December 30, 2011

All secrets sleep in winter clothes

Cara Ober, Certain Flowers Persist, 2009

To Whom It May Concern
-- by J.V. Cunningham

After so many decades of ... of what?
I have a permanent sabbatical.
I pass my time on actuarial time.
Listen to music, and going to bed
Leave something at the bottom of the glass,
A little wastefulness to end the day.

Two Hangovers
-- by James Wright

Number One

I slouch in bed.
Beyond the streaked trees of my window,
All groves are bare.
Locusts and poplars change to unmarried women
Sorting slate from anthracite
Between railroad ties:
The yellow-bearded winter of the depression
Is still alive somewhere, an old man
Counting his collection of bottle caps
In a tarpaper shack under the cold trees
Of my grave.

I still feel half drunk,
And all those old women beyond my window
Are hunching toward the graveyard.

Drunk, mumbling Hungarian,
The sun staggers in,
And his big stupid face pitches
Into the stove.
For two hours I have been dreaming
Of green butterflies searching for diamonds
In coal seams;
And children chasing each other for a game
Through the hills of fresh graves.
But the sun has come home drunk from the sea,
And a sparrow outside
Sings of the Hanna Coal Co. and the dead moon.
The filaments of cold light bulbs tremble
In music like delicate birds.
Ah, turn it off.

Number Two

I Try to Waken and Greet the World Once Again

In a pine tree,
A few yards away from my window sill,
A brilliant blue jay is springing up and down, up and down,
On a branch.
I laugh, as I see him abandon himself
To entire delight, for he knows as well as I do
That the branch will not break.

December 28, 2011

don't let it turn you into
that thing you hate the most

Helen Frankenthaler, Magic Carpet, 1964 [RIP]

* From Harper's January 2012:

-- Chance that a member of a U.S. corporation's compensation committee is someone the CEO considers "a friend": 1 in 3

-- Estimated number of stray dogs killed in Ukraine in preparation for the Euro 2012 soccer tournament: 27,000

-- Chances that a top brand of imported extra-virgin olive oil is not extra-virgin: 3 in 4

-- Estimated tons of debris from the Japanese earthquake headed for the West Coast of the United States: 5,000,000

-- Date by which the debris is expected to begin reaching shore: 10/1/2013

* Television live from Portland, OR, October 1978.

* "Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. Music is THE BEST..." --Frank Zappa

December 23, 2011

time is the enemy
time is the guide

Wilhelm Sasnal, Kacper, 2009, oil on canvas

Christmas Morning Without Presents: The Depression, Granite City, Illinois
-- by Ellery Akers

It is 1929. The moon falls on the floor,
the pantry is empty, beans hardening like rocks in the cans.
No, you did not expect this.
The same cracked wall with its stains,
odor of your mother's cleaning fluid,
curtains with their clean hems,
blowing in and out.
You touch the bones and lumps of the chair,
the broken wireless with its dial, you pick up a spoon,
and it's cold. A clock ticks. The chipped plates
fill up with the moon.
You look back at the window,
tubes and vats of the factories
quiet for once.
The garbage truck rolls up the alley,
the bristles of the streetcleaner's brush rasp on the pavement.
Your hand closes on the doorknob, quietly.
You begin to carry the stone of your childhood:
The moon. The empty room. It will be yours.

* Excerpts from Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory.

December 21, 2011

and although the sex was free
it killed all of my dreams

Ed Van der Elsken, Switzerland, 1967

Godzilla in Mexico
-- by Roberto Bolano, translated by Laura Healy

Listen carefully, my son: bombs were falling
over Mexico City
but no one even noticed.
The air carried poison through
the streets and open windows.
You'd just finished eating and were watching
cartoons on TV.
I was reading in the bedroom next door
when I realized we were going to die.
Despite the dizziness and nausea I dragged myself
to the kitchen and found you on the floor.
We hugged. You asked what was happening
and I didn't tell you we were on death's program
but instead that we were going on a journey,
one more, together, and that you shouldn't be afraid.
When it left, death didn't even
close our eyes.
What are we? you asked a week or year later,
ants, bees, wrong numbers
in the big rotten soup of chance?
We're human beings, my son, almost birds,
public heroes and secrets.

