52 SONGS

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

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Politics is lame, sure...

...but if people ever ask me why 2017 was extra lame, it will be because of things like this:
Sen. Hatch, by the way, is the same man who pledged that President Barack Obama would have the full cooperation of Republican senators if he nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Merrick Garland, specifically. Obama did just that and Hatch — like the rest of his GOP colleagues in the senate — refused to allow a vote, or even any hearings, on the precise nominee he had demanded. 
So the words that Orrin Hatch says cannot be trusted and Orrin Hatch cannot be trusted. He is, according to his own words, full of it. The only redeeming feature of Sen. Hatch these days is that part of him seems to recognize that he has betrayed his own principles and ought to be ashamed of himself.
[from]

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Ephesians 4: 25 - 32

Read it here.

A Polemic Done Right

With a damning clown-car of tweets, and a stirring conclusion:
Unlike their foolish descendants, the Founders knew that liberty and democracy and good government take far more than shallow patriotism.  
Good government takes intellect, education, experience, curiosity, and a willingness to surround leadership with expert advice and support.  
More than anything, it takes the cultivation of intelligence instead of pandering to the lowest common denominator.   
Myths are important to a nation, but a firm appreciation of actual history serves a free people to far greater effect. 
There is no virtue in ignorance. 
And amateurs make for a lousy republic.  
If you want a better nation, if you want better leaders, you have to be better citizens.

[from

Saturday, April 15, 2017

40. Teakettle

Let's say, for example, that you heat the kettle on the stove
and then you decide not to make tea after all.
The water came from the tap, to the tap from groundwater,
and/or from the Colorado River, the natural gas 
from hydrocarbon reservoirs reached by a process
I do not understand. Electricity brightens the kitchen.

In light of that example, take airplanes in the sky.
I noticed while walking the dog they point the direction
they're heading, like an arrow saying that way.
Nothing, I know, so far is revelation to me, to you, 
but the suggestion the planes over my house made  
seemed at that instant new, poetic even, if less so now,

because my dog points in the direction she's heading, as do I
while walking next to her. Everything points in the direction 
it's heading, is what I'm saying--drills dropping into shale, 
trucks bringing drills and men to work the rigs, canals 
in the Owens Valley, each depressed key on a keyboard, 
all used or wasted heat and water, a neatly made bed.

Villainy

An old-school word, to be sure, but we're seeing a ton of it, lately, as when a person in power punishes the most vulnerable because of a policy he disagrees with. No reason to withhold money from business development or infrastructure when you can target those least likely to have the means or influence to push back: 
Gov. Greg Abbott stripped the county of $1.5 million in criminal justice division grants for services for children, abused women and veterans in retaliation for its resolve to not cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
Holy Saturday, indeed.

Good Friday


Action and passion are absent
in the present age, as peril is absent

from swimming in shallow water
—Kierkegaard, Swede, who also said

faith’s absurd and requires leaping.
He wrote about Abraham and Isaac,

on the mountain of sacrifice, to make us think.
I guess. It’s Good Friday. On the table

an open book and glass of half-drunk juice,
pencil in the crack of the book’s spine,

closed notebook next to the glass.
Color retreats from the window nearest to me,

the tree’s bark it frames gray already,
street and curb and parked cars just past it,

visible homes, pale green leaves.
I want for nothing. I am sitting waiting

for the next thing to happen. Dinner, probably.
My pain is not like the Lord’s. Along with

the fading outside light, rooms dim.



Friday, April 14, 2017

Lord, Have Mercy

“If there were such people in Chechnya,” he added in a statement, “the law-enforcement organs wouldn’t need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning.”

38. Baptism

Baptism took my body back to where
     a one out of two
was made, in liquid prayer:
          Please, to be made
          (a)new.

