July 31, 2012

she said if you're with me
I'll never go away

Elizabeth Bishop, Sleeping Figure

* Brian Cullman on meeting Nick Drake. Excerpt:

It was the second or third time I was at his house. It was late afternoon, there was a soft light coming through the curtains, and we’d been listening to the same album of classical guitar—Julian Bream?—for over an hour, when something by the window stirred and started to rise. I hadn’t noticed anyone there, and it gave me a fright.

“Nick,” John nodded. “This is Brian. Brian, Nick. Everyone present, accounted for?”

The figure came into focus. It rose, and stretched, and where before it had looked like a small child that had folded itself into a ball, now I could see it was someone fairly tall with the physique of a tennis player, all arms and legs and elbows. A curtain of dark and uncombed hair hung around his face, hiding everything but his eyes. It looked like he was stoned. It looked like he was asleep. It looked like he was the most wide-awake person in the history of the world. All of the above. Each time I replay the scene in my mind, it’s different. And each time it’s true. He was wearing a frayed white shirt and jeans and boots and a black corduroy jacket that seemed a size too large. I don’t usually pay much attention to clothes, but my first thought was ... where can I get a black corduroy jacket?

How long had he been there? What was he doing? Meditating? Dreaming? Drifting? Watching?

Over the next few months, I’d have the same experience over and over again, and I never got used to it. I’d be in a room or a restaurant and wouldn’t have a clue that Nick was there until he got up to leave. But, once gone, you’d notice the absence. It filled the air, like a chord that won’t die out, that hangs there, loud, even in fading, especially in fading, that hangs there until the next note is played.

“You heard his record?” John asked, after he’d wandered off. “No? Oh, man, how could you miss it? It’s the best. It’s alive!”

John handed me a well worn copy of Five Leaves Left. I looked at the cover. When he left, a moment ago, he’d been wearing the same clothes he had on in the cover photo. And it looked like he might not have taken them off since then.

When I returned the record a few days later, I couldn’t stop talking about how great it was, how it was something new and strong and pure. That voice! So smooth, so delicate, yet so hard to shake. Once you heard it, you couldn’t get it out of your head. Those strings! The way they wove through the melodies like a Greek chorus, reminding you of the depths below, the darkness, and the night just around the corner; maybe you can’t see it now, but you will, you will! How he’d taken bits of John’s guitar style and brought in some of the Brazilian shadings of João Gilberto, the soft, floating chord changes of Jim Webb, the sweep of Astral Weeks. How he’d invented a genuine British blues form, standing right there on the corner of Ralph Vaughan Williams and Brownie McGhee!

* "Experience is the outcome of work; immediate experience is the phantasmagoria of the idler." -- Walter Benjamin

July 26, 2012

she eats her fingers
like a plastic-tipped cigar

Ella Kruglyanskaya, Sketchy Man, 2012

-- by Erin Beliieu

is not what I was though
you said I was
in an apartment in St. Louis
on a green shag carpet redolent
of the previous renter’s cat.
Above all things I am accurate.

So what to say of the sunlight?

In the 21st century, there’s nothing
to say about sunlight which lasted
as long as it takes to have sex, and

made us feel as warm as humans get,
perfectly human, perfectly warm,
though, sadly, you don’t remember this.

Though, sadly, I remember this, and
it still makes me angry— which is another word for sad
as well as a synonym for nothing.
Though if anything is,

your sadness is perfect,
your human disappointment,
which you’ve raised like a baby
in a black Baby Bjorn,

coaxing it into the best sadness
anything warm could hope for.
Your sadness gets a perfect score,
a 1600 on the GRE,

but if I had a gun,
I’d shoot your sadness through
the knee. Then the head.
Or if I were a goddess,

I’d turn you to a tree with silver leaves
or a flower with a center as yellow as sunlight,
like they used to do when saving
the beautiful from themselves.

-- by Jane Cooper

If you want my apartment, sleep in it
but let's have a clear understanding:
the books are still free agents.

If the rocking chair's arms surround you
they can also let you go,
they can shape the air like a body.

I don't want your rent. I want
a radiance of attention
like the candles's flame when we eat,

I mean a kind of awe
attending the spaces between us --
Not a roof but a field of stars.

-- by Leonard Nathan

Through an open window of late summer evening
a woman cries, Ah-ah-AH!

Neighbors pause, blush perhaps, then go on
with their homely chores, smiling to themselves.

What do you do with this—another’s shameless,
lonely ecstasy? Or your own? I put

a tape of Mozart on to cover our confusion.

July 23, 2012

I see you gracefully swimming with the country club women

Hilo Chen, Day at the Beach, 2011

* From Harper's August 2012:

-- Percentage increase in average annual federal spending during the Obama Administration: 2.4

-- Rank of that rate of increase among the lowest under any president since Truman: 1

-- Factor by which the number of American babies born addicted to opiates has increased since 2000: 3

-- Rank of the United States among the world's largest exporters of human sperm: 1

-- Number of private U.S. citizens killed in terrorist attacks in 2010: 15

-- Number killed by falling televisions: 16

* "I'm into sound, not fi." -- from this video/interview with R. Stevie Moore

* "We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge." - John Naisbitt

July 20, 2012

I've been in love, seen Jesus Christ
It don't mean shit to me

Christine Hayman, Closer to Green, 2006

-- Klipschutz

A comeback for Anthony Weiner?
That could be a poem, or not,
but any headline could.
Woody Guthrie used to read the morning papers,
write out by hand the titles for ten songs,
then sit at the machine and type them all
and find a tune in memory for each.
Woody left us songs they’ll sing
on other planets in a thousand years.

