30 January 2013

Inspiration : Cheapen

Cheapen 9/29/09

Pennies tarnish - turn green the
milky waters of the bay

I have always loved the look of old things. The dark spots that form on silver. The way wood softens around the edges then the grain separates before finally crumbling.

Copper tarnish is beautiful, green-blue, it looks like stain painted onto the surface.

There are barnacles that look like Lincoln
on hulls of schooners

The idea that a barnacle could have the face of Lincoln is ridiculous. It is also amazing. This is the idea of finding Jesus on toast. Satan in the smoke of the World Trade Center.

It is finding the shapes of things in clouds.

But I mean it. I mean that somehow a penny was dropped into a spawning of these little creatures and they took the shape of the Emancipator himself.

Look at barnacles. They are halfway to having faces. They are eyes without heads. Or mouths, they are venus flytraps. They are Audrey II's.

Ford Theatre curtain fragment.
His nose smells all seven seas and in
Times Square they have a bit of curtain

The smell of the ocean is particularly strong on the east coast. It is different then the Pacific. It smells like brine. Like fish. It smells darker, somehow colder.

From the Ford theater - history
under glass - untouchable

This is true. The fragment of curtain was on display in 2009.

Eventually all faces are left to pictures only
just masks

Old photographs are amazing. The faces staring up at you through time. Their eyes still holding whatever thoughts they were having as the shutter snapped shut.

In most antique stores you can find bins of discarded photos, postcards with cursive writing on them. All for sale for under a dollar. Memories for less than food.

Of paper
there is a thickness to blood lacking in paper

Blood is very hard to clean. It has a strange thickness to it. It smears rather than absorbs.

That copper taste and the red that seals brown
that softens in water

28 January 2013

Other People's Poems

Breaking Glass

God of gas station bathrooms
And of girls held hostage
Inside their own bedrooms -

Girls driven in the ambulance
Of their mother's car
To the nearest lockdown.

Half-girls turned tom-
Boys turned zombie,
Drool, beauty-child. And memory

That warm slop of honey,
Seeping. No way to stop it
and its gorgeous hurricane of bees.

- Cynthia Cruz

The Worst Hard Time

In 1933 at the height of the Dust Bowl the US government decided to put their faith in a man named Hugh Bennett. They invented the Soil Conservation Service (now Natural Resources Conservation Service) and made Bennett the director. His view was that man was causing massive erosion, that it was one of the main environmental problems facing the planet.

Hugh Hammond Bennett
Bennett was right about erosion and the Dust Bowl. By the end of the 1930s around 75% of the topsoil in 5 states (Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico, and Kansas) had simply blown away. 100,000,000 acres were affected

In May of 1934 a large dust storm took soil from this area and dropped it on Chicago, New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C. Dust had to be swept from Congressional offices. 12 million pounds of soil fell on Chicago and that winter red snow fell in parts of New England.

The problem was bad enough that by 1935 the Resettlement Administration was started. The main goal of the RA was to take people from failing cities and rural areas and place them in government built 'greenbelt' communities. The idea was to 'jump start' life for those most ruined by the Depression.

There was also a media wing of the RA. Roy Stryker's Photography Project, Film Projects by Pare Lorentz and Virgil Thomson, and Sidney Robertson Cowell's folk song recordings were all funded through the RA.

Below is Lorentz' 1936 film The Plow That Broke the Plains in its entirety. It's 25 minutes, but worth your time:

Lorentz' other film The River is also worth a look. It focuses on the Mississippi River and the environmental destruction from over farming and building on its banks.

I've been reading Timothy Egan's great book The Worst Hard Time. Published in 2006, the book formed the basis for Ken Burns recent PBS documentary The Dust Bowl.

Egan's book focuses on a few families and follows them from settlement, through the wet prosperous year and then into the 1930s and the great environmental catastrophe. One of his main 'characters' is Bam White, a half Cherokee/Apache ranch hand who tries his hand at farming. He is the featured plow man in The Plow That Broke the Plains.

