. A bat flitted through the room. This space, crammed with books and jars of unknown creatures, exuded a mute hysteria. Staring at his keyboard, the strange frowning man thought of Mars, of Bucharest, of Phoenicia. He struggled, without success, to write a 55-word story.

the wine party that got slightly out of hand (part three)

part three (nine more people)


Standing with her hands on her hips, Miriam stared at me from 30 feet away. People passed back and forth across our line of sight. How could I not stare back at a woman who was staring at me? I was like a nonplussed gopher transfixed by the hypnotic gaze of a beautiful serpent. Yes, I said it -- "serpent." Women are sort of serpentine. They have a wavy shape. They are curvy. Men are helpless. Anyway....

I soon realized that I was moving, that my feet were taking steps of their own accord in the direction of Miriam. But this phenomenon, this happening was a complex one. Of course, part of me had no argument getting (to paraphrase Ezra Pound) my invisible antenna buzzed. But there was a deeper element involved: it was like the potential for a weight to be lifted off, it was like I was moving toward a priest, or whatever. A knowing, pitying, pacifying shoulder waited there. For me to hang my head on and bawl like a baby. Bawl until all the tears were dry, until my tearless eye sockets dry-heaved with an exhausted catharsis.

But...I was only three steps away from emotional and spiritual deliverance when Miriam's gaze moved from me to someone else, fixing instead on another who now was standing right beside her.

"As I was saying, Miriam, the exotic tango of anti-matter and imaginary particles...."


"'Brutha' Buck! 'Brutha' Buck,"came the melodic mezzo voice of a blond-maned woman about my age. It was Chansonete galloping up to me and beaming with extraordinary effusiveness. Yet an effusiveness oddly colored with traces of melancholy. Something deep in the eyes. Something in the eyes that has not only seen of lot of things but has also seen into things. Or maybe these were eyes that cast as much emotion as they received impressions.

"Chansonette...'Sista' Buck! How delightful," I said, with uncharacteristic sincerity in the usage of such a word as "delightful."

"You. Will. Never. Guess what I have here." She fumbled around in her handbag and retrieved a sheet of official-looking paper, with a letterhead on it and everything.

"This proves what I have suspected all along, Tim. You and I really are related."

"What is it?" I asked, with uncharacteristic curiosity about anything official-looking.

"It's a document I requested from F.R.A.U.D. -- 'Forgotten Relatives Analyzed and Ultimately Disclosed.' It's genuine. It's from a special office in Nigeria. and it was free! All I had to do was email them my bank account number, which they said would contain a karmic, mystical code. To help them, as they said, 'penetrate the dim possible past.' And it worked! It says right here in very nice script: 'The Chansonette Buck family and the Tim Buck family diverged during the Dark Ages, when brain plague caused a whole village in southern France to contract amnesia. Everyone wandered off and forgot who they were related to. And a secondary effect of the brain plague was that every fifth generation would produce a crop of severely romantic offspring.'"

We clicked wine glasses over this wonderful news, then hugged like a true brother and sister!


Some rare people vibrate with a very low frequency. Almost tectonic. Deep under the surface. Sort of like a soul breathing in a quasi-yogic manner. And even rarer are the few (or one) who also projects an inner light. Sort of a Krishna frisson.

I caught Nels's attention by waving the two small semaphore flags that I always keep stuck through my belt like a pair of Japanese swords. Of course, Nels had no idea what my message was -- "I have two blowfish I will sell cheap" -- but the distracting quality of my flag-waving was enough to entice him over for a how-do-you-do.

"Twin-cousin Tim!" (Since Nels and I seem to enjoy one another's absurd Facebook status updates, we decided to wittily refer to ourselves as cousins, and twins.)

"Howdy, Nels. Please explain to me, in two words or less, how it is that you keep such a smile in your heart."

"Conga drum."



I was afraid of Lisa. Because I'm afraid of women who are so intense that they make flora lean in their direction when they walk past. Who make fauna run in figure-eight patterns when they approach.

Forget ESP and that junk. When Lisa came up to me and stared straight into my face, I felt that my soul was being vacuumed out, and sucked into an invisible piñata shaped like a teardrop. It seemed as if every deep secret in every forlorn corner of my being was now inside that piñata. Inside her eyes, I saw her hang that sad vessel from a dead tree limb. And then whack it with a hardback copy of Neruda poems until it burst open. An exorcism by a magical woman.

Into the free imagined air, my soul's burden flew. Exposed. Revealed. A magical momentary ritual of goodwill and blessing. Repressed love now liberated and flowing like evaporated chagrin outside or inside or outside/inside my altered state.

I came back to reality, sort of.

"Dear, Lisa! You're good, very good. But I think I could win a contest."

"What do you have in mind?"

"Dueling epiphanies. We each get one shot at it. I'll go first. Hey! Everyone. Gather around. We're about to epiphanize."

I cleared my throat and took a dramatic stance.

"Alarm clock alarming. Light through curtains. Like the glow of a lantern-fish eyeball. Dew-soaked crows complaining beyond the window. To hell with this. I'm staying in bed."

"Hooray!" went up the collective approval.

Rarely had I achieved such extemporaneous transcendence. "Okay, now it's your turn, Lisa. Try to beat that!" I said, winking with unjustified confidence, practically arrogance.

Lisa closed her eyes, breathed deeply, then:

"Waiting. This morning mountain vapor heavy with waiting. And that nightingale, having sung her dark passion, is now silent. Soon, the pink-silver light will astonish this fog. I have also sung. I am also still waiting...."

