Wednesday, April 28, 2010

variant mist

[Doom, castling]

Lem reached for the boggle
Ancient greed gripped,
Prehensile greed, filigree’d
Desire, calming down the waters,
Angering the myths of doom,
Castling the kings within. This
Carousel lapses, this storm withers,
This kestrel flies the dreams
Of hell. Now I have a straight face,
I linger, I seed the vastness,
Crippled by nascent envy
In the face of aqueous retribution.
She traveled the third ways,
A vigilant second,
Desperation in a perilous


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

box lunch

More poems with the freshmores, this time following the lead of long-ago UTSA poet Cathy Bowman, now off to much posher digs at Indiana University. This "prompt" is always a favorite: CB herself was playing with a mistranscription of Memphis Minnie’s classic blues line “I want to be your chauffer”; the line was miscopied in an early Folkways recording song transcription as “I want to be your shoebox.” Our "wannabe song" ranges all over the place and like any good blues song, it plays fast and loose at the edges. We decided to do this as a group poem, everyone chiming in with words and rhymes. CB's original is here, and ours (all the sixth period denizens of the 168) is right behind:

Wannabe Song
(All of Us)

I wanna be your dragon
I wanna be your wagon
I wanna be your pants that are baggin’

I wanna be your t-shirt
I wanna be your pervert
I wanna be your blueberry sherbert

I wanna be your star
I wanna be & wanna steal your car
I wanna be in your jar

I wanna be your pizza
I wanna be your treatza
I wanna be your Jesus

I wanna be your cat
I wanna wear your hat
I wanna sit on your mat

I wanna be your children
I wanna be your women
I wanna put them in a cauldron

I wanna be your poultry
I wanna be your maple tree
I wanna be your big tree

I wanna be your matrix
I wanna be your chex mix
I wanna be your white chicks

I wanna be your train
I wanna be half of your brain
I wanna enter your lane

I wanna be your speaker
I wanna be your creeper
I wanna be your peeper

I wanna be your microphone
I wanna be your homophone
I wanna be your xylophone

I wanna be your stalker
I wanna be your walker
I wanna be your gawker

I wanna be your snake skin
I wanna be in your baby pen
I wanna be your Top Ten

I wanna be your tower
I wanna be your higher power
I wanna smell your flower

I wanna be your pack of wolves
I wanna be the one who drools
I wanna be your sack of jewels

I wanna be your clock
I wanna be your Glock
I wanna touch your sock

I wanna be your Batmobile
I wanna be your spinning wheel
I wanna be your power dreel

I wanna be your Wyatt
I wanna know if you can spy it
Why can’t y’all just be quiet?

I wanna be your skirt
I wanna be your hurt
I wanna rub you in the dirt

I wanna be your CPU
I wanna be your Pepe le Pew
I wanna go all the way around the block with you

I wanna be your worm
I wanna be your perm
I wanna make you squirm

I wanna be your dodgeball dodger
I wanna be your only lodger
I so wanna be your Mister Rogers


Saturday, April 24, 2010


Yesterday, in celebration of Battle of Flowers Day here in Tres Leches, we betook ourselves, as we have now for five years, to the beach at Malaquite, at the north end of the Padre Island National Seashore. With the day off from school on Friday, we traded parade mania for surf, always an easy bargain with the two resident ocean-babies y yo, who for eleven years cut my teeth on Mardi Gras parades and have since retired from the loveliness of street mayhem. There are New Orleans natives who for years have skipped the Carnival party to go skiing; the surf, I suppose, is our local brand of self-induced party exile.

Thursday night, Walden and I pitched the Walrus tent in the back yard, under the trees. Just about the time I pronounced it probably okay to leave the "fly" off and sleep with the sheer panels open to the night sky, a heavy mist descended: it passed quickly, but we went with the fly after all, though we left all the side panels open to a delicious night breeze. Tina woke us about 7:20 and we lollygagged onto the road about an hour later. Many's the time we'll blaze out of town long before the break of dawn, but this lazy approach felt good.