Fire, on the other hand, will douse my frame,
     will cause or will clear
my death—all pleas muted by flame
          as love devours
          what's dear.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

37. Trestles

Wax-word-melt on the asphalt walk that used 
     to be US 101 re-
minded us of the “EPIC FOG SWELL” of 
     December 18 1988.
I was there for the sign and the swell. A-
     round eighteen, home from college for
Christmas, and with friends from high school, I trudged
     in the cold from a far parking
lot. The surf was impossible to see
     until it was right on top of
you. You’d hear, behind the gray veil, a
     clamor like sudden thunder, if
you hadn’t paddled out far enough, and
     we hadn’t often paddled out
far enough. I don’t know how many waves
     I caught, if any, how bad the
ice-cream headaches were, which friends were there. (I
     have a feeling Gary was one,
back from UCSB.) It was my sis-
     ter’s birthday, I was home, cold, wet,
worn out, privileged beyond knowledge, about to
     have a day memoried in wax 
on an old road long empty of cars, come
     to mind later as sweet, lost, a
mark on a mark on mapped geography.



36. Neighborhood Watch

The screen door's grid when lit 
by sun hides all inside action
from possible gapers outside 
enjoying their afternoon
constitutionals. Perhaps
at night these same ambulants
pass by and sometimes, 
without malice, or conscious 
malice, glimpse what little life 
outside their normal purview 
can be seen, turning the head 
this way, nonchalantly, then that way,
without slowing pace,
looking but "not really."
If they feel their gaze has
been caught by those within
the dwelling they currently
go by, hoping no one’ll be 
on to them, I’m onto them. 



Tuesday, April 11, 2017

35. Stanzas Written on April 10

The news is bad, perhaps terminally so.
World of tomorrow, look up these dates
If you exist and see if you see why I alert you
To them: 8 & 9 & 10 April 2017.
*
When I went from renter to owner
Not only my status but all of existence changed:
‘Earth felt the wound,’ nature ‘gave signs of woe.’
I’d been persuaded by whispers in my ear.
*
Freeway this morning was unusually quick.
Cars glided ahead in their rows like canisters
In vacuum tubes conveying mail or money.
Patch of snow, glimpse-able through haze, lay thataway.
*
What’s a gun what’s a coral reef what’s a supreme 
Court justice what’s a sexual harassment lawsuit what’s
Torture of gay men who don't exist what’s a distant 
War what’s cancer what’s a chemical attack what’s 




Monday, April 10, 2017

Natural History Museum




34. Palm Sunday

At church, we didn’t hear about the ass,
Or the palms, or how
The praise of men is brittle glass,
As fleeting as 
A “wow”

Said in response to good news taken in
With a half-sincere 
Regard. We heard instead that wine
Is substance meant
To cheer

The heart, not shackle it, if Christ indeed
Is the vine. Grapes burst
When time removes them from their need,
Readies them for
A thirst

That’s always present, like a dusty street
leading temple-ward.
Those who lay fronds before the feet
Are drunk upon
The word.





Sunday, April 9, 2017

Saturday, April 8, 2017

33. Natural History Museum of L.A.

The Tongva's practice of clearing brush,
developed over centuries,
attracted and increased game
and vegetation in the L.A. basin.

Then came the Spanish, and land
that reputedly looked more garden
than wilderness was given over
to inhuman forces as Tongva were
removed into work in alien
agriculture. Another upshot:

Non-native grasses were introduced
to support cattle brought from Europe
who had decimated native grasses
with their incessant eating.
Now, next to no native grasses are left

here. History is depressing.
In a different room of the exhibit,
a full-sized piano in a glass box,
from an early rancho or a rancher's
property, is another artifact from
the development of Los Angeles.
It is costly, beautiful, unplayable.

Friday, April 7, 2017

32. Tanka


     My son's drum playing 
muffled by a closed door next 
     to grass I scan for 
dog poop to scoop and bury 
is a signal of constraint.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

31. Unfolded, disguised, traveling

The encryptor takes messages
his clients want carried, unread,
to undisclosed locations.

