January 30, 2012

I appreciate the best
but I'll settle like the rest

Joel Sternfeld, New Jersey, 1980

* From Harper's February 2012:

-- Number of members of Congress among the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans by net worth: 57

-- Cost of a pack of cigarettes delivered to a gravesite at a Vietnam cemetery through an online ancestor-worship service: 71 cents

-- Average number of U.S. veterans who commit suicide each day: 18

-- Number of states in which adultery is a criminal offense: 22

* Love this skit: High School Chess Coach.

* "I quit my job just to quit. I didn't quit my job to write fiction. I just didn't want to work anymore." -- Don DeLillo

January 24, 2012

we will have a comic and we'll laugh all day
we will have a bottle and we'll drink all day
we will have a checkbook and we'll buy all day
we will have a combo and we'll dance all day
we will have exhaustion and we'll sleep all day

Nora Sturges, Greenhouse, 2011

-- by Richard Jones

It's so late I could cut my lights
and drive the next fifty miles
of empty interstate
by starlight,
flying along in a dream,
countryside alive with shapes and shadows,
but exit ramps lined
with eighteen wheelers
and truckers sleeping in their cabs
make me consider pulling into a rest stop
and closing my eyes. I've done it before,
parking next to a family sleeping in a Chevy,
mom and dad up front, three kids in the back,
the windows slightly misted by the sleepers' breath.
But instead of resting, I'd smoke a cigarette,
play the radio low, and keep watch over
the wayfarers in the car next to me,
a strange paternal concern
and compassion for their well being
rising up inside me.
This was before
I had children of my own,
and had felt the sharp edge of love
and anxiety whenever I tiptoed
into darkened rooms of sleep
to study the small, peaceful faces
of my beloved darlings. Now,
the fatherly feelings are so strong
the snoring truckers are lucky
I'm not standing on the running board,
tapping on the window,
asking, Is everything okay?
But it is. Everything's fine.
The trucks are all together, sleeping
on the gravel shoulders of exit ramps,
and the crowded rest stop I'm driving by
is a perfect oasis in the moonlight.
The way I see it, I've got a second wind
and on the radio an all-night country station.
Nothing for me to do on this road
but drive and give thanks:
I'll be home by dawn.

-- by Anne Sexton

Be careful of words,
even the miraculous ones.
For the miraculous ones we do our best,
sometimes they swarm like insects
and leave not a sting but a kiss.
They can be good as fingers.
They can be trusty as the rock
you stick your bottom on.
But they can be both daisies and bruises.

Yet I am in love with words.
They are doves falling out of the ceiling.
They are six holy oranges sitting in my lap.
They are the trees, the legs of summer,
and the sun, its passionate face.

Yet often they fail me.
I have so much I want to say,
so many stories, images, proverbs, etc.
But the words aren’t good enough,
the wrong ones kiss me.
Sometimes I fly like an eagle
but with the wings of a wren.

But I try to take care
and be gentle to them.
Words and eggs must be handled with care.
Once broken they are impossible
things to repair.

January 17, 2012

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee
Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee
You know you got me dancing
I'm the champion of the ring

Harry Benson, Miami, 1964

Happy Birthday to The Greatest of All Time.

January 13, 2012

in the middle of the bottle
is a little of the way you talk

Laurence Pignarre Wyllie, Transmission

The Manger of Incidentals
-- by Jack Gilbert

We are surrounded by the absurd excess of the universe.
By meaningless bulk, vastness without size,
power without consequence. The stubborn iteration
that is present without being felt.
Nothing the spirit can marry. Merely phenomenon
and its physics. An endless, endless of going on.
No habitat where the brain can recognize itself.
No pertinence for the heart. Helpless duplication.
The horror of none of it being alive.
No red squirrels, no flowers, not even weed.
Nothing that knows what season it is.
The stars uninflected by awareness.
Miming without implication. We alone see the iris
in front of the cabin reach its perfection
and quickly perish. The lamb is born into happiness
and is eaten for Easter. We are blessed
with powerful love and it goes away. We can mourn.
We live the strangeness of being momentary,
and still we are exalted by being temporary.
The grand Italy of meanwhile. It is the fact of being brief,
being small and slight that is the source of our beauty.
We are a singularity that makes music out of noise
because we must hurry. We make a harvest of loneliness
and desiring in the blank wasteland of the cosmos.

What a Pity, What a Shame
-- by Paul Beatty

went to hear marion williams
sing the gospel yesterday

she was singin so hard

I almost slipped up
and let jesus into my heart

January 11, 2012

where will you spend eternity

Saul Leiter, Snow, 1960

All Kinds of Caresses
-- John Asbery

The code-name losses and compensations
Float in and around us through the window.
It helps to know what direction the body comes from.
It isn't absolutely clear. In words
Bitter as a field of mustard we
Copy certain parts, then decline them.
These are not only gestures: they imply
Complex relations with one another. Sometimes one
Stays on for a while, a trace of lamp black
In a room full of gray furniture.

