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.