Sunday, June 27, 2010

a poem by my friend Linda Moody Chromick

[I just read this poem and was astonished. Linda gave me permission to share it out as one of my Notes. The images are visceral and leaped off the page for me. The understated sentiment is the more powerful because it is subtle. Enjoy...or if "enjoy" is the wrong word...experience.]


Pain is essentially peculiar
enough of it and you start to think
well, here’s reality
the rest is a dream
it bellows from the crib
but by the time you’re a kid
and skinned your knee
anesthesia is air.

Frail bald kids know
the devil sends morphine
to keep our veil of tears unseen,
and our ancestors
who hadn’t time or Novocain
still could have, if they’d wanted
bent spoons with their brains.

Back then the status quo
as consumptive breath explains
was dubious comfort
and truthful woe,
so when loved ones
especially children died
their hair was kept and swirled
into pressed glass charms
to pin on blouse and shawl
as paint to brush
tendrils drew a mournful scrawl--
portraits, landscapes
twisted braid broaches
necklace weaves of beads and tresses
not homage to pain
more, portable gain.

Souls must be stomped into flesh
for the right fit
bar-belled in with weights of
intractable air
pressed down like leaded glass
on locks
of a departed child’s silken hair.

Copyright 2010, Linda Moody Chromick

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I thought of how it might work...

CUT! Get rid of 'I thought.' Sublimate it, man. Go deeper. Create.

It would take a round table of marble
to hold in the coolness that we'd require,
and a leafy arbor latticed high above us
to screen compulsions from moonbeams.

CUT! That's better but not good enough. Keep the damn moon out of this. Again!

In the fractal groove between dark spheres,
those curving shapes that could not touch...

Yes! Now you're on to something. It's got geometry. Take it to a Cubist vibe. Keep going...

In the fractal groove between dark spheres,
those curving shapes that could not touch,
where the tension builds to arc shy volts
like Hermes sparking message trails...

in that quiet, oblique angle where spirits
might speak in signs of gestured knowing...

we will murder time and pillage space,
and laugh at gods who trouble dreams...

we'll linger on that canvas texture,
linger between lines like music,
as colors ring their drunken bells
or drip like sullen Spanish vistas
turning into cubes of structure.

It's not surreal or too abstract,
it's only what two artists paint,
in tandem even without seeing,
almost brushing into night.

Proportion is compelled to be,
balance sets the stars in place.
If we should never as two spheres
almost touch, the world would fail.

That'll work.

I won't name this person...

...because I'm afraid it might embarrass her.

When I get a thought-emotion bouncing in my head, I can't make it behave until I write it down. So I'm writing it down now.

My friend is related to a friend who is related to me via the zodiac. It's like fate formed a maze of leaves, with this unnamed person staring at me quixotically from behind that screen. I had no idea what I was in for: friendship with someone deep like Schopenhauer, subtle as the Moon floating in purple night, generous as the wounded heart of Empathy.

She writes poems, and those poems move with a profound richness. Language befriends certain souls. It knows it will be well-treated in certain hands. The depth of her writing clues me into something else: the infinity of her mind. Yeah...that sounds way over the top.

What I'm trying to say is that she is a reservoir without seeming end from which the parched might drink. She's the kind of person I could talk to for a long time. She would not only track my eccentric musings but would leaven them with a kinship of impressions and perspectives.

I haven't talked to her. But some things one can be confident about. And maybe it's better this way. That infinite reservoir shimmers as a daydream. And daydreams allow one to expand into. To keep the magic teeming in this world of alarm and sadness.

Kris Saknussemm's prose: “IT'S ALIVE!”

I was thinking about something this morning. Not sure if it's worth a paragraph or a few. When I ramble, you never can tell what it'll stack up to for anyone else.

One can read many swell writers on various topics. Their writing is clear, and it communicates. Whatever argument, opinion, or impression they wish to convey, the reader's time is not wasted nor his mind injured. But...even such writers, during their opening sentences, make the reader take a deep breath. It's like, “This could be interesting, so I'll trudge ahead through this clear, poised, informative prose." Maybe after a paragraph or so, you'll forget that the writing is on life-support – the topic itself has taken precedence over its exposition. But...*yawn*.

