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

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year

Let's hear it for the years to come!

Two Poems

Published in the latest issue of Californios, along with some great work from other California writers. Read it all here.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Countee Cullen

Christus Natus Est

In Bethlehem
On Christmas Morn
The lowly gem
Of love was born
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

Bright in her crown
Of fiery star
Judea's town
Shone from afar:
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

While beasts in stall,
On bended knee,
Did carol all
Most joyously:
Hosannah! Christus natus est.  

For bird and beast
He did not come,
But for the least
Of mortal scum.
Hosannah! Christus natus est. 

Who lies in ditch?
Who begs his bread?
Who has no stitch
For back or head?
Hosannah! Christus natus est. 

Who wakes to weep,
Lies down to mourn?
Who in his sleep
Withdraws from scorn?
Hosannah! Christus natus est. 

Ye outraged dust,
On field and plain,
To feed the lust
Of madmen slain:
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

The manger still
Outshines the throne;
Christ must and will
Come to his own.
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

- On These I Stand [1947]

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Some End-of-the-Year Giving Consideration

By consideration, I mean do it, even (and especially) if it's done in secret. Give well, of course, but even imperfect charity is better than none.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Sunday, December 1, 2013

from a display placard at the Museum of Jurassic Technology:

The dying are held back from their repose by the love that will not give them up.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

John Wesley Harding

'Why do you do what you do when the things that you do hurt the person you are?'

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Emily Dickinson


Death sets a Thing significant
The Eye had hurried by
Except a perished Creature
Entreat us tenderly

To ponder little Workmanships
In Crayon, or in Wool,
With "This was last Her fingers did"--
Industrious until--

The Thimble weighed too heavy--
The stitches stopped--themselves--
And then 'twas put among the Dust
Upon the Closet shelves--

A Book I have--a friend gave--
Whose Pencil--here and there--
Had notched the place that pleased Him--
At Rest--His fingers are--

Now--when I read--I read not--
For interrupting Tears--
Obliterate the Etchings
Too Costly for Repairs.

[for L.B.]

Monday, November 25, 2013

Anonymous [15th or 16th C., Spain]

I don't want to be a nun.
I am a girl waking to love.
Leave me happy and daring
with my love.
I am a girl in pain.

Ralph Dickey

I sat on my stool
in the dark
a plane of light
from the cracked door
fell across my face
like a burn
in the next room
my father was beating
my mother to death
he kicked her until
she cried blood
and then he kicked her
until she came down
with a coma
and then he kicked her until
he just couldn't
kick her no more
he came in to see me
and put his hand on
my shoulder listen
I want you to kill
a man for me
I stood up he shoved me
back sit down I'll
give you a hundred
dollars what do you
say I said well
who is it
here's a piece of paper
with the man's name
kill him I'll give you
a hundred dollars
I opened the paper my name
was on it I turned
it over to see if
there was an alternate
what is this I said
some kind of goddam
joke I never joke
about money
he said

- Leaving Eden (1974)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Current Favorite Thing

Choral Cricketry

[UPDATE:] Dammit! 

[UPDATE 2:] Nice, too. 

I like 'em all already

Monday, November 18, 2013

Power Pop Hit Parade

My wife, and now my younger kid, are huge fans of FOW. I'm pretty mixed on them, but this song has a certain something, like a boiled-down Updike story.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Friday, November 15, 2013


In spring meadows beyond the city,
sprigs of yellow light dot the grass

in tiny blasts. Here, at Prospect
and Lexington, a woman in trim,

gray work skirt and blazer holds
a tan cat carrier, her free arm lifted

toward the street. Like daisies freed
by a stiff, fall wind, taxis glide

resistanceless down the avenue.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Ecclesiastes 11.1-6

Send out your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will get it back.

Divide your means seven ways, or even eight, for you do not know what disaster may happen on earth.

When clouds are full, they empty rain on the earth; whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie.

Whoever observes the wind will not sow; and whoever regards the clouds will not reap.

Just as you do not know how the breath comes to the bones in the mother’s womb, so you do not know the work of God, who makes everything.

In the morning sow your seed, and at evening do not let your hands be idle; for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Choleric Youth

Choleric Youth
are super uncouth,
drinking vermouth
they nicked from Walmart.

