August 31, 2009

you're underneath the stairs
and you're giving back some glares

Vania Zouravliov, Satan's Stereo

* Rick Moody on John Cheever from Conjunctions:

For [high school] graduation, my dad gave me a trip to Europe -- to Paris, London, Rome and Geneva. He also gave me a copy of The Stories of John Cheever. Foreign travel made me homesick, though, and I did nothing in London and Paris but read the Cheever stories. I lurked with my bulky red tome in the various parks near the hotel, in case Dad should permit me to fly home. In recognition of my afternoons spent reading, I decorated my hardcover copy of the Stories with a sticker (nontransferable) that allowed me to sit in a chair in Hyde Park. This luxury, back then, cost fifteen pence per diem.

I don't remember thinking much of the stories. I thought they were neither good nor bad. Fiction was narcotic, the way I saw it, and that was what I liked about this particular book, though I also remember admiring one piece, "Three Stories," in part narrated by a protagonist's stomach ("The subject today will be the metaphysics of obesity, and I am the belly of a man named Lawrence Farnsworth"), as well as a catalogue-story entitled "A Miscellany of Characters That Will Not Appear."

Next came the punk rock years, during which I threw out most of my dinosaur records (Genesis, E.L.P.) and replaced them with totems of a new orthodoxy, the bands of CBGB's and of King's Row. As part of this dislocation, I began to bristle at aspects of my biography. I began, for example, to refer to St. Paul's as a high school -- as if, like other people's alma maters, it was just down the road and had a prom night. I began to avoid certain garments (Oxfords with button-down collars, tartan boxer shorts, loafers, tweed jackets), and to ridicule writers or artists or musicians or anybody else who seemed to have anything to do with the upper middle class or station wagons or cocktail hour or golden retrievers or show tunes or tennis lessons or backgammon or the Episcopal Church or ambitions for success in the world of finance. I began to ridicule the very archipelago of suburbs that had spawned me. I ripped holes in my T-shirts and jeans. I had my ear pierced by a friend.

Cheever, along with Updike, I suddenly included on the list of enemies of my new state. Who was this khaki-clad, Scotch-drinking New Yorker writer scribbling his sentimental prose about ordinary life? My resentments became more acute during my first year at Brown University when my freshman creative writing instructor, a graduate student, brought in The Stories of John Cheever as a model of good form, going so far as to single out the celebrated last paragraph of its first piece, which runs in part:

Oh, what can you do with a man like that? What can you do? How can you dissuade his eye in a crowd from seeking out the cheek with acne, the infirm hand; how can you teach him to respond to inestimable greatness of the race, that harsh surface beauty of life?

Well, I was the kind of student writer who looked eagerly for the dwarf or the burn victim or the heartbroken octogenarian, who scoured the newspapers for the tale of the pit bull who'd ravaged the schoolyard (three dead, scores injured), and I could hardly think of the close of "Goodbye, My Brother" as anything but propaganda for readers who wanted only affirmation of their conventions, an impression exacerbated by the PBS-style beauty of the last sentence, in which "the naked women came out of the sea." Nor did I care for the other, frequently anthologized Cheever stories my grad student instructor offered me: "The Enormous Radio," "The Sorrows of Gin," etc.

From freshman year forward, then, the mention of Cheever and any of his ilk was enough to provoke in me tirades about conformism and hypocrisy and oppression, about the schoolyard and country club cruelties I'd known back home. Ideally, youth is supposed to be flexible and open to ideas, full of reverence for the impromptu snowstorm or the poetry of kids crossing quadrangles with arms full of flowers and beer, overjoyed by certain loud guitars and amplifiers, altered once and for all in the thrall of great books, but above all disinclined to think prejudicially or to be contemptuous without investigation. Not in my case.