Then there is Kris Saknussemm. With the first sentence, you experience the rich air of life underneath the words, making them buoyant. Normality gets a cold splash in the face. There will be prose.

How come? Maybe it's owing to his rich personal experience. But I don't think that necessarily animates a writers output. I think it rather has to do with being fully awake. Being awake means always looking over your shoulder at your own self. It's about operating from a perspective of hyper-irony. You know you're partly nuts, so you recognize the implicit nuttiness of the whole world. You draw life from that bizarre bazaar.

Kris writes sentences that won't sit behaved on the page. They spiral up into reading eyeballs and get sucked into hippocampuses. The reader's brain gets soul-whacked, and it's like having one's spiritual adrenaline activated. This is writing that brims over with life. Concepts don't unfold. They sit up amazed like Frankenstein's creature after a lightning bath. People described aren't content to be formally clothed in self-conscious words. They want to be dressed in feathers and flourescent robes. They want to stand out and breathe on the page. So they love it when Kris wraps them in visceral words. They nod approvingly when they find themselves in sentences wrought from empathy, sympathy, and perpetual amaze.

If Kris decided to write an essay on the relationship of Heidegger to the accumulation of library dust, you would never look at philosophers or drifting motes in the same way again.

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a bluebird once

I saw that little creature...once,

a drop of mystic blue. My eyes
held it in that wordless distance,
stretching out from bird to me
and telescoping wonder thrall.

It seemed to be a blue tear hung
in volumed space, in rusted time.
Until that feathered, godly riddle
flew from summer's meadow box
and disappeared without a trace.

I saw a bluebird once, then gone.
I quiver still in colored hope.

Monday, June 21, 2010

that night I got lost

1972. Houston. Something happened.

I worked for ITT Grinnell, in the rough part of east Houston. I lived 25 miles away, in Clear Lake, to the south. I worked in the warehouse, pulling pipe fitting orders that would be shipped to area refineries and other industries. The work was not easy, but I sort of enjoyed it. Especially when the butane fork lifts got replaced with zippy electric models – forklift races were fun while the boss was on break.

I got paid shit-for-beans. When talk among the serfs turned to forming a union, I told my good friend Danny Martinez that I wasn't sure (I was young and very ignorant about everything...still am...ignorant, not young). Danny threatened to non-metaphorically stab me in the back with his switchblade if I didn't join in. He was very serious, that Danny.

One late afternoon in late summer, I clocked out and then got in my '70 Impala. To head home down the interstate. You had to drive a couple miles through murder neighborhoods to reach the on-ramp. I think I got on the freeway. But I must have been weary, because I made some kind of wrong turn at some point. I can't remember the particulars of that wrong turn, but somehow I ended up bearing east-southeast on a different arm of the interstate. Maybe it was one of those things where you have to be paying attention to your lane, and I got Y-ed off toward shock, weirdness, and near-panic.

It took a while for me to even realize I was on the wrong path. When I did, I felt a psychological unhinging. Instant hopelessness. Because in this part of Houston, you get lost, you rarely ever come out again. At least that was my instant evaluation. After miles of hoping for a sign that would indicate an arm toward the true interstate, I finally took an off-ramp. To find a spot to stop. Collect my thoughts. Figure out a plan. There were no cell phones in those days, so I was left to my own resources.

I decided against turning around and heading back the way I had come. Something told me that would end up in catastrophe. I don't think there were any gas stations in sight where I had left the freeway, nor other stores from which to ask directions. It was a strange half-residential, half-parallel universe. I sat there thinking......not really thinking...more like being a zombie behind the wheel. My brain was not working at all.

I decided to go take a right and head south on the highway. I curved this way and that, so eventually I didn't know whether I was still bearing south or if I was going east into unimaginable chaos. The road went up over another highway. For some reason, that moment is still vivid. That moment was when the shock turned into an almost delightful weirdness. Or maybe an existential resignation: “OK...if I'm to be lost forever, is what it is.”

