Friday, February 27, 2009

Sunday Scribbling #152: Lost

From my (long) short story "Bitterroot," a snippet of Traci and Ben:

She saw the little feral boy peek out from Ben’s eyes—she’d once known his movements quite well, lured him out with her voice, fed him from her hand. She felt his pull, but she wasn’t sure it was her place to go there anymore. Before she calmed him all those years ago, he was a wild squirrel in the attic, crazed and frantic. Moments like these, free of the buzz of Ray-chatter, defenses down, the freeze frames of two heads in her bed almost—almost—ran to a blur of ink. She had no problem understanding the love she felt for this man when they were together; what she couldn’t fathom was the tenderness that came unbidden—most times, surmounting her willful refusal—for this demolition man who had all but destroyed her. Was she not far away enough? Was Montgomery too close? There were times she thought Atlanta, Raleigh, Virginia Beach. All with hospitals who said they’d take even her, with her sad sack withering skills, so-so evaluations, and recommendations full of backhanded and faint praise. She even made a trip up to Virginia, got as far as Charlottesville, walked around its pretty pedestrian malls, imagined herself living in streets full of gorgeous fall leaves, sat for hours in a coffeeshop, nursing a drink she couldn’t even pronounce, and then felt the unmistakable hook of that boy’s imploring eyes. She never made it to the beach.

In the old days, the boy would shiver. Sticky hot
Mississippi summer outside, but inside shaking like an icy wind had just cut through the pine trees. Lying in bed, Traci would pull him in close to her, lying against his back, trying desperately to warm something frozen at the core of him, frozen beyond the reach of human touch. She might calm the shaking, but still feel the polar regions so far beyond her wingspan. In the evenings’ progressions, lovemaking may have entered the equation, but desire and sex were never at the heart of their anguished toil, not those nights.

She saw that the shaking had taken him over, and she felt a desolation in the room that could only have been his. She wished for desire—desire she could defy, strike down, nullify. Compassion was a godawful sticky mess, and she was sick of it. Compassion was a leash.

She moved to the bed at his side, and gently pulled him onto it with her. She reached down and pulled his boots off, then pulled the spread from the other bed over them. He rolled over, slid down a bit on the bed, and pressed his head up against her chest. Listened to the beat of her heart, heard the faint growl in her belly. And slept.

Cy Twombly, The Rose (IV), 2008


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Put...the book...down...

I've committed to another Lenten reading of Gravity's Rainbow, so what am I doing in the New Fiction section at the local biblioteca? I see a book I haven't seen before: Fiona Maazel's Last Last Chance. It doesn't help that Brother Barry Hannah, who doesn't blatherblurb much these daze, is blatherblurbing on the back, so I dip in. A taste:

Hannah is my half-sister, seventeen years between us. She probably thinks I'm unhip to the major consensus narrative of adolescent girls today, and if that's what she thinks, she's right. Hannah was born in the nineties. The nineties. I find this hard to accept no matter how long I've known about it. As a result, we have a routine, and in this routine we do not understand each other. And this is fine. On days I see it her way, it's only because she's tapped into something primal whose occasion cannot be good.

Sez the front inside flap: ...a rollicking novel about (in no particular order) plague, narcotics recovery, and reincarnation...

Put...the book...down...


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Sunday Scribbling #151: Trust

Letter from a mother to her son, in an old novel fragment of mine, entitled Ignes Fatui:

My Son Not Son: Not son not through any inconstancy of your own, but entirely through mine. If there were inconstancy on your part, why not – a son abandoned to fragments, to tattered remnants of a mother and a father, why expect anything but a shriveled, inconstant, boyish heart? Not son because I can claim nothing more, can in fact claim nothing at all. So, why write, I who have no sovereignty in your heart? I do not pretend to have the right to such, much less the right to words of wisdom. I can bequeath no such thing. And yet, here I sit, amidst the quiet of a pine forest, above the soft murmur of a green river, on the day I have chosen to die, and my mind turns – as often it did not turn, this I admit – to a boy I carried for nine months in my swollen belly, who for at least the first year of his life sucked upon my breasts, until I thought I would die from the crushing brutality of a body gone to waste and a spirit following close upon its heels. Not from you, but from phantoms in my mind I ran, though what difference would that distinction make to a boy abandoned by the face of the only world he had known? Still, if you have not yet done so, make the distinction, not for my sake, but for your own.