"Bravo! The winner! No question!" rose from various members of the assembled.

I was secretly pissed off but made an ostensibly large-souled concession.


"Tim, you don't look as nice in person as you do in your profile pictures. Did you Photoshop yourself to make yourself look more human? And why does your hair look scared?"

"Regina, you are so cool. Tell me a quick story about an Aegean merman who crawls ashore at night and then, breathing with difficulty, flops and slithers onto a terrace where he sucks the toes of a sleeping maiden dressed in a transparent gown while lounging on a garden seat."

"No. I'm not in the mood to tell you a new story. I'm in the mood for something else. I want to dance like the demented mistress of Dionysus."

" lead. I'll try my best not to step on your feet. Those shapely tanned feet, with toenails painted the color of a faint-green opalescent illusion.

"Hey, boys! Strike up the xylophone, flute, and gong. Play a groovy Greek bossa nova!"


" I'm in your crazy sandbox!"

This was uttered in ascending tones by Paula, who came toward me as vertical as a pine tree, yet somehow also as undulating as a Canadian prairie vista.

"Paula, my frighteningly talented camera-woman friend! How are you, darn it?"

"Ha, ha. I'm still vertical, but this ginger ale...oh, my. I think I'm going to explode with a little poem. Stand back. Don't get hit with my word-shrapnel! Ah, ha, ha, ha.......umm....where is Jasper or Merle? My glass needs completely filling up again. I mean, completely. Ha! Do you know what, Tim? I'm going to tell you what. I like sunsets. I like sunsets because they tug and pull out my soul. I have a soul. A big soul. A nice, colorful soul. My soul gets pulled out and blends into the sighs of sunsets. Life is not a dream, Tim. No, Tim, it's not at all. Life is a sunset that never sets. Life is many colors and the way that one color touches another, like a shy lover just before becoming warmly and deliriously entangled.....

"Oh, thank you, Jasper. Yes...all the way to the rim. Even let it spill over just a little bit. I like to lick ginger ale...."


I had been mildly confused and not a little concerned. The whole time, Charles had kept a large army-style duffel bag slung across his back. I could stand it no longer.

"Charles, what's with the bag?"

"Well, if you must know, it's me."

I did not understand.

"It's you?"

"Yes, Tim. I take me with me whenever I go on a trip like this...though, I have never before been on a trip quite like this."

My look of persistent stupefaction prompted an ensuing, not ordinary, demonstration. Charles removed the duffel bag and set it on the floor in front of me. A few others, intrigued, came to watch. He knelt on the floor and unzipped the bag. Out popped a boy about seven or eight years old, who was rubbing his eyes and yawning.

"This is me when I was quite young. I keep him around for inspiration, for aesthetic energy when the day sags and the night heaves. Something came over him at that age. Something akin to a numinous invasion. He began writing poems. Some of them continue to startle me, still bring on a sense of eerie wonderment. This Charles and I are still very much bonded in spirit. He lives off my new poems, and I take nourishment from his old ones."

"Cool." I reached in my shirt pocket and pulled out a lolly-pop with bright delicious colors. I handed it to the now-wide-awake youngster. His expression was like an opened lotus blossom in a crystal pool of bliss.


A few feet away, Olga was looking at Charles, with obvious appreciation for the quality of his soul. I was envious. An intervention was called for.

"Olga! Olga!" I said with a tone meant to distract her. I held out my hand and shook hers. I was shaking Olga's Russian hand. How could this be happening? But...her eyes kept straying back to Charles, who stood in the center of a circle of the awed. I leaned over to interject myself, to interrupt her field of focused vision.

She leaned also. I leaned a little more. Finally, and with a faint cloud of irritation crossing her face, she said:

"Yes, Tim. What is it? What do you want?"

My heart sank at the tone of her voice. I fumbled for words.

"Ahh...ha, ha, ha, ha! I got you. You fell right into my joke. You are so transparent. I had a little fun with you."

Relieved, I smiled like a snowman with crooked raisin lips.

"I want you to know, Olga, that you are oddly wonderful. Maybe it's the language difference. On Facebook, the tonalities of your typed voice are so changeable, so variously expressive. Sometimes, a young-spiritedness, almost a naivety. Other times, a tonality of fathomless wisdom. So infinitely Russian! And may I say this with all due respect? When I look at you, I feel the jingle-jangle vibration of sleigh bells...I see the steaming breath of winter wolves...I hear the chattering of puppets locked inside an antique armoire...."

"Tim, stop being so stupid. And go fetch a bottle to refill my glass. Tee hee!"


It dawned on me that I had not seen Nabina for quite some time. I made discreet inquiries. The verdict was this: some time ago, she had been seen with a glazed, far-away look in her eyes. And then walking toward the stairs, looking back over her shoulder in an evasive, perhaps paranoid gesture.

I went back down the 50 flights of stairs. To find Nabina. To make sure she was okay. I called out on each floor. No answer. Finally, I was at the ground floor. Still no Nabina. I walked outside in the pitch-black night -- the moon was obscured by a large bank of almost metaphysical clouds.

I wandered around the grounds in the dark until I heard something hissing and swishing. As I moved closer to that sound, I tripped over what I soon realized was an industrial garden hose. Then I heard Nabina's voice.

"I'm a fish! I'm a fish!"

I followed her voice and was soon getting splattered by what turned out to be a lawn sprinkler she had found in the basement. I stepped back out of wet's way and asked:

"What the heck, Nabina? What in the world are you dong out here?"

