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

Friday, April 30, 2010

S.P. Poem #79: Kicked Out

Plum tree between the

houses two houses down—

it’s always been there?

And there’s a book club

that meets at the coffee shop

on Main: I had no idea.

Today, talking around

a history of California and

its flora, the women

wore workout clothes.

Wearing sandals I was

cold strolling over.

I should better gauge the temp

before going off I

mean out. Ha ha.

Two on Technology

This story on hand-drawn maps is enchanting. It brings to mind an old This American Life episode: "Mapping."

And this Anthony Lane review of Banksy's film "Exit through the Gift Shop" may come across as curmudgeonly, but something about its critique of online culture (writes the man on his blog) still sticks. (It's the second part of the review, and really the final paragraph.)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

S.P. Poem #78: Electricity Next

Under the marble floor

In copper wires, channels

Direct the sluice: mined

Energy, mined transport &

Roof. It’s lighting the lights,

Fewer lumens by the shape of

Repeated news of the approaching

X if to be believed and why not.

You—the phrase brought on

Apropos of what but the fact

That I’m surmising the sitch

At the museum, alone—send me.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

S.P. Poem #77: The Trail is a Trap

The trail is a trap the mind tells feet

to adhere to. There are ticks in the grass

thick with unseen processes rain and sun

work within it to make it so. The path ahead

grows thin and threadlike, a seam on the ridge,

ridge upon ridge as perspective and distance

makes land into folded cloth, with patches

of oak sliding into steep ravines. In some

shadows are vines, with little corkscrew tendrils

reaching to wrap around small branches of trees.

Like a string wound loosely around a finger,

attachment is a means of survival. A snap,

for example, backs up the zipper’s teeth,

and the electromagnet beneath the floor

prevents the friction of air from slowing

the mighty pendulum’s oscillations.

Long socks keep skin unbitten, and a trail

is always before you: a trap, a way through.

Giant Sand & Victoria Williams

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Song of the Week 8: Hey Colorada!

Here's this week's track. It's a slow-builder. Listen here or download here.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

S.P. Poem #76: Wrapped

The wrapped-up mummy moans like the comical

Patient with bandaged arms and legs caught up

In rigging above the hospital bed. Undead,

His mouth ajar and throat decayed into

Ribbons of spice-preserved dried flesh, he says

No words. His arms he raises to the Brit,

Who’s pried open his tomb despite the curse

His guide discerned in the pictures written on

Its black façade, for the mummy wants warm skin

To touch—everyone does—and makes the move

His body remembers to make. It’s that impulse

Coupled with that speechless roar erupting from

A collapsed sovereignty of will that leads

The Brit to abandon his reserve and his guide

And run, stock character he’s doomed to be.

The guide gets it, but our man in white wants more:

Tonguelessness kills the pleasure the mouth derives

From meat but not the craving, which is why

I think the best thing now is for you to go.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Word of the Day: Ammons

[Image from here.]

S.P. Poem #75: Spring Rush

The wave-conducting water folds

to speak through sound-

Conducting air, and the sound

Reaches at least to me here and

Continues beyond human hearing,

One would think. She in the white

Bikini and the man she lay next to

Wearing knee-length, black trunks

Complete the scene, when the pier,

Adjacent, is also included, along

With the gull going at the Taco Bell

Bag, retrieved from the can toppled

By punks I take to be middle-schoolers.

The boat that brings in rig workers

And of course the rigs themselves before

The horizon and the island it appears
To prop up and the weakly yellow sand

Are all present, with smog that like

A ghostly escarpment stretches low

In the sky from the north and dissolves

Into sandy mist southward, and the

Lifeguard, looking a little listless I must say,

And that family with shoulder-sunburned

Dad who digs with Daughter and Son

A kind of trough—If these things

Too are included then we may say,

“The scene here is complete.” We may

Say it, but who ever talks this way?

The ocean seems troubled, speech

Is invisible, and agents have rejoined

To the initial word—from snow-capped,

Haze-screened mountains, maybe: Listen:

Listen Listen Listen Listen Listen

Monday, April 19, 2010

S.P. Poem #74: If Meat Then

If meat then plastic.

