Tuesday, November 30, 2010

If I wake up...

...in 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 -- www.neopoiesispress.com

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.

Anyway...here 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.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I hear sighs from her grave.

Vitezslava Kaprálová -- 1915 - 1940

We move on through structure and chaos. Through conception and feeling. We slide and tumble through implacable time.

And then there is ennui.

Sometimes, I am drawn up short. The whirlwind moves off just enough. Sometimes, I am gathered up into melancholy.

We are time creatures, but every now and then, time seems to move mysteriously without us. Every now and then, space is opened for ennui, and for thoughts emerging from silence and equivocal being. A space in which I contemplate the absence of a Czech woman who died at age 25.

Vitezslava Kaprálová

I have listened to some of her music. It affects me deeply. I think it is wonderfully and expressively composed. It's the kind of music the secret world is made of. That world of infinite light and shadow dappling human consciousness. It comes to us here through forms intelligently wrought. Soulfully presented. This composer, had she lived longer, would have become famous and would have given the world many remarkable works, would have conducted great orchestras.

I am displeased that Kaprálová has been mostly forgotten. I am sad to think of works that would not be composed, of performances not conducted. I am not reconciled to her death.

Her String Quartet, opus 9 -- Lento movement (incorrectly listed as Con Brio)-- Lento

More information -- kapralova.org

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Regina Walker -- healer, artist, friend

Regina is a psychotherapist by profession, and from her soul-delving posts, I get the sense she is a healer by innate constitution. Such compassion toward and understanding of the human condition is not something one really learns. Rather it is a quality of spirit.

I must admit that it took a long time for me to work up the nerve to make friendly overtures. From early on, I was a bit unsteady in the cyber-presence of her quiet sophistication. I mean...I live in the middle of a cotton field in Arkansas. She visits the Museum of Modern Art, for Pete's sake! But over time, her natural warmth became apparent to me. She is not stuck-up at all. She is down-to-earth and has become a dear friend. She likes Bob Dylan and Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen and other stuff.

Regina is also a writer. Regina is also a photographer. Her spontaneous pictures of New York locales are mysterious to me. Sort of like riddles. It's how these scenes of ordinariness are charged with allusive power. That's where the artist comes in: framing shots that reveal more than what is normally perceived. Evocations bloom in the mind while looking at her photographs. It's like a form of abstract art. Especially her focus on surfaces the textures of which convey ennui, entropy, melancholy. She also plays with shadows and reflections to create moody moments.

Apart from those aspects, there is another: the mostly unperceived, down-in-the-grooves life of a great city is brought to our attention. Those areas of the city she captures reveal personalities and histories. The collective after-glow of human passion and struggle is implicit in many of these pictures.

Recently, her images were featured in a group exhibition in Florida. And here is a link to her portfolio: Regina's Portfolio

She also has a cool blog going on at Tumblr: Regina's Blog

Another reason Regina is an artist is because she loves paintings. One doesn't have to wield a brush, in my opinion, to have the soul of a painter. A depth of appreciation helps bring the works of an artist to life, and farther into the world. I have learned much -- been exposed to painters I knew little about -- through Regina's enthusiasm and tasteful selection of posted images.

Regina is solid. At least she seems so to me. Who knows what whirlwinds and shadows pass through the soul of another? But she always appears to me as an image and source of solid strength. Of poise. Of quiet humor. Of generosity and soulful empathy.

Lu Salome -- a profound silence

Lu lives in Serbia, and I've been FB friends with her for about 16 months. I met her and several other wonderful people through a FB fan page for the painter Yves Tanguy (my favorite Modernist).

The thing about Lu is............

Yes, the volume of silence. It is palpable.

I have never known anyone like this before. I know a few who also impress with their coiled, quiet, and mysterious self-possession. But I've never known someone like Lu, who could make the Buddha flinch first in a staring contest. India, China, and Japan think they have the market cornered on the transcendental stuff. Ha! They require special gardens and temples and flowering trees. They need their Zen propped up with nice, peaceful environments. Lu would win big-time in a reality contest!

Here's the deal: she likes the poetry of Hölderin and philosophy and art and the kind of films that knock me over, like Ikiru and things by Tarkovsky. And music! -- she likes very intersting music. Some of it is beyond me. That dark "European" stuff, with cool guys sort of complaining in higher registers about things I can't quite make out. But I like some of it. She likes Leonard Cohen. Lu rocks!

Last year, I spent some time researching the history and geography of Serbia. What an amazing place. It was a cross-roads for so many different peoples over the centuries. Such an interfusion of cultures. And great heroes, leading movements for independence. The scenery over there is stunning -- ruined castles, sparkling rivers, a variety of landscape. And the present culture is fascinating, from ancient residues to modern absorptions. One of my favorite movies is Underground, which many Serbians don't like, owing to its stereotypical portrayal of wild gypsies. But, god...that thing is funny. Sorry.

Back to Lu and the spherical aura of poise that surrounds her. This is not an anti-social or arrogant poise. Within the dimensions of her being, a sweetness and a genuineness are alive. Of course, I'm a goofy goose. Of course, I'm a needy human being. So of course, I like to imagine that, from that far distance, Lu occasionally smiles quietly at my written antics. I like being liked by people of depth. Who have taken their time in life to discover significant things.

Well, it's kind of hard to write about someone who inhabits regions of spiritual silence. You'd have to obliquely brush up against her soul to know what I'm trying to express. In the meantime (and if her privacy settings allow), here's a link to her FB page that contains an album -- The Book of Silence: Facebook album

And here's a song for you, Lu --

Marquee Moon

Matt Dioguardi -- about his brain

Matt lives in Japan and teaches English. Matt thinks about things. The neuronal pattern of his brain has a certain array or shape that is different than mine. At least as far as processing rational information goes. He is reasonable and perceptive and methodical. I am irrational and hallucinatory and slap-dash. But there is one area in which our brains seem to align -- poetry.

But first, more about the differences.

He recently ordered my favorite book in the universe: Bruno Schulz's The Street of Crocodiles. That was so neat of him, that gesture of camaraderie...of desiring to share in a piece of my world. What, I wonder, does he think of that book? OMG! He will be confronted with things that express the essence of my being. With that region from which my odd thoughts spring. If a great metaphysical difference appears in those pages, I hope it is not too jarring. I hope that book does not cause him mental illness.

Occasionally on FB, we get into discussions about general things. When I type something, it always seems perfectly simple and unquestionably correct to me. I post it, and then WHAM!...Matt has some different ideas about it all. And then when I try to restate his case (which is the proper way to debate), I never even get close to what he meant. Damn. Our brains are not in alignment. It's frustrating for me, and it must be for him, too. But I tend to concede the fact that his brain is wired according to the proper directions. Whereas mine has a few wires loose. So when it comes to philosophical, economic, other didactic stuff, I'll simply sigh at my wrongheadedness and eventually salute his tighter frontal lobes.

