Wednesday, March 31, 2010
I have them, but they’re petty,
Sharing them would debase you
And me, would be akin to Googling oneself.
(There, now you have one.)
I’ve heard of people carrying great secrets
To their graves, though most,
Even those holding on for decades,
Tend to give them up.
Take the dude who was Deep Throat.
Joshua invaded the Promised Land
As God told him to, killing
Every living person in it, except for Rahab
The prostitute and her family,
And the Gibeonites, who tricked him.
Why so much blood?
The text doesn’t directly say
Beyond this is God’s will and plan.
God will forgive you,
Lyle Lovett sings,
But I won’t.
What’s the thing between
Us, the thing you won’t
Reveal when I ask?
Is it what I think it is?
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Monday, March 29, 2010
Black coffee at sidewalk cafés
with chairs and tables like gaudy insects.
It is a precious sib we intercept
filled with the same strength as Yes and No.
It is fetched out of gloomy kitchens
and looks into the sun without blinking.
In daylight a dot of wholesome black
quickly drained by the wan patron,
like those black drops of profundity
sometimes absorbed by the soul
that give us a healthy push: Go!
The courage to open our eyes.
[trans. May Swenson, w/ one punctuation change by me.]
Clearly, idiots who love to party don’t have
Enough places to party. That’s why they go
To campgrounds. There, they can party
With the back of their SUVs thrown open
And their bitchin’ music playing out
Into that pussy the natural world and
They can enjoy their beer and their stupid voices
Without worrying about any kind of
Enforcement of the 10pm to 6am
Quiet hours from the clocked-off anyway
Ranger who thinks his beige uniform makes
Him important but really is just a loser
Who couldn’t get a better job.
As for you people in the next site over
Who came to relax and sleep under
The stars or whatever it is you like—
Tough shit. You assholes could’ve gone
Somewhere else. It’s a free country.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Maps take the land’s variability and make it
Divisible. We then say, This is Coney Island
Or that is Huntington Beach or St. John, KS.
And then you can buy property there or there.
We don’t say a land is a map, but we do say
It’s mapped, and then it’s no longer thought of
As something only unfolding within your line
Of vision but of something at the same time
Seen from above, lined and marked and starred.
I can get to X via Y and buy Z: The map
Makes the land a thing that pays. A person,
Then, what about her (or him)--what makes
A person pay? I say it’s their hair, but my
Sister says it’s what they do. No, says Mom,
It’s what their fathers do. My brother says
Age and Beauty determine the Wage
Not the Worth of Man. My father remains
Silent. And so I goad him somewhat: Can
A finger pay? If it presses the right button
He says. What about a toe? No, he says.
Well, a woman’s toe, he qualifies, that can
Pay, if groomed and painted cherry red
In an open-toed sandal beneath the hem
Of a summer dress. Mom's clogs galumph.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
1. Fulfilling an Obligation
Hovering above the screen, a postcard of a painting,
Tape holding it against a wall, the white border
Framing the image framed by a thin, cushiony gray:
The shadow on the wall. The white paint outside
The two frames is nicked and marked: The presence
Of children. My children, if we need specifics.
2. Hie, Then, to Heat!
An image on thin tape of white-gray children
Painting a postcard is framed by the shadow
Of obligation, the nicked paint a screen against
Specifics. Outside the two frames we need hover
Children. The cushiony wall marked my presence,
A frame holding, fulfilling, and walling it off.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Your hair should be in lights.
Everyone says they feel its waves,
Where its calmly tended part marks
Your finely shaped head, like a well-
Made, but not perfectly so, bed.
Your tresses are not “a tepid river,”
But a glimmering stream in snapshot,
Where the sand’s just glimpsed beneath
The surface cool, fish dart from pool
to pool, and the swimmer’s invited in.
Monday, March 22, 2010
The concrete path goes round the house,
giving access to all its sides. Summer,
it’s white as salt, at night dulled
when under full moon and tinted to slightly blue,
like the blue accenting the ice in the sea.
