February 29, 2012

the people will survive in their environment

Larry Sultan, Mom against wall Dad watching tv, 1984

Poem for the Working Man and the Upper Mobile Yuppie
-- by A.D. Winans

Some people guard their lives
Like a eunuch guards
The Harem door
Like a stock broker with
A hot tip
Like a banker who knows
That today's dollar will only
Be worth one-fourth what
It is today
In less time than it takes
To die
Better to linger over
A cup of coffee
Like a skilled lover with
No need for bragging rights
Remember that every newsman
On every street corner in America
That every meat packer and fisherman
Knows more about life than
Your average poet
The blind man rattling
An empty tin cup
Makes more noise than
A yuppie gunning
On his way
to the graveyard

-- by Klipschutz

I want all the women
all the money
all the fun

I want every rainbow
all the marbles
and a personalized introduction to God

I want a death list
transparent skin
and a cat with no fur

I want everything
I have nothing
I will negotiate

Cafe Ennui
--by Sharon Mesmer

Are we the result of some bizarre narration
of the pleasure principle?
Are we versions of desire, but not desire itself?
Do you often find yourself awash in these vague ideas?
Then nip it in a budding grove.
You should be able by now to discern the good from the stupid.
If not, what you really need is vodka. Vodka. Polish vodka,
& the 99 sacred and profane versions of "louie, louie."
As for me, what I don't understand I will loathe,
and what I loathe I will fuck.

February 26, 2012

deep in the back of my mind is an unrealized sound

Lari Pittman

Artistic Selfishness
-- by Charles Bukowski

what's genius?
I don't know
but I do know that
the difference between a madman and a
professional is that
a pro does as well as he can within what
he has set out to do
and a madman
does exceptionally well at what
he can't help

now I am looking
into this unshaded lightbulb
at 11:37 p.m. on a Monday night
tiny names
Van Gogh


At Last, Fire Seen As a Psychotic Break
-- by Sarah Hannah

It begins in the crux of beam and insulation,
Behind the sepia portraits of ancestors
On the bedroom wall. A wire burns through
Its cloth sleeve, overwhelmed
By demands of modern current.

It splits into two antennae,
Two probes in close space.
A spark shoots and sows in a post,
Then it starts to race—
Hungry, reckless,

Through the dry skeleton of the house.
Go to the wall. Can you see it?
Every episode is different.
Will it burn a seam or hole
To reach the open air?

You have to evacuate the family, but no one
Wants to go. And when they are dead,
And you are contemplating
The sticks, the wheezing ashes,
The iron pots melted to pools on the lawn,

The authorities will say it was structural.
Now that you think of it,
There were warning signs, gestures:
A flaming toaster,
A persistent aggressiveness.

On the littered ground in hindsight
You devise solutions.
What if you’d paid it more attention,
Sworn off sleep, made tea—
Could you have quelled it?

What if you’d stood nightly by the wall,
Felt around for the heat,
Drawn a cold, wet cloth across the surface,
And, speaking soft words,
Held it?

February 23, 2012

sometimes I find it really hard to choose
between a pair of black and a pair of brown shoes

Evan Lane, Wild Cotton, 2011

* What a Life: John Fairfax, Adventurer (1937 - 2012). excerpt:

In 1969, after six months alone on the Atlantic battling storms, sharks and encroaching madness, John Fairfax, who died this month at 74, became the first lone oarsman in recorded history to traverse any ocean.

In 1972, he and his girlfriend, Sylvia Cook, sharing a boat, became the first people to row across the Pacific, a yearlong ordeal during which their craft was thought lost. (The couple survived the voyage, and so, for quite some time, did their romance.)
For all its bravura, Mr. Fairfax’s seafaring almost pales beside his earlier ventures. Footloose and handsome, he was a flesh-and-blood character out of Graham Greene, with more than a dash of Hemingway and Ian Fleming shaken in.

At 9, he settled a dispute with a pistol. At 13, he lit out for the Amazon jungle.

At 20, he attempted suicide-by-jaguar. Afterward he was apprenticed to a pirate. To please his mother, who did not take kindly to his being a pirate, he briefly managed a mink farm, one of the few truly dull entries on his otherwise crackling résumé, which lately included a career as a professional gambler.

Mr. Fairfax was among the last avatars of a centuries-old figure: the lone-wolf explorer, whose exploits are conceived to satisfy few but himself. His was a solitary, contemplative art that has been all but lost amid the contrived derring-do of adventure-based reality television.