Now when it comes to poetry, Matt and I have no such problem. He seems to like some of my poems, and I like some of his. We both acknowledge that mysterious aesthetic domain as a source of subtler, intenser truth. Matt writes a new poem every day and posts it on his cool blog Shadow of Iris -- Shadow of Iris blog. You can click on the player below each poem to hear his recitation. He writes these as a challenge to himself and as a way to keep the juices always flowing.

I like most of his poems. And some are remarkable. Here's one that especially struck me:

a gibbet swings

in the sullen winds
while drizzle falls
on old bones
grown green with moss.

Matt is civilized, self-effacing, and reasonable. And talented. He's okay as far as I'm concerned. And maybe it's a good thing that his brain and my brain were wired by distinct mischievous gnomes.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Dvořák's Cello Concerto in B minor

Usually when I listen to Dvořák's magnificent score, I think of unrequited passion, romantic love. I just listened to it again, and something else came to me. Isn't music wonderful? It can stimulate so many different worlds in the heart and mind.

I'm always put in a dark-toned mood. Is that because I usually listen at night? I don't think so. This work seems to have a nocturnal personality, at least a spirit of twilight. And my imagination? Last night, it received this concerto as a Lament of the Pagan Gods.

In the farther depths of a Slavic forest. In a grotto strewn with boulders from craggy heights. Those invisible beings – those felt forms – of lustful energies and creative dynamism huddle round a large fire magically blazing its cold flames. They know their end is near. They have felt themselves fading from human minds and hearts for centuries. Christianity has trespassed the circle of Old Nature and is conquering with sword and with new conceptions of time and meaning. Now, a direction toward “truth” is displacing the enchanted stasis of pure being. As the people begin to embrace this new way, the rains falling in forest and in village are mingled with the tears of those rejected Titans.

The last movement – Finale: Allegro moderato – is like a Dance of Hoary Pride and Ancient Memory. Yes, those gods must fade as a new form of experience pervades the land. But they will not perish. They will merely sleep in hidden places of the land and deep in Slavic hearts. Someday, when the the madness of “truth” lifts like an exhausted plague, the Mighty Ones will awake and carry human imagination into a future beyond belief.

Cello Concerto in B minor
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6


Drawbridge with Carriage -- 1888

Van Gogh's vibrant, light-filled painting does something to me. And it does something of itself: it comes to freaking life! It's not simply a matter of vivified geometry and color, not only that it seems to pulse beyond the two-dimensional plane. Yes, it does that, and the viewer senses that he could step into the scene, breathe the very air. More than those things, a spiritual dimension presents itself.

The half-drowned boat is a cradle of cerulean water dreams. Time has been dismissed from this picture. We are, for a “spell,” eternal observers of an eternal riverside. The bright morning light touching the bricks and bridge scaffolding brushes our souls with an incomprehensible melancholy. Those washerwomen are not ordinary citizens of reality. No, they are strange angels extruded from evolution's durational mysteries. And the sky! That blue vault – somehow light and dark simultaneously – is the Spirit of the World holding all beauty and all strife together in a tension of possibility. My mood is one of wonder. My imagination is overwhelmed.

Connie Stadler -- poet of depth and beauty

Constance Stadler's current profile picture on Facebook shows her as a girl playing a violin. Her expression is indescribable. Well, I'll try anyway: she is in a moment of depth and beauty. That photo always gets to me. It affects me with a pleasing melancholy.

Facebook is an unusual place. We can form relationships that are important, even when we don't know that much personal detail about someone. I know that Connie has earned a couple PhDs. I think she has traveled a lot. Seen things. Personality-wise, she comes across to me as a warm, quiet, and thoughtful person. And very eloquent in writing. Yes, Facebook allows the formation of slightly shadowed angles, within which something essential and intense might appear.

Connie's poems have appeared to me.

In general, her inexhaustible vocabulary enriches many of those poems. In general, her expansive awareness enables variety of theme. In general, her heart and soul move the lines through passion and many other moods. But I want to focus on one poem here:

I dream, now...

In the forest of blue heron
On the whitest of white nights
The moon clouds pass
As laden caravanserai.
Cedar shadow calligraphy
Communicates what no human can
Cygnets sleep in sepia wash
In fearless surrender.
Darkness and I stroll among these
gardens within myself.
Sip wine, exchange no thoughts.

Copyright 2009, Connie Stadler

I keep coming back to this poem. To me, it is a wondrous thing. It is a gift to world literature.

Sometimes, I'm a bit dense. Is this a dream or a reminiscence? Or a living stroll through scenic intensity? It mostly doesn't matter to me. It seems to have an Asian quality. Or a timeless quality of equivocal location. That's very good. That opens space for the imagination to live in.

I'm unable to describe, really, how this poem affects me. This will have to suffice: it affects me like measures of haunting music.

Technically, these lines are perfect. The rhythm is sparkling and flawless. The line-breaks are exquisitely done. And this poem does what I respond to so well: it conveys meaning and emotion through images. Theme is implicit. The soul's mood is presented via natural analogs, not through maudlin and irritating confession. When the protagonist finally appears in the last three lines, she comes compellingly, intensely present. The last line is marvelous. I'm right there with her, like a transparent comrade.

Yes, what lines! Those beauties breathing with a Poundian cadence. Coming from a depth of numinous poise.

Connie's newest collection of poems is RUMMAGING IN THE ATTIC
Rummaging in the Attic (Differentia Press)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A belated Halloween song from me and Robin (we're the Gothic Rangers)

I was out of town last Sunday, so didn't get to put this song up for Halloween. Better never than late? Oh, well. Here it is anyway, and I hope we don't scare you too badly.

Hour of the Banshee

Don’t you hear that banshee
Wailing in the clearing
Someone’s gonna die tonight
The moon’s eye is peering

Don’t it give you gooseflesh
Don’t it bring a frightening
What if we should see her
Naked in the lightning

Let’s go running through the wood wind
Running through the night fen
Running as if haints were gaining on our speed
Flying through the briar
With unnatural power
So we don’t miss the hour of the banshee

Cowards are home cowering
Afraid their name is shrieking borne
But I’m in such a frenzy
To see her whirling in the storm

Come on with me if you dare
We can make it ere the morn
Don’t you want to look and stare
At her diaphanous form

Let’s go running through the wood wind
Running through the night fen
Running as if haints were gaining on our speed
Flying through the briar
With unnatural power
So we don’t miss the hour of the banshee

Let’s go running through the wood wind
Running with mortal grins
Running as if hounds of hell were free
Flying through the swamp mire
Through St. Elmo’s green fire
So we ain’t late for the hour of the banshee

Words & Music by Tim Buck

Joan of Arcing Sensibility

I've been Facebook friends with Joan Stepp Smith for over a year, maybe. We've had very little interaction. All I have to go by are some photos, comments left here and there, and some stuff on her page. Yet this morning, I'm compelled by forces beyond my comprehension to write something about Joan Stepp Smith.