In the meantime, out of desperation and because of limited professional skills, I went to graduate school. There, in a literature class, I had yet again to confront those stories of Cheever. I'm powerless to describe exactly what changed in the five years between freshman year at Brown and spring semester of graduate school, what alchemy of bad jobs (recorded tour salesman, bibliographer), Upper West Side dusks and uncompleted romances did the trick, effected the transformation. I hadn't yet been through any real tragedies -- not of the butchering sort into which one might suture a change of heart. Maybe I was just growing up. The Cheever stories, of course, had traversed the interval intact. Their language was the same.

But in spring of 1986 the stories suddenly had a richness that they hadn't displayed the last time I'd checked. They weren't about surfaces anymore, but rather about contradictions and ambiguities beneath the "harsh surface beauties of life." "The Fourth Alarm," e.g., struck me as unusually poignant this time, in which the narrator cannot, apparently, tell the story he needs to tell unless he indulges: "I sit in the sun drinking gin. It is ten in the morning. Sunday. Mrs. Uxbridge is off somewhere with the children. Mrs. Uxbridge is the housekeeper. She does the cooking and takes care of Peter and Louise." Then there was the justifiably celebrated "The Swimmer," in which a pastiche of idyllic suburban poolsides (and further gin and tonics) culminates not in the bland affirmations I associated with Cheever's early work but, rather, in a powerful and sudden desolation, as the swimmer approaches his home:

The place was dark. Was it so late that they had all gone to bed? Had Lucinda stayed at the Westerhazys' for supper? Had the girls joined her there or gone someplace else?... The house was locked, and he thought that the stupid cook or the stupid maid must have locked the place up until he remembered that it had been some time since they had employed a maid or a cook. He shouted, pounded on the door, tried to force it with his shoulder, and then, looking in at the windows, saw that the place was empty.

There were oblique ambitions here that I had been too rigid to notice earlier, and these ambitions were especially vivid in the conjunction of Cheever's moral vision and the persistent inability of his characters to measure up to this vision. The best example of this later work awaited me, though, as I approached the last story in the collection, "The Jewels of the Cabots." In recollection, it seems that the only readers in my graduate school class who liked the piece were the instructor and me. There was a persistent feeling, among my fellow apprentice writers, of mystification about this final story. What was it about? Was it about anything at all? Had Cheever perhaps gone so far with his rumored drinking that he was capable only of a narrative so demented and fragmented? "Jewels" had none of the crafted, understated grace of, say, "Goodbye, My Brother." It didn't seem to settle down and narrate. In its events, it wasn't particularly credible. But for me it opened up a new stretch of highway.

* Paulson's Folly

* "Nothing is ever behind us." -- Roberto Bolano, from 2666

August 28, 2009

sometimes you feel
you've got the emptiest arms in the whole world
try to make sense but it always comes out absurd

William Burroughs, From the Shotgun Series, 1987

The Death of William Burroughs
-- by John Giorno

William died on August 2, 1997, Saturday at 6:30 in the afternoon from complications from a massive heart attack he'd had the day before. He was 83 years old. I was with William Burroughs when he died, and it was one of the best times I ever had with him.

Doing Tibetan Nyingma Buddhist meditation practices, I absorbed William's consiousness into my heart. It seemed as a bright white light, blinding but muted, empty. His consiousness passing through me. A gentle shooting star came in my heart and up the central channel, and out the top of my head to a pure field of great clarity and bliss. It was very powerful - William Burroughs resting in great equanimity, and the vast empty expanse of primordial wisdom mind.

I was staying in William's house, doing my meditation practices for him, trying to maintain good conditions and dissolve any obstacles that might be arising for him at that very moment in the bardo. Now, I had to do it for him.

What Went Into William Burroughs Coffin With His Dead Body

About ten in the morning on Tuesday, August 6, 1997, James Grauerholz and Ira Silverberg came to William's house to pick out the clothes for the funeral director to put on William's corpse. His clothes were in a closet in my room. And we picked the things to go into William's coffin and grave, accompaning him on his journey in the underworld.