Hit Corpus about 10:45 and headed for Hester's Cafe, one of our new finds: Tina and I "lived" there during spring break, while Walden was off with the church youth group in Port Aransas. For his introductory meal, he chose a passel of French toast made with challah bread. The dish is called Hester's Griddle Toast, and it's accompanying mantra is "Think Big. Eat Big. Be Big." I'm sure I could cover all three (particularly Part III) if I were to make HGT my recurring choice.

We got to Malaquite about 1, just as three busloads of elementary urchins were making their way back to the buses, leaving the beach surprisingly unpeopled. Partied with the waves for about 45 minutes (strong pull), then parked it in the shade for a while, reading Roberto Bolano's increasingly seductive novel 2666. The second time out, we found a stretch of exuberantly pounding waves that crashed us but good and again managed to toss my latest sunglasses into the Gulf. I buys 'em cheap at Dollar General, so the sacrifice to trickstering Yemaya is worth the thrill.

More Bolano, drowsy dozing, a walk up the beach, a final pounding. By the time we gathered up to leave at 6:30, there were perhaps three people still on the beach, four cars in the parking lot. Unbelievably serene.

Obligatory showers and then the even more obligatory trip to Snoopy's, the channel-side fish joint. The fish there is mouth-wateringly fresh; hilariously, our vegetarian son has long declared it the best restaurant in the universe, this despite the fact that his recurring order is a grilled cheese sandwich and curly fries, followed, of course, by two huge scoops of Blue Bell cookies and cream at the adjoining Scoopy's. Perhaps even more pathetically hilarious are my own vegetarian choices, now that I am trying to abjure the tastier fried okras and hush puppies. Steamed broccoli dipped in cocktail sauce can only get you so far, though I have to say that their Asian cole slaw is quite delectable. All this forswearing, of course, just makes this ice cream recidivist's (pralines and cream, if you must know) backsliding a tad more bearable. Sensible Tina, reiterating yet again to our haranguing son that as a shamanic whale she must have her fish, savors her delicious broiled mahi mahi. She pays no mind to Walden 's insistence that as a whale she should be eating krill or plankton.

We flew back up 281, arriving in Tres Leches right at midnight. Walden and I slipped back into the Walrus, just fifteen minutes before all hell broke loose: winds, lightning, thunder, and heavy rain. We were snug as bugs and perfectly dry.

* * *

I've known for some time now that the master plan in TL is to connect about twenty miles worth of Salado Creek trails, over the next 3-5 years, but after checking out the Greenway site this past week, I was surprised to see that major disconnected sections are already completed and open. I've decided to use my Saturdays to explore some of the other sections around town. Slightly hampered today by a schedule, I checked out the South Salado Creek stretch on the southeast side of town. The trailhead I used is just about half a mile east of the local shrine to the Black Madonna, so hiking with Mary and Yemaya seemed a cool thing. On the way down, I purchased my latest $6 pair of sunglasses.

All things considered, I prefer the Tobin to the South Salado, but there were still some up sides to the new (for me) stretch: much of the trail hugs the creek and the creek is much prettier down south: beautiful lazy green stretches, lots more creekrun and creekmurmur. I passed two natural springs (draped in obligatory ferns) that fed into the creek, and some of the stretches in the woods felt much more secluded than the Tobin, lovely stretches through a deep ravine of hardwoods. Wide splashes of Indian Blanket (gaillardia pulchella) ran through some mesquite thickets and one part of the trail comes up alongside the wide pastures of a farm: you truly feel as if you've slipped out of town altogether, even though you can see the Tower of the Americas off in the distance.

But, there were some down sides: the first mile of the trail runs through two adjoining county parks, full of partiers and music. I was happy for them to have such lovely green spaces to party in, but it just took longer to feel like I was leaving noise and bustle behind. Granted, the music wasn't bad: volleyballing funk devotees, followed by a cumpleanos with conjunto and Los Lonely Boys, and then, strangest of all, a reunion of easily a hundred or so septuagenarians being regaled by an onsite deejay playing dance-mixed Michael Jackson. When I looped back on the homeward stretch, MJ was still on the box.