-- by James Tate

for K.

Like a glum cricket
the refrigerator is singing
and just as I am convinced

that it is the only noise
in the building, a pot falls
in 2B. The neighbors on

both sides of me suddenly
realize that they have not
made love to their wives

since 1947. The racket
multiplies. The man downhall
is teaching his dog to fly.

The fish are disgusted
and beat their heads blue
against the cold aquarium. I too

lose control and consider
the dust huddled in the corner
a threat to my endurance.

Were you here, we would not
tolerate mongrels in the air,
nor the conspiracies of dust.

We would drive all night,
your head tilted on my shoulder.
At dawn, I would nudge you

with my anxious fingers and say,
Already we are in Idaho.

December 17, 2011

it's so very cold in the mansion after sunset

walter martinpaloma munoz, traveler 80 at night

Snow Drift
-- by Sarah Hannah

I only want to write about a space
Three-inches square, in the picket fence's
Stolid corner, the uncontested crevice
Boasting, suddenly, a jagged occurrence
Of snow, Alp-like, resting on the brief ledge
The wooden crossbeam makes: unlikely cliff,
However wedged, suggesting passage
Beyond lawn and property line, as if
Transgression could be intimately known
Through bold example in miniature,
On familiar ground, a trace of snow blown
On a fence, articulation of a dare:
To realize the route the mountain sees,
The fall to nether--valley, wild trees.

Shuffled Thoughts
-- by Nicanor Parra

I don't want to see myself
In blood-spattered mirrors.

I would rather sleep in the open
Than share
A marriage bed with a turtle.

The automobile is a wheelchair.

And the poor devil who looks at his mother
At the very moment of birth
Is marked forever
per secula seculorum.

-- by John Tranter

Another fuckwit drops into the dustbin
of history, just as we're finishing our coffee.
Some of us are meant to burn out, is that
right? Like roman candles, across the night sky.

I want to go up like a tree, not a rocket.
I'd like to get drunk disgracefully
with a favorite neice, and grow old
among an amplitude of footnotes.

Pour me another Pernod, Famous Poet, and
tell me again about the doomstruck literati,
those dropouts immortalized in ink -- your
thirst, your secret greed, your mausoleum.

* "All that we are not stares back at what we are." -- WH Auden

December 14, 2011

happy songs sell records
sad songs sell beer

Chris Anthony, Venice No. 18, 2011

-- by Frank O'Hara

If I rest for a moment near The Equestrian
pausing for a liver sausage sandwich in the Mayflower Shoppe,
that angel seems to be leading the horse into Bergdorf's
and I am naked as a table cloth, my nerves humming.
Close to the fear of war and the stars which have disappeared.
I have in my hands only 35c, it's so meaningless to eat!
and gusts of water spray over the basins of leaves
like the hammers of a glass pianoforte. If I seem to you
to have lavender lips under the leaves of the world,
I must tighten my belt.
It's like a locomotive on the march, the season
of distress and clarity
and my door is open to the evenings of midwinter's
lightly falling snow over the newspapers.
Clasp me in your handkerchief like a tear, trumpet
of early afternoon! in the foggy autumn.
As they're putting up the Christmas trees on Park Avenue
I shall see my daydreams walking by with dogs in blankets,
put to some use before all those coloured lights come on!
But no more fountains and no more rain,
and the stores stay open terribly late.

Night Thought
-- Bill Knott

Compared to one's normal clothes, pajamas
are just as caricature as the dreams
they bare: farce-skins, facades, unserious
soft versions of the mode diem, they seem
to have come from a posthumousness;
floppy statues of ourselves, slack seams
of death. Their form mimics the decay
that will fit us so comfortably someday.

Oh Yes
-- Charles Bukowski

there are worse things than
being alone
but it often takes decades
to realize this
and most often
when you do
it's too late
and there's nothing worse
too late.

December 13, 2011

You start a conversation you can't even finish it.
You're talkin' a lot, but you're not sayin' anything.
When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed.
Say something once, why say it again?