The Ogallala Aquifer
Bennett implemented his ideas late in the 30s. 11.3 million acres were bought by the government in an attempt to heal the broken plains. Though there is much land still barren, three national grasslands dot the area, the largest is Comanche National Grassland at 600,000 acres.

The people that do still live in the area have tapped the Ogallala Aquifer. It provides 30% of the irrigation in the entire US. 82% of the people who live in the area of the aquifer rely on it for their drinking water. 1.1 million acre-feet a day are drained. This is eight times as fast as the Ogallala refills. Current projections give the aquifer 100 years until it goes dry.

The overwhelming lesson from the film and the book and the 70 years between the two is that we have not learned a thing. We have pushed the land to the point of no return, healed a small portion of it, and then have redug, replanted, and repushed it back to the brink once again. Now we're taking the underground water with us.

Living in the southwest it is hard not to be frightened of a lack of water. Of a new Dust Bowl. Animals, families, towns died from the dust. We invented new meteorology around the giant dust blizzards. Doctors had to come up with new terms for the dust pneumonia that some estimates say killed 7000 people.

Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother 1936
2.5 million homeless. Many of whom were prodded to buy the land in the first place by low prices and promise of 'wheat wealth'. The US government pushed this land as the last 'frontier' it pushed the wheat producers in war time to plow the land. Then the government watched as it blew across the White House lawn.

The Depression and Dust Bowl are having a bit of a resurgence. It is the economic times we live in, the environmental crisis we feel lies just over the horizon.

Read Egan's book. Watch Burns' TV show. Take a look at Dorothea Lange's RA photos. (Marisa Silver has a novel called Mary Coin coming out in March based on Lange's incredibly famous Migrant Mother).

If there is a real lesson to learn, aside from how awe-inspiring the fragility of all of this is, the lesson should be this: Be aware.

25 January 2013


Over at The Washington Post, Alexandra Petri asks 'Is poetry dead?'

She decides it is.

And she bases this on the fact that there is no new Waste Land or Howl. She doesn't seem to know a single poet around after the 50s.

She starts her article describing Richard Blanco's inaugural poem. Then she says that Richard Blanco's career is worth nothing:

He has overcome numerous obstacles, struggled against opposition both internal and external — in order to excel in poetry, a field that may very well be obsolete.

And she uses this phrase as a repeating line:

Or is this too harsh?

The article is online journalism at its worst. Unresearched, generalizing, and sensationalist. Petri doesn't even bother to back her argument with examples, instead she calls modern writers 'new agey'. Poetry 'cannot change anything' it 'lacks teeth'. She makes jokes about the 'five' people who care about poetry and how readings are only full of students looking for credit.

I'm not sure what 'new agey' poems she's reading. She doesn't cite a single poem for her premise. When she finally does quote poetry it is a mis-quote of William Carlos Williams.

Over at Coldfront, John Deming makes a balanced and wonderful argument against Petri's premise. He manages to not call Petri what she is, an ass with a national voice.

Or is that too harsh?

Petri responds to the response.
Also a response to the original article from the Poetry Foundation.

23 January 2013

A Problem

I had a long talk with JG today about the resurgence of the black servant in media. Movies like The Help, Django Unchained, and the upcoming The Butler. Our discussion was focused on the inability of America to face our past discretions.

We are a country of teenagers. We crash our car while drunk. Our parents are indignant and ground us for a month or two only to give us a much nicer new car after the punishment.

That simplifies the problem but we have an inability to discuss these things. We look at films like Django and wring our hands, but is the message being absorbed? We acknowledge the problem but do nothing to fix it.

I wondered aloud if we even notice the problem. Isn't there a possibility that some see a film like Django or The Help and think that these problems were in the past? That we already did that civil rights thing?

I have the same issue with Zero Dark Thirty. A film that talks about important issues. America has spent 12 years fighting unwinnable, money draining wars. And what have we gotten in return? Bin Laden is dead, but do we feel better? Do those 3000 people come back?