His most favorite gun, a 38 special snub-nose, fully loaded with five shots. He called it, "The snubby." The gun was my idea. "This is very important!" William always said you can never be too well armed in any situation. Of his more than 80 world-class guns, it was his favorite. He often wore it on his belt during the day, and slept with it, fully loaded, on his right side, under the bedsheet, every night for fifteen years.

Grey fedora. He always wore a hat when he went out. We wanted his consciousness to feel perfectly at ease, dead.

His favorite cane, a sword cane made of hickory with a light rosewood finish.

Sport jacket, black with a dark green tint. We rummaged through the closet and it was the best of his shabby clothes, and smelling sweetly of him.

Blue jeans, the least worn ones were the only ones clean.

Red bandana. He always kept one in his back pocket.

Jockey underwear and socks.

Black shoes. The ones he wore when he performed. I thought the old brown ones, that he wore all the time, because they were comfortable. James Grauerholz insisted, "There's an old CIA slang that says getting a new assignment is getting new shoes."

White shirt. We had bought it in a men's shop in Beverly Hills in 1981 on The Red Night Tour. It was his best shirt, all the others were a bit ragged, and even though it had become tight, he'd lost alot of weight, and we thought it would fit. James said, "Don't they slit it down the back anyway."

Necktie, blue, hand painted by William.

Moroccan vest, green velvet with gold brocade trim, given him by Brion Gysin, twenty-five years before.

In his lapel button hole, the rosette of the French government's
Commandeur Des Arts et Lettres, and the rosette of the American Academy Of Arts and Letters, honors which William very much appreciated.

A gold coin in his pants pocket. A gold 19th Century Indian head five dollar piece, symbolizing all wealth. William would have enough money to buy his way in the underworld.

His eyeglasses in his outside breast pocket.

A ball point pen, the kind he always used. "He was a writer!", and wrote long hand.

A joint of really good grass.

Heroin. Before the funeral service, Grant Hart slipped a small white paper packet into William's pocket. "Nobody's going to bust him." said Grant. William, bejewelled with all his adornments, was travelling in the underworld.

I kissed him. An early LP album of us together, 1975, was called Biting Off The Tongue Of A Corpse. I kissed him on the lips, but I didn't do it. . . And I should of done it.

-- by Assata Shakur

i must confess that waltzes
do not move me
i have no sympathy
for symphonies

i guess i hummed the Blues
too early,
and spent too many midnights
out wailing to the rain

For Madeline Gleason
-- by Ruth Weiss

"do your poems haunt you"
oh Maddie
is no the poem of your life
a haunt
drawing us
releasing & drawing us?
A stronger line each time
drawing us the artist
drawn & quartered into season, elements...

August 27, 2009

He had that sweet country sound
but they stole every note in his head
they treated him like he had died
and that was long before he was dead

Dick Waterman, Mississippi John Hurt and Skip James, Newport Folk Festival, 1964

* Frank Partnoy on investment bankers in Tokyo in the 1990s, and the sex trade that catered to that industry's excesses (from his recently published book FIASCO):

"It didn't take me long to discover that the social life of American investment bankers in Tokyo is just as bizarre as the derivatives transactions they sell. At night one square block in an area called Roppongi is constantly filled with American expatriates. No one seems to go anywhere else. In a city filled with twenty million people, the few hundred American bankers stick together.

"Occasionally the locals take an American out for a good time at one of the notoriously expensive hostess bars, but a couple of nights in Roppongi was enough for me. I was working long hours, trying to learn about the Japanese deals everyone was pitching. By the time I returned to the Imperial Hotel, I was ready for sleep.

"Americans in Tokyo expend enormous energy exploiting the bizarre sexual culture, which is cleanly bifurcated between really soft core and really hard core. Just having sex with a prostitute is of no interest to anyone and costs only about three dollars. But getting a hostess to serve you a beer and talk to you costs about three hundred dollars. And whipping a teenage girl with a sharply studded leather belt costs about thirty thousand dollars.