I like to start writing stuff about which I know very little. It opens up a space for imagination and gives free rein to my wandering mind.

She seems to like the writings of author Kris Saknussemm. That means something to me. She likes the Bergman films Wild Strawberries and Winter Light. That goes deep with me.

So...photos. I see a person who is self-aware and almost completely sane. By "sane," I mean someone who appears to know the world is not sane. It's more like a wild circus, with clowns running everything. While the artists -- those talented hi-wire acrobats -- are left to perform their amazements mostly in the shadows. I think Joan probably owns a pair of magical sunglasses. Ones that, paradoxically, allow her to see the real souls doing special stuff in those shadow regions.

So...comments. I've only come across a few of them, on my page and on other pages. The infrequency of her words lends a special, thoughtful luster to them. No, "luster" is only the afterglow. The immediate sense is one of voltage. Of intense yet contained electricity. Little lightning flashes of intelligence, arcing from her mind via words onto pages.

This is important. It's important for me to nail down that quality of rare utterance. It's almost like a wondrous ghost wafting in unexpectedly and speaking from another world. A world of silence and poise. You pay attention when something unusual is happening.

Maybe part of it has to do with syntax. Perfect, to-the-point sentences. No wasted effort. No burdensome, irksome prolixity. Succinctness. Coiled expression. Thoughtful saying. The core of me quivers when I encounter sophistication and deep intelligence.

Joan's words arc, sending sparks of meaning across the cyber gulf. Especially when she speaks about music.

Oh...and Joan is a poet. She has a collection of poems available here:


Okay!...What is evil? (or Does the Cosmos Resent Itself?)

Is evil a simpler phenomenon that most people think? I shall apply Occam's Razor. I was going to use it to shave with this morning but decided instead to solve a great mystery. First, I want to look at some prevalent theories of evil.

Let's dispense with Yin-Yang right off the bat.

In the morning, a guy is sitting in his garden drinking hot tea. A crazy monkey jumps across his table and, after laughing wildly, scampers off into the bushes. The guy is startled, with the tea ending up in his lap. In the afternoon, the same guy is walking along, with an ice-pack stuck in his pants. A rhinoceros comes flying out of nowhere and rams an apple tree. Apples fall and keep falling, since the frustrated beast's horn is still stuck in the tree trunk. The expression on the guy's face changes, from misery to bliss. He forgets the burning pain in his groin. He scoops up the free apples and is happy. That night, he has an epiphany, so he sharpens a stick and dips it in charcoal dust to write his profound discovery: “This morning, something bad happened. This afternoon, something good happened. That means evil and good are evenly distributed in the world. And that must surely mean that reality itself is half-evil and half-good. Eureka!”

Here's why our spontaneous sage is wrong: he doesn't know it yet, but tomorrow he is gonna suffer 13 separate incidences of bad-monkey behavior and only one rhinoceros donation. He will soon discover that there is far more evil than good in the world.

Okay...on to Judaism.

The founders, prophets, and teachers of Judaism (including Jesus, who was Jewish, not a Christian) brought forth and expounded a religion of ethics. Based on original sin. Based on some stealthy, illicit, non-rhinoceros apple harvesting. Well, that's just preposterous.

Here come the Christians!

First, see above about Judaism. Second, let's look at a more or less original tangent. In trying to solve theodicy, some thinkers like Teilhard de Chardin end up scratching their heads. And finally positing the idea that evil is only the absence of good.

Less original and less sophisticated thinkers see evil as some kind of tough-love session: God lays it on thick so we'll learn how to work our way through it and become better people. Your child suffers and dies from a horrible disease? Well, good! That's God setting you up to move through grief into personal strength and spiritual accomplishment. What's that, you say? What about the dead child? Oh, don't get picky with details! Where was I? Oh, yeah: you would be mistaken to call it evil – it's an implicit good. Or...everything we experience as evil will “someday” be revealed as the working out of a Great Plan.

I don't buy it. That God could easily send us all a mass email, explaining that Great Plan right now.

I'm not sure what the Muslim deal is. I guess whatever makes the desert-god frown is evil.

Then, there is the atheistic form. Evil is what is not suitable. It's all relative, man!

So.........what is evil? And now I shift from flippancy to appropriate morbidness, or at least neutral speechifying. Maybe a dash or two more of the flippant stuff.

I like Schopenhauer. I'm not really sure why. Maybe it's more about style and audacity than substance. But the substance is pretty good, too – the numinous as Will. Whatever is fully real inside or behind reality must be the numinous, the what-in-itself. The phenomenal world is the oozing of metaphysical numinous goo into laws, processes, forms, and beings. Our bodies and minds are the veins through which the numinous fuse drives the fleur du mal. That principle is Will (or force, to be more exact). Everything in us and around us is pieces of will extruded from the Great Will -- an invisible, non-sentient pulse. A kind of haywire desiring.

Seems about right to me. Will as essence. So what general form does it take? I select Envy! Wait!...don't laugh...at least not yet.

Quantum process

Quarks (or Higgs bosons or whatever) resent other particles emerging spontaneously from the vacuum. They desire to get the jump on anyone else even thinking about popping from possibility-space into actuality-space. An incalculable number of possible quantum wills were vying for emergence. To displace any other possible tiny wills. The not-yet environment was teeming with resentment and envy. And lo!...one potential particle just happened to be at the right “place” at the right “time” and POW! All the loser possible particles sulked and pouted. Very envious of the guy who got to be.

phase shift 1

From pure potentiality, that first, arrogant, victorious POW ushered in a world. Big change.

Stellar process

Okay...now we have a cosmos frothing and writhing. We have stuff bouncing around – mass and energy. And every shred of it resents every other shred. Everybody wants the space everybody else has. So...it's one collision after another. Everything smacking around in cosmic territorial warfare.

phase shift 2

Room must be made for all this envious activity. So the universe expands. But gravity is the pulse of Great Envy – everything still tries to get to where everything else is. Gas and stars and nascent galaxies just can't stand the thought that somebody else has a where and a when that they don't have. Sometimes, it gets to be a little much. Nobody wins: massive black holes form and suck the living daylights out of everything. But the Envy is too great and passionate to allow the universe to suck itself out completely. And there's always second-class quarks waiting to pop out if the first guy makes a shambles of it all.