The final shot of ZDT is of Jessica Chastain, alone on a military plane. Her face takes up the whole of the frame. She has just 'won'. She got Bin Laden. She saw his body. Her face twists and she bursts into tears. The battle that she waged for 12 years has left her hollow and destroyed. She has lost her friends. She has spent all her time and energy 'getting' this man. And for what?

At one point in the film Chastain tells a marine that he is there to get Bin Laden for her. To kill him for her. She says she was left alive to get Bin Laden. Clearly, the character becomes a stand in for all of America at this point. We are the lone woman, spoken of as being 'young' and 'fragile'. We are the one left standing, we are there to dole out vengeance.

Kathryn Bigelow has come under considerable criticism for the portrayal of torture in the film. I can't help but feel like the critics are just incapable of stomaching the truth of what America spent 12 years doing.

I conflate these two types of not dealing. Race and War. The arguments for and against each are more nuanced than what I have glanced at here. I can't help but feel that we suffer, as a nation, from PTSD around both of these issues.

We avert our gaze from what causes us nightmares.

Sometimes we acknowledge the events. But only in certain terms.

Disney won't release Song of the South on DVD in the US. It is widely available in the rest of the world. We spend more time discussing whether Tarantino can make a movie about slavery than what is int he movie. Bigelow is called out for historical inaccuracies and the ambiguity of her 'statement'.

We are doomed to spin our wheels. To repeat.

Octavia Spencer won an Oscar for playing a sassy maid in The Help. The first Oscar won by a black actor was in 1939, when Hattie McDaniel won for playing a sassy maid in Gone With the Wind. I think Spencer is a great actress, but is this the best we can do?

21 January 2013

Dust Jacket : Yellow World

Yellow World
Design by: Jon Gray (gray 318)

This is a book about surviving cancer. Albert Espinosa survived and wrote a book about imagination as the means of that survival. His 'yellow world'.

A lone world floating in space.

That imagination is a lone planet drifting in the darkness of space is something to think about. Each of us have within us a world separate and equal to everyone else. We are all a constellation, a solar system.

A lot of modern art is about existing in space alone. About the individual experiencing the object. Mark Rothko's Chapel in Houston, Texas is a fine example of meditative art.

Rothko Chapel
You walk into a stark gray room, you are faced with 14 black color field paintings. There are a few benches to sit on. It is pure mediation. Rothko's work requires this. For his paintings to exist as art, the viewer must bring multitudes into the room with them.

In a design week interview, Gray cited Olafur Eliasson as an inspiration for this cover. I certainly see the connection to Eliasson's piece The Weather Project.

That work was installed at Tate Modern in London for 6 months in 2003. It filled their 5-storey 3,400 sq. meter Turbine Hall. I had the chance to visit it.

At the far end of the room was a giant glowing yellow disk. A sun. It floated oddly in the hazy space. The ceiling was mirrored. The floor of Turbine Hall is slanted so as you walked forward the 'sun' seemed to rise. The effect was like staring into the sun, and being oddly closer to it.

Many people would lay near the disk, staring up into the far away mirrored reflection of themselves.

Danny Boyle's movie Sunshine deals with a crew of people attempting to reignite the sun. The mission is suicide. It is a flawed film, the last third is a mess, but the beginning is beautiful. It is about saving everyone, but no one.

There are scenes in the movie of the characters on an observation deck staring at the disk of the sun. Looking at its boiling surface for something akin to a god.

In the movie, the god never arrives. In meditation, you are not looking for god but for an inner truth. A self god.

Yves Klein, Blue Disk 1957
Yves Klein created a lonely blue planet in 1957. His Blue Disk is both stark and rich. Klein wished to visually represent the 'authenticity of the pure idea'.

Purity of idea.

I am reminded of Koans. These thought experiments are meant to illicit the 'great doubt'. A few examples:

'If you meet the Buddha, kill him.'

'Without thinking of good or evil, show me your original face before your mother and father were born.'

The classic we all know:

'Two hands clap and there is a sound. What is the sound of one hand?'

What happens to that yellow world when Espinosa is no longer fighting cancer?

Assuming that the world is a meditative safe place to go to while fighting cancer, does that world vanish when it is no longer needed? Imagination is a tricky place. You can disassemble as easily as assemble.