Billy Childish, Lt. Sydney A. Cloman, First Infantry, on His Horse on the Wounded Knee Battleground, 2010

* From a recent interview of Ed Sanders:

Q: How did this memoir come about?

Sanders: Well, I began in 2009 in the summer and finished the first draft in 2010, turned in a final draft early this year. I’m a pack rat, I have an archive of 500 bankers’ boxes organized alphabetically and chronologically, so I’ve been going through a long and arduous process. I’m trained to write chronologies, I have a life-in-verse of Allen Ginsberg and Anton Chekov, so I decided to turn my investigative skills on myself. I went through all my boxes, got help from libraries that keep my work, debriefed various friends. When I put it together and sequenced it, it turned out over 400 pages.

Q: Do you know of any bookstores or publications carrying on the radical tradition of the Peace Eye Bookstore or Fuck You Press?

Sanders: Well, rent for bookstores [today] is really skyrocketing. I had the advantage of very low rent, it was in a former kosher meat market, I left the words “Strictly Kosher” on the front and put up the Peace Eye sign next to it. Rent was $50 a month.

Fuck You was the equivalent of rebel publications on the internet—I’m not sure there are any mimeograph machines being built now. You can get some used ones but that technology is basically gone, though there are Kinkos and other offset publishing sources. People put their publications in my hand when they see me, and I get a lot of stuff in the mail. 8.5” x 11” publications are flooding the post office as we speak.

Q: How would you compare the current moment of civil unrest to the 1960s?

Sanders: There’s a lot more issues now than we felt in the 60s. Then, the Great Society had just begun, and we thought that the social safety net would grow and grow, and by the time we were old everything would be taken care of. Occupy [Wall Street] has so many fragmented issues to face. [In the 60s,] we just had war, and freedom of expression, and partying—a lot of partying. Now it’s a serious thing, kids with huge debt and unable to find jobs, more and more wars, drones. The kids in Occupy Wall Street have a noble mission to try to transform the economic injustice that’s going on but, boy, it’s going to be tough. Police come on the scene like Darth Vaders, coordinated nationally, raiding Occupy encampments all over the Western hemisphere. It’s a peculiar situation we face: the militarization of the police, the desperation of poor people, the decimation of pensions and savings. It’s gonna become like a Dickens novel, baby.

Q: Do you think the pendulum of political America is currently making a significant swing back toward the left?

Sanders: I’ve been around a long time, seen a couple pendulums swing back and forth, but I think maybe the pendulum is a broken metaphor now. It’s just a swing out to less and less, widening this abyss between people who can pay $300 for a shirt and those who get by with a $10 tee. I don’t know what’s going to happen: we could all wind up in the gutter, eating dog food quiche on an encampment under the freeway somewhere. There’s no safety net anymore except for people who have strong family ties and families that have money. Like in a Chekov short story, where you have some out-of-work uncle living well in the manor house of a wealthy family member. I thought that when I was old that social democracy would have grown up in the United States, and my heart is broken that it hasn’t.
Q: Do you think things are better or worse than they were in the 60s?

Sanders: I think in some ways it’s better now, there’s more personal freedom. The producers of Gone With the Wind paid a fine when Clark Gable uttered the word “damn,” but thanks to the fight for personal freedom from my generation or the beat generation, you have HBO and the Sopranos and a richer [popular arts] landscape—the comedy channel can pretty well say whatever it wants. So there’s gluts of freedom, there’s just no social safety net. Paul Goodman said, “In America, you can say anything you want, as long as it doesn’t have any effect.” Bless his soul.

* “The three rules are, of course: Never eat at a place called Mom’s, never play cards with a man named Doc, and most important, never go to bed with anybody who has more troubles than you do.” -- Nelson Algren

December 12, 2011

her parents gave her whisky
and that is why she loved them

Michal Rovner, Untitled, 1990

* From a 1973 Playboy interview of Kurt Vonnegut:

Interviewer: What was it like to be at the last moonshot?

Vonnegut: It was a thunderingly beautiful experience -- voluptuous, sexual, dangerous, and expensive as hell. Martha Raye was there. Don Rickles was there. Death was there.