Odd, you might think, that I should choose to die in this place of quiet, of peace, when so much of my life was a shattering blitz of noisy demolition. Why so far from the jungle of bars, casinos, flophouse beds two floors up from the reek of rancid food in basement diners, greasy fuck of Choctaw cunt the only currency between me and starvation? Why not starve, you might ask, but to ask means you’ve never been there. The body will endure all manner of destruction, but it will not starve itself – only at the hand of Fate or someone else do you see the swollen bloat of belly that has known no food. Given an inch of volition, the body will fuck the murderer of its own child for gruel, all this I know, though it was I who murdered a lone son, leaving just smaller and smaller approximations of myself to the flophouse pigs in need of a fuck for their greasy charity. Smaller and smaller bits, but never a last thrust to push me over into oblivion. That shove left to me.

Why so far indeed? Two days ago the story would have been yet another pissed off fat bubba, his pants around his ankles, hounding me into these woods, torrential rain, sheets of it, outraged cuff to my head because I had the temerity to accept his offer of diner food, but spit on rather than suck his later offer – his quid pro quo – of a bloated cock beneath the wheel of his pickup, pointed boot in my lower back staggering me into the woods, at least out of reach of further harm, the rain my ally, though I had plenty of time through the night to think otherwise as a lifetime’s worth of rage in me seemed to howl in echo to the monsoon that thundered down.

More than spent I was the next day, a day breaking blue, bright blue into a piney world the likes of which I’d not seen since I was the girl before my own holocaust my life. Blue breaking into pines and – down by the water – cypress, the knees lit in dewy prayer, low green feathers upon my skin my face, blue breaking into the very heart of me, a heart of me blue in green like the very water rushing by, bluedgreen greenedblue, the nightmare before but a portal now into life after, life after, life after what? I was too old to think that walking back out of these woods would be anything but a return to carnage: shedding clothes in the warm sun, greening my aching body in the emerald water, rushing my oblivion into its own, down down down all the dark, drying in the warm dusk of lanterned woods, it came to me that the night had been my death, that all around me was an invitation to new life, new life beckoning. In the second night a beautiful light the size of a mere firefly drew me as with light fingers upon my wrist drew me not once but four times across the now dark waters to this tree beneath which I now sit, whispered again and again ‘you needn’t you needn’t you needn’t you needn’t.’ You needn’t what, I whispered back, not angry, but as to a lover in the dark. ‘Return. You needn’t return.’ In a voice so loving, a voice I knew years ago cooing over your sleeping face upon my breast. Down through the dark years I’ve known plenty of voices hissing into the roils of my oblivion, hounding me to its edge, but this was the voice of Mother Earth herself, light fingers upon my brow, my head upon her green breast, her voice a poem a prayer her very heartbeat you needn’t you needn’t you needn’t. Another day beneath her tree, seated in her palm crying a life’s worth of rivers into the green sister that rushes by preparing to take up life on this side where all but the loneliest parts of me have made their journey. I sing to them now, as Mother did me, the promise of new life beyond the deliverance offered by the strong arm of the oak I lean into. All is here, all is provided: deserted cabin in the woods back up behind me, sturdy rope, paper and pen to write these final prayers to you. Mother promises me I will be as fruit upon the limb, flowered into new life, and there is a peace in my belly, the very peace the very knowledge I felt when your father sparked your soul into the depths of me.

I know enough about you through the years to know none of this will come easy to you, that peace in my death will not come from me – most assuredly not me – nor from the cherished books in which you hide. All I can leave is a last prayer and one to hold it, hold it for the time you will most need it. For two days now, brother heron has stood in the shallows downriver, the very eye of his attention upon me even as he spears the fish that slip into his shadow. He assures me my prayer is safe, that he and all his brothers know you, will watch over you, this great blue brother I long ago – in an odd moment of clarity – had tattooed on my left shoulder blade, my wing, your great grandmother’s voice whispering across the ages down into my craziness ‘find your brother, find your brother, find your brother’ and waking from the nightmare of a crosscountry trip in the bed of a pickup beside the jade green waters of Chuckanut Bay in the nowhere of Bellingham, Washington, waves scuttling and polishing stones and beach glass bright colors and out of my fog stumbling upon, stumbling over the dead carcass of a great blue. Weeping in that strange cold land as if it were a lover I had missed. I took a handful of feathers and gently cut his plume to wear in my hair until it wore away to nothing. The feathers I tossed to the winds, crossing Puget Sound in the shadow of Rainier – Mother of All Waters – and on Vashon Island in the greydawn fog I submitted to the pain of my brother’s portrait on my back.