Planetary process

Eventually, matter and stuff form planets. On Earth, all the different chemicals are pissed at one another. It's another mad scramble to be THE chemical. But during the battles, chemicals get mixed into one another. Weird reactions occur. And after a while, things settle into matrices, into fixed patterns. Then, the ocean wants to be where the land is, and the land wants to be where the ocean is. Mutual envy causes massive internal stress. Earthquakes. Tsunamis. Volcanoes exploding. They also explode because the infernal regions resent the airy regions their open space. And out of haughty spite, the airy regions rain on the volcanoes, turning their mad fury into impotent steam and frozen lava. I mentioned weird reactions....

phase shift 3

All of this chemical and tectonic bickering and trespassing leads to a highly unsettled affair on Earth. Again, something has to give. The complexities of sustained planetary envy end up squeezing out even another plane of being – a region of suspense, where forms and processes congeal into pseudo-life.

Organic process

And so a billion years or so go by, while odd things are bootstrapping from pseudo into cellular. Oh, my god! Now the swarm begins! A jillion pieces of molecular will – all puffed up with resentment – go after one another. Big Pac Men gobbling up Little Pac Men. The creatures start growing. And begin growing armaments to usurp new territories. Bell Curves are everywhere. Phase-space humps like a herd of bacterial camels. Predator-Prey. Cannibalism. Parasites. Disease. Symbiosis. Envy every freaking where! Everybody wanting to get some of what the other guy's got.

phase shift 4

Animals got bigger, hungrier, toothier, nastier. Until.....consciousness began oozing from the Envy Sphere.

Mental process

More space-time provided for more events. Sooner or later, apes started actually scheming. They formed raiding parties. To steal chimp-women. To steal fruit trees from weaker chimps. Weapons. Murder. Instinct-will turning into lust-will. Envy, envy, envy. Until proto-human beings hopped out of trees. And they were hopping mad, too! As soon as they hit the ground, they fired up their large brains. How dare the planet just sit there being all natural. We shall dominate it through our rabid will and our desire to be everywhere at once. To convert everything to our egoistic purposes. And to have anything that anyone else has. Plans got more complex. Wars broke out. Crime. All crimes spring from the root of envy. Child torturers envy lost innocence. Then came law and politics. Law is just a referee trying to keep people from tearing each other to bleeding chunks. Politics is the grand arena where wills collide. Liberals envy the wealth of conservatives, the wealth they desire to redistribute. Conservatives envy the last copper penny they can pinch from the poor.

phase shift 5

So...the next transition was a profound one. I have trouble believing in progress, but things got weird. Out of all the eons of envy, which led to human beings, something strange happened: empathy began trickling out. It's like human consciousness is a vast abstract mirror that Being held up to itself. It saw itself for the first time. A huge inaudible sigh was expelled. A gradual ennui settled onto the field of forms and processes. Existence and Life felt sorry for itself. Realized the absurdity of Envy. Niches and pockets of love opened up. Fraternity. Beethoven even wrote a choral movement.

It's been a crazy adventure. And maybe things will completely shift again after another thousand years. Since we possess consciousness, it follows that we will never understand it (that needs some elaboration, but I don't feel like thinking that hard right now). Whatever consciousness is, it seems to have begun a phase-shift toward a possibility of empathy, instead of pure envy. Maybe it's a full-circle thing. Maybe we're closing in on the singularity, when Mind expands into Love. Maybe Love is the original core, the brooding vacuum that had to envy itself into Being. In order to create a way for itself to become tangible reality. Opening up a great story, full of passion and creating the chance for nostalgic Memory.

All right! That's about it. Maybe tomorrow, I'll see if I can figure out why water is wet!

Impression....and a cat!

I'm writing this little thing to distract me from something else.

I arrived, after an eight-hour drive, in Blue Springs, Missouri, on Sunday around 5 PM.

A little later, I drove through the old downtown residential area of this medium-sized city 10 miles east of Kansas City. The sunset light was darkening to twilight. Driving south down 15th Street, I focused on the houses on my right: older, smallish houses.

My impression was not stimulated by any thoughts of evil or good that might be transpiring behind the walls of those houses. It was a vaguer impression, a neutral inspiration for thinking as I drove past.

The sense of things was that those houses exuded an insular, dream-like spirit. Tiny front yards. Neat clutter on front porches. Curtains open, revealing lighted living rooms. No one visible inside. Do people live in those houses? What are they doing inside? What are they thinking about? Or are they more like dream-people, who don't actually ponder and reflect, but who only move around stealthily, performing certain banal-arcane rituals?

In a word, those houses are surreal. Of course, all of life is blended into weirdness. But those houses are a more compact, more concentrated weirdness. You can “see” it vibrating inside – through those windows. In those empty lit living rooms, with the other rooms dark. Insular houses in an old residential area.

Those houses felt like they were built along a tree-lined street on Jupiter. And it's as if reality itself was being held at arm's length. As if cosmic gravity was being repulsed by those exterior walls. Retreats. Caves. Cells where familial pathologies – mild or intense – simmer and slowly froth. Beyond good and evil. Just odd. While the twilight darkens into night. Halloween night. No one on the street. All the ghosts are inside those old smallish houses.

Strange little worlds in America.

* * *

The next morning, I was standing on my mother's deck. A clear cold autumn morning. I was listening to the breeze swish through the tall oak tree, just off the deck. The trunk on this tree is so straight it could be used as a reference plumb.

A beautiful light-gray cat scampered into the backyard. A medium-sized, well-fed cat. Without a moment's hesitation, it bounded up the deck steps, looked at me, and then rolled over on its back. The expression on its face seemed to say: “Hey, Tim....what the fuck are you doing here? Cool, man!”

I bent down and stroked its back and behind its ear. This cat was a happy cat. A social cat. A cool cat.

And did I mention that this cat was a beautiful light-gray cat? Black bands ran around the tail. The eyes were a teeming yellow-gold. What a marvelous critter!

Then!....social graces can wait. A movement out in the middle of the yard. All cat senses on alert. And...zoom! – my new friend was off to investigate. To see what might be out there that could be gobbled up for breakfast. Or just played with.

“Goodbye, Smokey [I'll call that cat 'Smokey']. It was so nice to meet you. Hope I see you around some other time.”

a certain blue

Nature offers us many instances of beauty. Some of these encounters impress themselves deeply into memory. Sometimes, nature becomes mixed up with something else, and memory is not only impressed; it is sacralized.

When I was nine or ten years old, the family was on a short vacation trip from El Dorado, Arkansas to Lake Greeson (near Murfreesboro in southwest Arkansas). I had fallen asleep in the backseat of our Olds 98 and was roused from slumber by Daddy's announcement: “There's the lake.”

I raised up and peered out the window. The road was about a hundred feet up from the lake, with tall dark pines plunging steeply down to the water and forming a forested screen. The tree canopy was such that the lake's extent was blocked; only what appeared between those trunks was visible. Censorship always breeds fascination. Yes, between those trunks, I spied that water. I fell into its strange color. I have never seen that shade of blue since then. It was not a bright, pale turquoise, but that's the closest approximation I can offer. It was strikingly different from any bright, pale turquoise one might associate with Key West or the Caribbean or Bermuda...or some South Sea atoll. It was unique.