Around front the path releases a straight spur
through a lawn of dying grass toward the street.
The neighbors’ lawns on both sides is all
lit-up and green, and springy, and connected to ours
by the sidewalk parallel to the street absorbing
each house’s path, a creek taking in tributaries
and flowing or frozen. From above,
though I’ve never been, the houses with paths
like this look like thought balloons in comics,
each house what it—the street, pale gray space—
thinks, or maybe the street’s the bordering void
between panels. The void does the talking here,
friends, and conveys people well-packaged
to and from the aphorisms they sleep in.
This is no critique. It’s where I live.
Fourth of July the street’s released to kids.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
I worked really hard on it. I gave it a plot and characters, a narrator with a point of view, a dark secret revealed in an e-mail halfway through, a grabber of a title: The Darkness Thief. (It’s metaphorical, then turns out it’s not.)
It has sentences: “She placed the empty glass back onto the ring of condensation it had left on the table when she picked up the glass to drink from it.” And “The gun in his hand was like a lightning bolt hurled from the toned arm of Zeus.”
I once heard a narrator on an audio book say, “A little boy placed his hand on the edge of the boat, and studied Nate with black pupils big as quarters.” Now, come on! That’s impossible. That book sold a million copies.
“Best of luck in placing the manuscript elsewhere,” the letters say, and “The volume of submissions prevents us from commenting on your work.” There’s nothing one can do with this information. It’s a voice out of the void. There’s no one to address.
... It [photography, the camera] is a tool in the hand of a man, not the product of the individual's intent. The photographer's search and struggle for values and a committed life-attitude are infinitely more important than any photograph he is likely to make. The photographs are by-products, the overflow when the dam is full. In this sense, any human being who says, 'I am committed to photography' is a self-confessed fool. Much better to say: 'I am committed to my own search for truth; photography is the method by which this search is sometimes revealed to others.' This is the reason why so many photographers, after seemingly brilliant beginnings, become empty shells, either giving up the medium altogether or else endlessly repeating the same message in mildly different forms. They have become photographers, not men for whom photography is merely an expression of a continuous struggle...
- Bill Jay, from Negative/Positive: A Philosophy of Photography
[Thanks to my friend Jay for the quotation, who sent it just at the right time.]
Saturday, March 20, 2010
The diorama has a tree in it, and a little plastic cow.
Behind both is brown paint curved beneath blue
Paint: Hills and the sky. Lining the roof of the box
Are cotton balls, and on the bottom is a strip
Of spiky plastic grass. Hills and sky extend into the sides.
Once, in England, I saw on a green field a tree and cow
Grazing beside it. It was black and white. Behind both
Were low hills, brown in the haze, and a pale blue sky
Stretching into vision’s periphery. It was about to rain.
I made the diorama so that you could see, my camera.
Friday, March 19, 2010
I hope, beloved, not to despair.
Between deck and pool the path
Is not yet laid. Bare feet, sadness,
Such plenty: Keep your cool.
The ground beneath your reclined,
Reclining chair shifts thusly, like this.
It’s enough to want a kiss. I want.
Why don’t you? What prevents
Desire from reaching to where your
Skin completes the body, making
Movement to another, to me,
Achievable action? Please,
Please without me asking, please.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
When the river hits its stride the streets begin to flood,
begin to flood the days dissolve in air, the hour’s
getting late. Church bells make their rounds, prepare
for war. The taxi drives us home.
The species start to die. The d.j. changes tracks.
The d.j. changes tracks the wind begins to blow
the coffee’s almost done.
The car pulls off the road and now the trial can finally start.
Air prepares the river, the tribe begins to die, the
taxi changes streets, species make their home home.
Monday, March 15, 2010
The story goes, Wallace Stevens
Encountered Robert Frost on a train car,
And Stevens said, I hear you write about farming,
And Frost: I hear you write about bric-a-brac.