He waits now, prays with me, turns his orange eye a degree or two more as I smoke through the pack of cigarettes I found in a drawer of the cabin. On the curls of smoke I send prayers for new life to all my relations. To my son not son I send you the peace in my belly – may you know it: these prayers on the wind – may you hear them: and my brother – may you know him when he finds you. Know that – though I did not until now – Our Mother loves you.


Friday, February 20, 2009


Played these awesome cats (The Treniers) and Mr. Inimitable (CC) for my junior English class; knocked 'em dead.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Two poems

Over this past Valentine's Week, Ms Tina and I spun a series of poems back and forth through the cybermailwaves, exquisite mannequins, shall we say, since the preceding lines were always visible. We've been collaborating on what we call patina poems since our earliest daze: poetry is, clearly, an incendiary bidness. Here are two of the five.

[Sidereal Karaoke]

Slide within sinews of anticipation,
Slender, silent longing that
Stains and staggers
The wishing wells of
Dreamy wisdom, karaoke
Cashew bars
That steal
Tunes of night
And trident projections,
Yielding only to
Consequential value of
The upper berth,
Sidereal pleasures,
Oceanic bliss, waves
Voluminous plenty
Riming through the daze
Of amphibious innocenti.

[Equinox Squander]

Elegantly wrapped, your vernal
Equinox savors down the way
Past the silence of moist taunts,
Carved in the knowledge you exhale
Carnal wisdom, fireflash, root cause
Past the dweller's threshold:
Supple is the moment,
The source of your breath,
Your incandescence,
Consuming me in sacred fire,
Relegating doubt to doubt's
Reliquary, witness
To whither the heart's wander,
Opalescent squander down
All the long blue Niles,
Resting in the dark comfort
Of your virile earth
Your kestrel paths
Your halcyon mirth.

[Props for the photo:]


Sunday, February 15, 2009


Seems a weekend for meme-tag. This one comes courtesy of present over at Let It Be. The subject is books, our loves and a dis-list thrown in. Thank heavens for President's Day off, and a little extra time on my hands, though truth be told, I've got a pile of six weeks tests and grading comments awaiting me on my day "off." Better this bit of earnest procrastination.

The List:

4 childhood books I've read.
1. The Collected Works of James Marshall (local Trinity grad made good, with the sublime George and Martha, the Miss Nelsons, the outrageous Fox series, the Stupids, and Space Case, just to name a few).
2. Winnie the Pooh A. A. Milne (One Bear of Very Little Brain to another)
3. Frog and Toad Are Friends Arnold Lobel (Demented toad and his analyst pal)
4. Moo, Baa, La La La Sandra Boynton (Walden's very first book, from "Aunt" Diana)

4 Classics, read and never forgotten. (Damn! What's a "classic?")
1. Narcissus and Goldmund Hermann Hesse (The beginning of the turning point, my freshman year.)
2. The Sound and the Fury William Faulkner (Fully turned, at this point)
3. Bleak House Charles Dickens (Beginning of a six month love affair with CD)
4. The Odyssey Homer (Fitzgerald's translation and his wine-dark seas)

4 Personal Modern Classics
1. Gravity's Rainbow Thomas Pynchon (Far more expansive than any drug)
2. The Tropic of Capricorn Henry Miller (Less sex than its notorious companion, but for my money, much more profound, and better written to boot.)
3. All the Pretty Horses Cormac McCarthy (It took two tries, but the second time I was hooked: it lived and breathed in me for months; a gorgeous, heartbreaking extended coda.)
4. One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez (One of the best endings, bar none.)

4 Authors I've read again and again.
1. Thomas Pynchon.
2. Grace Paley.
3. Padgett Powell.
4. John Fowles.

4 Books I'll never read again (nor comment upon, either.)
1. Julius Caesar William Shakespeare
2. Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe
3. The Golden Notebook Doris Lessing
4. The Corrections Jonathan Franzen

4 Books on my To Be Read / Busta Move list (how the hell do I know this?)
1. Another Easter/Lenten reading of Gravity's Rainbow.
2. Thoreau's Collected Journals.
3. Padgett's long-awaited new novel, whenever it gets here.
4. Isaac Bashevis Singer's Collected Stories.