I'm not convinced it was a purely natural color. I had just awakened from dreams (surely I had...I always dream when asleep), and I was disoriented. I didn't know how we had gotten to the lake, didn't know where it was in relation to my hometown, didn't even know why we had come to the lake – at a certain age or with a certain daydreaming character, family events just materialize and one gets swept up in the unexplained, unprocessed momentum.

Reflecting now on that memory, I do believe something else was mixed into that strangely beautiful lake water glimpsed through pine trees. In those few seconds before the road curved away from the lake, some residual dreamstuff blended into that sun-dazzled water color. It seemed an unearthly hue. Maybe a mystic-plasma-blue, showing itself only once in that magic space between nature and uncertain consciousness.

Where is she now?

That girl who struck us out?

I was about 12 or 13 and played 2nd base (occasionally SS and RF) on our Little League baseball team. One evening, a game took us out of El Dorado, Arkansas. To a little town ("town" is pushing things) 10 miles dead-East. I can't remember the name of that place, but I remember that game.

I recall warming up beforehand, playing catch with Randy Bourne. He had blond hair, was slim and a year younger than me. Boy, he sure could fling a ball straight at you. My tosses had a 10 to 15% chance of being wild.

Game starts. Lo and behold, the other team brings out a GIRL to pitch. Ha! This is going to be sweet! We're gonna annihilate em.

She was compact and rather attractive. Had short-cropped blond hair. She wasn't wearing a cap.

Our first batter didn't know what hit him. She fired three strikes in a row, and he didn't even think about swinging. He was worried about physical survival.

If my memory isn't too vague or tricky, she struck out nearly every one of us all night long. She never looked cocky out there on the mound, just confident. Simply enjoying what she was doing.

I got three at-bats and, like the others, just went through the paces. I mean, you couldn't even see the damn ball, much less try to hit it.

So...I do wonder where she is now. How her life went. Did she get to play more coed-style ball? Or did she become a great softball pitcher? I hope she had and is still having a wonderful life.

She was just so heroic-looking to me out there on the mound. Whizzing those scorchers past us and right over the plate.

Female people are neat.

[I just remembered the name of that little place: Old Union.]

an open rebuttal

I wish to thank Stacey Mangiaracina for steering me to this article:

The Problem with American Poetry

Instead of writing a protracted, boring summary of the article, I'll just paste some quotes from it here:

This vital drive for the destruction of the old and the creation of the new is absent.

...even our best poetic imaginations don't have what is needed to imagine and invent what's next.

...contribute nothing whatsoever to the general progress of the human endeavor.

...but that they inhibit the necessary radical imagination for poets to make the new world.

By teaching us how to spot surprising juxtapositions, how to discover sublimated implications in the juxtapositions, and how to separate the images, poetry provides skills we need to figure out which politicians actually support our beliefs and what products actually meet our needs and wants.

In general, poetry has the potential to change society. I refuse to ask any less of it.

Our poets are not tearing down the fetters of our imaginations so we can dream and then create the next American society. Nor are they inventing the lexicon that will define how the next generation of Americans will think, believe, and feel.

Well...this article is something I can sink my sharpened fangs into. It will be fun sucking the juice out of it. Of course, the author will never read my opinion, so no feelings will be hurt. I would not wish to hurt anyone's feelings. So, I'll just do it behind his back.

Did the Romantic poets improve the next generation of society? Did the Modernists? Should our contemporary poets be working toward a betterment of humankind for the future?

Human beings as a whole are now duller and more uncouth than at almost any time in the past. You'd probably have to go back to the Dark Ages to find an appropriate analog. Supposedly, the invention of the book reduced dullness and suppressed uncouthness. But all it did was permit the wholesale broadcast of obtuseness and lack of couth to a vast public arena. There have been rare exceptions -- Thomas Mann wrote The Magic Mountain. Yes, a lot of fancy-pants technical, science-y stuff continues to push back frontiers. Pain killers and air-conditioning are swell things. But are we any more refined or even more interesting than in previous times? I think our perpetual pushing into time is mostly coarse and preposterous. We can see more stars and old light out there in space, while we continue to lie, cheat, and murder with abandon.

People say that Neanderthals were dull and uncouth. And that is why they went extinct. But not us homo sapiens! We have poets. And if our poets will just shape up and do right, we'll keep on doing better than those old shambling failures at culture. But I've always suspected that Neanderthals survived. They are still living in secluded log cabins deep in the jungly woods around south Arkansas (how they got here is anyone's guess). No one knows for sure, but it's possible. They probably congregate in Neanderthal lodges on Friday nights. Serve beet-juice wine, debate the situation in a sophisticated manner, and have poetry readings. Poems that, owing to introspective refinement and collective moodiness, put our best efforts to shame. Not just a few of them. Every Neanderthal writes and reads poetry. My possible Neanderthals are beyond us homo sapiens, as far as having got our consciousnesses progressed. We only think we are an improving specie.

(I'm not sure the above is even relevant, but I just had to work in some Neanderthals.)

So...no, I don't think the collective consciousness is getting notched-up as the zeitgeist skips into tomorrow. And neither is poetry going to un-warp our societal shape.

Here's the deal: poetry is an aesthetic art form, not an instrumental one. Maybe a few Soviet-era poets got the masses revved up and frothing for change. But really, how good were those poems as poems?

Now...earlier in the article, the author mentions some problems with American poetry that I agree with. But not his main theme -- juicing the social ethos with verse. There is no there there. His unbridled romping into original thinking is worse than some of my own attempts.

* * *

Who am I to say what a poem should or should not do? Well, I'm the guy who loves Wordsworth, Keats, Emily Dickinson, Dylan Thomas, and Ezra Pound, that's who. And on rare occasions when writing a poem of my own, I've slipped into a state of consciousness that is far from ordinary.

The only contribution to posterity that a poem might make is a bequeathing of beauty. Not just formal beauty, but also a kind of spiritual beauty. And that latter thing can, on the surface, seem not beautiful at all. It can even appear ugly. It can disconcert. Even some of my darkest, most tragic, and confusing dreams at night leave me with a sense of beautiful misery....or confrontation with a significant and moving psychological work of art. The atmosphere of dreams and some poems is a self-contained world, sufficient-to-itself in aesthetic power and ramification.

Beneath the surface, a good poem reveals or expresses human depths, either focused on self or as a response to nature. A good poem accomplishes that by talent, craft, and severe self-criticism. And the writing of such poems should never be a conscious effort to please posterity. The future is not ours. Right now is where it's at. Right now is when the aesthetic magic happens. Writing as a gesture to propel an avant-garde or to ennoble the next generation is a ridiculous notion. Writing a poem is, for me, an act of existential reconnaissance, not a strategy for some brave new world.