Sometime in the ‘80’s,
Peter Buck ran into Bob Dylan
In a restaurant in Georgia.
Dylan is said to have said, Hey man.
I once saw Norman Fell.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Hushed and hypnotic, an all-
Out assault, one of several
Hugely entertaining pseudo-
Scientific, far from sophisticated,
Les Bas-Fonds. Unlike the
Usual Hollywood lives
And artists, it’s about finding
Perfect love: A girl who can’t
Keep her clothes on. Set
In the Orient, a space epic
With a horse-and-buggy
Script, the Carson McCullers
Dialogue centering on
The definitions of war
Puts the squeeze on
King Kong, domesticated
And turned into Jon Voigt.
A backstage musical, a
Cleanly constructed low-
Budget suspense thriller,
A newly written Sherlock
Holmes story, Americana.
Friday, March 12, 2010
The pool by the beach, the new kind
Of pool, where the waterline’s level
With the top of the wall holding it in?
Yes, I know what you mean. I know
That kind of pool. But not the pool,
Not the one you’re talking about.
Dude, I’m telling you I don’t know it.
You can tell the story without me
Knowing which one you mean, right?
It could be any pool like that—are you
Simply trying to establish that they’re
Rich? The people in the story, is who.
“What people?” You tell me. It’s your
story. Man, come on, spill it or don’t.
Whoah, slow down, put that down,
There’s no need for that. I was just
Saying that I know what you mean
Without needing to know every bit
Of it. Just give me the gist. The gist.
Rhymes with wrist.
I make flowers because I wanted to
I think but I really couldn’t tell you.
Some people said I was pretty good
And I made more. I don’t know at all
Who might want them or what would they do
With them, because there are flowers
Outside that are better than what I make:
For one thing, they’re made of actual petals
And leaves and stems and they can
Photosynthesize and with the help
Of Miss Bee pollinate and with the help
Of the aforementioned energy transference
Process help clean the air. My flowers
Actually make the air worse. (I use
Computers to make and distribute them.
Computers use power, mostly from coal.
The world is dying and my flowers are
Part of why. I’m not being melodramatic.)
Thing is: I’m being paid now to make
My lame flowers. I say lame in the older
Sense of the word, as in crippled.
The Lord’s gonna trouble the waters,
The song went, and now I’m seeing
The weakness of my metaphor:
You should, too. There’s nothing
To explain. I don’t understand how anything
Works. I’m going to get a Big Gulp. It’s hot.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
this Birth was / Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
An SUV at PCH waits for the light,
WOMB VWR on its plate:
Womb viewer, room viewer, bomb
Thrower. The driver one assumes
For a job casts waves through walls
To shape the kid bound in the swim,
The quick thumps like a wind-up
Monkey on his drum. Is that the heart?
Summoning what? We are coming
The fish to Aqua Man sang
Without words, carried in the sea,
The sound waves finding there
An instrument for their energy.
By this villains are thwarted.
They don’t think they are and
So share what the bomb reveals,
Conducted by fluid and screened
When screened beside you in
Your temporary gown: You villain!
Your end is even now at hand!
It idles waiting for the light.
129 min. | Dir. Martin Scorsese | Rated R
The story of a barely articulate lug, played by Robert De Niro, who’s a brutal genius inside the boxing ring, and merely brutal outside it, Scorsese takes a type—the B-boxing picture of the 40s and 50s—and glosses it with the kinetic style of the French New Wave, the realistic violence of the ‘70s golden age, and the naturalistic acting of Brando, Clift, et. al. The boxing scenes are a marvel of editing and camera movement, and, in the quieter moments, static shots are composed, and off-hand gestures are highlighted (via slow motion), to underscore themes or reveal characters’ inner lives, while at the same time celebrating the possibilities of cinema. This hybrid of the realistic and the artificial results in a strange thing: We care about a character that, in real life, we wouldn’t want to share a meal with. And the character is from real life: Jake LaMotta, a middle-weight champion whose heydey ended in the early '50s. Paul Schrader’s script is Calvinistically unflinching, the black and white cinematography rich and sharp, and the sound design like something from David Lynch. With Joe Pesci as Jake’s put-upon brother, and Cathy Moriarity as Jake’s put-upon wife, a platinum blonde with a sharp tongue and the slyest of smiles. (Whatever became of this remarkable actress?) [At the Bay Theatre in Seal Beach.]