"I met people who had done all three. Only the native Japanese salesmen could visit the bargain-basement prostitutes, although they did it often enough for everyone. The Japanese are deathly afraid of AIDS, and they exclude non-Japanese from the local 'soap lands,' where a good 'soaping' was quite reasonably priced. The more expensive hostess bars were available to Americans. The hostesses at these bars typically were non-Japanese and did not offer soaping. One salesman said he had tired of spending his entire salary on hostesses and saved a fortune by paying two of them to quit their jobs and simply follow him around the one square block in Roppongi.

"The most surprising side of Tokyo was the whip-and-chain dark side. Hard-core Japanese brothels made New York's Eighth Avenue look like Candyland. One Tokyo salesman told me about a Korean client who visited Tokyo just so he could go to an underground club where he would beat up a teenage Japanese girl. The cost, millions of yen for about twenty minutes, was more than made up for in transaction fees.

"I obviously wasn't in Kansas anymore, and I stayed close to my hotel room."

* Route 36, the ever-relocating cocaine bar in Bolivia.

* 100 poetry sites.

* "Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful." -- Margaret J. Wheatley

August 26, 2009

The hills have eyes, their trees have lives
Disjointed like a hero
No saga told, no things unfold
To make the ride much finer

Joan Linder, Don't Like Country Music, 2007

The Origin of Baseball
-- by Kenneth Patchen

Someone had been walking in and out
Of the world without coming
To much decision about anything.
The sun seemed too hot most of the time.
There weren’t enough birds around
And the hills had a silly look
When he got on top of one.
The girls in heaven, however, thought
Nothing of asking to see his watch
Like you would want someone to tell
A joke – “Time,” they’d say, “what’s
That mean – Time?”, laughing with the edges
Of their white mouths, like a flutter of paper
In a mad house. And he’d stumble over
General Sherman or Elizabeth B.
Browning, muttering, “Can’t you keep
Your big wings out of the aisle?” But down
Again, there’d be millions of people without
Enough to eat and men with guns just
Standing there shooting each other.

So he wanted to throw something
And he picked up a baseball.

Acquainted with the Night
-- by Robert Frost

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
O luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

My Los Alamos
-- by Sandra Beasley

My soybeans for your silo,
My pitcher for your infielder,
My roller skates for your cherry bomb,
My first date for your Dairy Queen.

My chute for your ladder,
My coyote for your anvil,
My Chevy for your Mustang,
My Nancy for your Sherlock.

My cops for your robbers,
My secret for your coat lining,
My equation for your explosion,
My grandfather for your enemy.

My motherhood for your mother.
My childhood for your child,
My boy for your girl,
My girl for your girl.

My tongue for your knees,
My breast for your tonsils,
My belly for your big toe,
My feet for your elbows.

My underground for your flight.
My uniform for your atom bomb,
My piece for your war,
My peace for your war.

My dance for your Siberia,
My flowers for your tundra,
My flour for your silo,
My hand for your forgiveness,

My hand for your forgiveness,
My hand for your forgetting,
My first date for your Dairy Queen,
My thinking a fist could forget.

August 24, 2009

Deep in the back of my mind is an unrealized sound
Every feeling I get from the street says it soon could be found


* From Kristine McKenna's Book of Changes:

What's the Most Significant Historical Event You've Witnessed in your Life?

William Burroughs (1990): "Hiroshima, of course. That was a dreadful turning in the course of human history. And how many people made the decision to drop that bomb? America calls itself a democracy, but the American people didn't even know the bomb existed until it had been dropped. That was probably the most important decision this or any country ever made, and how many people made that decision? Maybe five. You might say well, most people agreed we had to do it, but most people are so stupid they aren't worth talking about."

Does music have the capacity to bring about social change? And if it does, do musicians then have an obligation to address the political issues of their time?

Ray Charles (1983): "I don't think a musician has an obligation, but he does have the same rights as a plumber or a doctor. I think a person should contribute to whatever cause he believes in however he can. Personally, I think the most valid way to deal with these things is to try and get people's minds movin' in a positive direction."