Yes, we want to share our poems. We want to make an impression of some kind. Or at least most of us do, I think. But that does not translate into a poets'-collective for molding society. It's more like "Look what I wrote. I felt something very deeply. I tried my best to put it in words and in rhythm that will communicate to you how I have experienced something." To me, that's it in a nutshell. Anyone who, to the contrary says "Okay, today I'm going to write a poem that will assist in destroying the old world and making a new one" might be someone who needs a long vacation.

I enjoyed the article. It was food for thought. I must confess that it inspired some flashes of condescension in me: the author Josh Cook seems to be (I might be wrong) a very young man, frothing over with idealistic gusto. But that's a good thing.

Sofiya, Borodin, & Bukowski

I borrowed the following from Sofiya Yuzefpolskaya , whose friendship pleases me, enlightens me:

Charles Bukowski

"the life of Borodin"

the next time you listen to Borodin
remember he was just a chemist
who wrote music to relax;
his house was jammed with people:
students, artists, drunkards, bums,
and he never knew how to say: no.
the next time you listen to Borodin
remember his wife used his compositions
to line the cat boxes with
or to cover jars of sour milk;
she had asthma and insomnia
and fed him soft-boiled eggs
and when he wanted to cover his head
to shut out the sounds of the house
she only allowed him to use the sheet;
besides there was usually somebody
in his bed
(they slept separately when they slept
at all)
and since all the chairswere usually taken
he often slept on the stairway
wrapped in an old shawl;
she told him when to cut his nails,
not to sing or whistle
or put too much lemon in his tea
or press it with a spoon;
Symphony #2, in B Minor
Prince Igor
On the Steppes of Central Asia
he could sleep only by putting a piece
of dark cloth over his eyes
in 1887 he attended a dance
at the Medical Academy
dressed in a merrymaking national costume;
at last he seemed exceptionally gay
and when he fell to the floor,
they thought he was clowning.
the next time you listen to Borodin,

Borodin's Symphony No. 2 (second movement)

things that ooze back in

I'm thinking about Ronnie Bannister and his family. Back in 1962. Mrs. Bannister was my 5th-grade teacher. In class, she would read us a chapter a day from A Wrinkle in Time (which had come out that year). After school, she would secretly slip me books on Communism. Mr. Bannister was an acerbic, taciturn atheist, a pipe fitter at the refinery who also read strange foreign literature. Mr. Bannister did not like me for some reason. They were socialists or something in our south Arkansas reactionary town. Very odd situation.

And Ronnie himself -- odd. Neighborhood kids picked on him. When we played Army, he always wanted to be the medic. Unheard of! Ronnie was into science stuff, strange theories about outer space and electrons and what-not.

They lived two houses to the east. The east, where I lived, always had something unusual about it. I'll not veer off here and tell you about the east of our town. Except to say that it moved toward and into a slightly different dimension, different from the one in which our west, north, and south existed. The terrain sloped down from our house to the Bannister's. Their yard always filled up with water when it rained. I was enthralled by the rain back then. It rained existentially or spiritually. The rainfall came down like shredded pieces from a sad old abyss.

One late afternoon in my backyard with Ronnie. I was swinging like a monkey on the tire-rope swing, which was suspended from the branch of a large hickory tree. I'll never forget it. Out of the blue, Ronnie announced: "One day you are going to be an important man." He said it with such an oracular tone that I was nonplussed. Every now and then, it pops back into my head. He seemed so certain, like he was seeing into the future. But he was wrong. I never became important. I think he jinxed me. If he hadn't said that, who knows? If he had just kept it to himself, I might have actually turned into someone important. Like Churchill or a professor.

Going over Ronnie's house to play and hang out.

Mr. Bannister was usually unseen but always a brooding, threatening presence. Like some kind of coiled-spring, erudite psychopath. I imagined him in another room and with his nose buried in some god-knows-what book of European literature. The kind of book that if put in the hands of all the other dads in our rather coarse neighborhood would have made them quiver and spazz until they almost exploded with perplexity.

I loved Mrs. Bannister. But lets shift away from that before I get moody.

Ronnie's bedroom. It felt funny. Had a strange atmosphere. Like all the atoms in it were from an alien universe. I'm not kidding. It felt like I had entered the ambiance of one of those reruns from the TV show "Science Fiction Theatre," which aired early on Saturday mornings and which made me feel very uncomfortable, put me on edge.
[Science Fiction Theatre]

By all appearances, it was a normal, well-lit bedroom. The odds-and-ends and toys and books weren't that bizarre. But from a very early age, I've had a sense about the uncanny. I knew what was normal, what was not normal, and how even normal stuff was moving through an unsuspected-by-others haze of weirdness. I was an expert in detecting changes in barometric pressure between this world and the possible oozings from other dimensions.

While in his bedroom especially, Ronnie would talk a lot about science and theories and things no one would expect from the brain of a boy. Maybe his room wasn't really weird. Maybe it was something the room absorbed from Ronnie's soul that made it seem not-quite-right. I really liked Ronnie.

I think the Bannisters might have been genuine aliens. From far, far away. And what better place to go mostly undetected than El Dorado, Arkansas?

Years later, they moved to somewhere in Louisiana. Mr. Bannister died of a stroke or heart attack. I've tried to look Ronnie and his mother up on Google, but no luck. I hope they are okay.

a typical dream

A woman with three musician guys walked right in to my house at night. Made themselves at home. Soon I announced: "For this to be a proper party, I must go buy some non-ginger ale alcohol."

So I went outside and got in my old pick-up truck. Went searching for a non-ginger ale alcohol store. I topped a hill and started down it. Then I realized this was a long hill tilting almost straight down. I stomped on the brakes as my truck went speeding down toward certain doom. Somehow, I slowed down enough and coasted to the bottom. But the next hill was also very long and also nearly straight up. I didn't have enough momentum or power to make it up this new hill.

So I got out of my vehicle and stood there pondering. Some indistinct person walked up behind me and said: "You better get going. Now! Small violent hogs are coming to get you. Run!"

I started quickly up the new hill on foot, and the hill turned into an institutional staircase. Indeed, small violent hogs were coming up behind me. I ran.

I made it upstairs to an indistinct hallway. I darted inside a room and closed the door. There were about 15 other hog refugees in this medium-sized room, which was like a classroom without desks. We mingled for a while, discussing in low tones our predicament.

The door flew open and in walked two blue-uniformed official people. Like prison guards or street police. They looked us up and down with derision, with arrogance. It was known without saying that we were somehow illegal and now under the tyranny of these two uniformed officials.