* RIP Barney Rosset.

* "Computers are useless. They can only give you answers." -- Pablo Picasso

February 22, 2012

we get no second chance in this life

Joseph O. Holmes, NYC, 2012

Ernesto Cardenal and I
-- by Roberto Bolano

I was out walking, sweaty and with hair plastered
to my face
when I saw Ernesto Cardenal approaching
from the opposite direction
and by way of greeting I said:
Father, in the Kingdom of Heaven
that is communism,
is there a place for homosexuals?
Yes, he said.
And for impenitent masturbators?
For sex slaves?
For sex fools?
For sadomasochists, for whores, for those obsessed
with enemas,
for those who can't take it anymore, those who really truly
can't take it anymore?
And Cardenal said yes.
And I raised my eyes
and the clouds looked like
the pale pink smiles of cats
and the trees cross-stitched on the hill
(the hill we've got to climb)
shook their branches.
Savage trees, as if saying
some day, sooner rather than later, you'll have to come
into my rubbery arms, into my scraggly arms,
into my cold arms. A botanical frigidity
that'll stand your hair on end.

i take back everything i’ve said
-- by nicanor parra (trans. Mitchell Williams)

before i go
i’m supposed to get a last wish:
generous reader
burn this book
it’s not at all what i wanted to say
in spite of the fact that it was written with blood
it’s not what i wanted to say

no lot could be sadder than mine
i was defeated by my own shadow:
the words take vengeance against me

forgive me, reader, good reader
if i cannot leave you
with a faithful gesture. i leave you
with a forced & sad smile
maybe that’s all i am

but listen to my last word:
i take back everything i’ve said
with the greatest bitterness in the world
i take back everything i’ve said

February 21, 2012

we stayed up all night taking truth serum

Joseph O. Holmes, Long Meadow #2. 2010

* From Harper's March 2012:

-- Cost of a 50-square-foot storage unit in the basement of the One57 building on West 57th Street in Manhattan: $200,000.

-- Median sale price of a single-family U.S. home sold last year: $166,000

-- Amount Miami's Miller School of Medicine pays female "professional patients" for each student pelvic or breast exam: $40

-- Amount it pays males for each genital or rectal exam: $30

-- Chance that an employed American works in the service industry: 6 in 7

-- Chance that a U.K. diaper-changing table carries trace amounts of cocaine, according to a 2011 Guardian Media study: 9 in 10

* We Jam Econo, The Minutemen story, is on YouTube.

* “The sight of books removes sorrow from the heart.” -- Moroccan proverb

February 17, 2012

don't know what the fuck they talk about
maybe blowin' kisses

Joseph O. Holmes, lcd2800

Wild Geese
-- by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Throwing Away the Alarm Clock
-- by Charles Bukowski

my father always said, "early to bed and
early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy
and wise."

it was lights out at 8 p.m. in our house
and we were up at dawn to the smell of
coffee, frying bacon and scrambled

my father followed this general routine
for a lifetime and died young, broke,
and, I think, not too

taking note, I rejected his advice and it
became, for me, late to bed and late
to rise.

now, I'm not saying that I've conquered
the world but I've avoided
numberless early traffic jams, bypassed some
common pitfalls
and have met some strange, wonderful

one of whom
myself—someone my father

February 15, 2012

the new faces of the holy vagabonds

Jerry Schatzberg, Frank Zappa, 1967

Buddhist Barbie
-- by Denise Duhamel

In the 5th century B.C.
an Indian philosopher
Gautama teaches "All is emptiness"
and "There is no self."
In the 20th century A.D.
Barbie agrees, but wonders how a man
with such a belly could pose,
smiling, and without a shirt.

Heaven is a Truck
-- by anselm berrigan (1998)

All in all holds out
For pressure to shriek
Climbing songs, & so what
If the pedestal be false
It's a life, so far.
From one surface to another;
And the colors point, they don't
Point anywhere, to be honest

capitalist poem #5
-- by campbell mcgrath

I was at the 7-11.
I ate a burrito.
I drank a Slurpee.
I was tired.
It was late, after work washing dishes.
The burrito was good.
I had another.

I did it every day for a week.
I did it every day for a month.

To cook a burrito you tear off the plastic wrapper.
You push button #3 on the microwave.
Burritos are large, small, or medium.
Red or green chili peppers.
Beef or bean or both.
There are 7-11's all across the nation.

