30 September 2016

Poem-A-Day #214 : Antikythera


                                        Your body - only
                    a mass of color - sitting on the floor
                              doing its nails red

                                   After the smelting
               there is a small man-shaped lump
                         in the bottom of the cauldron

                              Iron mandrake - it screams
          once into the darkness of life
                    and then vomits its poison on the concrete floor

                         You have been Midas-ed
     if we buried you - the future
               would think your heart Antikythera

                    Your heart is indecipherable as is
paint my toes red as well
          my gnarls of gold are cold

The Antikythera Mechanism

29 September 2016

Poem-A-Day #213 : The Suicide

The Suicide

The vertigo of unnatural spaces
          desire to place hand to rail and to swing into the void
                    feel the air wrap around your body encase your skin in skin

Eyes open or closed is the wrong kind of question
skin whole or unbroken closer but just off center

What sort of shape will be left on the earth beneath you

will it be you shaped
          will it look like someone else
                    will it not even a rock be moved

28 September 2016

Poem-A-Day #212 : The Tower

The Tower

Huddled on the wooden siding like one of those algae-eating fish that stick to the sides of tanks - it's insane hideous - those things are laughable they don't belong - a little bit off center - the tower library the place where people hang themselves is a dark space that we should not go - it is mold and earth and rotting books - all the doors close themselves as they should to hide this - Mother I ...

Poem-A-Day #211 : The Relaxation

The Relaxation

     Around the fire
          we tell stories about the history of chess - about the moment when
a building grew out of the earth and tried to reach the clouds

Our toes are making shapes - the carpet would be plush
     there would be brandy and talk of bridges
          boredom and preamble - there would be moments of sleepiness

          This is the part of the movie before
the man in the mask grabs the woman asleep in the sleepingbag
     and slams her against the trunk of a tree until she is pulp

     The moment before Kevin Bacon's neck
          is pierced cleanly by the metal tip of an arrow -
and that arrow will sit there eternally - never disintegrate - not once be moved

No one tells those stories - everyone is breathing and hoping they will not come
the span of time is infinite - is the opening credits of some film about death

26 September 2016

Poem-A-Day #210 : How Best to Prepare

How Best to Prepare

There is no backpack full of things that can make the going easier
this is a Mt Everest of a house it is strewn with bodies they line the path are signs
they are mile markers

Young wide dead in the driveway
Young wife dead in a fall
Young wife dead in consumption
Old daughter dead in pneumonia
Young heiress dead in suicide

All this rimmed in gold
we have no name for it
there is no name for it
it is not a broken dish to be sewn back together

Mad in its birth this deranged house is a shard of glass in your eye

There is no preparation no amount of oxygen therapy
to get you to the top

Burn it down find a way to burn things already burnt and burn it again
then sow the ground with salt

25 September 2016

Poem-A-Day #209 : Cold Fireplace

Cold Fireplace

I am the fourth person in this room - lost already - the overwhelming sense of purple - the rooms are entirely inside rooms - insistent - hospitable - the night will be fiercely clear will be a fire in a cold fireplace - I am the fourth real person in this slippery room - insistent - I am real in the fourth person -

Borley Rectory Fireplace

24 September 2016

Poem-A-Day #208 : Four Separated People Looked Trustingly

Four Separated People Looked Trustingly

The house steadied
                                        located them

Eddies of air          the center of consciousness
                     somehow separated


                     Can you make a martini?

23 September 2016

Poem-A-Day #207 : Dusk


The lot of them - murderers

Standing at the heavy doors
the sound of rabbits

Welcome and all that
here's the supper and the night

Poem-A-Day #206 : Blue Room Green Room

I haven't talked at all about how I'm working on these poems. I'm reading one chapter of The Haunting of Hill House each morning. At some point I sit down and write about the chapter using quotes from the book.

In theory these poems will track the narrative. Though I think they will probably just track the creepiness of the world Shirley Jackson created.

Blue Room Green Room

Stillness is a vial
of thick cloudy liquid

There is no evidence that this
belongs to the rest of the world

               It can hear us

               Don't be so afraid all the time
               it's altogether Victorian

The sound of glass breaking
the clouds no longer suspended
they ooze along the floor

               Do you have an Aunt
               a comic Uncle?