2 Fiction / 2 Nonfiction Books to the Desert Isle.
1. Against the Day Thomas Pynchon
2. Collected Stories Grace Paley
3. Rimbaud in Abyssinia Alain Borer (translation: Rosemary Waldrip)
4. The Maine Woods / Cape Cod Henry David Thoreau

4 Book recommendations I have followed and loved.
1. Gravity's Rainbow Thomas Pynchon (A life-changer, recommended by my junior year English tutorial grad student)
2. Lonesome Dove Larry McMurtry
3. The Simple Truth / What Work Is Philip Levine (Poetry we should all read)
4. Collected Stories H. P. Lovecraft (L, the brilliant resident Rimbaud at the Instituto, was about to pin an awesome drawing of Cthulhu on my bulletin board: she refused to do so, until I read some Lovecraft. HP puts Poe to shame. Cthulhu got pinned.)

The last lines of one of my favorite books.
Well, this was an interesting finish. For the longest time, I have always held the last lines of One Hundred Years of Solitude and All the King's Men to be the best endings to any novels I have read. Turns out they are on a list I just found of the 100 Best Last Lines from Novels. So, here goes:

Before reaching the final line, however, he had already understood that he would never leave that room, for it was foreseen that the city of mirrors (or mirages) would be wiped out by the wind or exiled from the memory of men at the precise moment when Aureliano Babilonia would finish deciphering the documents, and that everything written on them was unrepeatable since time immemorial and forever more, because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth. (Garcia Marquez)

We shall come back, no doubt, to walk down the Row and watch young people on the tennis courts by the clump of mimosas and walk down the beach by the bay, where the diving floats lift gently in the sun, and on out to the pine grove, where the needles thick on the ground will deaden the footfall so that we shall move among the trees as soundlessly as smoke. But that will be a long time from now, and soon now we shall go out of the house and go into the convulsion of the world, out of history into history and the awful responsibility of Time.
(Robert Penn Warren)

But, then again:

The boardwalk through the thinned swamp looked miraculous, as if the burning had been a plan of architectural landscaping. The handsome, lean swamp, the walk suggesting a miniature railroad trestle going out into it, resembled a park. If you winnowed and got down pretty clean and were normal, she thought, and something happened - like a big-bubba sheriff and thousands of windfall contracting and a completely different kind of life than you had had - and you started becoming a character, and you paid nothing for it and did not scheme for it, and it reversed your winnowing, and you liked brandy suddenly, at least in coffee, while watching men who put classical sculpture to shame, was it your fault? (The last paragraph of Padgett Powell's story "The Winnowing of Mrs. Schuping," from collection entitled Typical.)

Once again, the slacker's approach to tagging. All who wish to enter the sandbox, just jump on in...


Saturday, February 14, 2009


Tammie over at Spirithelpers has been bestowing awards from her closets (an early spring cleaning, I expect: very early, as she lives at the doorstep of Glacier National Park: global warming notwithstanding, I've seen her snow pictures). Mine was more tag than award (hence tagwarded), for which I am grateful, since like her, I have an ambivalence to the epidemic of "gwards" warming the blogways these daze. But, as she no doubt intuitively knows, I seldom shirk an opportunity to self-proclaim, so with her permission to make up the rules and forward or not, I shall do just that. While writing this paragraph, for no apparent reason, the face of Anne Rice appeared, so I decided that the "7 odd things about myself" commission will be 7 famous people I have "sighted" over the course of my two score and fifteen (would that be an ide of years?) years. Mind, there were more than 7 who have rubbed shoulders with me, but these will do, in no particular order, and with no particular significance whatsoever, as I'll probably be leaving out my two dinners with Padgett Powell, anyway:

1. Anne Rice: since she popped up first, we'll start with her. Must have been late 1980s, in New Orleans, sitting in the audience of the Vieux Carre theater in the Quarter for the inaugural Tennessee Williams Literary Festival. Anne Rice was interviewed by a UNO prof, first name Kenneth, last name escapes me, began with an H (Holditch?): these were still the days of her long long hair, dressed in a power suit more fit for a Wall Street accountant, and some kind of goofy gauzy blouse beneath, but despite the fact that I had never fallen for any of her prose (and never have since), I was mesmerized by her conversation, largely as she spoke about her evolution as a writer, and how the circumstances and tragedies of her life came to inform her fiction. A brilliant woman: I remember, too, that she said that she usually has about six novels running somewhere in her head, so she was never at a loss for work to do.