I now know all there is to know
About my body. I know too the direction
My feet are pointed in. For the time being
It is enough to suspend judgement, by which I don't mean
Forever, since judgement is also a storm, i.e., from
Somewhere else, sinking pleasure craft at moorings,
Looking, kicking in the sky.

Try to move with these hard blues,
These harsh yellows, these hands and feet.
Our gestures have taken us farther into the day
Than tomorrow will understand.

They live us. And we understand them when they sing,
Long after the perfume has worn off.
In the night the eye chisels a new phantom.

Thing Language
-- by Jack Spicer

This ocean, humiliating in its disguises
Tougher than anything.
No one listens to poetry. The ocean
Does not mean to be listened to. A drop
Or crash of water. It means
Is bread and butter
Pepper and salt. The death
That young men hope for. Aimlessly
It pounds the shore. White and aimless signals. No
One listens to poetry.

-- by Ron Padgett

It's not that hard to climb up
on a cross and have nails driven
into your hands and feet.
Of course it would hurt, but
if your mind were strong enough
you wouldn't notice. You
would notice how much farther
you can see up here, how
there's even a breeze
that cools your leaking blood.
The hills with olive groves fold in
to other hills with roads and huts,
flocks of sheep on a distant rise

January 9, 2012

Hiding in a parking lot and
Watching all the people fall to pieces

Darren Almond, Today, 2000

* A long conversation with Ed Sanders, whose memoir, Fug You, was recently published. Excerpt:

Ed: It was a very intense set of years. Of course, you get into your 70s, I’m 72, and you realize that you don’t have the energy to stay up three straight nights, party, publish, drink, smoke pot, forget about sleep ...

Alan: You mentioned that you knew you had entered the Beat inner circle when several things happened. Among these is that you were propositioned by Allen Ginsberg [respectfully unrequited] and were conned out of some money by Herbert Huncke, who was sort of the quintessential Beat, having provided that word to Kerouac, “beat”.

Ed: Yes to both of those.

Alan: But you were also given a rather harrowing ride by Mr. Neal Cassady, weren’t you?

Ed: Oh yeah ... he took Peter Orlovsky and I down to La Honda to Ken Kesey’s place --

Alan: Cassady always ends up behind the wheel! It’s just amazing …

Ed: Yeah, we had a Volkswagen bus that we, meaning the Fugs, were traveling around in, all five of us. Neal had stopped by my bookstore in September, just before the band went West on tour. He pulled up at the curb in front of Peace Eye Bookstore in a small Studebaker that only had a second gear.

Alan: What had he done to that poor car!

Ed: [laughing] I had a friend who had some amphetamine and Cassady traded the Studebaker for an ounce of amphetamine. Anyway, a couple months later, we were in San Francisco and Neal was there. He said he’d drive us down to Kesey’s commune in La Honda. Oi, oi! He was pretending he was like Sterling Moss, going into a power slides around hairpin turns along the coast.

Alan: Were you on Pacific Coast Highway, going through Big Sur?

Ed: Yes.

Alan: Holy shit.

Ed: Yeah ... hairpin turns on the outside lane ... no guardrails ... whew ... but you know Neal was a good driver and he got us there safely.

Alan: People tend to think that the Beat Generation just sort of petered out and was replaced, or subsumed, by the hippie generation. Which really wasn’t true, especially in New York. It seemed that all the same people simply walked forward into the hippie scene, Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Gregory Corso, William Burroughts, etc., They were all there, just another wave of fashion … the best part is that the Beat sensibility brought an active rather than passive sensibility, or infusion, to the hippies.

Ed: They brought some good writing, too. Hippies could be pretty vaporous in their literature. You know, I figure it must have been around February 1967 that we began to see the changeover. Instead of someone sneering at you and calling you “a dirty Beatnik,” they were now calling you “a dirty hippie.” I remember when Allen Ginsberg came over to our house on Avenue A around this time and said, “Now I guess we’re going to have to be hippies.” Miriam wasn’t even sure what he was talking about.

It was a mysterious switch over. It went from tire-soled sandals to Merlin curved-toe shoes and gowns, and men wearing necklaces, which was a big deal for a man. Suddenly you have to wear a necklace, toe ring or go barefoot in the street, and burn incense. It was pretty strange. But the Beats ultimately prevailed. There are still conferences on the Beat Generation where young people come dressed all in black. It’s very interesting.''

* Tidbits:

-- The revolver with which van Gogh shot himself had been borrowed. Van Gogh claimed he wished to fire at crows that were annoying him as he painted.

-- Jackson Pollock once casually urinated into the fireplace during a cocktail party at Peggy Guggenheim's Manhattan townhouse

-- Benny Goodman once cancelled an engagement at the Hotel New Yorker on the very day it was scheduled to start -- when he was informed that all black musicians connected with his band would have to come and go through the hotel kitchen.

* "Baseball is what we were, football is what we have become." -- Mary McGrory