               Was there always a bull in a field?

The blue figured paper
twitches in the dimming light

Stillness seeps into the floorboards
stains itself

               What fun it would be
               to stand out there and watch it burn down

21 September 2016

Poem-A-Day #205 : Journeys End in Lovers Meeting

Journeys End in Lovers Meeting

                    I need your help
                                        in the dark

                    this formed itself
together                    into a great powerful pattern

          it reared its
great head against the sky          that we cannot see

in the dark somehow
          I need your hands          to locate

                                   the badness
                             I cannot even hear you
                   but the hands          touching

               in the dark
the stones                    the rough sandpaper sounds
of the air in the trees
          of the nails on the nails

I need your help
          in the dark                   somehow

Poem-A-Day #204 : Last Chance

Last Chance

All the trees in the world are trying
to keep this place locked and double-locked

The gates are chained and the path is
suddenly less clear there is no sky in the sky

I am rocked in its cradle - a colicked baby
I would have never suspected this of myself

Being able to tilt the cradle onto the floor
to muss the world until it is all blankets in furrows

Undo the ease of life and run a left-behind goose
in the midst of coming winter

The last chance Eleanor in some mythic story
rocks going only uphill etc etc etc

Excitement drowns the voices screaming from the lake
get out of here get away turn back re-lock

Turn tail goose the winter is not so bad
there will be shelter in some field or other

You will find a table to sit at that isn't vile
diseased or full of broken plates and your brother's flesh

Bones light as the air I cannot see
feathers and all that floating like dust on the wind

When the gate opens you will find yourself
moving without movement forwards always forwards

Dust Jacket : A Little Life

A Little Life (2015)
Designed By : Cardon Webb
Photo By : Peter Hujar

Imagine pain.

What does it look like?

What do you look like in pain?

Not just physical, but psychic. We are conditioned to hide ourselves when we are feeling things greatly at either end of the spectrum.

When we are grieving, for instance, we are told that to somehow find the 'strength' to get through it is better than losing control of ourselves.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus has been lauded for her ability to show up to the Emmy's this week and accept her 5th consecutive award while int he midst of grieving for her father. He died two days ago. This is not courage, it is holding it together at its most visible. And while I applaud her and her accomplishments, I don't know that I applaud her ability to 'hold it together' for a few seconds on a national stage.

In great happiness we can also be viewed as crazy. Remember Howard Dean?

This is a ridiculous duality. And while this one incident is not what ended his Presidential run, it certainly painted him in a way that, over a decade later, is still hard to erase.

So. Let's talk about the cover to this book.

Renee Falconetti in Carl Theodor Dreyer's
The Passion of Joan of Arc (1929)
Cardon Webb is playing a game with us that I will get to in a second, but first I want to ask how we react to this image.

My first thoughts are of St. Teresa, Joan of Arc, the Pieta. They are images of women in religious distress, but also in the midst of religious ecstasy.

Webb picked a photo by Peter Hujar called Orgasmic Man. It was taken in 1969. Based on the title alone I think you can tell where this is going.

Religious ecstasy is sexual ecstasy. One only need to spend a little time looking at paintings and sculpture depicting people in the midst of such a state to see this.

The Ecstasy of St. Teresa (1647-1652Gian Lorenzo Bernini
Take a moment to think of these kinds of images.

Who is filled with the power in these religious ways?

I'm guessing that you thought of an image like the one of Joan of Arc from the Dreyer movie. Culturally, we are conditioned to think of women in the throes of passion. They are to be 'taken'.

St Teresa is shot through with the power of god's 'arrow' of love and as a result she collapses into a state of grace that few could know.


The genius of the Hujar photo is that it twists the concept. We see pain because we don't think that an image of a male could possibly be of the weird between pain/ecstasy that is at times seen as religious. Hujar refuses to show the moment after this, the one where the subject relaxes.

The only male figures who are popularly known for their moments of religious ecstasy are St Francis and St Sebastian. These images are less sexual in their depictions. They are quieter. St Francis usually looks asleep.