If no meat, plastic.

If soap for dishes, cereal,

Shampoo, deodorant, the

Coffee maker, plastic.

A mouse, a phone,

Bright new glasses, a t.v.

Condoms, pills, a car.

Pens and headphones,

Getting cash, closing

The window against

The unexpected dog

Barking. If syringes,

Glucometers, insulin

(if life, then), then plastic.

Flight or ranging over

Roads or writing over

Wires and pictures and

Flirting through invisible

Switches or eating together

At that one restaurant or

Thinking about it but

Never actually doing it,

Or watching months turn

Into eras unregistered

By mirrors but not the

Unblinking camera,

Or sifting through, or

Trying to get the kids

Through school—the

Teachers make you buy

It. If you keep living

According to present impulses

Or you stay in touch, with

Whomever, as you do.

If you’re going to meet up

With me or not later

At the theatre—let me

Know I’m waiting ok

Thanks—with the killer

Façade, if you’re ugly

Or fat or zitty or

Super hot, if you’re

Gonna find out how bad

It is without going to

Where it is or if you do

In fact go and learn

By skin and eyes and

Ears and nose, or if

You stay put and breathe.

If you keep lying like that.

If you vote or ask me

One more time what I

Think about the present

State of our government,

Or if you make, pledge,

And donate. If you work

Hard and be debt free.

If, at some point, your plans

Include getting laid, or

Getting paid, or plaid, plastic.

S.P. Poem #73: Discovery

An octopus appears to have holes in its head.

This is remarkable! Also, we painted our walls

Yellow today, and it looks better than expected.

I read that too much yellow makes you anxious,

And my friend said butter is yellow, and I said

My point exactly. And then we had some toast,

A most excellent toast both crisp and delicious.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Song of the Week 8: Radio On

I realize I should change the name of this regular dispatch, as I'm being pretty loose in getting these tracks up here in the way the blog promises, i.e., a 'song a week.' Oh well. New recordings are happening (a new one was started this past Wednesday) but for now, here's an old, unreleased track with lyrics from my unfortunate and pathetic "earnest" phase, which started in my teens and lasted for years and years and years and years--and which I may never grow out of. Hooray! (More info about the song is here.)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

S.P. Poem #72: Dear Window

Dear Half-opened Window: Through you

a blue post and part of the gate it holds

up, and a screen of straw matting hung

round the garden, past the corrugated iron

shed, falling apart, and the beige apartment

building, its second floor windows louvered

glass, the sun, the light makes colors cool

by contrast. It’s cool in here, too. What I

see through you I’ve since left to take up

sounds and kids and my wife working.

Dear full-throated Window: What speech.

S.P. Poem #71: The Reality of the Issue

There were drums

which they blessed

when they blessed

what they blessed

and they did

and they did

and they did

and they did

Friday, April 16, 2010

Pavement in Pomona

from Brooklyn Vegan:

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

S.P. Poem #70: Let Us Die

All at the age if reached say it:

Let us die. Every morning,

every afternoon: Let us die.

—Without even knowing it

or knowing it and not saying it

aloud. A rock dug from earth is

by human reason and will made fuel,

is made again into motion and altered air.

We say it with the food we eat, with

technology and the food it’s produced

we say it. With family, friends,

people we never meet we say it.

Collapsed stars give light and heat,

but only to themselves.

Diminishing energy, what is released,

rises out and is forced inward by

the gravitational ceiling lowering

inevitably and unstoppably. The figure

has its limits. Stars explode and cannot

be helped. People can choose to be killed.

Reading Playlist

You can see here the line-up and some of the poems from people who read at the Meadowlark last Friday. There's a lot to like.

Better than poetry

What C sent to me in an e-mail from work:

Overhead from the kitchen as T and E were eating breakfast this morning:

E: (coughing)

E: (loudly) Troy, I just coughed and a Lucky Charm flew across the room!