Maybe the yellow world is a koan. A place that does not exist, created as the means to protect and survive. A place that cannot be fully taken apart once put together. It is perhaps also a scar.

Seen from space our planet seems perfect. Quiet. At peace. Imagination allows us to pretend that this is true. Reality is another matter altogether.

18 January 2013

Pro Nouns

I am not a person who cares about pronouns all that much. They don't really impact my daily life. I use he/they for what it's worth, but it's more a "me" thing than a "you" thing

Dana Levin discusses the use of the singular 'they' in relation to Stacey Waite's the lake has no saint in the LA Review of Books, August 2012:

Singular they? Hadn’t it been drummed into us, since elementary school, that “they,” “their,” and “them” can only be used for plural referents? That educational bequest, it turns out, came down to us from eighteenth century grammarians — creatures on the prissy end of Enlightenment-era thinking — who began objecting vociferously to the common use of “they,” “their,” and “them” for singular referents because, Dennis Baron tells us in his article “The Epicene Pronoun: The Word That Failed,” American speech “violated number concord"

Levin goes on to discuss the history within the context of Waite's book. How Waite refuses and turns her back on gendered nouns:

i will not be the kind of boy who can not bear the memory of her body

Personally, I love the mixing of the pronouns. The confusion is from the run-on nature of the sentence. The meaning of the line can be taken so many ways.

My interest in the topic of singular 'they' comes from a short piece by Jen Doll in The Atlantic Wire yesterday. In that article, Doll rails against the singular 'they'. She stakes a claim at returning to a 'he' or 'she' or 'one':

There is a reason we have distinct pronouns, and that is so we can be specific. If we don't know the specifics, we should try to find them out, or use one of those handy words — he or she or one, for instance — that get around the they problem. Peppering one's sentences with some hes and shes can be kind of nice

She brings up the sexism inherent in the gendered pronouns, but decides that it is not a serious issue:

There is criticism that the use of he as the generic pronoun is an example of linguistic sexism of a sort, and I agree there's no need to always use he as the default if you don't know the gender of the person about whom you are speaking, or if you're using the pronoun to stand for persons of either gender. You can just as easily swap in a she; mix it up! Make it fun! Keep people on their toes!

While I agree with that last sentiment, and believe Waite and Levin would agree too, I find the tone a bit off. She is forgetting that there are non he and she members of the world. Forgetting the trans community as a whole is my main issue with the he-ing or she-ing of pronouns.

Levin's essay is long. At one point she brings up a set of conjoined twins who seem to refer to themselves in a plural 'I'. The doctors are at a loss to term the state of being for these two girls. They are technically individuals, but clearly see themselves as one and as two. They are a singular 'they'.

And we all are. I change my mind daily. I feel torn between things. I look at myself from 10 years ago and don't understand the decisions I made so easily. Clearly I am a 'they' as well. Levin makes the same conclusion:

This isn’t a new idea. The sense of the plural self is ancient; it fills annals of philosophical, psychological and occult thought. Jung’s theory of types and post-modernism’s focus on the socially-constructed self are but two twentieth century examples.

Doll concludes her essay with: "The singular they is ear-hurting, eye-burning, soul-ravaging, mind-numbing syntactic folly. Stop the singular they. Stop it now." I look at that line of writing and then think back to the eighteenth century grammarians that Levin mentions. They are the same desperate gamble. The same voice calling to not allow someone a passage into the world of letters.

Both are depressing. One has the benefit of being 200 years old. The men who said it long gone, the sentiment archaic. The other...is just sad. It shuts the door for so many. Limiting our speech in ways that are subtle but deadly. A singular 'they' allows us to be expansive, move beyond boarders in a way that 'he' 'she' or even 'one' never could.

I, for one, like being multitudes. Like being of as many minds as I can. While I definitely respond to 'he', I would never mind 'she' or 'they'.