And the night seemed heavy with a wonderful brooding menace. But soon, as I plunged farther into the dark cloud of unknowing, a feeling of near-panic kicked in. I envisioned myself eventually running out of gas and then on foot. And then in the morgue.

Serendipitously, the path I was on led to an intersection, with a sign indicating the way to San Jacinto. Deliverance! I took the turn and was on the highway that paralleled the true interstate, all the way to Clear Lake. I survived.

I bring up this misadventure because it became fuel for night dreams years later. For the past 10 years, I've had dreams at least once a week about driving around lost in a quasi-Little Rock. And 20 years ago, I had three dreams about being lost in a Houston cloverleaf. The sense of necessary transcendence in those three dreams was utter and palpable. The city around that vast, tangled interstate swelled to De Quincey-esque proportions. The sense of dread was horrible, terrifying, and so damn wonderful!

Looking back into dream memory, I see that nothing about those three dreams was lucid. I had zero control of the circumstances. I had no resource but fate. There is no way to describe the way things looked or the deep nature of how things felt. The only phrase I can employ is “awful sublimity”. Surely that night in 1972 was the generator of those three almost-nightmares and of those later lost-in-Little Rock dreams. I am so grateful that I got soul-shattered by having taken that wrong turn.

I'm pretty sure my inspiration for writing this thing today is the film WAKING LIFE. I watched the DVD of it last night, for about the fifth or sixth time. I love this movie. The look of it, the feel of it, the sense of it. The “plot” isn't really about being physically lost; rather, it's about being spiritually misplaced. But it captures quite well that feel of confusion I felt so many years ago.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Tale of Two Kitties (for Yael, who loves cats)

Chapter 1

One day in Old Hungary, a Roman centurion was walking alone in the forest. He had strayed from his camp, to idly stroll beneath the large strange trees. He liked the coolness of it under these boughs, and the flecks of light dappling the shadowed ground pleased him very much.

Soon, he saw a cat sitting upright in the rough path before him. Its fur was coral-colored, and its eyes were like gray diamonds. The cat said, “These woods are haunted. Perhaps you should turn back, centurion.”

The soldier was surprised but quickly recovered and replied, “No cat tells me what to do.”

The cat said, “Just as you please.”

The centurion, with pieces of brass light flashing on his breastplate and with his hand on the hilt of a scabbarded sword, walked past the cat. And the cat kept staring straight ahead, unperturbed.

The confident warrior marched on and on through the darkening woods. To his left, he saw a white butterfly the size of a heathen shield float through the trees. Larger than any butterfly should ever be, it had three glowing emerald spots on each wing. The soldier drifted off the worn, vague trail and followed the odd creature as it glided slowly and drunkenly ahead.

Eventually, the butterfly disappeared into the mist that had sprung up in gradual, amorphous stages. The centurion stopped and looked around. He was lost. The mist was now becoming a fog, and from far within it, he heard the moans of unknown things.

He decided to trust in his gods and the remembered counsel of old women who gathered by the Mediterranean in his childhood: close your eyes and turn around three times, then walk with no fear. So he did. And walked ever deeper into the fog that was blending into the emergence of night.

Chapter 2

After an hour, he was wrapped in darkness. The forest had grown denser, and small vines swept across his face. The vines also began growing thicker around him. He became entangled and could not move. So he drew his sword and began slashing his way blindly through the tightening vegetation. Finally, he stumbled into a clearing. Or what seemed to be such. It was too dark to tell if it was really a clearing or how large it might be. No moon and no stars sent any light down to the centurion.

He stood there a moment, collecting himself. But he was still not afraid. His legionnaire training had been thorough. He was afraid of nothing. Not even those distant moans that had now come much closer.

Just then, he saw two tiny coral lights glimmering about twenty paces in front of him. And he asked, “Who or what are you?”

“Oh, I'm also a cat,” came the reply.

“Well...there are a lot of cats in this forest,” said the centurion. “Why are you here?”