T: God gave you a way to get a marshmallow out of your throat.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

S.P. Poem #69: Practice

Step into the cage

You step into a portal

Bowl of electricity

An arm sends a ball

Your way swing at it!

Bring it and ring it

Out to the mesh

The bat through your

Thin hand flesh

Greets bones as

People greet people

Without touching

But touching only

Air netted yet by

Skin: their voices

Vibrations it hurts

A little sometimes

Monday, April 12, 2010

S.P. Poem #68: So Long

Swallowed by the hum of a.c

And keyboard-kittering (tapping numbers

Meaning much to whomever reads them

Across the pulsing land) is Shana’s request

That people using the copy machine please

Throw the picked-out staples in the trash and not

Drop them all over the carpet. Numbers:

We punch them for money. Not enough of it

For my taste, Duke says, daily. I love it.

The man dressing in suits with the stiff limp

Owns the job—temporary, I remind myself,

After the morning’s second muffin,

Which is what I am now at each day’s

End. I can see in the mirror or when I look

Down while driving numbers, what they

Stand in for, decisions someone makes

And will make. Vessel for greater wills

Is my body, though something within is

Desirous for gentle squeezing or a shock

Of pressure. Pleasure. That one car chirps

On the street always in its horn voice,

So long, I’ll be waiting right here: For you!

"You really shouldn’t be living for a reaction all the time"

Got back from Colorado yesterday, where on Friday I attended AWP (and was able to participate in this remarkable reading--really, I was honored to have been invited). In the piled-up mail waiting for us here at home was the latest New Yorker, with an Adam Kirsch piece on Kay Ryan. I've enjoyed Kirsch's stuff in the past, but here he was so-so. (I should say I didn't read the article closely, as my kids decided yesterday was scream-and-fight-and-make-mom-and-dad-lose-it day). Kirsch mentions Kay Ryan's withering take on AWP, from Poetry a few years back, and it's worth (re-)reading. Ryan's thinking about the conference seems especially right on two fronts:

1) Her belief that poems ought "to fight" their way--not shmooze their way--into the world


2) her disgust with bad panels and panelists. One of my favorite bits of her essay: "Presenter mumbled and did not raise his eyes. I take personal offense at this sort of behavior. He also didn’t introduce himself. What is it with that?" Preach it, sister.

She is also quick to point out good presentations, which always to me feel like strange, unexpected, and generous gifts. For example, I listened Friday to David Baker give a moving lecture on Keats, focusing in particular on his letters and how his poems, which are often epistolary--literally and spiritually, as they often address something (people early on, abstractions later)--change in style and method as he approaches a death he knows is close at hand. (It's only the second lecture I've been to where I nearly cried.) And I heard a pretty good panel presided over by Kevin Clark on teaching students who happen to be deeply religious. But more than once I walked out (twice, to be exact) on panels that were described as being a discussion of a particular topic but turned out to be poetry readings in disguise--boring ones. There's little worse than that.

But reading Ryan's call for slowness and space (the title of this post is one of her sentences) and coming across this article from Slate, following a trip to Colorado via Amtrak (and several days with no computer access), I'm thinking, thinking, thinking against, probably, a situation that's past change.

The Clouds

Below is a video from the Clouds, who played at our a salon a couple months back.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Poem Up at Zocalo

I have a poem up at Zocalo. You can read it here.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

S.P. Poem #67: Poem

I was trying to “believe that exact perception is what

poetry strives for” so tried to write what I perceived:

a man on the seat across from us on the train grabbed

his crotch which was stained and made me feel I must say

somewhat on edge. Turns out it wasn’t a grab but him

hiding the teeth of the broken zipper.

So says my grandma. Sweet old woman.

Monday, April 5, 2010

S.P. Poem #66: The Narrow World

The narrow world is hard

to breathe in. Ribs contract

within collapse, the person

you said you love forever

unmaking each moment by

the expected act. If you yet

are called to hope, hope then

for surprise, him better than

what shows. The alternative

course, free to be taken, is a

terrible metaphor carrying

in it something, a ship

through plastic, a wake, slip-

ping on granite sheets, in late

summer heat a parking lot,

a kid skateboarding, shoeless,

gunning it down the road

past the bend, the sound of

wheels a whispered roar

softening into t.v. in the

other room, the old kind,

snow on the screen after

2 a.m., sound turned low.