This was in the daze before she had moved back to New Orleans, first to her house in the Garden District, and then later to the "manse" on Napoleon Avenue, what had once been the sprawling grounds of St. Elizabeth's Home for Girls. As expected, while there, she became local royalty to all her devotees and any other hangers-on that could squeeze in the front doors of the manse.

2. Valerie Martin: VM's not exactly a household name for many, but she's a bit of minor royalty at least for New Orleans, matriculating as she did at UNO, before moving on to her digs as a Mount Holyoke prof, with Italian fellowships to boot. She, too, was at a booksigning at the Tennessee Fest one year, signing my copy of her book A Recent Martyr. I asked her to sign it "Pascal," as that is my first name, though not a name I use to identify myself (except in these quarters, of course). Pascal also happened to be the name of the novel's primary male character. She opened my book to the title page, drew a line through her printed name and then signed her own, beneath which she wrote: "To Pascal, in hopes that you are nothing like the Pascal in this book." I later saw Valerie at a reading for her novel Mary Reilly, a retelling of the Jekyll/Hyde story, told from the perspective of the household maid. MR was made into a film by Stephen Frears, starring Julia Roberts and John Malkovich. VM was not happy with the choice of JR (I was no JR devotee either, having only come lately to the JR show, with her Brockovich, Ocean's, and Charlie Wilson turns), but it was her friend Chris Wiltz, also a New Orleans writer, who reminded Valerie that her job was "to shut up and take the money to the bank."

3. J. Edgar Hoover: I'm using JEH as a bit of a cipher. In 1970, I took a competitive state exam down at Central High School in Jackson, Mississippi for a William Randolph Hearst college scholarship. I was not feeling lucky the day of the test, as Jeanie Guyton, she of the long tennis legs and prodigious mind, was sitting across the room as well. But, as the gods would I have it, I was one of the two Mississippi recipients of the scholarships, which also entitled us to a trip to DC to hobnob about the place, meet many of the shakers and movers and, in JEH's case by that time, dodderers of Nixonian Washington. We were all put up by the Hearst Foundation at the Mayflower Hotel. My roommate, from Oregon, also showed up at Harvard the next year. Chief among my memories of that visit were a speech by Spiro Agnew (gag); one also by a crewcutted Walter Mondale; a visit to the Defense Department, where I heard questions by my co-conspirators of such sophistication that I could only hope to understand, much less ask (these were in the daze when my dreams were all left-brained; I'd not yet discovered that I was hopelessly, and now happily, right-brained); a visit to the White House, though no gladhanding with Milhous; visits to the offices of then Mississippi Senators Eastland and Stennis, my Captain Kangaroo-hippieish locks in stark contrast to the other Mississippi recipient from Drew, Mississippi (home of then Ole Miss football god Archie Manning); and, of course, the papal line through JEH's office, as we filed by and shook his hand (no doubt also being photographed by a camera in his tie).

4. Andie McDowell and daughter: This in Guero's, the south Austin TexMex hot spot. While sitting in the bar, waiting for a table, I looked up to see Ms M in a white dress, standing with a daughter who must have been about five or six at the time; this was about a dozen or so years ago. When called for my table, I walked by at gently touched her daughter on the crown of her head. I declined to do the same with her mother.

5. Ellis Marsalis: New Orleans patriarch of the multi-talented clan. This usually dapper gentleman sashayed by me one evening as I stood three-deep at the bar at Mandina's neighborhood restaurant on Canal Boulevard; he was dressed in jeans, a white t-shirt, and sandals, holding his take-out in a large paper bag above his head. For some reason, I knew that he'd been out of town for a while, so I wished him a "Welcome Home" as he passed by. Years later, I had an interesting conversation with Jason Marsalis at the Victory Grill in East Austin, where JM was headlining a concert for the (then) Clarksville Jazz and Heritage Festival (now Austin Jazz and Heritage...). I'd first seen JM on Maple Street in New Orleans, when he was a mere 8 and backing up his father Ellis at an outdoor neighborhood music fest. He was about 18 when I spoke with him in Austin; many of the Marsalis folk acclaim him the "real genius" of the bunch, which is damned high praise. What struck me, during our conversation, was just how much his body was moving the entire time, something I see in one of my students, who is also a drummer.