Then about six small violent hogs burst in through the open door and went after us. They snapped at our ankles viciously. Total chaos ensued. All of us, including the two Stasi guys, ran around in panicked circles or bounced off one another like pin balls.

I think I somehow escaped and survived. I can't remember if I made it back to my house with non-ginger ale alcohol.

Robyn Field -- a certain shape of consciousness

Some of you are mutual friends. I would like to introduce my friend Robyn to others.

I'm a fan of consciousness in human beings. By that, I mean a particular manifestation: those with a large and resilient field of vision. So many operate on direct-current. I prefer alternating-current. I like Nikola Tesla. I like minds that loop and curve. That are like magic mirrors not merely reflecting but somehow also absorbing. Minds that are like Krishna's – knowing, smiling, slippery. Minds one can rely on to always be unexpected.

Every morning and every night, Robyn shines through with good spirits. A cycle of salutation and closing that is warm, genuine, and exuding an atmosphere of hope. She's one of those people who make you think: “Yep, were all headed for pitch-black doom or at least a highly murky unknown, but it's reassuring to know we're not isolated in our peculiar abysses. As weak as we all are against the enormity of being, how pleasant to be in the winking company of this elliptical woman who keeps filling my glass with red wine!”

And serving dreamy dishes the mere cyber descriptions of which are mouth-watering. A way of being in the world at once elegant and down-home. Cosmopolitan and provincial.

Robyn likes art. Weird freaking art. Surrealism (and other stuff, too). She also likes Camus. And Dada.

I mentioned that magic-mirror-absorbing thing. Her consciousness also has something of the fun-house mirror to it. Like how her mind bends and warps and quivers, depending on what enters it from outside and what is projected from strange realms within. She is even – can you believe it? – able to track my own consciousness to a high degree. That pleases me.

Oh...she also knows languages that haven't been invented yet.

Robyn is mutable, flexible. If you say something stupid, she is gracious toward you. Patient, forbearing. If you say something mean or way-stupid...well...be prepared for a subtle, sardonic riposte. The change can occur quickly, throwing you off-balance. You thought you were dealing with a soft-shaded daffodil, but suddenly the petals might turn into honed blades of human truth.

Robyn is genuinely far-out. Like those pioneers of hyper-consciousness back in the sixties. But she's not strictly mental, abstract, and psychedelic. She's also warm and charming. Unique.

Here's a song for you, Robyn:

Strange Overtones

my weird hometown (a re-post)

I was born in El Dorado, Arkansas, way back in '52. My brother and I always felt that our town was odd. Had a sort of uncanniness to it. And some odd people (heh) grew up there. Things seemed colored with melodramatic shades. Like that hysterical, screaming night woman, pounding on our front door -- an unhinged oracle speaking of sudden death on the highway just now...and implicitly forecasting metaphysical doom to come. There were nightly drum beats in the pinewoods and viney jungle distance, giving me and my brother chronic, delicious frights. There was that creature -- half-pig, half-man -- that would occasionally appear at our bedroom window and peer silently. Ghosts came and went; it was problematic being left alone in the house. One night, very loud thumping -- no, more like a linebacker bouncing off the rafters -- in the attic prompted Dad to call the sheriff. He and a deputy showed up but were too afraid to climb up there to check it out. So Dad went up, while the law looked on from below. He found nothing at all up there.

Maybe kids are unusual everywhere, but back then, our friends and acquaintances certainly seemed so. Not anything overt; just an extra, inscrutable sheen. The strangest thing about them -- and adults -- was the fact that they felt entitled to exist. No qualms whatsoever about being real. They obviously never gave it a second thought. When I think back on my very-young to medium-young days, I see that kid who was in almost constant perplexity. Sitting in the monstrous, tank-like Olds 98, while my mother drove through various sections of town, I was saturated with so many fantastical impressions. Every street, every neighborhood glowed with a kind of mystical weirdness. Especially that half-hidden black part of town. Like it was somehow organically disconnected from the rest of El Dorado. Like it was built up on ground imported from another dimension. I think the word is "incommensurable." Just didn't physically or metaphysically compute in the algorithm of our town's normality. Later, I realized that was attributable to the shameful apartheid so prevalent in the South. But for a while back then...when I was a child soaking up all forms of weirdness...the emphatic difference of the black neighborhood seemed almost enchanting, magical. Sort of like turning down a supposedly familiar street and coming face-to-face with a Medieval village. The dilapidation and make-shiftness of those poor homes appeared charming to my little brain...a colorful, crazy-quilt architecture.

Hernando De Soto came through what was later to be Union County (very south Arkansas). Those Spainiards were a grim, determined lot. What in the world were they doing, traipsing through our godforsaken neck of the woods? Ticks, chiggers, snakes, disease, nonplussed, suspicious natives. Guess it was just something to do back then. Europe must have been awfully boring or just too banal. Popes being courted like blushing, wrinkled maidens by one royal nest of rats after another.

In the early 19th century, a trapper stopped in these environs and set up a trading post. From that beginning, a village sprouted and later the town of El Dorado. Toward the end of that century, the town had become a sort of chic cultural center, at least more chic than Smackover and other outliers. It's hard for me to imagine my town as having been such. It always struck me as uncouth and, well, unimaginative. Then in the early new century, a wild shoot-out -- an undignified duel -- took place in front of the court house in the center of town. Must have been quite a dust-up and something to talk about for a long time.

In the early '20s Busey's well came in, and El Do became an overnight oil boom town. Speculators poured in, as well as hordes of workers for the burgeoning oil fields. Here tell, the town was like a latter-day Dodge City. Wild and woolly. Those days must have doused El Dorado's vaunted cultural fire. As the decades tumbled by, oil refineries were built, and my father was a plant manager at Amoco. Before they built the separate managers' building up on the hill, Mother and I would pick him up in the late afternoon down at the main refinery entrance gate. I still remember being dazzled and frightened by the roaring flames and clouds of steam. And, especially, the psychologically disturbing maze of pipes twisting and running off into unknowable dimensions. Looking back, the whole place was like a vast greedy god -- as if the black blood of unseen sacrificial victims was running through those pipes and being refined into unspeakable elixirs.

Growing up in the early '60s was sort of neat. All the clothing stores and banks surrounding the town square seemed more than houses of commerce. They seemed like environs ripped from my young night dreams and plopped down, helter-skelter, in front of the sidewalks. Charming brass spittoons were everywhere, and cigar smoke saturated every establishment. The merchants had an unusual air about them. It was like existence itself was equatable with their occupations. Not as if working was something to be endured to survive; rather, it was their entire reason for being. One couldn't imagine any of them actually having a separate home life. Surely, they lived every moment of their lives in their houses of business. Yes, strange. Even as a child, I felt alienated from this attitude of allowing one's soul, consciousness, or identity to disappear into any activity.