Once into the woods, the trees were gorgeous: wonderful quiet, less than six other people on the trail for the whole stretch. The round trip route is 4.6 miles, shorter than I like, particularly for weekends: I prefer closer to six miles or longer. On the return trip to the Covington Park trailhead, I found a tiny plastic ninja on the trail, face down, for Walden.

Perhaps an interesting place in midwinter, when the parks themselves should be more deserted. I'm looking forward to next exploring a round trip 8 mile stretch of trail southwest of town that runs along the Medina River.

Gorgeous blazing blue-sky day, though, helped wonderfully by the 15-20 mph winds that kept the open stretches cooled down.


Thursday, April 22, 2010


We've (freshmores y yo) been into the poems again this past week, playing with sharks and Gertrude's chicken and GS's directional reflections in Stanza XXXVIII in "Stanzas in Meditation" (Anyone can learn that north of course / Is not only north but north as north).

Vivian Shipley's instructional "What to Do About Sharks" started us off. It's a fun poem: you can find it here. We used the poem as a prompt for other odd instructional manual poems. Here's my riff:

What to Do About Georgian Grain Elevators


Take them to the ninth floor.
Gaze tenderly about you - cash in
on the royal view. Forget temptation,
we're not on about all that, now
are we, dear? Above all, exercise


Fit it all out in red papeles, but
ignore the temptation to piddle.
Keep cinnamon in her place, she so
nasty in all her juvenile glory. Ashcan wisdom
begs for mercy, but you needn't


Take it down a foot or two.
Inquire if census forms are filled out
correctly - anyone in the back room?
Tornado corn silks make for nice
appetizers, but don't overdo. Squid always
makes for a better companion.

Next up, we had some rousing fun with Stein's "Tender Buttons [Chicken]. GS's is here; my take follows:


Salted goo, amphibian slice and dice, fishy fingers in fried air.


Slalom slide in Stowe, more stowe than show, more show than stowe, slaloming.


Wide brim brimming brimmingly, brimming at the beach, brimming the icy cups, brimming her frozen hair, evenly black the blacking.


Calculated murk in murky thirds, murking the third birds murkily.

PORRIDGE. (via joni)

Belly full of lazy, all for something shady, maids marian merrying their merry whey.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

definitely in the house, she is . . .


yemaya's in the house . . .

need we say more . . .


Samba Saturday

The post title is not my own; borrowed it from the KSYM bossa nova radio show that was playing as Walden, his friend Sebastiano, and I floated the monsoon streets this morning, from S' house, to Starbucks where we waited for the Brookhollow biblioteca to open at 10, and then on home to (truly) Running Creek. Brazilian music, or Brazilian-influenced music, has long been a love of mine. A few samples, from pop to classic.

Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66. This is where it started for me; not this song, though deejay Bobby J played it this morning. I was already hooked by their Equinox album, with "Chove Chuva" and "Mais Que Nada"; as Bobby J said, their "rather uninspired" version of TLOL still caught on and sold millions for them. I don't know about uninspired; Equinox was anything but: they came out with everything they had on that disc.

Marcos and Anamaria Valle. I'd never heard this before; Bobby J said a listener of his once called this the "coolest little song ever." Very cool, very simple: completely infectious.

Stan Getz. SG's classic bossa nova albums were lurking in my mother's vast record collection when I finally made my way into the jazz section. I've always loved the classic Getz/Gilberto album, but his Sweet Rain album is probably still my favorite of all his albums. By the time I "found" this, I'd already been smitten by Chick Corea's Return to Forever, his collaboration with Gary Burton, and his own "solo" post-RTF albums. To my mind, this album is as much Chick's as it is Stan's. Even though this number is not the title cut, it's always seemed perfect for a rainy day: Chick's long solo, racing away with Grady Tate's drums right beside, is nothing but sweet rain in all its tempos.

Postscript: Years ago in New Orleans, my first time in the pizza parlor Pie in the Sky on Magazine Street, what should erupt from the speakers but "Chove Chuva." Seems that each time I went back (and you know I went back) they were playing yet more awesome music from my life's soundtrack.