6. Harry Connick, Jr.: While we're on the subject of musicians, I was a big fan of HC in his quieter early days, before all the Sinatra-esque hype hit the gag level. HC is an awesome piano player: there's no way in hell he comes close to Old Blue Eyes in his 1950s days of apotheosis. But, before I get too far into yet another rant, let me just reiterate that I loved HC's first two albums, love his version of "If I Only Had a Brain" (see Paschal's Playlist), and can attest to his ability to eat up a keyboard with the ferocity of his genius. When I first moved to NOLA, I'd hear mention of him, still a high school student, student of Marsalis Senior, or apprentice of James Booker, etc., etc. I finally heard that he was going to be playing at a little bar in the Quarter, tiny hole in the wall: he was back from his days at Julliard. Quiet kid at the keyboard, I was standing at the bar: he was incredible. His daddy, Harry Senior, was standing behind me, talking to someone, filling him in on Junior's time in Manhattan. As an aside, HC, Senior morphed into one of the villains of my first novel Scarred Angels, as the San Antonio District Attorney who actively worked to cover up a child molestation scandal in the Archdiocese, a role HC, Senior actually played in New Orleans, when a scandal involving an Italian priest came out at the church that was just a block from my house on Belfast Street. HC, Senior was a parishioner at the church. He did not want to "embarrass Holy Mother Church" with the scandal, so he worked to block its coming to light. He did not deny his involvement in the matter, which makes his involvement all the more frightening.

7. Kim Basinger/Alec Baldwin: Martin's Wine Cellar and Deli, Saturday afternoon, uptown New Orleans: a favorite place for a quick bite, a great place to shop for wine. I'm sitting down at a table in the deli part, a blonde woman reading a book is sitting at the small table next to me. Looks a hell of a lot like Kim Basinger. Is it KB? Is it a lookalike? Unresolved. The next Saturday, I'm sitting at the very same table, who plops down but Alec Baldwin (no debating this one) and his "handler." AB has a hard time sitting in one place, keeps hopping up and down, leaving his handler to watch over his pastrami on rye. Seems KB was probably KB after all.

Rules of this tagward are simple: you wanna play, you play: you can follow along with the theme of "7 Famous People Who Almost Knew Me (Meaning You)" or go off on your own tangent. All participants (and all tangents) are welcome.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Sunday Scribbling #150: Sporks

The Emmenegger Suite: Ode to a Spork

Since at least the late 1800s,
Pasta mama ribbed
The necessary pleasure out
In tin and merry—
Ain’t no luha this one—
She be long and slender
In her Port Manteau lorry,
Adoration lingers in the mind’s cafetoriums,
The plastico splurge,
The fast food alka seltzer of chained dog
Living. History has its
References, its conscripts, &
External links aplenty, no jive.
Your century dictionary is all
Googoo pithy on the matter,
& visibly disgruntled, Brother—
All your didgeridoo and mass
Manufactured wonder. Ask Frank,
The Emmenegger, he’ll heel-toe
The blithers out of you in a burnt orange
Second. Proto-tined, I am now the
Name of another company &
I remain in force.
The fact that it is clever
And the fact that it has meaning
Is for the lighter types—
Ye backpackers
And minimum security to
Mid-level felons. Bluebeard would approve,
Even if not here, & he wouldn’t be,
Now would he?
Stainless steel titanium polycarbonate
Not for the feigned, not
For the weary—
This your consummate,
Your culinary,
Your postexpeditionary art.


Monday, February 09, 2009

[Begin Again]

Dig deep, there is a boy
Fathered / fatherlessed
The flag in his eyes and head
Is not his country’s—
Might as well have been living on Mars—
Not McCullough Avenue,
Not the avenue of rain,
Gathering coal, gathering
Rhythms left over.