“No, soldier, the question is why are you here?”

“I ask the questions,” said the man, putting his hands on his hips and frowning indignantly into the dark. “Tell me how I can find my way back to my camp.”

“That is not an easy thing to answer,” said the cat. “Such things must be mulled over a long time. Directions don't mean anything in this forest. Where one is and where one should go are not really questions. Rather they are riddles. Cats know where riddles come from, but we can't speak the answers. The answers are in a magical language that only the wind and the water and the thunder can speak.”

“Nice words, cat. But I have no time for such quaintness. Stop talking like that and tell me which way to go. Now!”

“Tsk-tsk,” said the cat. “You are a nasty one, you are. Don't you know that you can't get honey-dew if you buzz too loudly?”

The centurion considered these words for several moments.

“All right, then. You will be my little captain for now. Can you see me saluting you? I am, and now I ask gently, will you tell me which way leads out of these woods?”

“Muuuch better,” replied the cat, with a grin in its voice. “Here is what you must do. Take out your sword and scratch a large circle here in this clearing. My eyes will give you the light you need.”

The man did as instructed. When the circle had been inscribed, he turned back to the cat.

“Now, get inside the circle and lie down. The circle will protect you from the moaning things that move in the night. Close your eyes. I said close your eyes!....Good. Now go to sleep. While you are asleep, I will purr the tone of the where-and-how-riddle into your dreams. This is the only way. My purring will bring the wind and the water and the thunder into your dreams. When you wake up, you will know where you are and how to return to your camp.”

Minutes went by, and the centurion grew sleepy. He nodded off.

Chapter 3

The next morning, the soldier jerked awake and sat up inside the clearing. He looked around through dim, early eyes. The fog had vanished. The very young day was sprinkled with birdsong, and a subtle breeze freshened the leaves.

He stood up and saw the cat with coral eyes sitting upright in front of him. Its fur was light gray and faintly shimmered as if made of diamond thread.

“Good morning, centurion,” said the cat.

“Yes...well...good morning to you, cat.”

“Did you dream last night?”

“Most assuredly. And just as you said, I awoke with where and how. But I feel very strange.”

“That is a good sign,” said the cat. “Tell me more.”

“I feel that my sword hilt will burn my hand if I touch it. I feel that my armor is too heavy to bear.”

“Yes...I understand. You had the right dream. The wind and the water and the thunder are still inside you now. And will be forever. Do you know what you must do?”

“Indeed,” replied the centurion in a gentle voice. He unbuckled the belt holding his sword and scabbard. His weapon fell to the ground inside the circle. Then he took off his breastplate, and let it also fall to the ground. He looked at the cat and smiled. “Thank you, cat. For your protection and for your deep wisdom.”

The man strode out of the circle and headed into the woods, leaving the gray cat with coral eyes behind him.

The cat blinked slowly, purred softly, then scratched vigorously behind its ear with a hind leg.

Chapter 4

After a pleasant journey through the oddly lustrous woods, the centurion found his way back into his camp. Other soldiers rushed out to meet him, and the Captain of the Guard inquired, “Where have you been?”

“I went for a walk in the forest and got very lost. Then I became found, and here I am.”

The Captain looked him over suspiciously, and the expression conveyed a dislike for the centurion's tone of voice.

“Where is your sword and where is your armor?” he demanded.

“I will fight no more forever.”

“Arrest this man!” shouted the Captain. “Forty lashes with the flagrum, then turn him out of the camp!”

Later when the punishment had been meted out, the man – now no longer a soldier – staggered into the old forest. His back screamed with blood and silent pain. In tatters but with a wild smile on his face, he made his way back to the clearing.

As he stepped into it, the brilliant sunlight of late morning caused his vision to momentarily blur. He rubbed his eyes and opened them.

Standing in front of him were two beautiful young women in white gowns. One had coral-colored hair and eyes the color of gray diamonds. The other had diamond-gray hair and eyes the color of corals.

“Are you my cats?' asked the man innocently.