Okay, I guess it's only fair:


Friday, April 16, 2010

one word jacket: potato

smoking jacket reveals

tender feelings

habitual removal of foxy

elements: the display

was offered

a la carte while

the tierra del fuegos

took the stage

zanzibaring all


of the forever men

sliding down

the squeegee bends.

frivolity comes

in twos and threes,

not really much

more mustard than

that. down

the street

caravans assemble,

vigilance is cast

off, the table

set by

the usual name and tide.

Account for yourself,

bloody fool: enough

with your vagaries: contact

officialdom, cagey little


standard warranty,

unaccustomed earth

in the diligent dance.


friday poem

[Devotionally Misreading David Rosenberg]

surviving the flood
bring that Canaanite blood sugar
indigenous memphitic blues
nubian flotsam
figgy jetsam
leggy Isis
blistering your tongue
calculating the measures by
which we
holy rock
holy roll
red sea babies carry
us home
the fruit trees
the olives
the tamarind nights
i'll to your west ends
you'll to my seeds
can there be marriage more
jeweled than this?


Thursday, April 15, 2010

one word holy: coaster

beach boy avatars

muddy riot

drifters and pendergrass

lonesome cowboys

in the krishnamurti aisles

alimentary canals:

the Amsterdam trick

or treat: we regale

the mixed blessings

while peas and roast

beef and tofu

squalor are passed

to the little

kids table

and royal mess alike.

avaricious avatars? why be

so beguiled? whisper

on the downstroke &

see if casual

is Govinda's way or not.

These daze we'd simply

call him a suck-up, but

70's child that he is,

he deserves more

compassion; we'll squiggle

with the moon later:

it's all up for

grabs. now's for the brighter



Sunday Scribblings #210: Deadline

[right-brained vigor: immaculate fruit]

flat in the grey world

receding bald world

antagonistic harems weighing

anchor, Sybils in sibilant

satisfaction, the commas

visit the haystack,

commiserate with the locals

advantageously smelling the salts

while backs are turned.

comb-over visions

placate the cerebellum

squash the local fruit

imbibe the Shasta flavors

at the bottom of the barrel,

bargaining for a lesser

rate, opening the heaven's

gate, abrogating the

feral mate

in the sunshine sunshiny

standoff twixt

alpha and O. passion

locks down the mango

boys; we list

for later.


most apple manna

The manna today came via Gertrude Stein. One of the minions suggested that the Stein of "Tender Buttons" is a lot harder to write than you think. It was a beautiful insight, from a jazz-oriented freshmore mind. Some of us riffed off of the inimitable GS, while a few tried their hand at riffing on Marilyn Hacker's "Blues" poem, she of the "curdy belly."

My riff on Ms Gertrude:

[i suppose it needs a title]

i have no idea no idea my name is bonet i have no idea and no ideas have me I am so being had by the no ideas in my head, erupting Vesuviuses that prolong the barge down the misery Rhine of backpedaling indulgence. The Pope was a vision before she was ever a Pope, with her fingerlilies and Tidy Bowl pancakes all up & down the liquid Versailles. Camouflage my pains, cried the quiet goose, lamentations in the principal's office, before the sturdy Board. She asked if we were Maximus - do we look like a movie?, we cried. Do we have the yellow cloaks necessary to bisect the obtuse angle? Visionary coffeeshops, truculent beasties eating the apple people who squire away all my lasting memories. I cannot think what could possibly come next, my name is bonet i have no idea . . .

[One of the minions, when given the "prompt," predictably responded with "i have no idea." I used her as my prompt, changing her name to protect her innocence.]


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

more apple manna

Another day of poems with the freshmores. Today's mindblowing exercise was courtesy of Hoa Nguyen, my poetry teacher in Austin twelve years ago. We riffed off of this poem, using its first line as our "prompt":

[A night at the beach what is left]

A night at the beach what is left
conch shell shimmer marks
where feet trail across sand dense
as stars Humans like me
can't hear beneath the trillionth
day of DNA sung meaning
of sea waves Sting nettle
having waves to paddle

: Hoa Nguyen

(My apologies to Hoa; my low-rent Blogger account will not recognize the spacings that are - or were - characteristic of her wonderful lines. Click here for the poem at another site. Once there, you can click the "Go Back" link to access another nine of her poems. Lots of good links at the Wikipedia entry about her.)

