Saturday, January 30, 2010
Friday, January 29, 2010
Next to the boulevard heading north,
The palm trees bend their long necks east:
Thataway, they seem to say, Go on. Get going.
To all the people who came to the party,
The ceaseless wind howled like a beast.
The trees bear that story. No one read.
The poem—no one read the poem.
I’m taking Frondsy’s advice and heading
To Philly. The whole continent’s tipped!
(And I might be a little drunk.)
Thursday, January 28, 2010
When I was at Elkton Hills, I roomed for about two months with this boy, Harris Macklin. He was very intelligent and all, but he was one of the biggest bores I ever met. He had one of these very raspy voices, and he never stopped talking, practically. He never stopped talking, and what was awful was, he never said anything you wanted to hear in the first place. But he could do one thing. The sonuvabitch could whistle better than anybody I ever heard. He'd be making his bed, or hanging up stuff in the closet--he was always hanging up stuff in the closet--it drove me crazy--and he'd be whistling while he did it, if he wasn't talking in this raspy voice. He could even whistle classical stuff, but most of the time he just whistled jazz. He could take something very jazzy, like "Tin Roof Blues," and whistle it so nice and easy--right while he was hanging stuff up in the closet--that it could kill you. Naturally, I never told him I though he was a terrific whistler. I mean you don't just go up to somebody and say, "You're a terrific whistler." But I roomed with him for about two whole months, even though he bored me till I was half crazy, just because he was such a terrific whistler, the best I ever heard. So I don't know about bores. Maybe you shouldn't feel too sorry if you see some swell girl getting married to them. They don't hurt anybody, most of them, and maybe they're secretly all terrific whistlers or something. Who the hell knows? Not me.
As time, or whatever, has moved
In its unidirectional way, custom’s
Elided the thee from farewell.
Yet goodbye of this kind—like the
Goodbye of goodbye—still implies
Intimacy, the ghosted thee akin
To tú when used instead of usted—
I know you and want you to fare well,
Friend—while good contains within it
God. So each parting is blessing.
We don’t know what we are doing.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
If to a hammer everything’s a nail,
Then to a nail everything’s unfixed.
To the unfixed the world is storybook,
And to a storybook, love is to be read.
To be read is to be fixed, to be nailed,
To be hammered to wall or post or pike,
The sign beneath the skull roosted
At its top, which has one message
For all who can read it: Be ye warned.
Be ye warned: The eye takes in the news
And then the mouth starts to repeat it.
109 min. | Dir. Hal Ashby | Rated RLooking like The Strokes ca. 2002, Warren Beatty plays George Roundy, a hairdresser who, as his name announces, gets around. The film begins and ends with him caught in flagrante delicto, and in between he juggles girlfriends and lovers while the 1968 presidential election unfolds in the background. The implied critique—that the sexual obsession borne of (and born in) the ‘60s instead of liberating us brought on our political impotence—remains relevant, particularly as it reveals that our interests are never “for the people” but for the person, enacted here in George’s desire to get off and get financing for his business, which amount to the same thing. The director, Hal Ashby, was on a hot streak with Harold and Maude and The Last Detail. Here, by assembling a cast that includes Lee Grant, Carrie Fisher, Goldie Hawn, and Julie Christie, he blunts, somewhat, the movie’s satiric bite. Watching all these beautiful people pursue each other makes you think that whatever evil befalls the country or the world doesn’t matter so long as you look good. After all, you’re worth it. (At the Bay Theatre in Seal Beach.)
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Glass fireplace doors are framed in a brass
Casing, in turn framed by thin, red bricks,
Framed further by white-painted moulding—
Three near-squares, nesting. The fireplace
Is not used. The chimney may not be sound,
The landlord told us when we moved in
Five years ago. Outside, where the chimney
Narrows from its base into a thick column
Rising up, some brick has broken free, and
The mortar beneath shows out, like a gash
In a man’s shoulder showing bone or a bite
Out of a candy bar left on the curb and part
Of its inner filling dully gleaming. I don’t
Know and does it matter? Beyond the glass,
The black bricks within are cool. Cobwebs
Tremble. Wind comes from somewhere—
The difference between ocean temperatures
And land temperatures, so I’ve read. So I read.
Friday, January 22, 2010
Surfers will say when the water’s too rough from wind
To surf that it’s victory-at-sea out there,
There meaning the ocean, Victory at Sea
A television show about U.S.