St Sebastian (1651)Jusepe de Ribera
St Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy (1627-1632)Anton van Dyck

St Sebastian also manages to look very languid despite being shot through with arrows.

Amazingly the two saints look more like the moment Hujar doesn't show. The moment after. The one of release. Women are shown being taken. Men are shown after the taking. After they have probably taken.

You could argue that these are just as sexual. And I agree. St Sebastian is overtly erotic in presentation. But his eroticism is one of nudity. It is one of gaze. St Francis is perhaps erotic as well, though his robes are not twisting in desire and his face is not out of control. He is sighing. He is taken, but not out of control.

At the top I asked you to imagine what pain looked like. In reality I'm more interested in the next moment. After the initial pain/pleasure sensing. What does that look like? I would argue that the visions of men in ecstasy tend to show that moment. That we are culturally not going to show male figures in the throes.

A little life indeed.

Dust Jacket is a sometime article about the design and art of book covers. The idea is to shine a spotlight on the work of the designer separate from the author. Literally judging a book by its cover.

19 September 2016

Poem-A-Day #203 : Driven


We are really going - we will not need a map

Until the wheels are worn - and we have come
to the end of the world - the journey will be the positive action

Dear Evil - Oleander is poison is the flower of Hiroshima
it was the first to bloom after the bombs exploded and the buildings burned

When I died - the empty field the road to nowhere the open gates
of the spell - we will come back - we will break the spell

The end of the world is a cup of stars - insist on
the cup of stars - hope - find - a house of stars

The map is a line dear Evil - it crawls like millipedes

Julie Harris in The Haunting (1963)

18 September 2016

Poem-A-Day #202 : The Moirai

The Moirai

          - the taxi will ask again - the answer will be the same
there is not destination -

                                                  - the drawing lots is done
all left is the manner of cutting -
          the implements wrap neatly
          in butcher paper
          and polished so tightly

Poem-A-Day #201 : Eleanor


At 32 who could see the shower of stones
the calcification of small guilts

The universe inside becoming one millimeter smaller

I have been spending my life waiting for a house
to open its doors and eat me until my molecules separate

The fantastic reproaches both small and gigantic

What if you flip cards over and I guess them all right
the  windows wouldn't shatter - that will come later

Or not at all

At 32 the hall of portraits of faces that are known
becomes a hall of empty frames

It constricts like an eye in the bright light of day

Youth is binge and age is purge
it is the sound of air sucking into long locked rooms

16 September 2016

Poem-A-Day #200: House

This is a new experiment. I don't know how long it will go. These poems will be about Hill House and what occurred there.


Our eyes speak to the air - whisper about the world - they collude
to fuzz the surroundings - to tell a sort of truth where there is none

At rest they speak in tongues - both the air and our eyes
the air resting becomes a mist or fog that rolls and obscures
makes the going rough over the fields

Houses conspire in other ways - places become steadfast - safe
until they are places all the lines cross - they are fact and sanity

But the ways the outer walls lean in to each other - they give away
they crutch of reality - that is bends itself over the lenses of air and eye
that these permanences are only one kick to the knee away from collapse

No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely
under conditions both absolute and real - eyes and air and houses

Our eyes convince us we can be safe as houses - sane as them
but these safe houses have never rested - they are not sane

Ettington Park, Warwickshire, England
The "Hill House" of 1963's The Haunting

Poem-A-Day #199 : Instructions for How to Engage with Art

Instructions for How to Engage with Art

The canvas wants you to touch it
to run your fingers against the raised strokes

Feel the ochre burnt and otherwise

It wants you to lose yourself in it
to become so encased in its universe
that you will not escape unchanged or at all

It wants to yellow wallpaper you

All of this is contingent on the artist
understanding the canvas well enough
to reveal the need within it

All of this requires you to step closer

To press your chest against the Mona Lisa and to search for her pulse
Take your clothes off and jump into The Water Lilly Pond

Be naked and covered

14 September 2016

Poem-A-Day #198 : Sonnet for the End of Days

Sonnet for the End of Days

The earth is awake

Opens itself all over then leaves the mouths to hang open
like old wood doors and gates that will not shut in their swollen frames