[Published in the print edition of the current District Weekly.]
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
What I missed were faces—the woman’s I knew
For nine years, the lids of her eyes. I moved on
Before sight was going. I wanted to because
Of cruelty, lack of imagination, some money,
No children, women and I was horny. Ha ha!
The punchline, if there’s a punchline: She’s with
Someone else now and won’t see me. My face
When facing her would be open. It never had been.
When worms move into the sockets of my skull
They will bring them to life till the meat runs out.
Monday, March 8, 2010
The girl in the picture,
The flowers on the table,
The bookcase by the fireplace
That hides a secret door,
The butler who knows something
But from loyalty keeps quiet,
The washed-up P.I. smoking
By the body on the floor,
The woman with a secret,
Whose eyes betray a secret,
The shadows on the street
Masking what she’s looking for,
And knowing it will happen,
And unsure how it will happen,
Conversant in the language,
At a loss for what’s in store.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Trees convulsed in sun-praise drop
Rain (soon flattened on the glass)
From the past, from thin air--a clear
Pancake, a crystal skillet. What it
Lenses must appear new: white
Reflectors return into a garden path,
Yellow lines to twin ribbons, the flat
Horizon both mountain and sea, and
You on one side, and on the other,
Me. When viewed through water—
The contact lens is mostly water—
The landscape’s a different thing:
Your distortions are becoming, be-
Guiling, your sins of rectitude, unseen.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Consider the term.
The French perhaps echoes
freed from, not freed to. Giving the heave
To rote proficiency cannot take the reader’s head off
Caused innovation (upheaval), and certainly,
Some. Better to accommodate disorder than
Schemes: skillful order covers lack when
Measures determine the insistence of the phrase.
The unadorned image and no words explain this.
It’s true, experience using form to lie…
May the seeming contradiction be disjunctive
In fact, in the service of things that exist, or
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
And of all people, we should expect our president to understand these things, to expect that his bonds of affection for our country would be obvious and unbreakable. In a world composed of nations that are filled with rage and hate for the United States, our president should proudly defend her rather than continually apologize for her.
There are anti-American fires burning all across the globe; President Obama's words are like kindling to them.
-- from No Apology: The Case for American Greatness, by Mitt Romney
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
-- Proverbs 15.1
Assignment: In an essay no longer than three pages, explore the rhetorical implications of quotation 1, particularly in light of the writer's unabashed commitment to the Mormon Church, for which the Bible, where quotation 2 is found, is a sacred, guiding text. How does the writer's commitment to biblical authority appear to inform--or not--his statements regarding the President's foreign policy?
Bonus Questions: Has the President in fact apologized, and on numerous occasions, for the United States? What does the clause "apologize for" mean?
Additional Bonus Questions: Why do you think that people make public statements, in writing, that are clearly at odds with what they say they believe? Would you characterize such actions as a) dumb, b) cynical, c) ignorant, or d) hilarious? If none of these words appropriately describes your understanding of the situation, feel free to supply your own.
You have fifty minutes to complete your essay. Give yourself time to proofread.
Monday, March 1, 2010
You know who you are, or don’t,
except in part: Oil piers breaking
into oceans. There’s much to be angry
about, much more than at me or you,
and much yet to be happy with, like
the man doing well his job, or the tide
rising, facilitating junior’s escape from
the shallows. Sharks swim out there
where it’s deeper, but it’s no drowning
or drying out. I'm trying. I'm sorry.