Interviewer: Somebody died?

Vonnegut: Life magazine died. They were down there with cameras that looked like siege howitzers. We hung around with them. We were down there on credentials from Harper's. When they go home with their pictures, they found out Life had died. How's that for a symbol? Our planet became Lifeless while our astronauts were on their way to the moon. We went down because a Swedish journalist at a cocktail party in New York told us he cried at every launch. Also, my brother told me 'When you see one go up, you almost think it's worth it.'

Interviewer: You said it was sexual?

Vonnegut: It's a tremendous space fuck, and there's some kind of conspiracy to suppress that fact. That's why all the stories about launches are so low key. They never give a hint of what kind of a visceral experience it is to watch a launch. How would the taxpayers feel if they found out they were buying orgasms for a few thousand freaks within a mile of the launch pad? And it's an extremeley satisfactory orgasm. I mean, you are shaking and you do take leave of your senses. And there's something about the sound that comes shuddering across the water. I understand there are certain frequencies with which you can make a person involuntarily shit with sound. So it does get in your guts.

* "It is so much simpler to bury reality than it is to dispose of dreams." - Don DeLillo

December 7, 2011

It’s a good thing
You’re a no one
Because there’s nothing I can do

Dakota Fine, The Caribbean, 2011

* Huge CONGRATULATIONS to my good friends The Caribbean, whose 2011 release "Discontinued Perfume," was named best indie-pop record of the year. Says Popmatters:

The Washington, DC trio The Caribbean doesn’t fit snugly into the genre of “indie pop”, in the sense that you imagine it as a genre with neatly drawn boundaries. They don’t fit into any genre, really, yet they’re working in the realm of pop songwriting, in the world where a band sets a mood, a singer takes words and sings them melodically, and the listener takes it all in while unconsciously tapping his foot and singing along. The Caribbean work in that realm, but they do it like undercover agents. They’re living it, quietly, outside the attention of most people, and also changing it up. Their music is seemingly nondescript—they’re not flashy enough, young enough, or hip enough to get significant press—but filled with corners that fascinate, confuse, touch, and stalk you. Their fifth album is especially puzzling and emotionally affecting. Like scientists, they’re quietly experimenting, but like journalists or novelists, they sing of ordinary people who, of course, aren’t really that ordinary, and their life crises, which resonate strongly with our own. It’s an album of people stuck between what they want to do and have to do, of people who find themselves at an existential crossroads though no one around them notices. Not that many people are noticing the Caribbean either, but their music has the power to sneak up on you and take you firmly by the hand.

Says me:

Makes a great holiday gift for you and your friends! Buy it now!

December 5, 2011

always use the old sense of the word

Walker Evens, Storefront, South Carolina, 1936

Piano and Scene
-- by David Berman

A child needs to know the point of the holiday.

His aunt is saying grace over a decaffeinated coffee
and her daughter is reading a Russian novel
whose 45 chapters are set
on 45 consecutive Valentine's Days.

Grandpa is telling the kids fairy tales
from Pennsylvania's pretzel-making region

and it's hard for me to be in the mood
you want me to be in right now,

as I'm suddenly wrapped up in this speculation
on the as yet undiscovered moods of the future,

like nostalgia for a discontinued model of robot
or patriotic feelings for your galaxy

which will probably resemble nosalgia and patriotism
as we now know it, but with added tiers of complexity.

Even if we could manage to travel in time, who's to say
we could relate with those who receive us?

Perhaps we would not be able to read the expressions
on our own descendants faces for what they mean.

As advanced as we consider ourselves,
we still allow ad copy to pander to us.
The scam exposed, it endures with our permission
as a parallel narrative running beside our lives
where we sit with an unbuttered baked potato
and a warm beer in multiple versions of Akron
leavened with foreclosure, heartburn and rain.

Great-grandfather's hobbies, whether they be botany or magic,
can barely make sense to a boy named Occupant III.

Their genius was to let us criticize them
until it became boring and obvious to do so.