“Yes,” they replied in unison. And still in one voice, they said, “Last night, we were your cats. Today, we are your spirit sisters. Follow us now. We will lead you to a camp of Gypsies farther in the forest. You will live among them, grow old, and be happy. The Gypsies will teach you how to dance in the moonlight and how to dream other magic dreams. Your life henceforth will be a peaceful riddle that spirals into the heart of time.”

The man walked forward, and a sister took a hand on each side of him. They moved out of the clearing and disappeared into gleaming shafts of light and sighing shadows.

The End

America's Super Villain

No...not Lex Luthor.

Back in our nation's infancy, the Boston Tea Party wasn't primarily a political gesture but essentially an economic protest against a corporation – the East India Company, which had its own army and court system and put a stranglehold on the colonies...wouldn't let them freely import or export to countries other than Britain, nor do business with other trading companies.

At the time of the Revolution, the enlightened Founders were suspicious of if not downright antagonistic toward the idea of corporations. Those farsighted folks knew that corporate agressiveness would put the principles of a new republic in jeopardy, would spoil the political sphere. So, the new states passed laws severely regulating these conscienceless entities. Charters were required for corporations, and these instruments could be revoked if a corporation were found in any way unamenable to the commonweal. These limited liability companies were, by law, anchored to the state that charted them (couldn't move their home offices around), and a corporation could not hold stock in another one, which would be (and so has proven) the certain avenue for political control shifting from the People to the board room.

Well, as the decades rolled and railroad corporations became powerful, the previous strict control began to ease somewhat. Not really in the public mind, but in the political arena, where bribery and influence became, and are now, the rule.

Out of the dark, stepped one Tom Scott, the Jackal. He invented the stock holding company, which allows corporations to invest in other corporations. Meeting resistance, he persisted, and by hook and by crook, he finally got legal recognition for this democracy-shattering corporate mutation.

This buzzard sank his diseased claws into the soul of our once-free country (excepting blacks, Indians, and women, of course) and set loose the money-fever infection that soon led to corporate personhood. In the 1886 Supreme Court case Santa Clara County vs. The Southern Pacific Railroad, a justice said that, implicitly, corporations are people. Once this became codified, the gates were open, and corporations began to incrementally gain access to our Bill of Rights. Soon, the Beast became synonymous with Americanism and capitalism. Politics became the Beast's romper room. Free enterprise is one thing. Enterprise as shadow government something else entirely. Is it really our patriotic duty to vote for a Republican or a Democrat, when both parties reek of the rotting grease of corporate influence? Ask yourself, as an ordinary American human being: what powerful entity is lookin' out for your basic interests?

Can you wrap your mind around it? An artifical, legal fiction was found (and is even now trivially assumed) to be a real person? Those hard-earned rights enshrined in the Amendments were body-snatched by an alien breed. Now, that breed has evolved into a T-Rex of predatory proportions. They roam this once-free land, and we are like the proto-mammals -- scavenging, sniffing out tidbits left over after the corporate feast.

Thank you very much for your holding company, Tom Scott! You are our super villain. Like Mesphisto in Murnau's Faust, his black wings spread over the country – across time itself – and his contorted face smiles horribly down on the destruction of a country.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

100 lines from THE PRELUDE -- Wordsworth

I felt myself in a Wordsworth mood this morning. So I found the section from THE PRELUDE I love most -- lines 300 through 400, from "Book First, Introduction -- Childhood and School-time."

Fair seed-time had my soul, and I grew up
Fostered alike by beauty and by fear:
Much favoured in my birth-place, and no less
In that beloved Vale to which erelong
We were transplanted;--there were we let loose
For sports of wider range. Ere I had told
Ten birth-days, when among the mountain slopes
Frost, and the breath of frosty wind, had snapped
The last autumnal crocus, 'twas my joy
With store of springes o'er my shoulder hung
To range the open heights where woodcocks run
Along the smooth green turf. Through half the night,
Scudding away from snare to snare, I plied
That anxious visitation;--moon and stars
Were shining o'er my head. I was alone,
And seemed to be a trouble to the peace
That dwelt among them. Sometimes it befell
In these night wanderings, that a strong desire
O'erpowered my better reason, and the bird
Which was the captive of another's toil
Became my prey; and when the deed was done
I heard among the solitary hills
Low breathings coming after me, and sounds
Of undistinguishable motion, steps
Almost as silent as the turf they trod.