On the way out I bought a quart of beer for $1.39.
I was aware of social injustice
In only the vaguest possible way.

February 12, 2012

i decided long ago
never to walk in anyone's shadow.
if i fail, if i succeed,
at least i live as i believe

Martin Klimas, Kraftwerk, “Transistor,” 2011

-- "Like a 3-D take on Jackson Pollock, the latest work by the artist Martin Klimas begins with splatters of paint in fuchsia, teal and lime green, positioned on a scrim over the diaphragm of a speaker. Then the volume is turned up. For each image, Klimas selects music — typically something dynamic and percussive, like Karlheinz Stockhausen, Miles Davis or Kraftwerk — and the vibration of the speaker sends the paint aloft in patterns that reveal themselves through the lens of his Hasselblad. Klimas rose to prominence in the art world four years ago for a series of photos that captured porcelain figurines just as they shattered." To see other pictures from the speaker series, click here.

* Brett Eason Ellis re: Whitney Houston's death: "Yes, somewhere tonight Patrick Bateman is weeping, shocked but not surprised, and ordering three hookers instead of two..."

* "Make voyages. Attempt them. That's all there is." -- Tennessee Williams

February 8, 2012

Every single game was a blowout
And the NASCAR blurred into porn
Scenic this, scenic that, don't fall for the traps
of the man who was never born

Cara Ober, Are You Honest..., 2009

-- by William Matthews

"Perhaps you'll tire of me," muses
my love, although she's like a great city
to me, or a park that finds new
ways to wear each flounce of light
and investiture of weather.
Soil doesn't tire of rain, I think,

but I know what she fears: plans warp,
planes explode, topsoil gets peeled away
by floods. And worse than what we can't
control is what we could; those drab,
scuttled marriages we shed so
gratefully may augur we're on our owns

for good reasons. "Hi, honey," chirps Dread
when I come through the door, "you're home."
Experience is a great teacher
of the value of experience,
its claustrophobic prudence,
its gloomy name-the-disasters-

in-advance charisma. Listen,
my wary one, it's far too late
to unlove each other. Instead let's cook
something elaborate and not
invite anyone to share it but eat it
all up very very slowly.

Within Shouting Distance of the Coosa
-- by R.T. Smith

Once in Alabama when I was young
and given to aimless ambling,
I followed a red road between pines
where even at midday the cicadas
were complaining, and with nothing
on my mind and expecting nothing
I was about to pause for water
when the road's weedy roughness
opened to a clearing where boards
wounded by years of weather
formed a modest church, the peak
of its steeple gone and door scotched
open. The wind was scattering pollen,
and somewhere off in the needles
a mockingbird thought it was evening
and half-heartedly sang. Do I need
to say I forced the door and found
everything rain-soaked and broken,
the pews only planks whose cinder
blocks had fallen or were, as I've said,
ruined? But I heard a hum or what
I thought could be a hymn rising
from behind the altar and squinted
to see the worker bees dance and circle
where they'd swarmed. Young
as I was, I understood "not one step
closer, do not disturb," so backed
away, because I knew they believed
their honey holy and would not
suffer it to be troubled without
rushing to beset me, and besides I'd
already been touched by the Word
and held under down at the river
till I heard God's gold voice shining,
insects swarming the choir's serenade,
bee sound the very sound He made.

February 7, 2012

Someone's selling all your heroes
And it seems such a shame

Sanja Iveković, Paper Women, 1976–77

* From an interview of James Ellroy:


You were away from Los Angeles for twenty-five years. Why’d you come back?


One reason: Cherchez la femme. I chased women to suburban New York, suburban Connecticut, Kansas City, Carmel, and San Francisco. But I ran out of places, and I ran out of women, so I ended up back here.


Did you miss the city?


While I was away, the Los Angeles of my past accreted in my mind, developing its own power. Early on in my career I believed that in order to write about LA, I had to stay out of it entirely. But when I moved back, I realized that LA then lives in my blood. LA now does not.


What’s wrong with LA now?


I fear the sloth, the disorder, and the moral depravity. It makes me want to hole up in my pad for days on end.


And what about the LA of the fifties has a hold on you?


A lot of it is simple biography. I lived here, so I was obsessed with my immediate environment. I am from Los Angeles truly, immutably. It’s the first thing you get in any author’s note: James Ellroy was born in Los Angeles in 1948. I was hatched in the film-noir epicenter, at the height of the film-noir era. My parents and I lived near Hollywood. My father and mother had a tenuous connection to the film business. They were both uncommonly good-looking, which may be a hallmark of LA arrivistes, and they were of that generation of migrants who came because they were very poor and LA was a beautiful place.