What's the Biggest Obstacle you've overcome in your Life?

Brian Eno (1980): "Feeling that I ought to be doing something Very Important all the time. To feel that way is a source of energy, but the difficulty it presents is that it leads you to undervalue the time when you are apparently doing nothing. That kind of time is equally important in that it's a kind of dream time that allows things to get sorted out and reshuffled."

August 21, 2009

got a great sucker punch

Barry Stone, McCarren Park, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 2005

Cherishing What Isn't
-- by Jack Gilbert

Ah, you three women whom I have loved in this
long life, along with the few others.
And the four I may have loved, or stopped short
of loving. I wander through these woods
making songs of you. Some of regret, some
of longing, and a terrible one of death.
I carry the privacy of your bodies
and hearts in me. The shameful ardor
and the shameless intimacy, the secret kinds
of happiness and the walled-up childhoods.
I carol loudly of you among trees emptied
of winter and rejoice quietly in summer.
A score of women if you count love both large
and small, real ones that were brief
and those that lasted. Gentle love and some
almost like an animal with its prey.
What is left is what's alive in me. The failing
of your beauty and its remaining.
You are like countries in which my love
took place. Like a bell in the trees
that makes your music in each wind that moves.
A music composed of what you have forgotten.
That will end with my ending.

Miles: Prince of Darkness
-- by Philip Bryant

I remember my father's stories
about him being cold, fitful,
reproachful, surly, rude, cruel,
unbearable, spiteful, arrogant, hateful.
But then he'd play
Some Day My Prince Will Come
in a swirl of bright spring colors
that come after a heavy rain
making the world anew again
and like the sometimes-tyrannical king
who is truly repentant of his transgressions
steps out onto the balcony
to greet his subjects
and they find it in their hearts
to forgive him for his sins
yet once again.

August 19, 2009

i've been out on my own,
i've been doing real fine.
i watch you wreck what you can it's crazy cause..
it seems you're out of your mind

Lisa Yuskavage, Painted Things, 2006

Fire Left by Travellers
-- by Frank Stanford

Before in our lives we have all gone down
to some river or another
and spoken with those who don't often speak
we tell them about the black fumes of our dreams
roots smouldering and asleep
and the hammer hanging on the branch
and they go on sinking long nails
into their boat's damaged wood
they make a harbor out of anything
that will hold a rope for a night
they sit on buckets
near the water's circular ruins
eating fish cooked in wine
one has a belly and keeps young ducks under his shirt
one wears a beautiful scarf
he claims the moon is a liar
under the patch over his left eye
briars take over their boots
which took journeys without walking
half under water there's a chimney
driftwood and broken oars and lost lures
floating in the flue
the current drawing them up the fireplace like smoke
there it stands alone like a stone tree
the house having burned
before the river rose
before I walked down these levees
my father's long graves
which he raised like a pharaoh
I kept coming down them
holding both arms before me like a sleepwalker
holding out my hands
trying to warm them on campfires long gone
sod might as well have been snow
I looked down the steep slope of those days
a skier getting ready for a jump
I had things to say

the abandoned valley
--- by jack gilbert

can you understand being alone for so long
you would go out in the middle of the night
and put a bucket into the well
so you could feel something down there
tug at the other end of the rope?

The Beautiful American Word, Sure
-- by Delmore Schwartz

The beautiful American word, Sure,
As I have come into a room, and touch
The lamp's button, and the light blooms with such
Certainty where the darkness loomed before,

As I care for what I do not know, and care
Knowing for little she might not have been,
And for how little she would be unseen,
The intercourse of lives miraculous and dear.

Where the light is, and each thing clear,
separate from all others, standing in its place,
I drink the time and touch whatever's near,

And hope for day when the whole world has that face:
For what assures her present every year?
In dark accidents the mind's sufficient grace.