Naval warfare in World War II, which
Was syndicated and shown here afternoons
In the ‘80s, though made thirty years before.
A big, white V, superimposed upon the screen,
Above the name of the show, shadowed and in script,
Fronted a wind-whipped sea. That shot, those words
Precipitated the phrase’s move into the speech
Of those who would use it when conditions suggest
Its use—I’m sure of it. Who was the first?
I haven’t done the research to know, but I
Saw the show, the end of the show, each day
Waiting for it to end so Looney Tunes
Could start, me eating Lays and drinking Coke.
I was a short freshman, putting on weight,
Not playing sports, not doing anything
But going to school, and eating, sleeping, watching
The tube. I was not getting any tubes
Myself. I did not surf at all. I was
Chubby and sad and lonely, wishing it
Would all be different. And now. Now, friends.
Now, brothers and sisters: I
Am Victory at Sea, and you don’t—do not—
want to mess with me.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Head, sitting there his concealed beak. Have a
Cracker, darling. I can’t get angry with you.
This is Trafalger Square and look, a pillar!
There’s a man on a horse up there, I think.
Our double-decker rear-ended another one.
True story. Here come more pigeons, pigeon,
And I think dropping the crackers is the course
To take. The wall remaining from Rome
In St. Albans was something, a seam of stone
Scarring, but gently, gently, the wet—always wet—
Grass. I brought the wrong shoes (my son says,
Why the “w”?), obviously, and nowhere to dry
My socks. Yes I still use a film camera—
What’s it to you? Let’s take a cab from here.
81 min. | dir. Sam Raimi | Rated R
The third part of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy, this movie finds our hero Ash, played with goofball gusto by Bruce Campbell, magically transported to medieval England, fighting demons with his trusty chainsaw and shotgun. The plot, such as it is, requires Ash to retrieve the spell-casting book The Necronomicon so he can return to his own time, but this is merely an excuse for Raimi and Campbell to try anything, from raising a stop-motion army of Satan’s spawn to having Ash battle a score of miniature doppelgangers. The sight gags alone are worthy of a Harold Lloyd silent film. If there’s any sub-text to this movie, it might be this: You can be dumb, but with a little effort and some kick-ass weapons you can defeat the monsters that plague you. Real monsters, I mean. This movie contains zero psychology. Unless you count Elvis impersonations as psychology. (Friday, midnight, at the Art Theatre.)
[Published in this week's print edition of The District.]
The crack in the lantern
Glass is a crack in the light
Bent round the wick.
What mended the glass,
Even from distance,
Is translucent. Distance,
If small, keeps the flaw
When lit, when thin
Lines of light stab
Up, a rift in the bell,
Snags in the current,
Hand thrust into hell,
Reaching toward what
Has no merit, but reaching
And reaching still.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Monday, January 18, 2010
The girl in the tiny, yellow two-piece
is given a T-Shirt to wear in the pool.
It grows translucent when she dives in,
and her breasts—prominent at her age already—
are the lights behind the veil.
To chicken fight with others paired up
in the shallow end, she rides on the shoulders
of a boy who is lucky or blessed.
(I was not, unfortunately, that boy.)
We might say he is tempted here, in the heart of where
our parents sent us, the T-Shirt a staff worker’s gesture
toward assuaging their diffuse concerns, but that boy
still suffers from what’s inevitable: mixed feelings:
The eighty-five degree pool, say, and the volleyball game
earlier or the waterskiing to be later engaged in play
against the chapel in the morning and each evening’s
service of worship. There is the idea of God’s will
supplanting our own in the midst of this plenty.
Devotional texts for early morning prayer,
drawn from the Word, are distributed the night before
before bed and have no external object, nothing to apply
that devotion to but more devotion and to sportsmanship
in the team games and to falling asleep on the lakeshore
before the cafeteria bells ring and to bussing tables after meals.
The girl’s flesh, slick from the pool and warm and,
as she starts to fall, gripping his neck, is another world
he can feel, if not—not in this place, not yet—reach for,
and a promise of a life to come. He knows it’s there.
There is no doubt.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Saturday, January 16, 2010
When the world we have grown accustomed to
is lost to desire and depletion, I pray you make your way
through the husks of mountains, the trees stripped
and ossified, and over the rivers’ viscous sludge
toward a land that bears colors you see now not yet
vanquished. May the machines have dissolved
into spinning parts burrowing into dirt like animate seeds,
transformed at length by the weight of the earth, currently full
of holes, aerated for no planting, the soil yielding to u.v.,
given up in soot and slag by our efforts,
into diamonds, packets of light.