Howard's Newsstand! For my brother and me, it was a house of dreams. And the proprietor, Howard, was our grizzled, morose priest, granting us access to visions of heaven on earth: that full back wall of comic books (or "funnybooks," as we called them). Every Saturday, we'd be driven with our quarters to Howard's. We would stare, stunned each time before that wall of mesmerizing color and beckoning adventure. I'm serious: it always took us a few moments to come to senses whip-lashed by amazement. Then came the delicious agony of trying to choose from among the hundreds of titles. You could only afford five or six, when twenty or thirty were screaming and pleading at you. You know...actually buying and reading them was probably just an after thought. The main thing about funnybook day was just standing there in adolescent bewilderment and awe.

Junior high was traumatic. If you were from the rich side of town, you went to one school. Not so rich, like us, you attended hell on earth: Roger's Junior High School. The main building was three or four stories and had been built waaay back in history. Besides looking haunted and ferocious, it seemed as if it would come falling down like a House of Usher on us young teens. All the toughs went there. Bloody, vicious fist-fights were daily distractions. The teachers were weird. It was less a school than a survival course. In fact, could it be reconstructed, I would recommend it for a Green Beret training facility. The cafeteria food alone was an existential challenge. I bet those kids across town were being served French cuisine on silver platters.

Memories! Oh, my gosh. Please fly from me! 8th-grade science class...I sat a few seats behind Linda Harris. She was no ordinary 14-year-old lass. She looked like and had the aloof, mature, suave grace of Sophia Loren. So how does a pimply idiot-child like me get the attention of a goddess? Well, you aim your No. 2 pencil at her head, eraser first, and send it flying in a flirtatious gesture. But in transit, the thing reverses orientation, and the point-end hits her smack upside the head...and painfully. That look she gave me. No words were needed. Henceforth, I was a metaphorical leper to her. When all I wanted to do was somehow inform her of my love-sickness! Oh, well.

OK. I'm probably making more of my hometown than I should. Most likely everyone's town is strange in certain ways. But if you ever pass through El Dorado, I caution you against driving down East Main Highway. You just might enter an invisible portal, teeming with ghosts and weirdness. You might never be heard from again.

When the alligator scarpers

[Below is a short story written by my friend Regina BOu. This story means a lot to me. It is the kind of story I would write if I could write this kind of story. I think it is marvelous. It reminds me of some of my favorite writers. And I adore it when imagination goes veering off into special precincts -- beyonds colored in eccentric hues.]

Every human being has an alligator at home. Naturally, I had an alligator too, and I say “had”, because I no longer have one. One night, he simply opened the door with his muzzle, and announced to me that he was leaving. Yes, I am aware that alligators are incapable of speech, but did you know they can communicate with their gaze? He thumped his tail on the floor twice, and as the tenant downstairs gave the ceiling a stroke with his broom, the alligator broke into a quadrupedal, short-leg run down the apartment building’s stairs; there, he met a few more alligators who were scarpering from their homes, and soon an unprecedented hubbub had taken over the staircases.

I am not going to say that I missed the alligator, since at this very moment a fucking fly is dancing around my eyes. It’s trying to sit on my eyelashes, and its buzzing is so annoying, that I wish I could just unleash pesticide through my teeth. Ha, that’s a good one: the fly disappeared the moment I typed “pesticide”. Imagine, if I were to type “ten million pounds”, and, as I did so, the bell rung; and I would open the door and find a sack full of cash outside my apartment.

It would have been amazing, if I could make anything I write come true. My alligator brought to life everything I dreamt about, and that is why we did not always get along. I would dream of something pleasant, and voila, welcome to the land of milk and honey, what a great time I would have! But if I were to dream, for instance, a dead horse draggling me uphill, or a howling madman chasing after me, then – good God, I do not even want to remember those times! One morning, freshly awoken from a dream, I found a hanged man pirouetting in the middle of the room, tugging mightily at his rope to gather momentum.

I helped him stop, and then I asked how come he had found himself in my room, struggling, quite naturally, to keep a cool head. He answered; I found myself in your room, because it was you who brought me here, you should quit on that canned stuff you consume before bedtime. I pulled the alligator from under my bed, and I was so livid with him that I actually threatened to sleep between his teeth, if he ever brought a hanged man in my room again: for I can fathom no worse punishment for a home alligator, than forcing himself, against nature, to keep those jaws open, in order not to dig his teeth in the snoring flesh between them; and I am glad my mind takes those sadistic turns from time to time, for the notion really frightened him out of his wits.

He knew that if were to allow a teeny tiny tooth’s misstep or a tidbit of saliva loose, this would result in reminding him of his lower instincts, making him disappear on the spot. What tethered him to life, what regulated his existence, was my own desire to keep him here. With two fangs embedded in my throat, I could have no desire. He was as imaginary as my imagination can possibly be, and was as real as the very same imagination. And, by all means, my imagination can be imaginary, as well as real.

Imaginary in all that it creates at the center of its core, and as real as it is within the very same core. The centre of an imagination can be real as long as it exists, for, if it did not, I would not speak of an imagination. I imagine the absolute void to be the opposite thing, though I have reasonable doubt that it is not as absolute as it wishes to appear, or else I would have thrown the alligator in there a long time ago, just to test my limits. Once I was afraid of wells a lot, now I believe I could easily take a plunge inside of them, and why not?

The alligator also had the habit of leaving a tooth under my bed, a tooth apiece for every dream he delivered to my hands. When he left and I pulled the bed, I discovered there a proper tooth graveyard, but I could not be bothered with it, I just pushed the bed back into place and wished I had never seen such a freakish assemblage. Alligators are, deep down, foolish creatures of stupid habits, and, unfortunately, quite a lot of teeth.

Do you believe that I should go out in the city and look for my alligator, pleading with him to come back home, or, as a last resort, tie him up with a leash and drag him all the way to the elevator? Promise I shall not be contemptuous of him, no matter what dream he materializes before me? That I shall take care to supply him with special boxes for collecting his teeth? But how am I going to discern which one is mine, now that all of the alligators have run away from their houses and apartment buildings?

I come out to the balcony and gaze upon a green-coppery sea of scaly alligator backs, moving on the streets as a vast current of water.

A carpet of them; people are forced to walk on alligators to reach the opposite sidewalk, cars are all but drivable, I imagine it is only a matter of hours for them to become completely immobilized; and I finished my creative writing exercise, of a thousand - at most - words. I would like to conclude with a moral, as was the custom of the American writer James Thurber, whose name now escapes my grasp, though I can recall he always concluded his short stories with one: do you have an alligator under your bed, and if that is so, do you ever feel the undeniable desire to kick it out? If you have kicked it out, did you realize, in the end, that what you did was wrong, and if so, why? Those were two questions, but no matter.