My riff on Hoa's poem:

[A night at the beach what is left]

A night at the beach what is left
canned peas
coastal bleach
asinine convergence
in the hermit dunes
i sing for a supper
washed up
washed in


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

apple manna

Delving into poems with the freshmores. Today, in the spirit of WCW's "This Is Just To Say," we wrote our own poetic "notes," be they fridge notes, computer notes, bedroom door notes, what have you. After which, I took the annual opportunity to blow yet another set of minds with Berryman's "Dream Song 4." Loved it when one of my most unreachable of unreachables grinned and said, "Funny thing is, I think I kind of get it." And he did.

Here's my Williamsian note; clearly the sentiments are not those of the local Muravian.

Blackboard Note in a Dry-Erase World

crappy poems, who

needs 'em


all the nonsense

of chicken paprika & tense

verbs & mr. bones

with his frame-y

structure. leave

the world to watermelons

& igneous rocks

& caryatids on

the ballroom floor.

(Amazingly, this poem was roundly applauded, even
after they found out who the poet was.)


Saturday, April 10, 2010

"illegal fun . . . under the sun, boys . . . "

The Olmos Cliffs
(another coffee poem)


gargoyles at club Argyle

cantinflas, mariachis

actuarial contemplations

down the long line of

Patterson Avenue

infant bubblings bubbling

on into forever at the Olmos

Cliffs, precipice of evermore:

in the benighted bliss

after the Barbie

carousels, byzantine


margaritas in the silver

bowl . . .


i wandered from oak

to crest - green

dress flashing brown

legs, hair's breadth

from pre-figuration

angels dusting our shoulders

pollinated desire

indirect guesses

cavalcade down the angel

way, into the garden

of the sisters,

Angels & Jesus with his

Big Boss heart, all

their concrete fingers snapped

into an oblivion of

care and nurture that

bleeds into the seventh

innings -

jean in her hapless

impoverished death,

while the sisters

of Jesus

process dormitory-style

into their garden rows,

Hoss God at his

sixth floor window,

counting down the hours

for you & me,

too big for his britches &

pushin' on the screen -

Wellesian apparition -

black queen on red

king, pushing

the sixteen & still

tapping out the jeri-curls

in your hand.

Hit me, sez she, &

it's a blow that lasts



Found poem: On the Tobin Trail This Morning

(Image: Brown-eyed Susans for Devil Mood)

i. Seen on the Tobin

3 women with iPods

1 man with iPod

The General
4 cyclists

1 recumbent cyclist

red salvia (firespike)

mesquite sapling

raccoon tracks in creek mud
family of 4 and pug

dead squirrel

live squirrel

wild mimosa in bloom

coil of brown shit + flies


4 red-orange poppies

ii. Picked up on the Tobin

a penny

McDonald's coffee cup

2 pieces of cardboard

discarded purple lighter
empty cigarette pack
plastic water bottle
paper towel encrusted with doodle bugs

orange rubber band

Bud Lite can

Cassandra Wilson

(just kidding)

The egret was magnificent.


burroughs musing . . .

Anyone else think that Fagen is the postmodern Dracula? SD has long been lechery's finest hour. My favorite of Gaucho's many favorite tracks. Long years ago in Austin, my crush on Julie Christensen was sustained by her cover of this with the heartbreakingly short-lived Minor Miracle. JC went on to a long-lived collaboration with Leonard Cohen, which I suppose is better for her, but I've always preferred SD's decadence to LC. While we're into the chisme, I should mention that author Rikki Ducornet (whose writing class at Gemini Ink I took several years back) is the inspiration for SD's less than iridescent (compared to Aja and Gaucho) "Rikki, Don't Lose That Number." RD and Fagen (and I think Walter, too) were all at Bard College together.