16 January 2013

Dream Theater

since I think
          that the real
          is in no way real
how am I to believe
          that dreams are dreams

- Jacques RoubaudSaigyō Hōshi

Jacques Roubaud was the first person outside of the founders to join Oulipo. He has written mathematically structured sonnets, seven volumes of an autobiography that he refers to as 'the project', as well as translations of English poetry into French.

Roubard's goals in writing his 'project' is to discover, "My own memory, how does it work?" To "destroy" his memories through writing them down.

Saigyō by Kikuchi Yōsai
Hōshi lived 1118-1190. He was a royal guard, a Buddhist monk, and a poet. He spent most of his life after becoming a monk in solitude in various monasteries. He also went on long journeys that are believed to have inspired Bashō to write Narrow Road to the Interior.

I'll forget the trail I marked out on Mount Yoshino last year, go searching for blossoms in directions I've never been before.

These two are in my mind because that opening quote is the epigram in a Georges Perec book I'm reading.

That book is for my work so I won't be going into too many details BUT it is about recording dreams.

About what reality and fiction are. Especially inside our minds. The fictions we tell ourselves. That we don't even know we are telling ourselves.

I am reminded of Joan Didion's long essay The White Album:

We tell ourselves stories in order to live. The princess is caged in the consulate. The man with the candy will lead the children into the sea. The naked woman on the ledge outside the window on the sixteenth floor is a victim of accidie, or the naked woman is an exhibitionist, and it would be 'interesting' to know which.

That essay, along with Anne Carson's Plainwater, make up the foundations of my views on writing these days. I have found myself as I get older thinking more about those stories we tell ourselves.

Carson's book could be viewed as a long essay/poem. It is about a relationship, several relationships, many that didn't exist. It is a book about loss. But it is about loss that we see coming.

Didion is talking about the end of the 1970s. The death of the dream of the 70s. That phantom 'idea' of the 70s that I will never understand, being a child of the 1980s.

Both works act as elegy.

But they are telling the story so that they keep going.

Dreams are the psyche resetting itself. Formatting the hard drive and other such metaphor that we could tweet about. That statement is snarky, is overly self-aware. But I will leave it.

The real. We tell ourselves stories in order to live. In order to get dressed and go to work and type on a keyboard and send an e-mail. We tell ourselves this is what we do. We invent a rationale for it. A reason. We are happy because we make X dollars a year and we make X dollars because we have that job that we might not love but we don't hate. Or, at least, not enough to run away from it.

So we weave these daily fictions into our reality. To make it work. Without it reality is not there for us. Emotionally, I mean.

Dreams are the fictions we tell ourselves in order to reboot each day. A screen saver. They are there to keep our brains from frying.

Perhaps we need the one because we enact the other.

Joan Didion with her Corvette

14 January 2013

Want To Have To

I am feeling a bit uninspired. When I was working on Poem-A-Day I frequently bumped against this problem. Then I would just write something flippant and move on.

That is my reaction to feeling a 'have' to write. Not that this blog is a 'have to'. It is and will hopefully always remain a 'want to'. But sometimes you feel like you have to do something. Even if you set up the situation and control it 100%. Even then, sometimes, you feel it. That pressure. The school work pressure. The deadline pressure.

When I first graduated from college I didn't write for 6 months. 6 very long months where I worried that I would never write again, where I stared at blank pages and dreamed of them drowning me.

I broke out of that period of not writing by forcing myself to write long studies of individual objects. I would stare at something and force the words out. I modeled myself on Gertrude Stein's Tender Buttons or Wallace Stevens' Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.

In both of those instances the poets took everyday objects and tilted them slightly. They looked until they no longer seemed every day. My poems looked more like Stevens. They sprawled on the page and meandered from their original intents.

But I was writing again.

Right now I am at a point where I am writing a decent amount. I am sending to journals. But I have started a new job and live in a new house in a new state. I am still working out what that means. I am inspired to think about being inspired.

A scene from Midsomer Murders in 2012.
I am thinking about thinking about.

Eventually I will have to look at things again. Begin to dissect again. And I look forward to that. I may wake up tomorrow and be inspired to write 100 pages. I may wake tomorrow and want to watch Midsomer Murders and knit.