Bastille Day
-- Ron Padgett

The first time I saw Paris
I went to see where the Bastille
had been, and though
I saw the column there
I was too aware that
the Bastille was not there:
I did not know how
to see the emptiness.
People go to see
the missing Twin Towers
and seem to like feeling
the lack of something.
I do not like knowing
that my mother no longer
exists, or the feeling
of knowing. Excuse me
for comparing my mother
to large buildings. Also
for talking about absence.
The red and gray sky
above the rooftops
is darkening and the inhabitants
are hastening home for dinner.
I hope to see you later.

Right Beside the Morning Coffee
-- Richard Brautigan

If I write this down, I
will have it in the morning.
The question is: Do I want
to start the day off with

July 13, 2012

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

Albrecht Schnider, Untitled (Red Orbit), 2012

Openin’ Night
-- by Shel Silverstein

She had the jitters
She had the flu
She showed up late
She missed her cue
She kicked the director
She screamed at the crew
And tripped on a prop
And fell in some goo
And ripped her costume
A place or two
Then she forgot
A line she knew
And went “Meow”
Instead of “Moo”
She heard ‘em giggle
She heard ‘em boo
The programs sailed
The popcorn flew
As she stomped offstage
With a boo-hoo-hoo
The fringe of the curtain
Got caught in her shoe
The set crashed down
The lights did too
Maybe that’s why she didn’t want to do
An interview.

“Any fool can get into an ocean . . .”
-- by Jack Spicer

Any fool can get into an ocean
But it takes a Goddess
To get out of one.
What’s true of oceans is true, of course,
Of labyrinths and poems. When you start swimming
Through riptide of rhythms and the metaphor’s seaweed
You need to be a good swimmer or a born Goddess
To get back out of them
Look at the sea otters bobbing wildly
Out in the middle of the poem
They look so eager and peaceful playing out there where the
water hardly moves
You might get out through all the waves and rocks
Into the middle of the poem to touch them
But when you’ve tried the blessed water long
Enough to want to start backward
That’s when the fun starts
Unless you’re a poet or an otter or something supernatural
You’ll drown, dear. You’ll drown
Any Greek can get you into a labyrinth
But it takes a hero to get out of one
What’s true of labyrinths is true of course
Of love and memory. When you start remembering.

When I am Gone
-- by Shel Silverstein

When I am gone what will you do?
Who will write and draw for you?
Someone smarter—someone new?
Someone better—maybe YOU!

July 3, 2012

Used-to-be's don't count anymore
they just lay on the floor
till you sweep them away

Amy Bessone, Portrait, 2011–12,

Three by Klipschutz:

Tom Cruise Proposes to Katie Holmes
at the Eiffel Tower

This is no publicity stunt, Jack,
they’ve been up all night celebrating.

Or some kind of Scientology-brokered deal, Shaquille,
they’re walking on air in the City of Love.

It’s no promo to remind us he’s no homo, Schlomo—
how many aisles must a man walk down?

She grew up with a poster of him, Jim,
on her bedroom wall and look, look at them now,

conducting press conferences together, Heather,
denying, mooning, sighing, making eyes.

That’s a massive diamond ring on her finger, Ringo,
it sparkles and it shines like the sun.

“I wish them the happiest marriage anyone has ever had,” Chad,
said Dakota Fanning, the child actress who co-stars

in War of the Worlds along with Tom, Yusuf Islam,
and sat next to Holmes at the news conference,

repeats the toothsome live announcer, Counselor,
broadcasting the good news to a world at war.

Settled Scores

I like to think of Madonna throwing a fit once she realizes someone is talking about the Mother of God instead of her. Objects get thrown, historic artifacts; staff is cashiered, get out, get out, get out. And when it sinks in even further that after she’s gone, the Mother of the Son of God will still be here, in people’s thoughts, and the name they will be saying may be hers but they won’t be aware of her at all, they’ll be appealing to the Mother of their Lord, not the power parent of Lourdes, Rocco and David – when she faces this, her rage will know no bounds. She’ll pick up the phone and demand that her daughter get a full scholarship to the Sorbonne. And make another call to see how much it would cost to buy the Sistine Chapel. One more, to place a bid on the Sorbonne. This will not end well for the Mother of God or the Sorbonne. It ends for me, though, when my daydream cuts to commerical. I piss away my time like so, setting this and that from wrong to right.

And now, for Bono. . .

The Gavel

I’m fond of my brother-in-law John, but feel compelled to reiterate (and not just because I love the word), again, semi-publicly this time – even as I thank Daniela and John in advance for hosting us in style over Independence Day – that David Sedaris, whatever he is, is not a great American writer.