Nor less, when spring had warmed the cultured Vale,
Moved we as plunderers where the mother-bird
Had in high places built her lodge; though mean
Our object and inglorious, yet the end
Was not ignoble. Oh! when I have hung
Above the raven's nest, by knots of grass
And half-inch fissures in the slippery rock
But ill sustained, and almost (so it seemed)
Suspended by the blast that blew amain,
Shouldering the naked crag, oh, at that time
While on the perilous ridge I hung alone,
With what strange utterance did the loud dry wind
Blow through my ear! the sky seemed not a sky
Of earth--and with what motion moved the clouds!

Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows
Like harmony in music; there is a dark
Inscrutable workmanship that reconciles
Discordant elements, makes them cling together
In one society. How strange, that all
The terrors, pains, and early miseries,
Regrets, vexations, lassitudes interfused
Within my mind, should e'er have borne a part,
And that a needful part, in making up
The calm existence that is mine when I
Am worthy of myself! Praise to the end!
Thanks to the means which Nature deigned to employ;
Whether her fearless visitings, or those
That came with soft alarm, like hurtless light
Opening the peaceful clouds; or she would use
Severer interventions, ministry
More palpable, as best might suit her aim.

One summer evening (led by her) I found
A little boat tied to a willow tree
Within a rocky cave, its usual home.
Straight I unloosed her chain, and stepping in
Pushed from the shore. It was an act of stealth
And troubled pleasure, nor without the voice
Of mountain-echoes did my boat move on;
Leaving behind her still, on either side,
Small circles glittering idly in the moon,
Until they melted all into one track
Of sparkling light. But now, like one who rows,
Proud of his skill, to reach a chosen point
With an unswerving line, I fixed my view
Upon the summit of a craggy ridge,
The horizon's utmost boundary; far above
Was nothing but the stars and the grey sky.
She was an elfin pinnace; lustily
I dipped my oars into the silent lake,
And, as I rose upon the stroke, my boat
Went heaving through the water like a swan;
When, from behind that craggy steep till then
The horizon's bound, a huge peak, black and huge,
As if with voluntary power instinct,
Upreared its head. I struck and struck again,
And growing still in stature the grim shape
Towered up between me and the stars, and still,
For so it seemed, with purpose of its own
And measured motion like a living thing,
Strode after me. With trembling oars I turned,
And through the silent water stole my way
Back to the covert of the willow tree;
There in her mooring-place I left my bark,--
And through the meadows homeward went, in grave
And serious mood; but after I had seen
That spectacle, for many days, my brain
Worked with a dim and undetermined sense
Of unknown modes of being; o'er my thoughts
There hung a darkness, call it solitude
Or blank desertion. No familiar shapes
Remained, no pleasant images of trees,
Of sea or sky, no colours of green fields;
But huge and mighty forms, that do not live
Like living men, moved slowly through the mind
By day, and were a trouble to my dreams.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bergen, summer morning (for Olga)

A wind blows into Norway
from the old keening sea,
and those who are native
stare into it, pausing...
as if a large bold Valkyrie
had brought this airy rush.

This perfect sea breeze
moves along the boulevards
and searches for a woman
eastern gods remember.

They called forth this zephyr,
this long Scythian arrow,
to find her and pierce her,
to bring her one moment.

And now in this morning,
she locks her front door,
then turns to the city,
to the new day's design.

She walks with a glimmer
inside two dark irises,
like two candled ikons,
faithful and burning.
And faint on her cheeks,
nostalgia is sleeping.

That certain strange wind,
moving through Bergen,
now brushes those cheeks
until they are turning.

And the air moves in rhythm
to a bittersweet ballad,
to vibrations of unheard
balalaika strings.