And that would be ok too. Unlike me from when I stopped writing after college. Me now is ok with taking breaks. I know it will come back. It always comes back.

11 January 2013

The moving finger writes; and having writ moves on...

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam is an influential book of Persian poetry. Khayyam lived from 1048-1141. The work spans many years. It is not considered one long poem, though it's parts definitely call back and forth to each other.

There are cups of wine. Food. A beloved. Many scholars point to it as a work of Epicurean ideals. As a strange sort of agnostic, philosophy. It is compared to Lucretius' The Nature of Things. Though it takes a much less academic approach.

Anywhere from 1200-2000 quatrains have been claimed as part of the work. Many of them have questionable origins.

Edward FitzGerald
The poems have been quite influential. Rex Stout, O. Henry, Agatha Christie, Eugene O'Neil,and Stephen King are some of the authors who have titled works after lines from the poems.

D.W. Girffith was about to film a movie version as his follow up to Intolerance but the project fell through. Griffith famously made the not so subtly pro-KKK film, The Birth of a Nation.

It is even featured in The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.

Edward FitzGerald is responsible for bringing the poem to the English speaking world. Over the course of several decades he would release and then edit and re-release his translations. He grew famous for the work. Mostly because he took great liberties with the lines of poetry. Many called the work FitzOmar because of this.

The connection between the two men was so strong that a rose seed from Khayyam's tomb at Nishapur was planted on FitzGerald's grave in Suffolk.

Translation is a strange game. Because of his tinkering with a Persian work, FitzGerald gave us the Rubaiyat quatrain - AABA rhyme scheme. Also because of it, it is hard to know where the two writers exist on the page. Where is FitzGerals, and where is Khayyam? That gray area is uncomfortable to exist in for some. The question of 'is it right' rises up.

Recently we have seen a large amount of new translations popping up. There is the new In Search of Lost Time, Beowulf, War and Peace. There are new retellings of The Iliad. John Ashbery won praise for his new translation of Rimbaud's Illuminations. Philip Pullman just released a new translation of the Brothers Grimm.

We are in a time of retelling our stories. Dredging the past and re-imagining it in new clothes. Here, then, the opening quatrain from three versions of FitzGerald:

Quatrain XXIV, Edmund Dulac, 1909
Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultan's Turret in a Noose of Light.

Wake! For the Sun behind you Eastern height
Has chased the Session of the Stars from Night;
And, to the field of Heav'n ascending, strikes
The Sultan's Turret with a Shaft of Light.

Wake! For the Sun, who scatter'd into flight
The Stars before him from the Field of Night,
Drives Night along with them from Heav'n, and strikes
The Sultan's Turret with a Shaft of Light.

I like different lines from each. My version would blend the three together.

Edmund Dulac made 20 beautiful illustrations for a 1909 edition of the book. I recently found a 1952 reprint in a local book store.

The book holds a particular fascination for me. I have mentioned before that I love a good mystery. The Rubaiyat is part of one of my favorites. The Taman Shud case of 1948. I have talked about the case in two posts. I wrote a poem about it. It is a very long subject but basically, a man was found dead on a beach in Australia. He was a John Doe. Events quickly got weird.

Here is the final quatrain of The Rubaiyat. The one the case takes its name from:

Torn page found in the man's pocket.
And when Thyself with shining Foot shall pass
Among the Guests Star-scatter'd on the Grass,
And in thy joyous Errand reach the Spot
Where I made one - turn down an empty Glass!


The final line means 'finished' or 'ended'. They found that last line folded in the dead man's pocket. A suitcase filled with another man's clothes was found as well. A nurse who may have given the book to the dead man refused to help the investigation. They found what looks like a secret code...

The case is strange. It is about circumstance, misidentification, lack of identification, and cover up. What I find interesting about it is the strange set of events that get you from the book to the dead man on the beach.

The events are random, indecipherable from the outside. But all events are that way. Think about how you got to work today. How you picked the college you went to. What your favorite song is and why. To anyone but you, these things are enigmas. Unknowable.