August 18, 2009

you spent the year
in a drunken frenzy
lied to your friends
adopted false ideas

James Ensor, Masks Mocking Death, 1888

* Various musicians on Daniel Johnson, who is now on tour (excerpt, the article is a few years old):

Mark Linkous, Sparklehorse

Daniel Johnston has written some of the saddest and funniest songs I've ever heard. Next to Daniel, when I pick up a guitar or try to sing, I can't help feeling pretentious or corrupted. He's got the enthusiasm of a 12-year-old and the melodic gifts of Buddy Holly or the Beatles.

For these songs to come out of his body and be documented on tape is a miracle. Daniel suffers from bipolar disorder, he can swing from manic depression to violence. Thankfully, his medication is more together now and the person that Daniel is beneath his illness shines through in his music. He is 43 and lives with his parents, who are getting old. So some of us got together to make an album covering his songs to raise money for his care.

His insights are astounding and his songs are so universal they could be sung in subways or stadiums. I first got his homemade cassette album, Hi, How Are You? which Kurt Cobain famously wore the T-shirt for. I've since met other people who've got that album and they're all different. Daniel didn't realise you could duplicate, so every take he recorded would be an original master.

Wayne Coyne, Flaming Lips

The pity of the Daniel Johnston story is the purity of expression that comes out of someone who is occasionally "demented". But the simplicity of the lyrics comes from true inner anguish. Madness shouldn't be thought of as people in mental hospitals peeing on themselves. It can happen to anybody. Who's to say at what level all of us don't have some inner struggle? It 's easy to feel uncomfortable about covering his songs and it's difficult to outdo that kind of exorcism. But they lend themselves to reinterpretation because they are the real deal. We did the track Go with Sparklehorse; it's a great, optimistic song. There's a line, "If you think you've found something, don't let it go", delivered with a tinge of regret that he found something and didn't cherish it enough. It's incredibly moving.

Jason Pierce, Spiritualized

The most important thing in music is absolute honesty. People like Daniel and Roky Erikson - 'cos they're slightly damaged - have this great ability to touch your heart because they don't know where to stop.

When a child hits a piano he makes untainted music, and that's there in Daniel. He goes between extremes of naivety and darkness. The song I can never get out of my head is Funeral Home, with the line "Got me a car, all shiny and black/Going to the funeral, I ain't never coming back." There's a recording where he gets the audience to sing along like a church gathering.

Jad Fair, musician/friend

Daniel puts words together in a way that is very heartfelt and original. I first heard him in 1985 when he was making very raw tapes that caused a buzz in Texas where he lives. He puts so much emotion into what he does. He can play for 10 minutes or two hours and I've seen him break down crying but immediately after the performance break out in a laugh. I got together with Teenage Fanclub and we covered My Life is Starting Over Again, one of his most "up" songs, about what would happen if he became a famous rock star. He's aware of the irony and there's a wonderfully dry line: "I guess it's better than suicide." I've known him do a concert and when people scream for more he'll flee out of a back window.

* "I am a dreamer of words, of written words. I think I am reading; a word stops me. I leave the page. The syllables of the word begin to move around. Stressed accents begin to invert. The word abandons its meaning like an overload which is too heavy and prevents dreaming. Then words take on other meanings as if they had the right to be young. And the words wander away, looking in the nooks and crannies of vocabulary for new company, bad company." - Gaston Bachelard