It Venus flytraps - honeys the corners of its lips

The earth is hungry

All that melting has it in a bulking mood
pre-gaming the workout the salts of bodies will electrolyte it

It is not content to feed on the constant churn of slow-moving rock
or the bursting of dead bodies into it

The earth is needing is in heat is feral it cannot even deal right now

The grinding within is the sound of teeth mid-nightmare
is the refusal to smooth itself the refuting of self

Negation and scorched salting

The earth is a death-throe from knocking itself out

13 September 2016

Poem-A-Day #197 : Folie à deux

Folie à deux
The field of vision is a narrow band
at the edges it curves into blur - there is a sense of awe
in this unseeing part of the universe

This is where magics occur

Where one hides themselves - from selves
and the gaze of perpetual life

This unseeing is an upside down - it is
a brokered space where anything goes


Tilt your fovea towards me

I need focus before I can begin

An accident rarely comes alone

But quickly in pairs or more

My pixels - yours - they are held
on a thumb drive that will not lock into its port

We are untraceable - saved read-only

Destiny will permit an edit or comment to possibly edit later

But our outlines will not become permanence

Our systems will corrupt

There is the solution - endless backups
my mind in yours and your in mine
and then added on to every surface
like moss growing in the cracks of stones

Our lives must be the quiet unseen
must ready in the interim of vision
prepare for being caught in the fovean glare
and ready the poker for them

The magic in the unseen
the known and unknown

Here the unfocus allows us to imagine

It brings about a universe that does not exist

Wolves at the door - for instance
wolves in the cupboards - on the internet

Howling in their ability to never be seen from head on

1% of our vision is fully in focus
and 99.99% of the world is unattainable

I understand the family who get in their car and drive into nonexistence
only to realize out there in the bush that they can still see each other

And unless we're going to poke our own eyes out -

12 September 2016

Poem-A-Day #196 : System


Room full of stars
Room full of tiny explosions in glass orbs

Snow globes shaken
Coating the world in gold

It will drain down the walls
The air crying itself into light

Maybe these are eyes let loose from their bones
Souls on ice

Here are the hanging Christmas lights of the world
Light free from itself kissing space

The universe in its spheres

11 September 2016

Poem-A-Day #195 : Before You

Before You

It's light in the room or dark in the room
either way she's knitting in the corner

There are cobwebs or everything is hospital
rooms collapse together and furniture assembles
into small murders of turned legs and flat expanse

Imagine the room before you
there were probably others who entered but maybe not

For a moment pretend you are the first here
before your eyes were here in their skull the room was not

The threads of it were busy of course
pulling themselves together for the eventual seeing
but otherwise there was only the void of not

She was here knitting though
blind to the concept of seeing

There is a tingle at the back of the skull
that is the signal that things aren't all right
that it is perhaps time to run for it

You should always embrace that feeling it is
the feeling of saving your ever-loving flesh

It's a trap
the thinking of yourself as the first
it's a kind of magic and a kind of narcissism

To look away would be to erase yourself
the room will unmake walls will not hold each other up

She will pick her thread though
will measure it against the length of her arm
will place the heavy shears to the length

There is the option to not look into the room
to not allow it to exist at all

Though no one has ever not looked

10 September 2016

Poem-A-Day #194 : Fragment


The world is full of platitudes wanting everyone to get along
They slap against the faces of people who have felt the other side of the boot
Violence was ok as long as it was the kind dealt by European faces
Over the last millennia over the last for ever
We do not get to decide our histories
Nor do we get to decide when those stories are done with us

09 September 2016

Poem-A-Day #193 : Borders


Your body has an outline
thin and infinite - it beats
against the rest of creation

The racks of your bones
are full of treaties -
the body must have its rules

How solid are you in your flesh
how malleable

Poem-A-Day #192 : Couplet #13

Couplet #13

there was the sound of skin against a saw

07 September 2016

Don't Breathe

Water scares the shit out of me.

A day on a boat. Swimming in a lake. Spending time at a pool. These things do not calm me. To this day they call up a set of pre-made plans of escape.