"I'm swimming through the ocean. I'm a fish, I'm a fish."

"Please, Nabina. Won't you come back inside? We all miss you, and the entertainment is about to begin upstairs. I'll see if someone brought a towel or has a change of clothes."

"Okay, Tim. Pip-pip and quick-march. But I won't need dry clothes. My dress is way over there."

"You mean you're naked right now?!"

"Fish don't wear clothes, silly Tim!"

the wine party that got slightly out of hand (part two)

part two (nine people)

Now back on the party floor, we began mingling again. Again, we laughed and chortled, snickered and sighed, conversed and digressed with wine-glazed enthusiasm.

I must say I was stunned by what I had set in motion. To see all of these friends in person was almost an astonishment. They were real people -- in all three dimensions. They were lovely and sweet and interesting. I was in heaven. I was in a dream. But...I'm a shy guy usually, so my self-appointed role of Master of Ceremony seemed odd to me, unnatural. I did the best I could to keep circulating among the self-organized grouplets. I asked rather silly and inane questions of my guests in the attempt to appear social and vaguely garrulous. I should have subcontracted out the office of host. I could tell everyone subconsciously winced at my lack of fluid grace and easy manner. I know I must have appeared to be like a duck without a proper quack. I'm not a smooth operator. But dammit...I just had to meet these souls. I also wanted a good excuse to drink much wine.


I took a sip of wine while staring over the room of friends. Then felt a tug at my elbow. It was Peter, and he spoke in an unusual manner, as if concealing something. The expression on his face and his demeanor did not seem to square with the words coming from his mouth. It was as if these words were for my ears only. Everyone else would think he and I were discussing the weather in Belgium.

“I have developed a private hypothesis about the Neo-Darwinian evolution of anti-matter particles in a predator-prey relationship with imaginary particles. Would you like to hear it?” Again, the odd smile on his face contrasted with this query.

“Umm...sure, Peter. But perhaps another time?” I took a couple unconscious steps backwards and quickly drifted into a group of whispering women. Peter's now-quizzical expression turned rapidly to one of brightness and delight, as he motioned to Miriam across the way.

“May I introduce myself? I'm Peter, and I have developed a private hypothesis....”


“Yael! Oh, my gosh. So nice, so nice to finally meet you!” I said. Then I let loose with a Russian sentence I had memorized for the occasion. She looked at me, blinking with bemusement.

“What...?” I asked peevishly.

“TIM! Ha, ha, ha. You just said, 'Why does your electric kangaroo have the wings of a buzzard?'”

“Gosh, that's not at all the effect I was going for.”

She smiled and handed me a CD.

“A gift for you. It's me playing the piano while reciting a poem I wrote. About university students spraying the professor with water pistols whenever he starts babbling about post-modernism and the 'Gnosticism of the Text.'”

I was thrilled, ecstatic. After all, Yael is my oldest friend on Facebook. I don't mean that she's old. She's not. She'll never get old. She'll always be as fresh as an iris fairy, as wry as a thistle gnome.


I noticed that Joseph was walking around the various cells of conversation. Filming everything with a hand-held camera.

“Joseph! Hey, man. Glad you could make it. So, you're recording the event? That's cool. That way you can send all of us keep-sake videos.”

“Oh, no, Tim. This is not the creation of sentimental memorabilia. This is Art! This will be my first independent feature film. And I already have a title – 'Encounter & Chaos' [was Joseph prescient?]. When I get back to my workshop, I'll use a vocoder program to modify all the men's voices, turning them into high-pitched helium voices that sound depressed. And for the women, I'll edit out their voices completely, replacing them with synced-up snippets of movie dialog by Marlene Dietrich, Mae West, Bette Davis, and Marilyn Monroe.”

Joseph paused to get his breath, then...

“Yes! It is going to be a fabulous film! My vision is this: an ambiguous reflection and implicit commentary on the magnetic resonances resulting from the attractive-repulsive fluxes of male/female dynamics in the hyper-modern dimension.”

I nodded my head vigorously, in uncomprehending approbation.


I kept noticing from the corner of my eye a mysterious form flitting in and out of the shadows around the room perimeter. And also flitting in and out among the various interlocutors. It dawned on me who this ambiguous shape was – Sonja. She moved deftly, stealthily, like a sniper performing reconnaissance.

I finally cornered her in a corner and said, “Buenas noches, senorita!” (That was as close to Serbian as I could get.)

With tight serious lips now parting, she said, “Something bad is going to happen tonight.”

“What do you mean,” I replied, somewhat nervously.

“Don't you feel it? The vibrations are already changing into interference-waves. Be ready for anything.”

At that moment, she unslung a weapon that had been slung over her shoulder.

“This is to protect us...from whatever.” Her weapon was like a cross between an Uzi and a grenade launcher. I noticed an oddly glowing inscription across the length of the barrel: “Tesla Arms.”


Someone behind me gently tapped my shoulder. Fatima, wearing the coolest hat I had ever seen. Her head was cocked, and she sort of grinned ironically. Like someone considering a large rock on the ground that had distinctively anthropomorphic features...a fissure for a mouth and spaced gouges for eyes.

“Fatima! It's you!”

“Yes, Tim. I am also quite aware that I am 'it,' or that I am I.”

“Fantastic. Now that you are here in person, please tell me: what is the essence of language? Or at least let me know, finally, what the word 'essence' even means. And how it got into the language.”