I grew up in a different world, a different America. You didn’t have to make a lot of dough to keep a roof over your head. There was a calmness that I recall too. I learned to amuse myself. I liked to read. I liked to look out the window.

It’s rare for me to speak about LA epigrammatically. I don’t view it as a strange place, I don’t view it as a hot-pot of multiculturalism or weird sexuality. I have never studied it formally. There are big swathes of LA that I don’t even know my way around today. I’m not quite sure how you get to Torrance, Hermosa Beach, Long Beach. I don’t know LA on a valid historical level at all. But I have assimilated it in a deeper way. I had lived here for so long that when it became time to exploit my memory of the distant past, it was easy.

Whatever power my books have derives from the fact that they are utterly steeped in the eras that I describe. LA of that period is mine and nobody else’s. If you wrote about this period before me, I have taken it away from you.

* John Tranter: Why is Modern Poetry So Difficult.

* "Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed." -- Herman Melville

February 2, 2012

I work in a saloon, pulling shit pints for shit wages.
It's a busy night tonight.
And the bar is full of all the girls I've ever shagged,
or tampered with, or kissed, or even just fancied.
A pub full of conquests, knockbacks

Gordon Ball, Ginsberg, Whalen and Burroughs, Boulder, 1976

* Malkmus, Lacrosse player.

* Celebrity Letterhead

* "The ideal reader of my novels is a lapsed Catholic and failed musician, short-sighted, color-blind, auditorily biased, who has read the books that I have read. He should also be about my age.” -- Anthony Burgess

February 1, 2012

We made mad love
shadow love
random love
and abandoned love

Christodoulos Panayiotou, Never Land (detail), 2008

No Home-Wrecker
-- Denise Duhamel

When I was twenty, I kissed a man
much older than I was. My drunk hand found
a strange indent and lump of flesh
on the back of his waist, an extra little potbelly.
I quickly moved my fingers away and grabbed
onto his shoulder instead. After the kiss,
the man immediately told me he was married. For years
my memory had it that I slapped him and left the party,
a friend's cramped Beacon Hill apartment.
But now I think what happened
is that he began to cry, just slightly, so that at first
I thought his wet eyes had something to do with an allergy.
Then he said he really loved his wife and needed
air. We took baby steps, holding hands,
through the slippery cobblestone streets,
snow settling on my eyelashes, in his beard.
We slipped into a diner where our coats and scarves
dripped puddles onto the floor.
He told me a long story about married life--
her chemotherapy, how he'd just lost his job.
I sobered up and looked at my plate of pale scrambled eggs,
what I imagined cancer looked like,
what I imagined fat looked like under the skin.
I poked my fork around, curious
to see that spare tire, that love handle of his.
He kept blowing his nose, his cheeks fat and pink
like the soles of a newborn's feet.
The rest of him looked lean in his wooly sweater,
then he seemed to shrink even smaller
as he put back on his oversized overcoat to walk me home.
I felt rejected when he left me at my door
and disappeared into a flurry, thanking me for listening.
The story I told my friends who were at the party
was that OK, he was kind of cute, but I was
no home-wrecker. The story I told myself
was that I'd have never done anything like that--
his wife had cancer for god's sake.
Now that I look back, the man was probably only
in his late thirties, about the age I am now.
He had no money so I wound up covering our diner check,
emptying the last of my change on the table for too small a tip.

Seen You Around
-- by Hal Sirowitz

Each time I've come to this bar,
she said, I've seen you here.
You look like you come here often.
You must be having trouble finding
a steady girlfriend. I hope you
don't think I'm being critical.
I can't find a partner either.
I go to different bars, so it isn't as obvious.

-- by Jack Micheline

I chose the whippoorwill
The imaginary throne of ego madness of fantasy land
I chose the herringbone
I chose the waitress at Tina's
I chose chasing pussy over a bank account
I chose poetry over standing in line at the opera
I chose art just to kick the dark devil in the ass forever
I chose pain and torture because I'm a masochist
I chose alcohol and cigarettes over 9 grain cereal
Sublime destiny over mediocrity
Like Darwin I chose the monkey over man
I chose the harmonica over the harpsichord
I chose Superwoman over Betty Grable
I chose the safety of failure over the Winner's Circle