The fear manifests in subtle ways.

Because I couldn't handle water in my face I insisted on baths until well into my teens.

The ocean is almost too much water to be afraid of so I can be near larger bodies of water without too much of a problem. I can even wade into water a bit. My height allows me to get fairly far out before I become buoyant. It isn't until then that the concern kicks in.

I'd be terrible on a cruise and have often thought about how I would deal with that situation. None of them are good solutions as they usually involve hiding from windows and fresh air.

I love horror movies.

The more full of tropes the better. I live for the moment when victims go up the stairs when they should go out the door. When they don't check to see that the villain is dead. I love trying to guess who will be the 'last girl' and who will die first.
Fede Alvarez
Photo by Gage Skidmore

It's a game. It's silly. It rarely scares me for real.

This evening I saw Don't Breathe. The movie was directed and written by Fede Alvarez. He also was responsible for the surprisingly good remake of Evil Dead from 2013

The premise is deceptively simple: three thieves enter a house owned by a blind vet to steal his money. The vet is not what he appears.

Where the movie enters into greatness is in how the premise reveals itself and plays out.

This is a brutal movie. It does not relent. The final act manages to up the ante of the film while subtly referencing horror tropes.

And it does this without being overly gruesome or falling into the pitfalls of torture porn that has ruined a lot of horror films in the years after the successes of the Saw series.

This circles around a question that I have about horror movies.

What scares us?

I'm sure that you have an example like mine. But these things are not what I'm actually interested in. Most horror movies don't actually depend on the things we are really afraid of. They play off making us jump and our natural inclination to be turned off by gore and death.

What I'm thinking about though is more what scares US. Collectively and culturally. What are WE afraid of.

Horror doesn't always feed off of cultural fears. But they inform it. The 80s were full of films featuring nameless, powerful, murderers coming after groups of beautiful youths. These fears can easily be tied to cultural fears of lawlessness and cold war fears of the 'other'.

Don't Breathe is set in Detroit. Most of the movie takes place in a lone house in an otherwise abandoned neighborhood.

It Follows was released in March of 2015 but made its way slowly into theaters. The story is, again, deceptively simple. A monster chases a young woman and wants to kill her. What sets it apart is that the monster is sexually transmitted. You have to fuck your way out of the death. This is a pretty good upending of the classic trope from 80s movies where the people who have sex usually die early in the movie.

The two movies both use traditional tropes to both utilize them and to break them. Though they do this while maintaining tension and refusing to make fun of the genre.

These are not the Scream movies. There is not an attempt to undermine or mine the genre.

Did you notice that both are set in Detroit? It's key to what I think scares America most in 2016. We are not afraid of terrorism, immigration, or any of that.

We are afraid of collapse.

Since the 1950s Detroit has experienced a 60% drop in population and even though the metro area of the city still has 4.3 million citizens Detroit has become the poster-child for what happens when an economy collapses in the 21st century.

This is what scares us.

The idea that a once-prosperous and important place could become unimportant and less wealthy goes against everything that American Capitalism promises. It proves us fallible. It says that the American Dream has cracks in it.

Setting these horror movies amid the collapse is a cunning representation of a new fear. The creature from It Follows and the vet from Don't Breathe also have faces. They are not the masked monsters from the 80s. They are people who look normal. They are us responding to collapse.

Interestingly, both movies also focus on white protagonists. And both manage to show a Detroit void of minorities. So it is not just collapse in general but specifically white collapse that is the source of fear. Don't Breathe renders this in literal terms with a brief appearance of a white supremacist. Both films also point out that the 'bad' parts of town are not where our protagonists live. They are not the white parts.

The danger is in the collapse. The breaking. And in the breaking the real danger is in what we do in response.

Do we retreat into our corners and stare at each other in fear. Lashing out when one comes close to us.

Or do we try to build something new.

Poem-A-Day #191 : The In-Itself

Have I mentioned that I'm reading a lot of Existential writings lately?