I was in Taos last fall. I wondered into a store that specializes in old maps and prints. They had a huge book of prints from old books of fairy tales. They were amazing. I bought three on a whim.

They were all drawn by Edmund Dulac. They were all from his Rubaiyat. I had no idea until yesterday. When I bought this old book and opened it, staring up at me was a face from the past.

My copy of The Rubaiyat, 1952 Garden City Books

09 January 2013

Inspiration : Black

Black 9/28/09

My heart is a breathing organ with an unblinking eye

Art by JimmyBlaze
The hamsa is a hand-shaped motif that originates in the middle east. The exact origins are unknown, but pre-date Islam and Christianity. In Islam it is known as the Hand of Fatima, after Muhammad's daughter.

It is meant to protect against the evil eye.

The idea that a look could bring harm.

It has become popular in Israel and appears on jewelry and keepsakes. It is considered a good luck charm. I have one next to my front door. I am not Jewish, Muslim, or superstitious. It was a gift from a good friend. It traveled from Israel with her in 2008.

My hamsa
On my back I have a large tattoo of the sun with an eye in the center. You could view it in a similar light as the hamsa. I always thought of it as an eye in the back of my head. A look out.

When I was 21 I was deeply romantic. The thought that some ink lines buried in a few layers of skin could protect me form history. From the future...

My heart is a hearing organ - a kneecap breaking on a tire iron

That is the sound a healthy heart makes.

The University of Washington has a handy guide with audio of various heart problems. The most common being a murmur. Murmurs result from an out of the ordinary blood flow. They create what sounds like an echo of the heart beat, or a woosh sound.

Most cannot be heard without the aide of a stethoscope. Laying your head onto someones chest as they sleep will not help you find abnormal heart sounds. It will allow you to feel their warmth and count the rhythms of their breaths.

a chamber burned - the outline of a body left behind

It is hard to imagine. Those white marks on the pavement. They could be tricks of the light. Could be strange light shadows. An artifact of a camera causing the color to be odd.

They are nuclear shadows.

Permanent marks on the ground showing where radiation from the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima went and how.

This bridge is 900 meters from the epicenter of the explosion. Thermal radiation moves in completely straight lines. So when it meets an object it reflects off of it. You get a perfect shadow. A mirror of the world.

There are famous shadows. An outline of a body sitting on the steps of a bank. These pilings on the bridge. This valve. The everyday object becomes a strange sort of witness. A sentinel that calls up the past without rest.

Constant. Beating. Watching.

07 January 2013


I have been sending out a lot of work to journals lately.

Call it the unemployment crazies.

I even dusted off an old short story and polished it to a heady glow. The characters were surprised to see me; they stared at the light funneling in from the open Word window and squinted. I asked them how they'd been, they couldn't recall since they don't do anything when the file is closed.

I wrote some new lines for them and edited out the 21 year-old self's mistakes. To the best of my ability.

The least I could do.

Now I have to write an artist's statement. I hate artist's statements. This is what I wrote:

I am a poet. I should get that out of the way first.

Since poetry is a strange gray area between fiction and fact I should probably leave fiction writing to the fiction people.

But that gray area is important to explore. In doing so, I have found myself writing more prose. Prose-like things. Novels, even. And in doing so I’ve found that the two things are not so different. Poetry and fiction, I mean.

Poems are speaking of language, of emotion. They are about the unsaid and the need to be repeated. They are about a walk in the woods and not about that at all. They are ambiguity and concreteness combined. Poems take a word like ‘hello’ and inject it with strange otherworldly meanings.

Fiction does the same thing. But it shows its work. They are language laid bare. Emotion is coming from a person’s mouth there are “ hanging there to show us that someone is feeling this now. You are feeling this now. That walk in the woods is also about other things but there is the actual walk. There are stones you might stub a toe on. When fiction says ‘hello’ it is because there is a ‘goodbye’.