“This is not the time or place for that stuff. If we begin going down that path, you will soon turn things into a paralyzing conceptual knot. I know you. You'll break out your Paradox Theory. Good grief, my friend. Relax. Enjoy the night. And this is the main thing – listen! Listen to what is beneath all these conversations here in this room. Listen to the magic of others coming together and 'sounding,' like wind-chime cylinders producing harmonies and significant overtones.”

“As always,” I said, “you make sense!”


She walked up to me with a beautiful, oblique smile on her lips. She was walking like an Egytian. She was walking carefully, gingerly balancing an unopened bottle of red wine on top of her head. She held another – opened – bottle of wine in one hand and a glass full in the other.

“I would like to hug you, Robyn, but the bottle would fall off your head.”

“Don't hug me, Tim. Wine must be protected, cherished. The crazy gods gave it to us a long time ago. It would be sacrilege to break a bottle, or even spill a drop.”

I wanted to speak more with her. We had a lot of strange stuff in common. But Robyn simply glided past me, bottle on head...far-away look in her if she were headed for some stairway to heaven. It would have been rude of me to detain her from this cosmic or psychedelic or artistic or spiritual mission. She faded into the crowd. I had never before witnessed such a perfect display of the immanent (wine) and the numinous (mind) coming together in poised complementarity.


I spotted our intrepid pilot, Kris, talking to several others. I elbowed my way in politely and said:

“It must be said formally and officially – your mind is glorious and disturbing.”

He saluted me like a Roman centurion.

“Say,” he began, “I had a dream last night. About a minor character in the new novel I'm working on. He went berserk in the dream. Tied up all the other characters and held them hostage. Until I agreed to give him the main character's girlfriend and wire $25,000 to an off-shore account.”

“Yes, I see. And I hope you relented. One mustn't refuse what comes of itself in such dreams. I think your new novel has taken on quite a life. It sneaks out at night, sniffs the air, and then goes crawling back into your head with fresh scents.”

I bowed like a French ambassador to Tsar Nicholas the First and moved on to interview others.


Everyone was moving around like a slowly undulating mass, or sitting in rapt mutuality. Everyone, that is, except Bonnie. Bonnie was rotating in the middle of the room. Indeed, she was turning in ever faster circles, her face as enigmatic as a sphinx. I sauntered over, and we had a brief encounter, as she continued to revolve around an invisible fixed point.

“ seem to have found an existential pivot-center,” I remarked blithely, like a French philosopher.

She stopped her whirling and replied:

“Yes, Tim. Right here. Exactly here. It's amazing, really. I have traveled the entire nation, searching for the spot, for the point-of-view. For the locale from which to launch my next phase of photography. I have found it! This room, this godforsaken skyscraper, that insane jungle beyond the clearing. I shall stick here for at least a year. I will install my studio here, in this very room. I'll explore the dark Mississippi jungle in successive missions of creativity! I will capture and manipulate images of spirits. I will call them forth by banging loudly on my gypsy tambourine!”

I excused myself. Bonnie began pirouetting again. I forgot to ask her why she was spinning around in a circle.


Matt had drawn a small crowd of the curious and the perplexed, with his gentle shouts of “Revolution! Revolution!” I had to see what was up. He then began the most reasonably articulated speech I'd ever heard. Maybe not quite as eloquent as Abraham Lincoln, but far more self-effacing. Ole Abe was quite sure of himself about the parameters of social construction and political discourse. Well, Matt was also somewhat self-persuaded, but he delivered his effusion in such a way that one would feel spiritually soiled by not agreeing with him. One would be obligated, owing to Matt's humble exuberance, to at least agree half-way.

“Don't trust the power structures! Structures arise by congealing energies best left diffuse. Independence is the hallmark, the platform of creativity. And creativity is the engine of social enhancement. Freedom to make without an overseer is a form of 'organic' poetry in entrepreneurial motion. Contrasted with that is the hydra-headed State. Its arrogant fangs and cynical toxins turn the People leprous with decay and decadence. Corporate control and imperial excess turn the People into zombies and fodder. Revolution! Anarchy! Look upon the vision I envision as a solution: Mom and Pop dry-goods stores, tariff-free lemonade stands, and a return to the Pony Express, but with motorcycles!”...........

And so forth.

the wine party that got slightly out of hand (part one)

part one (arrival)

I suppose the news will leak out soon enough. I'd rather get on the front end of this thing, so the record is set down straight. So no exaggerations or gossipy extrapolations ensue. I'll put it down in narrative and dialog as best I can remember it.

It happened last Friday night.

One month ago, I sent out invitations to some Facebook friends. I wanted to meet them in person. Get to know them in physical form. Hear their voices. Construe stuff about them by closely observing body language and subtle gesture.

For the record, I invited three-dozen people, but only half of them showed up. Apparently these are the ones who had access to rocket-powered helicopters, or in Kris's case, a less-stable mode of aerial transport. Here's who showed up: Kris Saknussemm, Robyn Field, Fatima Gomes, Regina BOu, Chansonette Buck, Charles Bane Jr., Nabina Das, Miriam Louie Brown, Paula Lietz, Bonnie Hudgins, Matt Dioguardi, Olga Mjelde, Yael Tomashov-Hollander, Sonja Copic, Nels Byron, Lisa Alvarado, Peter Lobell, and Joseph Choi.

I had rented the top floor of an abandoned skyscraper 15 miles southeast of Tupelo, Mississippi. No one has a clue who built this skyscraper or why. It stands forlornly in a large clearing, surrounded by thick forest strangled with kudzu vines. There is no road in to this edifice. Only a concrete helicopter landing pad near the front door. That pad has ugly, poisonous-looking weeds growing between the cracks.

