...the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life...

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Song of the Week #1 : Kangaroo

[Not all of the songs of the week will be "new" per se, though actual recording of new material has commenced. Some of this will be simply getting archived stuff out there. This exercise, like the commitment to daily post poems on this blog, is meant to get me to get things made. For more re: the songs, go to santiagosteps.com.]

Friday, January 29, 2010

Word of the Day

“Don’t cry,” she says. “That’s life.”

“No, it’s not life,” I say. “Or it should not be.”

“It is,” she insists. “That’s what it is. And life, like death, lasts only yon ti moman.” Only a little while.

[Read the rest here.]

S.P. Poem #15: Easy Targets

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

J.D.S., R.I.P.

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.

S.P. Poem #14: Farewell

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 tĂș 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

Action Alert

Tonight's the final reading of the Casa Romantica Reading Series. Come out!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

S.P. Poem #13: Hammer

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 R

Looking 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.)

[Published this week in the print edition of The District.]

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sunday, January 24, 2010

S.P. Poem # 12: Beyond the Glass

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

Word of the Day 2

A nice bit of analysis, akin to the kind found in the other word of the day, below.

As is this. My favorite line from it is from the court's majority decision last week: "[t]he appearance of influence or access, furthermore, will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy." Of course not!

S.P. Poem #11: Victory at Sea

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.

Word of the Day

Worth your time.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

S.P. Poem #10: London

That pigeon there is mocking me. That rock dove,
Mr. rat-with-wings, ignoring me with his steady
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.

Very Rare

Army of Darkness

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.]

S.P. Poem #9: Repaired Lantern

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

S.P. Poem #8: O Car

O car, beached whale in the median, reveal

What the letter she did

Not respond to meant to conceal:

I have a shaky hand, and a quickly turned eye.

I took a Ritalin,

Slow-typed my collision, by and by.

Monday, January 18, 2010

S.P. Poem #7: Church Camp

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

Word of the Day

There is no way to properly characterize this.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

S.P. Poem # 6: Against

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

Friday, January 15, 2010

Word of the Day

"The only end of writing is to enable the readers better to enjoy life, or better to endure it."

- Dr. Johnson

Thursday, January 14, 2010

S.P. Poem # 4: The camera was on the dash

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


This one is more important than the last one. Click here.


Next salon!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

S.P. Poem #3: Ulysses

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

S.P. Poem #2: Poem Written after Reading “Ode on Melancholy”

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

S.P. Poem #1: An Illuminating Exchange

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.

Sabbatical Project

In addition to the film picks and other ephemera posted on this blog, today I begin my sabbatical project, which is to post one poem a day and one recording per week. This will go on till July, at least. I hope. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Friday, January 1, 2010

Word of the Day (and the New Year)

Trust in your calling. Make sure your calling's true.

- Stipe, et. al.