Their will is in the words, a will
they hope will be integrated into
people who receive them, unfolded

from their disguised, traveling state.
His will is there, too, in the design
of the ruse, what he brings to his craft,

a story clients buy with cash—
childhood on a chicken farm, a gift
for languages, extensive knowledge

of Navajo recruits chanting onto
short-wave radio signals
crossing oceans, advanced degrees

in physics and mathematics.
Mr. Simmons, thirty years before,
in Pre-calc period one, said to him,

several other students heard it said,
Some people just aren’t cut out
for this. You’re not cut out for this.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

30. Cassettes

TDK or Maxell, can't recall which,
a ninety-minuter, on one side Pleased 

to Meet Me, on the other Our Beloved 
Revolutionary Sweetheart, dubbed 

from CDs, NR box unchecked, one read 
about in Rolling Stone, the other heard 

on the radio: "Alex Chilton," or "The Ledge."
I'd listen till a side ran out, fast-forward,

reverse it and listen till a side ran out.
Life's Rich Pageant and Green were

another pair on a C-90, another had all 
of Louder Than Bombs. Some of that

I'd F-F through, never the stretch from
"Stretch Out and Wait" to "Asleep."

Do you know there's a movie called
Louder Than Bombs, too? Probably

sucks, can't be better than driving to
Morro Bay, 88 89 or so, 

in my Toyota Tercel on lambskin seats 
singing please please please let me get 

what I want this time





Tuesday, April 4, 2017

29. Vladimir


Vladimir brought the sponge to the bath,
where his infirm mistress sat, soaking 

with the water and the salts. He knew
she wouldn't want his help, 

so after he handed over the sponge, he sat
on the stool next to the clawfoot tub,

and resumed the reading he'd begun
before his errand: "It was about 

two o'clock in the day, and I was forced
to remain broiling in the sun without 

either tree, shrub, or any other shade 
to shield me from its scorching rays,

until night, when Dick (the cook)
came in with the camels."

The lantern gives weak, warm light.
Irena moves her body to wash her arms 

and shoulders. Sound of water splashing
on the gunnels of the tub accompanies 

Vladimir's voice. They do not speak
about what will become of the horses,

nor of the trees, the furniture, the heirloom silver.
"The wind blew as is usual in the night,"

Vladimir reads aloud. Irena, in the tub,
can feel the water's warmth ebbing away.


Monday, April 3, 2017

28. Order of Things

"This order of things has meant a lot of comfort
and security for certain populations":

I'm talking about the arrangement of the bed
beneath a window that, because of its angle, 

takes in morning light for most of the year
obliquely, and which allows, spring especially,

breezes to sail through and push around 
translucent linen drapes in gentle undulation.

The windows open from the top, and are thus
difficult to enter from outside--a limited security.

The certain populations are me and my wife. 
We each of us hold multiple thoughts 

around the situation, one at least indicated by 
the description of light and wind on the linen,

another by the inclusion of the quotation 
at the top, taken from a paper making a critique:

This order of things has meant a lot of comfort 
and security for certain populations.




Cool poem

by Jericho Brown that I'm putting here for me to have on hand.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

27. The Whole City

From 6th Street exit on the 101 north,
head east down hill through new

structures shadowing late afternoon sun,
until the street flattens and buildings on each side

lose their height, like walls of a gorge
when its river hits the alluvial plain.

The road seems to widen. On sidewalks
before storefronts are the tents 

of the homeless, orderly beside
debris that blows in a span of asphalt

largely free of cars but not of people,
who are not pedestrians, exactly,

because they do not wait for lights
to tell them when to cross, nor do they regard

tourists, passing through. Keep going, 
if you want, though this route may spoil somewhat

your thoughts about the event you're driving toward, 
at the art gallery, a festive evening

you have arranged, crudités chilling
in a backseat cooler, and which lies

on the other side of the unplanned city
--all of it, this whole city, unplanned. 

When you reach the demolished bridge 
you're there.