This building has 50 floors, and the decay inside has settled over everything with a kind of moldy morbidness. Only the lights and electrical outlets on the top floor are still working. The elevator is defunct, and the stairs -- steep and frightful – are made of rotting wood.

I hired three rednecks (Merle, Jasper, and Bow-legged Pete) who had been loitering at Clyde's Diner, which is located near the tracks on the seedy side of Tupelo. I hired them to spruce up the top floor of the skyscraper and to keep the wine glasses refreshed during the party. It so happens that all three of them are classically trained musicians – xylophone, nose flute, and gong. That would work out nicely!

Around 8:00 PM last Friday night, the helicopters began showing up. One after another descended to discharge a guest, then lift off so the next one could land. An hour later, everyone but Kris had arrived and made their creaking way up to the 50th floor. I had asked all to bring a pot-luck dish, since cooking and stuff is too much trouble for me.

The mingling began. Things were going smoothly. Wine was flowing. Laughter was heard amid low tones of deep conversation. Some remained standing, some sat in the plastic lawn chairs and dubious sofas I had acquired at a pawn shop in town. The exotic music from Merle, Jasper, and Bow-legged Pete wafted through the large open area (this floor must have once housed a vast restaurant).

At 9:45, someone announced: “I think I hear Kris's plane circling overhead!”

We all rushed to the stairwell and made our way to the roof. The rednecks had installed a tail-hook cable about 20 feet from the edge of the roof. Kris's single-engine plane (from the 1930s) sputtered black smoke overhead, beneath a bright moon, as he made his approach to the roof. We stood as far out of harm's way as possible, holding flashlights -- we all had to see this landing with our own eyes. The wings were wobbling, the engine whining, the smoke pouring. And as he zoomed a few feet above the roof, the plane seemed to drop like a weight onto the gravel surface. It skittered and shimmied and complained as flaps were flapped and brakes wrenchingly applied. The cable, held up by Merle and Jasper, caught the front tires, and the plane jerked to a stop...about three feet from the edge of the roof. Kris hopped out, smiling oddly and smoking some kind of unknown substance rolled up in a tube of Venus Flytrap leaves.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

If I wake up... some kind of heaven a thousand years from now, I will expect something. I will expect to see what Kris Saknussemm wrote over a year ago to be made into a very short, grainy color film. A film shot inside his mind. I'll want to sit in an antique theater, with a chimpanzee cranking the projector (like in WAKING LIFE). I'll want this film short looped to play continuously for one hundred moons:

Watching the old men betting on a cricket fight in Guangzhou. Two female students I knew float by in an enormous tea cup, the kind with the dragons on it that change color when you pour in the hot water. It looks strangely innocent in the sludge of the Pearl River amongst the barges and industrial boats.

the land is in her (for Fatima)

Somewhere in Portugal a scent
of things rising from roots
is on the air and mingles
with breezes farther brought
from gull-dissonant coastlines...

A village sighs in late morning,
and the old road curves then splits
one quarter of a languid mile
from the sounds of stirring lives.
That old road – out where it splits –
always makes her pause...
listening to summer wildflowers,
thinking about peculiar time
and spaces where others meet...
a philosopher in the making.


Does she wander to a special place,
where a spring has pooled under trees,
where she might linger for a few minutes,
breathing odors from roots before noon?
Where quick lizards come out to drink
and the tangerine chameleon dances
under pale eucalyptus leaves?

In village hours, the play of her visions
becomes a tango of sight and moving sounds,
some sharp and spicy, some sad and sweet --
thick fingers on the keys of a colorful accordion
played by a peasant in the breathing shadows.

The land is in her.

Now she is thinking across the ocean.
Different years are new tones quivering
above the slow roots of village memory,
and her brain pulses with hectic colors.

There are so many songs. How is it
that she of ancient eyes and village days
has found her way into this secret theater
of songs made from pieces of irony? Or
other music made wondrous and hurting
by the long-gone and distant Brahms?

Now she sits at night and writes.
The words are turned inside-out
and then shaken under stars to see
what...the words...mean. Down into
the roots of words she writes. Awake,
she smiles at the wonder of it all.

Ah ha, there's the irony! That's why she dances
to the dark and rootsy songs beneath loud cities.

I wish I could sit with her one night.
I wish I could drink many golden beers.
I wish I could be very quiet and listen
to roots that speak of the land in her.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sofiya has blown my mind...

My friend Sofiya Yuzefpolskaya posted this translation of Federico García Lorca's poem "Ciudad sin sueño" (someone remind me to never write another poem...this is how I would like to write, but that's not gonna happen) --

City That Does Not Sleep

In the sky there is nobody asleep. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is asleep.
The creatures of the moon sniff and prowl about their cabins.
The living iguanas will come and bite the men who do not dream,
and the man who rushes out with his spirit broken will meet on the street corner
the unbelievable alligator quiet beneath the tender protest of the stars.

Nobody is asleep on earth. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is asleep.
In a graveyard far off there is a corpse
who has moaned for three years
because of a dry countryside on his knee;
and that boy they buried this morning cried so much
it was necessary to call out the dogs to keep him quiet.

Life is not a dream. Careful! Careful! Careful!
We fall down the stairs in order to eat the moist earth
or we climb to the knife edge of the snow with the voices of the dead dahlias.
But forgetfulness does not exist, dreams do not exist;
flesh exists. Kisses tie our mouths
in a thicket of new veins,
and whoever his pain pains will feel that pain forever
and whoever is afraid of death will carry it on his shoulders.