That certain strange wind,
called forth by ancients,
called forth by Russia,
now coaxes her eyes...

to turn toward memories,
to turn toward fairy tales,
to turn toward beauties
in the distance of dreams.

She pauses and smiles
and sighs and is grateful
for this one windy moment
of silent old music.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


You can see it on the surface,
how Tarot cards brood
in backroom conspiracies.

And we are all whispering
into thin, superstitious air,
like a pack of crazy Jokers.

Collective paranoiac misgiving...

How's that for abstracting
the juice from life's liver?


Was Max Weber the Ace of Spades,
digging up dark sublimation?...
digging for the bones of God
Protestants had ground into
the Spirit of a corporation?

Everything is whispering
old words of Conspiracy.

Oh, it's all a joke that no one's telling,
and it goes like this: "Dada, Dada, Dada?"

"Go fish."

But not really a joke. Rather a form
of oil to grease the gears of progress...
obeisance to the Governor of Mechanism
that keeps us grounded in foolishness
so we don't float off to the Tarot Moon.

What a puffed-up speech, you Fool!

Sorry...... :(

Say...I wonder what it feels like
to be inside a granite rock? No...
that's not quite right. Rocks are not
really very sentimental. What I mean
is that a rock is simply there,
as stunned as Satre puffing on
his nauseating freedom cigarette.

Mattering can freak you out
and make you say spacey things,
especially if you're spinning
round in a barber's chair, to get
a trimming so you'll pass as sane.

“Flip me over! Flip me over!”
says the top card of the pack.
“I'll show you something startling,
how nutty-love can make you saner
than a quipping gravedigger.”

Oh, bother! head is drifting...

"Pick a card...I'm only holding one.
So why don't you choose it? Decide
and act and be responsible. Choose
this radical floating Ace of Space.
It might be hard to get a grip on,
but that's why it's so valuable.
Good for you! Now you've got it...
a place to keep your mind in."

Where does that red stripe,
spiraling up the barber shop pole,
go to when it reaches the top?

Shut up!!!

This is serious business. Stop
this cascade of nonsense.

But what else is there to do
while my bones turn to ocean salt
and heat is gyring in my head?...

when woman dances always deep
and symbols sigh inside her eyes?...

when Tarot cards are shadowing
the movements of all circus swingers?...

when I'm without a key or wand
and feel like such a Fool?

I know!...yes, I'll stop and shuffle
all these dreams into the Dream.
I'll splash some presence on my face
and try to write some kind of poem.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Camp Albert Pike... washed away last night. At least 16 dead:

We used to go camping there most years when I was a boy. I used to wander up and down that cold little river. Used to dam up the 18-inch-deep water with smooth round stones...make a swimming pool three feet deep. Little fish would bite your toes.

I used to hike the trails. Sometimes head straight up the mountain. Hunt for quartz crystals. Yes, from up there, you look back down and see that the river glides through a narrow valley. No wonder nine inches of overnight rain funneled into a death trap.

At night, we'd drive a few miles down the gravel road to that lone weird grocery store. Like something from a David Lynch movie. From this time distance, I think I see all the colors inside that joint as being very rich and hallucinogenic. I remember the large horizontal freezer, full of strange ice cream bars and stuff. Frozen banana-flavored things. Other things, too.

Back at the campsite the next morning, that very unusual old guy. From Illinois or somewhere. He would come camping there every year. He was a full-throttle camper. Had it all down to a proper science. A fancy double Coleman stove (I think...or maybe I'm remembering in double-vision). He would cook up amazing breakfasts and let us eat some. There are people like him all over, still. People who are in the groove. Who have sussed it out. Found their place in the galaxy and are sticking straight to it. He might be fucking crazy, but you could tell he was free of all neuroses.

It was always hot at Camp Albert Pike. Until you stepped into that cold little river.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

oil rambling

I've been relatively quiet about the Gulf oil leak. For one thing, it is such an enormity that it's hard for me to get my head round, hard to even find the words. I recognize the need for outrage and accusation. For getting to the bottom of it, so to speak. Especially since 11 lives were lost, owing to careless, criminal oversight and operation.