All of their chansons,
inspired by Manson's,
sound like their Hansen's
They're no Arvo Pärt.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Poem up

at Green Mountains Review, all the way over there in Vermont. You can read it here. I've posted a picture to get you in the mood:

A.R. Ammons


I look for the way
things will turn
out spiralling from a center,
the shape
things will take to come forth in

so that the birch tree white
touched black at branches
will stand out
totally its apparent self:

I look for the forms
things want to come as

from what black wells of possibility,
how a thing will

not the shape on paper--though
that, too--but the
uninterfering means on paper:

not so much looking for the shape
as being available
to any shape that may be
summoning itself
through me
from the self not mine but ours.

[from The Selected Poems, expanded ed., Norton]

Monday, November 4, 2013

Poem Beginning with a Line from Milton

Swift as the sparkle of a glancing star,
The face in my periphery is gone—
Or was it a bird that flitted from a tree?
My sight never was perfect, yet these things
I’ve named doubt my perception and my place,
As here there are no trees, no faces not
Covered by masks, and the stars are screened withal
By smoke rising from torches and burning cars.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Lou Reed

Listen for when Lou, who's making fun, at some level, of being a rock 'n roll singer, claps (one clap)--taken up in the moment by the earnestness of the Yule brothers or by the sentiment of his words (against those evil muthas) or whatever. He believes what he's singing in spite of himself. That 'oh whoah, Sweet Jane" after the bridge leaves no doubt. Love this. RIP, sir, and thanks for the song.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Peter Schjeldahl, New Yorker, 10/21/13

When, as now, sincerity seems schooled out of professional artists, the straight stuff of it in demotic work becomes a heart's oasis. It has been argued of late, most forcefully by Roberta Smith, in the Times, that museums should abandon their ostracism of outsider and folk art. If our emotional and spiritual uses for art matter beyond our pleasures in formal sophistication, and I think they do, the point is impeccable. The support given it by [the Carnegie] International reflects a catholic and very timely sense of values. Now that just about anything might be done and called art, let it only be done well.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Monday, August 26, 2013

Extraordinary Action

I don't want to forget this, as it fades from the news cycle.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

from "You Are Not a Gadget"

Adopting a metaphysically modest approach would make it harder to use database techniques to create instant lists of people who are, say, emo, single, and affluent. But I don't think that would be such a great loss... 
It depends on how you define yourself. An individual who is receiving a flow of reports about the romantic status of a group of friends must learn to think in the terms of the flow it is to be perceived as being worth reading at all. So here is another example of how people are able to lessen themselves so as to make a computer seem accurate. Am I accusing all those hundreds of millions of users of social networking sites of reducing themselves in order to be able to use the services? Well, yes, I am.
A real friendship ought to introduce each person to unexpected weirdness in the other. Each acquaintance is an alien, a well of unexplored difference in the experience of life that cannot be imagined or accessed in any way but through genuine social interaction. The idea of friendship in database-filtered social networks is certainly reduced from that.  
It is important to notice the similarity between the lords and peasants of the cloud. A hedge fund manager might make money by using the computational power of the cloud to calculate fantastical financial instruments that make bets on derivatives in such a way as to invent out of thing air the phony virtual collateral for stupendous risks. This is a subtle form of counterfeiting, and is precisely the same maneuver a socially competitive teenager makes in accumulating fantastical numbers of "friends" on a service like Facebook.
- Jarod Lanier, p. 53

["Precisely" might not be the most precise word, here, but the rest seems worth thinking on.]

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Word of the Day

"The proof of any art's lasting value is a comprehensive emotional necessity: it's something that a person needed to do and which awakens and satisfies corresponding needs in us." - Peter Schjeldahl, "Shapes of Things: The Birth of the Abstract," The New Yorker (January 7, 2013).

Sunday, May 5, 2013

And now the bad news


That's it!

I'm quitting my job. [Or: when life is like an irresistible, quirky indie comedy.]

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Story of Quitting


onion headline mightabeen

'loser artist loves his kids'

11 visits to this blog today

according to the stats page. a likely story!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Some Smartly Said Things

I'm putting here for my safekeeping. And here.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Dorothy Day

The Gospel takes away our right forever to discriminate between the deserving and the undeserving poor.

Two Wonderful Tributes

To Ebert:




Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Poem reviews

by Jordan Davis are a lot of fun, are trying to get at something about reviewing and about poetry that's real while mercifully taking himself (all of his critical self) with a grain of salt. Here's a recent one.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Poem in Zyzzyva

I have a poem, "Guide to Everest," in the current issue of Zyzzyva (Winter 2013).

Interviewed on KPFK Pacifica Radio

This was broadcast Wednesday, March 13 at 8.30pm. The generous and gracious Jaimes Palacio is the interviewer. The show is Poets' Cafe.

Monday, February 11, 2013