One day
the horses will live in the saloons
and the enraged ants
will throw themselves on the yellow skies that take refuge in the eyes of cows.

Another day
we will watch the preserved butterflies rise from the dead
and still walking through a country of gray sponges and silent boats
we will watch our ring flash and roses spring from our tongue.
Careful! Be careful! Be careful!
The men who still have marks of the claw and the thunderstorm,
and that boy who cries because he has never heard of the invention of the bridge,
or that dead man who possesses now only his head and a shoe,
we must carry them to the wall where the iguanas and the snakes are waiting,
where the bear's teeth are waiting,
where the mummified hand of the boy is waiting,
and the hair of the camel stands on end with a violent blue shudder.

Nobody is sleeping in the sky. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is sleeping.
If someone does close his eyes,
a whip, boys, a whip!
Let there be a landscape of open eyes
and bitter wounds on fire.
No one is sleeping in this world. No one, no one.
I have said it before.

No one is sleeping.
But if someone grows too much moss on his temples during the night,
open the stage trapdoors so he can see in the moonlight
the lying goblets, and the poison, and the skull of the theaters.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

a "funny" night....

Yes, other people's dreams are a chore to read. But this is the only time I've awoken from a dream laughing out loud.

I'm working for an odd company. Some kind of warehouse or something. I open the place early by myself. It occurs to me that I could steal two bags of money from the office in the back room. Before anyone else shows up. So I do steal two bags of money from the safe.

I tip-toe up a flight of wooden stairs to hide my stash in the employee's lounge. I stuff the two bags beneath the cushion of a sofa. Just then, other employees arrive and begin filling up the lounge. I start sweating.

I come up with a scheme to distract everyone -- especially the boss -- from discovering the money bags beneath the sofa cushion. I grab two young Asian men (co-workers) and present them with purple suede Wild, Wild West costumes, with gun belts and neat hats. They are astonished but pleased and put on the outfits quickly. I now make them sit down close together on the sofa cushion, which is concealing my money bags. Cool. No one will discover my stash with these two guys in purple suede Wild, Wild West outfits sitting so close together on the cushion.

The boss wanders out of the room. He'll be back shortly. The other employees are sitting in chairs, casually talking and sipping coffee. Now is my chance to retrieve the money bags. To return them to the safe before I'm discovered.

I jump up from my chair and address the two purple Asian cowboys: "I just heard on the radio that there is a tornado in Kansas. Go save us all!" They spring up from the sofa and dash off. I lunge for the sofa, remove the cushion, and grab the two money bags. I then tip-toe back down the wooden staircase. Back down on the concrete floor now, I drop the bags in a dark corner. (Somehow, this seems an appropriate substitute for the safe.) I pull on a long hanging chain and open the large garage-style warehouse door. To let in all the newly arriving co-workers.

A while later, I end up in a different part of the workplace -- a sort of hectic, semi-retail environment. Apparently, I am some kind of department manager, though I haven't a clue what I'm supposed to be doing. I stroll absentmindedly among co-workers and customers. Just then, a female Assistant Manager says, "Hey, Tim. It's so-and-so's mother on the phone. Wouldn't you like to say hi?" I have no idea who so-and-so is but take the odd company cell phone anyway.

This phone is shaped like the face of so-and-so's mother, with nose projecting. She is a blond woman in her mid-forties. The back of her little head -- the back of the cell phone -- bevels gently for easy grasping. I hold her blond-haired, phone-face out in front of me and speak into it: "Hello..."

"Hi, Tim," she replies. "It's nice to meet you."

The Assistant Manager grabs the face-phone from my hand and says, "Actually, Tim, she is sitting in the boss's office right now. Why don't you go talk to her in person?"

I take the few steps over to the the boss's office and enter. I sit down in a chair in front of the sitting blond woman. I think the boss is sitting at his desk, but I'm not sure about that.

I look at the blond woman for a few seconds and then announce: "I will cook something for you."

"What would you cook," she asks, smiling.

"Roast ouch," I reply in a deadpan.

She looks directly at me for a long time, then explodes into gasping laughter.

I continue: "And with a side-dish of barbecued inch worms. Crun...chy!"

She stands up. Speechless with choking laughter. She is almost angry to have been so unexpectedly confronted with this hilarious menu. She keeps laughing incoherently.

She runs from the office. A few moments later, I see her through the office window. She is out in the parking lot. She jumps into her little red Corvette and guns the engine. She peals out, burning rubber. And then does one hysterical doughnut after another.

I wake up. This is all true, every detail.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Rich Follett -- haiku & harmonics

Rich Follett is a super-nice guy. Okay, that's enough of the personal stuff. If you want to know more about what a fine fellow he is, send him a friend request. I'm sure he'll be delighted to receive and accept it.

I want to dig into his poetry. Lately, he has been creating unusual haiku. Complemented with uncanny images.

When I read one of Rich's haiku, I encounter the magic of words. When things get compressed, each word must do special duty. I said “magic”. Well, what else is it when only certain powerful words are selected from infinity? Words that could be no other, yet words that would occur only to a wizard.

These poems follow the traditional 5-7-5 pattern. But regular haiku is more about the effect of lines than the vortex of particular words. At least that seems right to me. With Rich, those selected words oscillate within themselves and then cast a centrifugal pressure onto other words. One word might even color another two lines away. Or cause it to hum with sympathetic vibrations.