I pray you see I didn’t know always that I was
tearing out pieces of the highway before you;
that ash miraculous returns to fire under your watch
and flames pack back into dry wood; that clean rain comes
to restore to branch the root before, the shoot above, the kernel
concealed no longer in demineralized dust but dust inhaling
the calm breath of water, pushing out a frame of forest
unrolling across ridge and ravine, each tree pressing against
the pull of gravity, against vacancy, to reveal like a never-old trick
jewel-like fruit, each with no memory against what consumed it
or poison against the hand that extends itself toward it,
serving hunger that can be calmed, not curbed.
S.P. Poem # 5: Modified Lines from D.A. Powell’s Book Chronic, as Found in a Negative Review by Jason Guriel in the March 2009 Issue of Poetry
nights I feel my musculature
concealed under rubble bells
pull me from architecture
(you pillar, you
I see you)
it’s 1980, your dark apartment,
the mystery of lyric: love is chorus
clock, time, resilient heron
I didn’t wish
Thursday, January 14, 2010
The camera was on the dash, the car on the highway,
The fast lane. The highway softly bending to the right
And a concrete barrier, two feet high. There was no
Emergency lane. The video was labeled “Car Crash”
—Why I clicked it. I was sitting in my chair
For twenty-seven seconds watching the small strip
Of pavement spool beneath the hood. The windows
Above the screen: the blinds lowered. There was
No sound. Many cars went past. The car I watched
From never changed lanes. I had a cup of coffee
And an empty plate on the desk. It was coming.
My wife was away for the day, I was done eating,
I was waiting for something and it was coming.
You could feel that it was, what it was.
Couldn't you? I really would like to know
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Ulysses is among other things a treatise
on mistrusting rhetoric. So I’ve been told,
and gleaned some. This position of suspicion
is a phrase that rhymes, not unlike the phrase
that pays: as in, K-Beat rocks the drive-time.
Or: Lookin’ good! You are so fit!
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
We work tonight, unloading trucks.
We work till break, then till lunch,
till another break and into morning.
I work because I see myself work.
A truck pulls in, the door slides up,
the lift goes in, and pallets come out.
The corner stacks grow. The trucks,
offloaded, leave. Before planting soy
in three long rows for my crippled mom,
I clear the weeds, clear the rocks, compost
the soil. You work on your fingering
when working out the picking for the
strings. The right hand, the pinky’s
ignored. If the song is anything or not’s
not the point. You make it and listen.
If you drink like that, you won’t be alive
to what makes you sad when it comes.
It will come. I get it. I get it, but
I still recommend letting it put your
ancient body to bed. Tomorrow:
85 min. | dir. John Waters | Rated PG-13
It is 1954, Baltimore. On one side are the Squares, proto-preppies who harmonize like the Whiffenpoofs and talk like smarmy bluebloods. On the other are the Drapes, a gang of rock’n’rollers who light matches with their teeth, talk with their fists, and kiss with their tongues. Johnny Depp plays their leader, Cry-Baby, a heartthrob who has caught the eye of the Square Allison, smitten by his daily release of a single tear, in memory of his dead parents. Will the Squares manage to defeat the Drapes, thus preserving both the status quo and Allison’s good name? Directed by John Waters, who brought us Pink Flamingos, the movie embraces and magnifies the silliness intrinsic to outlaw biker films like The Wild One and teen musicals like Don't Knock the Rock. Some subversives, when brought into the mainstream, lose their bite as they take on bigger budgets and wider audiences. Waters keeps his by casting pop outcasts (Traci Lords, Troy Donahue, Patty Hearst), cranking up the camp, and letting the well-worn plot points line right up. He knows that people breaking into song is ridiculous—and irresistible. (Friday, midnight, at the Art Theatre.) // CHRIS DAVIDSON
[Published in this week's print edition of The District.]
Monday, January 11, 2010
The student said to the professor
in his office, I take this seriously,
just so you know. You take what
seriously? Poetry, the student said.
Don’t do that, said the professor.
There was a squirrel on a tree
outside the window gnawing on
something small and dead. Really,
the professor said. I’m not joking.