All of this is to say that I find writing to be world building. Poetry is impressionistic; you have to peer closer to grasp it. Fiction is bolder, is Turner, it tells its story and it seems straight forward and it may be straight forward but it spins itself from nothing so it is also magical. Writing is magic. Some of the only magic we have left. I always wanted to be a scientist but am bad at math. Writing lets me boil things in test tubes. It lets me set a world afloat in space to see if the parts work out.

04 January 2013


Artists interpretation of visual 'prodrome'.
I get headaches with startling regularity.

Yesterday, as we were getting ready for bed, I turned to J and mentioned that I hadn't had one in over a week.

Not one since I got back to New Mexico after Christmas.

Not one while away for Christmas.

The regularity of my headaches is something I have come to expect. To understand and hate. I get them, I deal as I can. I always have Advil on hand.

I carried a big bottle of those oddly candy-coated brown pills in my bag everywhere in NY. I have one in my cabinet here in NM.

Advil was the first over-the-counter ibuprofen. Introduced in the US in 1984. It was available by prescription from 1974 onwards. Before 1974 it was only available in the UK and Europe. It was discovered by the research wing of Boots in the early 1960s.

Boots was founded in 1849 by John Boot in Nottingham.

In June 2012 Boots announced the purchase of a 45% stake in the company by Walgreens. The plan is to introduce Boots to the US and Walgreens to the UK and China.

The two companies have signed a deal to merge within 3 years. The deal will cost Walgreens $16bn.

Walgreens was founded in 1901 by Charles R. Walgreen, Sr. in Chicago.

The halo, or prodrome, before onset is a well-documented effect. Everyone is a little different. I have strange visual artifacts and a pressure that can only be described as 'skull heaviness'. It is like I can feel the weight of the bone around my brain.

My brain weighs about 3 lbs. with a volume around 1260 cm3. The skull on average weighs about 2.2 lbs.

Science has no answers for what 'causes' migraines. Dodick and Gargus call them 'increased excitability of the cerebral cortex and abnormal control of pain neurons in the trigeminal nucleus of the brainstem.' in their  2008 Scientific American article Why Migraines Strike.

Basically it is your brain loosing control of itself.

Control is the problem.

Migraines make it so I can't go outside, can't read, can't eat. They turn me into a person who sleeps all day. The make me pop pills like candy.

Using the verb 'strike' is appropriate. Migraines feel like they have lives of their own. Depending on the person they will arrive and depart in different ways. I know about a day before when I'm going to get one. After, it feels as if there's a soft spot on the left side of my head.

A fading bruise, the moisture after a kiss.

There is a Walgreens in the background of this photo from VJ Day.

From the OED:

abreaction, n.

Pronunciation: Brit. /ˌabrɪˈakʃn/ , U.S. /ˌæbriˈækʃ(ə)n/

Etymology: < ab- prefix + reaction n., after German †Abreagiren (J. Breuer & S. Freud Studien über Hysterie (1895) iv. 233; now Abreagieren ), use as noun of †abreagiren (see abreact v.). Compare French abréaction (1913). Compareabreact v.


Discharge of the emotional energy associated with a psychic trauma that has been forgotten or repressed; the process of bringing such a trauma back to consciousness, esp. as a psychotherapeutic technique; an instance of this.

I awoke with a migraine.

I had none of the usual clues to its arrival. No visual fuckery. No weight on my head.

I felt light-headed yesterday. Felt under the weather.

I thought I was getting the flu.

The last two months have been stressful. A move, unemployment, etc. Perhaps this is just all of that catching up. Filling out the empty spaces where my mind was occupied with a job, with New York's never-endingness.

Perhaps it was just a migraine.

Quick Side Note:
Treehouse has a rundown of the Best In Journals 2012.

02 January 2013

Poem-A-Day Reprint : New Year's

A reprint from New Year's Eve 2010

New Year's 12/31

            is something that I measure
in milliliters I pour it over my head in the shower
in bath houses
                                    I stand in steam rooms
                        and run it over the coals

Hope is a flower in a railyard

                                    I'm trying to have more
                        Trying to collect it in jars

Some kind of insect emotion
that I can hoard

            is the new year coming up and opening
its arms             I am trying