He wandered east
Across an ocean
Saw vivid green through swollen lids
Walked the streets of Frankfurt
German boy not German
Brödchen, käsekrainers, and pain
Snow in the air
Stained glass crossed wrists of mercy
Ghosts, shorn hair
Displaced at the DP camps
When did the displacement begin?
After the gold rush?
After the desecrations?
Wandering the streets,
Little lame prince, nightly
Insurrections, nightly
Levitations, dreaming a night sky,
Dreaming a night’s journey nightly.

Wooden shoes, tilted mills
Cheese rolling down the street
This boy in a cavernous room
The American Hotel
Shabby royalty at a table for one
Soft-boiled eggs, face-painted
Cheese and butter sandwiches &
The acres of bones in country,
Declensions of a final worry.


Saturday, February 07, 2009

Art. For sure.


Thursday, February 05, 2009

Sunday Scribblings #149: Art(hur Rimbaud / John Keats)


What quietness now my sweet apothecary, what dreams down the fiery ships of autumn? The captain tells me I am lost, amputated tradesman. Would my leg were in your care — a memento, palimpsest of a world’s worry. You would have thought it frozen in Norway, or incinerated in the infernal hell of Aden, not slow cancerous death in the green brown Eden of Harar. Prithee: a lung for a leg; never a problem breathing, too much breath said Verlaine, puking into our absinthe nights.

I could have used you in the Paris barracks, though in truth I do not see you as a scrapping bantamweight, such is the consumptive shroud. Hacks will comb the sands of these sour years of mine, glance once or twice into that muddy lot and run screaming, screaming as I could not, screaming at the mere intimation of what their imaginations have no words for. Not you, my sweet surgeon. Dress me, stableboy; put your commas there, your semicolons, your periods. Stay awhile – smell the horseshit, the wine, the insistent violence. How much imagination must generations lack to miss the bloody words writ large on those barrack walls? Such are the seasons in hell, such is the father of silence.

You least of all would ever ask why to the answer of Africa. There is no wonder. There is no missing link. I would I could have taken you there, and if not burned the viscous rot from your lungs, then delivered you to the spare ground of blackest Islam. I am no saint to love you – the picture of the first communion angelboy was already the portrait of a heretic. I knew no love of family, you who nursed a spectral mother and brother to their deaths. No secret love, no Fanny, my black wife more slave than refuge. Carnage yes, but love? Your dear father fell off his horse, mine rode away. We follow in the steps. Never once seen after the age of six, but still he whispered to me even in the upstairs hovel of Bardey’s while the jackals cleaned the battlements at night, corpses for your rotting morgue.


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Exquisite Wake

Morticians: the corpse is ripe and ready. For those checking in from other planets, Ms Alister put in a plea a while back for a tribal corpse and, just in case I resisted on purely logistical and/or ornery scorpionic grounds, deftly laid out the 1, 2, 3s of dissemination. Who could resist? I was merely the clearinghouse, sending on the cue lines to the next person in the largely unintentional rotation. My only consideration in the latter matter was not to send cues to folks that were closely clustered, so familial or filial rhythms did not segue too closely. I’m happy to identify the poets by couplets later (only via established blog identities), but I thought it might be interesting to toss the poem out first, without direct attribution. For now, suffice it to say that our poets were (alphabetically, not in order of the lines): miss alister, alt, anb, anno, chrysalis, devil mood, jsd, pmb, present, san, tammie, tsk, and wonder woman.

Nothing significant about the title: stolen from the kitchen wall…

[The Scent of Blue Smoke]

After the marriage of time and candy
The spring portraits of the descent of man
Unpegged from curled rose paper walls
Claw dust and shards in bleeding scrawls
All to say what you should already know
My offering to you, my sacrifice etched upon my body
No vanity in vain, this,
but a fair trade exchange: my fading life
my life, dumbed down:
to peas, cues, minding it, the store
but she was so sassy, the tale had to be told
of the night when she saw them outside in the cold
she couldn't stop thinking about their frosty whiskers
and how she'd like to give them a good home
however, she as she surveyed her own
what was lacking screamed for care—
She acquainted with the tear that caressed her face
In due time she loitered the sidelines of life with memories weighing down her eyelids
a slish-slosh of soul-searching trine—
ever emergent, ever cast
It is an unexpected and provocative peek, my dear
yet clenched fists can't hold, so drop the pretense
here's a true heart standing ready at your side
a friend always there, defender of your pride
a doubt always near, so easy to deride,
in the juxtaposition, dear, you continue to reside


Monday, February 02, 2009

Sunday Scribblings #148: Regrets

Well, folks, I regret to say that I do not have the finished exquisite corpse I was hoping to schlep into place as this week's response to the SS girls; the final couplet is, hopefully, still wending its way back to the point of origin. Just as I was confident that any morgue-ish poem worth its salt would surely address the "regret" prompt, I'm sure that the very same poem would do just as fine a job with next week's "leaf blower" prompt.