August 14, 2009

your eyes are ice your hair is fire
lucky I'm not friends with liars

William Eggleston

Living the Good Life
-- by Frank Stanford

There is only one locale for the heart
And that's somewhere between the dick and the brain.
I don't believe love is for chickenshits.
It's low, dark, and cold-blooded, like a cottonmouth.
Children are often involved. They stink
When they sprout in the garden of light,
And they stink mulching their way back down.
Cold-hearted women, work, madness, and death
Are the things separating the nuts from the shells.
Everything else is strictly a pile of shit-
Except for childhood, which we moon over
Because it smells to high heaven. So, go it
Alone. Solitude is a constellation:
People can't connect light anymore,
The only code they can break is darkness.
You can get a file in the heart
But you can't jimmy love -a woman once said
It'd take a shotgun to open my heart.
All the time I was on my knees in the bathroom
Crying like a fool. No one knows
How to love anybody's trouble, nothing will
Deaden the chiggers of pain sucking
Blood in your sleep -oh beautiful tree frogs,
Sonic in the nasty oil of evening, I love you,
Sounds by yourselves a star's life away.
But it doesn't mean a goddamn thing.
Death isn't cold, dark, and quiet.
It is a love letter written on an X-ray.
Better still, it's a manta ray
Squealing in your wife's drawers.
Is this where your will is kept?
What sleek doing is she dreaming of tonight?
How much money do you have in the bank?
Are your early years filed away
In another bureau under another name?
Ask me no questions, I'll still tell you lies,
My father would sing like a bull frog.
I thought my father was a flat-out wonder,
A faraway and constant stranger in my midst.
He wasn't even my father, the cuckold.
So do Lord help the bucket mouth son
Doing a job on doom and eating banana flips.
I for one leave the transcendence of language
To the auctioneers on the widows' steps,
And to the truck drivers with ears
Looking for the smoke on the road.
As for the snow that drifts ever
So silently into the eyes of children,
It is all full of shit from the north
And radiation from the west.

Body and Soul
-- by Kim Addonizio

Where do you think the soul is?
Do you think it looks like a small paper bag,

the kind that contains one item—
candy bar, liquid soap, pint bottle?

Is it crumpled up behind the heart?
Is it folded neatly and wedged between the ribs,

is it wrapped around the balls, is it damp
like a cunt, has it been torn?

The body isn’t the house.
If the body is the house,

is the soul up late in the kitchen, sleepless,
standing before the open refrigerator,

is it tired of TV,
sickened by its own thoughts?

The body has no thoughts.
The body soaks up love like a paper towel

and is still dry.
The body shoots up some drugs,

sweats and weeps—
Sometimes the body

gets so quiet
it can hear the soul,

scratching like something trapped
inside the walls

and trying to get out,

The Great Fires
-- by Jack Gilbert

Love is apart from all things.
Desire and excitement are nothing beside it.
It is not the body that finds love.
What leads us there is the body.
What is not love provokes it.
What is not love quenches it.
Love lays hold of everything we know.
The passions which are called love
also change everything to a newness
at first. Passion is clearly the path
but does not bring us to love.
It opens the castle of our spirit
so that we might find the love which is
a mystery hidden there.
Love is one of many great fires.
Passion is a fire made of many woods,
each of which gives off its special odor
so we can know the many kinds
that are not love. Passion is the paper
and twigs that kindle the flames
but cannot sustain them. Desire perishes
because it tries to be love.
Love is eaten away by appetite.
Love does not last, but it is different
from the passions that do not last.
Love lasts by not lasting.
Isaiah said each man walks in his own fire
for his sins. Love allows us to walk
in the sweet music of our particular heart.

August 12, 2009

Don't worry I'm not made of glass
But baby you could have shown some class

Cara Ober, Seagulls, 2008

* From Harper's August 2009:

-- Chance that a U.S. home purchase in the first quarter of this year was of a foreclosed or short-sale property: 1 in 2

-- Percentage change between winter 2008 and winter 2009 in the amount of delinquent U.S. credit-card debt: +63

-- Percentage change in the number of credit-card offers Americans have received: -67

-- Estimated weekly revenue from heroin sales that two Pennsylvania senior citizens were making before their April arrest: $10,000

-- Estimated percentage of all existing blogs that have not been updated in four months: 94

-- Chances that a Twitter user accesses the service only while at work: 2 in 3

* Who knew: superstar DIY musician R. Stevie Moore has a sister who was Miss Tennessee in 1977, and who currently is part of a Las Vegas Lounge duo. The question is: Why did she drop an 'O' from her last name?