As an example of traditional or regular haiku, I select this one by Matsuo Bashô:

above the moor
not attached to anything
a skylark singing

Here, the lines are more important than the words comprising them. Other words could be used for the same effect. Here also, the pulse of intent is to convey a spiritual "sermon." Other haiku are content to present, via line momentum, a pure moment of nature. Others still, move toward a final line-image of irony or simple epiphany.

In a Follett haiku, each word is a tone, chiming chromatically and contributing to a field of overtones. The whole poem shimmers in this matrix of overtone. These harmonics emerge from depths of connotation, perhaps even subconscious zones. From where language blurs into Jungian-like myth and inchoate significances. The words are colored and textured in these intensities. And by setting one indispensable word next to anther, a mosaic of immediacy is woven.

So...what is the intent of a Follett haiku? I think it has to do with urging us into the phenomenological mystery of time and toward those spirits inhabiting the inorganic and the organic. The world of form and substance "sounds" through the atomic resonance of discrete words.

There is another kind of sympathetic vibration in the Follett haiku. Some people (myself included) will occasionally add a picture to augment a poem. This can be as fun -- and ambiguous -- as finding a title for the poem. With Rich, the image is the inspiration, and he is brave enough to place it naked before us. There is an audacity here. By giving us the actual image, ambiguity is no longer a veil for poetic diffuseness. Before us is what is being written about. This photograph equals this poem. The poet is starkly revealed as either master or pretender. If not handled in a subtle and masterly manner, the result could be a cloying tonality or a hurtful dissonance. Fortunately, we are dealing with a unique master. Harmonics of word-to-image are "sounded" into, become mingled in the exquisite aesthetic air.

Check these two out:

haiku/photo combination # 5

primeval portal
sacred raven waits within
answers span æons

haiku/photo combination # 6

silken blue milk pool –
lapis lazuli ripples
cloaking azure frogs

Ezra Pound said "make it new." Rich Follett has found a unique way to vivify an ancient form.

Rich has co-written a book of poetry with Constance Stadler, called Responsorials. It's available at NeoPoiesis Press --

These photo/haiku copyright 2010 – Rich Follett

Friday, November 26, 2010

Mahler and world

1860 - 1911

I don't think I'm going to write about Gustav Mahler's symphonies specifically. I mean, not about the structures or even particular moments of poetic evocation. I've tried that before. Trying to describe music with words is like trying to cube a sphere. Instead, I hope to say a few things about how my sense of being in the world, in general, is affected by exposure to this music.

Listening to Mahler's music, I am delivered into an unusual world-space. A place "where" I can feel deep into the world.

What's bizarre is how far removed I am from Mahler's time, from those things that fed into his mind and soul. That spectrum of impressions and experiences is closed off to me – that time, geography, and lived culture. Yet I fall into this music helplessly...naively...instinctively. For a while, I am dissolved into Mahler's reaction to being in the world. In sympathy, I luxuriate in the depth of expressed paradox. A great vessel of passions is tipped over, and its warm musical liquid drenches me. Sometimes, it is unnerving or dreamily macabre.

Listening to Mahler's music, rich shadow-forms glide through my imagination. This music is indeed a series of powerful waking dreams. Melancholy and wonder, desperation and catharsis all enrich the symphonies. And in the orchestral songs of Das Lied von der Erde.

All of this music builds a world large enough to hold even ghosts. My dead father and all the memories of my life somehow dwell in the movements. And if I adore someone, that adoration becomes less frenzied in this sound-space. It almost dissolves into colored atoms, as if I'm peering through a mesmerizing kaleidoscope -- I can observe adoration and even forlorn states in a disinterested way. I can see love and loss and pieces of time going to infinity.

There is a tang and texture of eternity, or at least yearning for such, in this music. I second what my friend Kris Saknussemm said about Mahler's music: it's my personal religion.

Symphony No. 6 -- second movement
(By the way, Valery Gergiev is one of my favorite conductors, and I think he is cool as hell.)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

How Great Thou Art (for my father)

I woke up on a Saturday morning in January, 2009, thinking about my father, who had died a year and half earlier. I thought of his favorite Baptist hymn. I thought about him dying and about his sincere belief bringing succor. About the world he expected to wake into.

So I got out my guitar and started messing around with that old hymn. I fired up my recorder and put down all the tracks. I'm no lead guitarist. Robin Willhite fills that role, but he wasn't available that Saturday morning. So I winged it on the guitar solo (which sounds less like a transcendent apotheosis and more like a mental breakdown). By late afternoon, I had the thing mixed down to a master file. is my radical take on a wonderful old hymn.

How Great Thou Art

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works Thy hands have made.
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee:
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze:

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin:

When Christ shall come with shouts of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration,
And there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

a sliver of memory....

It's interesting how things can emerge with no apparent rhyme or reason.

I was just staring out my back window. Looking at the tan sycamore leaves in the yard. Listening to the muffled wind through the glass pane.....

My first 15 years, I lived at 3608 East Main St., El Dorado, Arkansas. The house next door to the east was always changing occupants. Once the Baumgartners lived there for a while. The boy -- Marty -- was about 13 or 14, a couple years older than me. His frame was on the large side, and his blond hair was in a kind of crew-cut.

He kept to himself, didn't play much with us neighborhood kids. One day, I went over to his house. He always had a slightly smirking, slightly sarcastic expression. He sighed a lot, had a subdued aura of chronic exasperation. A sort of world weariness, especially striking to a kid who had no idea, at that point, what "world" meant or what Marty's expression could possibly signify.