The In-Itself

The paper that once was a tree and before that a seed and before that another tree has been printed on with a language that becomes indistinguishable from air the more it is looked at

The words slide into lines and the lines match the lines that are signs of life in the wood that is now a table that the paper and words sit themselves upon

Signs of a life passed, the lines, they are signs of years and time that occurred that cannot occur again and they echo that sign and beep like Morse Code with the thinking of that time

Time is a construct and that construct has experienced the tree and the pre-tree and the words flowing backwards into ink and the ink seeping into the lines like the dead sap of life

The table is on a floor that has probably been stood upon before this table placed its legs here or before the words spilled over the edge of the table and stained the floor black

Black is not a color it is the absence of color of light it is refraction negated and the eye tricked into seeing nothing

The eye is also tricking it doesn't actually see it only reflects and that reflection is tainted by the bent of its lenses and the brain attached to those lenses

Lenses smooth and polis into an arc of seeing they break up the world into upside-down universes and then into right-side up ones they are the roots of the tree reaching into the sky

The sky isn't here there is a room around it and the table in its deadness is unable to breathe but the lungs the lines the ink itself is still thinking about it endlessly thinking about it

The thinking makes it real the pulsing ink makes it possible the floor makes it a pool to sink in to the paper itself tells the story of it and the words the language manages somehow to exist

05 September 2016

Poem-A-Day #189 : A Prayer Or Curse It Is Hard To Tell

A Prayer Or Curse It Is Hard To Tell

I press my hand into the earth
and because my hands are dry
I can feel every grain roll over me

It's a polishing

Like pressing yourself into a tub of dried lentils
bare feet on the roundness of river stones

My hand in the sand
fingernails on roots and begin to spread out

I say something intelligible
a mumble into time and space
that echoes but never deciphers

A prayer or curse it is hard to tell

04 September 2016

Poem-A-Day #188 : We Cannot See Ourselves We Cannot Unsee Ourselves

I've been reading a lot of Sartre. It's ruining/rebuilding me.

We Cannot See Ourselves We Cannot Unsee Ourselves

What to be done with a mirror that refuses reflection

It is a song that will not resolve it is the frustrating noise of refusal

A great 'no' hovering over the landscape in garish colors

We are in a country surrounded by the clicking of dolphins

And that is beautiful but disorienting to find in this landlocked space

Our faces are masks but this is too easy to say and too hard to believe

They are cages first for our eyes and the tangle of lint we call our minds

And then there are eyes let loose on the world to terrorize with their focus

The unreflection is a cataract light in your eye is just like broken silver

When we have a lack of it there is little to resolve ourselves

We are also the clicking of creatures pulled from the ocean and left to fend

03 September 2016

Poem-A-Day #187 : 3AM


When the street goes quiet
the late darkness seems to fill the world
in an unmoving

I imagine trying to cross it

Once you open the door into it the quiet will grab you
will probably strip you of faculties
your body will become a tree in winter

Like quicksand perhaps

Sliding your entire body into clay
or mud or the leftover oatmeal from this morning
and then it will harden over you

02 September 2016

Poem-A-Day #186 : Nostalgia


In the dark fields of summer - the heat escapes us
it crawls into the sky in tendrils of smoke - it creeps

Our heat is a suck - the roads hoard it like money

This isn't some theft - the universe gives no fucks

The day collapses - it shatters - it is our job
to find the pieces and to stick them together with gold

To hold this moment in our minds - perfect it

The pressure of our remembering will diamond it
until it is something that cannot ever have existed

An inner-earth ocean full of monsters

The darkness will not stay dark here - it will recede
it will become the light on the surface of a lake - your eye

It will also degenerate with time - it will never be a photograph
like the heat held in pavement - the night will leech it off

01 September 2016

Poem-A-Day #185 : The Smallest Black Hole

The Smallest Black Hole

Behind the old barn
with the peeling boards
and the holes in the roof
there is a black hole
it's small and doesn't eat much
couldn't even
in the mornings it spins itself up
and begins the slow pull
of the land
the fallow fields like a sheet over a body
pulled towards the end of the table
the old car that stopped working
the tools and the cattle that don't milk
it eats these things slowly
so that they feel their end
they know it
and it is watched
as if it were happening elsewhere
the blood not boiling
as if the sky weren't about to crack