Yet...for me, it has taken on an almost metaphysical dimension. It is awe-ful. I'm not really moving toward that other word -- "apocalyptic" -- but maybe brushing up against it.

It's almost as if we have blundered collectively into an vital planetary stratum, into the arterial blood of Earth. And the wound is gushing. Before this, the blooding has been controlled and pressure applied to the wound, more or less. Now, the planet is bleeding out, sort of.

I still wonder about the nature of oil, how it got there and what it is. The consensus view is that it formed from ancient deposits of zooplankton and algae mixed with hydrocarbons. That's because it's molecular profile is similar to chlorophyll. Some cool Russian scientists in the fifties challenged this theory, and I'm on their side ('cause I like Russian scientists and I like weird hypotheses). They put forward the idea that oil formations occur from abiogenic processes, strictly inorganic compounds. Two things I like about this: 1) oil becomes an essential planetary property, like Earth's blood or like a subsurface lubricant; 2) it makes my head stop spinning wondering how much biomass (algae, what-not) went to make up the billions and billions of barrels of oil we have pumped for over 100 years. Blimey!...seems like it would take 10 Earths to produce enough zooplankton to produce all that oil!

When you see all that oil on TV washing up on beaches and into marshlands...when you smell and handle oil in its various forms: doesn't something about it all strike you as not quite right? I mean, essentially not quite right. Oil in itself. To me, it seems like a substance that we should have left alone from the beginning. It doesn't belong here, up on the surface. Well...that's the weird sense I get about it.

And petroleum fed into the nightmares of my youth, so that adds another layer of metaphysical anguish for me.

I grew up in El Dorado, Arkansas. In the thirties, oil was discovered in the vicinity, and El Do became a boom town. Practically overnight, it went from a strange cultural oasis in the boondocks to a wild and woolly crazy place -- drunken revels, gambling, prostitution, shoot-outs. The population exploded as wild catters, workers, and investors streamed in to make their wages or fortunes.

We lived half a mile from an American Oil refinery. My father was one of the plant managers. Every now and then, one of the workers would get incinerated inside the refinery. Little Tim would get freaked out hearing about that shit. And once, a major fire broke out in the plant and escaped to the wooded area beyond (not far from our house). For Little Tim, that event took on an apocalyptic coloration. His dreams expanded that fire into something that would have scared the shit out of gods and devils.

I used to go with Mother to pick Daddy up in the late afternoons. Back then, before the separate managers' building was put on the hill, we'd pick him up at the main plant gate. It was like staring into the 10th circle of Hell. Walls of belching fire, steam screaming from vents, miles and miles of pipes twisting and turning through the impenetrable edifice. It was an unholy vision, and it sank very deeply into the negative-zones of my consciousness. It screwed with my soul and my mind, and I'm glad it did, in a way. Must be that Freudian death-wish thing. There is a certain relish that comes from having your brain metaphysically scorched.

In the early eighties, I did an acrylic-on-paper painting about that wonderfully horrible image of the refinery. I titled it "Molech -- refining unspeakable elixirs." The whole ghastly thing was like a great pagan god, devouring souls and turning them into black liquids. So...oil has always had a dire alien quality to it for me.

We humans have morphed into petrol-people. We're always going mobile, to fetch beer or to bomb some enemy. Most of our junk, from low to high tech, depends on some aspect of refined oil in its manufacture. We have struck a Faustian bargain. And that dark substance has turned our general culture into Bizarro-World. It is also choking the clouds. Hell...absorbing all that pollution might someday turn us into mutant gummy people, with our blood turning sort of black and smelling sort of oily. Leaving a sticky slime trail wherever we walk. Damn!

I do sometimes wonder what the world would look like now and how relations between peoples would have manifested had oil never been discovered and processed. If it had been left untouched down in the secret arteries of Earth...brooding and oozing through the rocky fissures...dreaming its inhuman dreams.