Meanwhile they were up ahead, busily constructing a world
in which boring and obvious criticism
was about the worst thing you could do,
and when we reached them in the time they were waiting
with their multiple Akrons,
always one link ahead in the chain of consent.

Maybe we need to give up on these simplistic
"us vs. them" oppositions that we shouldn't believe in,
but in our anger do.

Perhaps we should be concentrating
on what's going to happen an hour or two from now,

whether the human race will survive into this afternoon,
what kinds of food they will eat at the dinner table

and what tales they'll tell of this morning.

Going There
-- by Jack Gilbert

Of course it was a disaster.
The unbearable, dearest secret
has always been a disaster.
The danger when we try to leave.
Going over and over afterward
what we should have done
instead of what we did.
But for those short times
we seemed to be alive. Misled,
misused, lied to and cheated,
certainly. Still, for that
little while, we visited
our possible life.

trashcan lives
-- by charles bukowski

the wind blows hard tonight
and it's a cold wind
and I think about
the boys on the row.

I hope some of them have a bottle of
it's when you're on the row
that you notice that
is owned
and that there are locks on

this is the way a democracy
you get what you can,
try to keep that
and add to it
if possible.

this is the way a dictatorship
works too
only they either enslave or
destroy their

we just forgot ours.
in either case
it's a hard

December 2, 2011

Excuse me Napoleon
But I gotta know
Why I gotta stand
In a hallway

Tiina Heiska, Hotel, 2005

Last Poem
-- by Ted Berrigan

Before I began life this time
I took a crash course in Counter-Intelligence
Once here I signed in, see name below, and added
Some words remembered from an earlier time,
"The intention of the organism is to survive."
My earliest, & happiest, memories pre-date WWII,
They involve a glass slipper & a helpless blue rose
In a slender blue single-rose vase: Mine
Was a story without a plot. The days of my years
Folded into one another, an easy fit, in which
I made money & spent it, learned to dance & forgot, gave
Blood, regained my poise, & verbalized myself a place
In Society. 101 St. Mark's Place, apt. 12A, NYC 10009
New York. Friends appeared & disappeared, or wigged out,
Or stayed; inspiring strangers sadly died; everyone
I ever knew aged tremendously, except me. I remained
Somewhere between 2 and 9 years old. But frequent
Reification of my own experiences delivered to me
Several new vocabularies, I loved that almost most of all.
I once had the honor of meeting Beckett & I dug him.
The pills kept me going, until now. Love, & work,
Were my great happinesses, that other people die the source
Of my great, terrible, & inarticulate one grief. In my time
I grew tall & huge of frame, obviously possessed
Of a disconnected head, I had a perfect heart. The end
Came quickly & completely without pain, one quiet night as I
Was sitting, writing, next to you in bed, words chosen randomly
From a tired brain, it, like them, suitable, & fitting.
Let none regret my end who called me friend.

A Certain Slant of Sunlight
-- by Ted Berrigan

In Africa the wine is cheap, and it is
on St. Mark's Place too, beneath a white moon.
I'll go there tomorrow, dark bulk hooded
against what is hurled down at me in my no hat
which is weather: the tall pretty girl in the print dress
under the fur collar of her cloth coat will be standing
by the wire fence where the wild flowers grow not too tall
her eyes will be deep brown and her hair styled 1941 American
will be too; but
I'll be shattered by then
But now I'm not and can also picture white clouds
impossibly high in blue sky over small boy heartbroken
to be dressed in black knickers, black coat, white shirt,
buster-brown collar, flowing black bow-tie
her hand lightly fallen on his shoulder, faded sunlight falling
across the picture, mother & son, 33 & 7, First Communion Day, 1941--
I'll go out for a drink with one of my demons tonight
they are dry in Colorado 1980 spring snow.

December 1, 2011

Well I hope that someday buddy
We have peace in our lives
Together or apart
Alone or with our wives
And we can stop our whoring
And pull the smiles inside
And light it up forever
And never go to sleep

Michael Goldberg, Bowery Days 30, 1993

* Watch the PBS documentary on Woody Allen here.

* "If I were reincarnated, I'd want to come back a buzzard. Nothing hates him or envies him or wants him or needs him." -- William Faulkner