From out of all those years has tumbled a discrete memory. Of him saying something to me that day in his room:

"Everything is surreal."

Of course, that went right over my head. What did that word "surreal" mean, anyway? This episode was quickly forgotten as the new days and years would swallow me up in whatever came....

Today, it came back to me. Looking at tan leaves and listening to muffled wind. What brought it? What faint and complex stirring deep in my skull set off that chain of associations, leading to Marty and "surreal"? It must be like what Churchill once said about Russia -- "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."

I don't think brain science will ever get within a jillion miles of soul science.

Monday, November 22, 2010

I'm going to write about a "crow."

One of my friends is a shape-shifter. Consider that a literal statement or whatever. People believe all sorts of stuff. I think it's cool to believe my friend is a shape-shifter.

But she is slightly different than the run-of-the-mill shape-shifter. I think proper theory has it that the two states or conditions of being are distinct. When she is in human form, so theory goes, the crow is in complete abeyance. And vice-versa. Like sun and moon. But as we all know, a pale, mystic moon sometimes appears when the smiling sun has risen.

So, I think my friend is a human-crow duplex or complex, not a completely divided being.

I'm not going to divulge the name of my friend, because she might not want the world to know her supra-natural secret.

She came out of nowhere. Actually, she came from somewhere. But it seemed like the spontaneous appearance of a being composed of sighs and signs and strong heartbeats. And a world of deep, dark thoughts and feelings. Most of that is the crow dimension, I think. Yes, I almost heard black wings moving that first night of spirit contact. But the transformation can be quick and dramatic. The shadows on her wings sometimes disappear instantly, with her form changing and with her eyes revealing a human sweetness.

But like I say, the two dimensions are meshed, somehow united. If you say something idiotic, that sweet countenance will morph into avian exasperation. Gentle eyes will take on a piercing, sardonic quality. Crows have little patience for stupidity or presumptuousness. You better watch yourself -- you might get your eyes plucked out. Ha! You don't mess with the Crow.

Something else about birds. They like to fly a lot. My friend, in whichever form, also flies a lot. Always zooming. She even flew across the freaking ocean. And I didn't know this until a couple years ago, but crows like music. Strange music, cool music, all kinds of music. As her dark wings move, they seem to gather up or scoop in songs from the air. Crow brains filter out the dross, leaving only quality and cool.

Another thing about crows, especially this Crow. They are attracted to odd, weirdly gleaming objects. Especially broken objects. Somehow -- and from great distance -- their sharp eyes pick up the glints of shattered things. I think maybe that's how my friend located me. And crows seem to be steadfast true-hearts. If you are lucky enough to befriend a crow, you can count on that friendship.

My friend just may be the most passionate person I've ever known. Is that because she is part-crow? Feelings go deep with her. As if they emerge from depths most of us can't fathom. Yes, we all think we are passionate beings. But occasionally you run into a paragon of or a kind of essential expert on the emotional powers. Someone who lives at a high pitch of feeling. Someone whose life itself is a form of expressionistic art.

How my friend became entangled with the crow is not for me to consider. It's none of my business. It does, though, stimulate my imagination. It's not every day you run into a shape-shifter. But into my imagination pours only a vague sense. An ambiguous rustling of dark wings. I prefer vague. I've always lived in vague.

I'm glad the Crow is my friend.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Astonishing -- Valentina Lisitsa & Liszt

Andrea Lente -- what the heck?!

Every now and then, I am capriciously stimulated to write a little profile piece on one of my Facebook friends. I can't explain it. It just happens. Perhaps owing to a stray association or to some eccentric angle of thought that opens in my head.

Andrea likes philosophy and Kafka. She likes Glenn Gould and Gustav Mahler. I'm fairly certain she likes a lot of other stuff, too. She lives in Vienna. Vienna is that cool place with all the marble statuary. And with streets radiating out like spokes to connect with other streets running in sort of concentric circles. I think every third man scampers around that city at night and then rides a Ferris wheel. Vienna is also where Baron Munchhausen rode a cannonball over to the besieging Turk army. It's where Franz Schubert wrote his miracles. I like to imagine Vienna through that song by Leonard Cohen – “Take This Waltz.”

So...what can I say about Andrea Lente? I barely know her. What the heck am I doing, typing this stuff?!

Okay. She is uncanny. I'll begin with that. When I was her age, I was a confused person, with hot air blowing through my brain. I didn't know hardly anything. It took me decades to discover stuff that Andrea already knows. She thinks about stuff that I had no inkling of way back then. It took a gradual long time for me to become the nearly all-knowing swami that I am today (Ha!). But Andrea is already on her way to becoming a disarmingly enlightened being.

(An aside: I think she and I both think language is a prerequisite for thought and even imagination.)

She seems idealistic to me. Many young people are like that. But with her, it's an idealism cushioned and supported by a precocious wisdom. An expansive sensibility. And a delightful sense of odd humor. I think she likes to smile at funny things. I think she looks askance at a lot of what goes on in the USA. A special kind of nutty fuel seems to drive the engines of this country. A fourth of the population here is in thrall to the irritating and ignorant Sarah Palin. Mass craziness. Oh, my.

Well...Andrea is a perfect example of a flowering of consciousness and a blooming of ironic perspective. As opposed to the analytical insect mind. Or to un-reflective earnestness.

I suppose it's about time to stop typing. But it was fun trying to gain some purchase on a distant mind.