Short of ready-made material, I am left to fend for myself on this week's noodle. Before I dug myself in too deep, I decided to consult Aunt Merriam online for some etymological considerations and she informed me that the word "regret" cousins up nicely with roots that entangle themselves with the words "greet" and "weep." Perhaps, then, to "re-greet" or "re-weep." Maybe even "re-visit." Set a spell, even. I liked these suggestions, especially as they were contrary to what I expected to "greet" when I went searching. Rather than greeting again or even weeping again, I tend to associate regret with albatrosses and anchors: things with weight and maybe a foul smell: not your average Armani or Jerry Garcia neckwear.

I don't do avian regret: it just hasn't suited me for a long time - long, long time. I've done too many things in my 55 years that, in another closet, would have qualified for plenty of albatross du jour: left marriages, given away houses, given away large quantities of retirement funds (long before any "credit crunch" decided to level some playing fields), walked away from twenty years in another profession...Thirty years ago, while trolling 6th Street one weekend night in Austin, I ran across a black and white "No Regrets" button. It seemed a perfect mantra then, just as it still does now. I'm sure that if I dig deep enough in the archives out in the garage, it's probably still out there, radiating its wise message.

And speaking of wise, consider the Houstonian narrator in Ms Alister's latest tale, who, when asked if he has any regrets, replies, "Regrets? Naw, Ma'am. I mean I do, I mean I could." Cracked me up the first time I read the line (still does), another priceless coinage out of the Duchess' mint, but banter genius aside, I love the truth of the statement, too, particularly in that meaty beaty bouncy, "I mean I could." Of course, he could; of course, we all could. Houston bubba's letting us know that we strap on those damn albatrosses ourselves, be they full-Windsored or half-Windsored. If, that is, our regret is measured in sea-blown poultry.

But, on the other hand, if I follow Aunt Merriam's lead, then you just might have to sign me right on up as a first class re-gretter, cuz, brothers and sisters, I do like to "greet" and I am not at all above frequent flyer mileage as a weeper. (Just ask two viewings of the final prison scene with Fagin and Oliver in Polanski's "Oliver Twist" or another viewing of the sublime "Dear Frankie," and the 80-something thousand other movies that have jerked their own share of Niagaras out of this head.)

And with this retro-fitted definition in mind, count me as a big re-weeper on finding out, a couple of weeks ago, that dear sweet and formidable Grace Paley had passed on long before I ever got the news, back in August 2007, while all this time I was living under the illusion that her gorgeous self was still up there thriving in Vermont. The bookflap on Fidelity, her last book of poems, informed me otherwise, and it seems her final journeying was not an easy one, as she chronicles so beautifully, so achingly beautifully, in the poems under its roof. I will re-weep for this beautiful psalmist anytime, just as I will always hasten to greet the new day of her glorious prose.

by Grace Paley

My friends are dying
well we're old it's natural
one day we passed the experience of "older"
which began in late middle age
and came suddenly upon "old" then
all the little killing bugs and
baby tumors that had struggled
for years against the body's
brave immunities found their
level playing fields and

but this is not what I meant to
tell you I wanted to say that
my friends were dying but have now
become absent the word dead is correct
but inappropriate

I have not taken their names out of
conversation gossip political argument
my telephone book or card index in
whatever alphabetical or contextual
organizer I can stop any evening of
the lonesome week at Claiborne Bercovici
Vernarelli Deming and rest a moment

on their seriousness as artists workers
their excitement as political actors in the
streets of our cities or in their workplaces
the vigiling fasting praying in or out
of jail their lightheartedness which floated
above the year's despair
their courageous sometimes hilarious
disobediences before the state's official
servants their fidelity to the idea that
it is possible with only a little extra anguish
to live in this world at an absolute minimum
loving brainy sexual energetic redeemed.

(In "regret" of the lovely Grace Paley: December 11, 1922 - August 22, 2007)