Action Alert: Pavement

@ the Fox Theatre in Pomona 4/15/10.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

S.P. Poem #65: We Went to the Beach to Look at the Ocean

But the wind stopped the “dim

religious light” and it made bright and lit

into limbs. A passerby said that was

an oil rig boat. And we saw a boat

dock pierside and go off again.

We didn’t see any sea life. We saw

several freighters off shore taking

containers to Long Beach. It was

mostly a sunny day. Clouds

sometimes covered the sun made

the wind feel almost cold. We went

to look on the ocean to stand upon the beach.

Song of the Week 7: Orange Julius

Here's another mid-fi number pulled out of old tapes and completed for the sake of industriousness. These haven't been going up weekly -- more like every other week. I hope to keep to my plan, soon, though. More songs and info. on this song here.

[For demonstration purposes only:]

Ending up here is never part of the plan.

We drive up from Lake Forest but never set foot

in the fine, imported Newport Beach sand.

Still, the girls here tend to give us hope, but

if we haven’t got the guts to speak to them,

I wish we had the guts to score some dope.

Maybe one day the plan is gonna work out,

I’m waiting for that day to come when you

meet me at the Orange Julius, when you

meet me at the Orange Julius.

When we drove up we talked about our wants:

Joe would like to meet a redhead and John a blonde,

and none of us would like to go back to our hands.

I’m sorry, that’s crude and immature—

but I’m still in high school, girl.

So while you’re slumming in that bar there,

I’ve a bright future, yeah, and I’m here.

Maybe you could come and share my booth,

I’ll let you take a lick of my shake (I’m sorry).

Just meet me at the Orange Julius.

Won’t you meet me at the Orange Julius.

Meet me, don’t meet me, I don’t care,

but if you dare I will dare to meet you

at the Orange Julius.

There’s a girl there right outside the door:

She’s with a mook in a tank top

but she is as beautiful, graceful, and well dressed

as Queen Noor. But the mook, of course,

insists on wearing the crown.

He takes her by the wrist, takes her to his truck,

O God I wish I could take him down.

If you want the King of Loserland, baby,

well, here I am—I’m rulin’ the roost!

Just meet me at the Orange Julius.

Won’t you meet me at the Orange Julius.

Meet me, don’t meet me, I don’t care,

but if you dare honey bunny I will dare

to meet you at the Orange Julius.


Friday, April 2, 2010

S.P. Poem #64: The Desert in the City

Exiting the freeway in the desert

we switched drivers. Tired, I said,

and she busy singing to the music and

energy at least for driving in the heat.

Hot air right through our clothes,

we met at the trunk and I tapped

her shoulder. —Dork.

...affectionate or brotherly…

My thoughts were half-way—the desert

in the city—and I dropped her at her place

when we got to that city. She had

faded yellow sandals and walked.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

S.P. Poem #63: The Opossum

The opossum in the periphery dodges under

a parked truck, like a stiffly jointed cat. In the headlights,

once, one faced the oncoming car with red teeth

bared, beside the carcass of another, animal

struck already awaiting fiercely what won’t

be deterred by feigned death. The glissando

of violin strings, compressed in the studio

into sound dense as snowmelt over rapids,

seemed to accompany the creature’s posture.

That was life: jaws bloody, staring at its killer.



In the Jardin des Plantes, Paris

His gaze has grown so tired from the bars

passing, it can’t hold anything anymore.

It is as if there were a thousand bars

and behind a thousand bars nothing.

The soft gait of powerful supple strides,

which turns in the smallest of all circles,

is like a dance of strength around a center

where an imperious will stands stunned.

Only at times the curtain of the pupils

silently opens—. Then an image enters,

passes through the taut stillness of the limbs—

and in the heart ceases to be.

- Trans. Galway Kinnell & Hannah Liebmann