-- if you are unfamiliar with R. Stevie Moore, check him out immediately. A good starting point would be his 1977 album "The North." Additionally, there are lots of videos on utube.

* "I had no idea...of how it would feel. The heartbreak, I mean. The shattering of trust, the brutal sense of loss and sudden awareness of my heart's true vulnerability, like a tree branch snapping off in an ice storm. I had no idea about that." -- Margaret Sartor from her story in Love is a Four Letter Word (the stories by D.E. Rasso, Jami Attenbergand Maud Newton are worth seeking out and reading in the bookstore if purchasing the book is out of the question).

August 7, 2009

now it's all buried
we call it the past

Sofya Mirvis, Beautiful Disaster, 2009

The Lack of Good Qualities
-- by James Tate

Granny sat drinking a bourbon and branch water
by the picture window. It was early evening and she
had finished the dinner dishes and put them away and
now it was her time to do as she pleased. "All my
children are going to hell, and my grandchildren, too,"
she said to me, one of her children. She took a long
slug of her drink and sighed. One of her eyes was all
washed out, the result of some kind of dueling accident
in her youth. That and the three black hairs on her
chin which she refused to cut kept the grandchildren
at a certain distance. "Be a sweetheart and get me
another drink, would you, darling?" I make her a really
strong one. "I miss the War, I really do. But your
granddaddy was such a miserable little chickenshit he
managed to come back alive. Can you imagine that? And
him wearing all those medals, what a joke! And so I
had to kill him, I had no choice. I poisoned the son
of a bitch and got away with it. And so I ask you, who's
the real hero?" "You are, Granny," I said, knowing I was
going to hell if only to watch her turn to stone.

The Changes
-- by Robert Creeley

People don't act
like they act
in real life
in real life. They

are slower
and record the passive changes
of atmosphere.

Or change themselves
into green persian dogs
and birds.

when you see one
you know the world is a contrivance.
It has its proverbiality.
People are poor.

The Old Math Was Good Enough For Goebbels Too
-- by Klipschutz

How’s that joke go?

In Heaven,
the English do the X,
the French do the Y,
and the Germans do the Z.

In Hell,
the Germans do the X,
the English do the Y,
and the French do the Z.

Once it comes back to me
or someone reminds me,
there’s got to be a quick variation
that ends,

In Hell,
X does the ______________,
Y does the ______________,
and John Bolton is a hostage negotiator.

August 5, 2009

I got my friends
I got a bottle of wine
And I'm feeling fine
I don't miss you now
I don't miss you at all

Cara Ober, Like a Knockout Like a Dream, 2008

The Last Toast
-- by Nicanor Parra

Whether we like it or not,
We have only three choices:
Yesterday, today and tomorrow.

And not even three
Because as the philosopher says
Yesterday is yesterday
It belongs to us only in memory:
From the rose already plucked
No more petals can be drawn.

The cards to play
Are only two:
The present and the future.

And there aren't even two
Because it's a known fact
The present doesn't exist
Except as it edges past
And is consumed...,
like youth.

In the end
We are only left with tomorrow.
I raise my glass
To the day that never arrives.

But that is all
we have at our disposal.

Tear It Down
-- by Jack Gilbert

We find out the heart only by dismantling what
the heart knows. By redefining the morning,
we find a morning that comes just after darkness.
We can break through marriage into marriage.
By insisting on love we spoil it, get beyond
affection and wade mouth-deep into love.
We must unlearn the constellations to see the stars.
But going back toward childhood will not help.
The village is not better than Pittsburgh.
Only Pittsburgh is more than Pittsburgh.
Rome is better than Rome in the same way the sound
of raccoon tongues licking the inside walls
of the garbage tub is more than the stir
of them in the muck of the garbage. Love is not
enough. We die and are put into the earth forever.
We should insist while there is still time. We must
eat through the wildness of her sweet body already
in our bed to reach the body within that body.

August 2, 2009

one step for anger
one step for pain