Great song to start a road trip . . .


Thursday, April 08, 2010

classic . . .

If memory serves, I was sitting in a parking lot outside Shoal Creek Hospital in Austin about fourteen years ago when this beauty dropped through the airwaves. Deejay assumed way too much in thinking that I would know the song and the artist, such is the "professionalism" of Austin deejays on the lower end of the dial. It took several more years before the miracle of googling allowed me to drop the sliver of lyrics that stuck in my head into the surf and come back with a message in the bottle. Not the first time this gem has shown up here, but who needs an excuse for reprising a good tune?


one word passionata: holy

two-thirds of the cathedral
drilled the holes,
candle-waiting through

the emerging bliss
dewey decimal postulants

gambling for their lives
the teensiest

eensiest soul

feening for god's glory,


all the didgeridoo

nonsense of castle dreams,

the baked goods

twining vision

with affirmation,

doodle time


all our cattle drives

to the altar
spilling tithes

east & west
granulated saintliness
playground pieties

a most vertical integration

in the names of

the holyonlymost

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Monday, April 05, 2010

the eyes have it . . .

Easter Monday off, Tina sleeping in after a late night (early morning) of writing, I had time to take Mr. Baby to school ("Am I the only one who has to go to work today?" - pobrecito), after a quick stop into La Madeleine for a palmier. Plenty time after that for a good five miles on the Salado Creek Greenway trail.

It's wonderful to have the trail so close to the house, and a new leg of it actually skirts the Los Patios grounds where Tina now has her office. For years, in the Tres Leches vs Austin debate, TL was slowly wearing down all my old attachments, save for my missing the wondrous Barton Creek canyon trail that winds seven miles south of Barton Springs and the Colorado River ("Town" "Lake" to the unwashed). When the creek is running after big rains, the BC trail is heaven on earth, so the Salado will likely never reach that status, but it's green and glorious presence (and proximity) have rendered my lingering greenbelt lamentations moot.

Lovely grey overcast sky, I ditched sunglasses and hat and cut my usual pace by about a third: I'm usually more on a fitness mission at other times: this morning, I really wanted to take in the cool air and the lushness of the trees, pull my nose up off the grindstone. Even at a faster pace, I feel the greenness around me, but today I also wanted to see it and let it fill my eyes with color.

The first two-thirds of the Tobin trail meanders through an avenue/cathedral of trees - Tolkienesque Ent-like oaks, soaring pecans, hackberries, mountain laurels, and handfuls of others beyond my limited flora databases. At the trailhead, there are scattered clusters of bluebonnets, which give way to shoulder-high stands of yellow Southern corydalis that run the full 2.91 miles of the trail. The understory of the "cathedral" is an endless carpet of delicate lavender Mexican petunias: the woods look like they are filled with baby's breath. Small patches of sunflowers; this morning I even found a patch of brown-eyed Susans. Breaking out in the past couple of days are some strands of what look like miniature purple irises; they look like delicate insects suspended on their green stalks. Colonies of tissue paper-thin pink primroses are mixed in with the petunias. What with all the pink, lavender, and yellow flooding the eye, the isolated bursts of red really stand out: bold male cardinal, three of four wine-cups, and in a deep meadow of the corydalis stood one lone, fluttering orange-red poppy.

Handful of people out this morning. The softest of breezes, just cool enough to offset the humidity in the air. Bird chatter up and down the length of the trail. The Salado starts west of the trailhead and then, about a half mile down through the trees, it cuts east under a footbridge. At the Austin Highway bridge - a quick peek out of the trees - another creek empties into the Salado, stairstepping down a series of concrete pools. Past the bridge another half-mile, the trail cuts back to the east side of the creek, where on a still pool of water sits a natural aquatic garden, full of lotus pads (still unbloomed): this pool empties under another footbridge and then spills over a limestone shelf, beautiful little waterfall that, without a bit more help on the rain-front, will likely disappear in another few weeks, as it did last year. Past the fall, the trail opens out down a long shoulder of corydalis meadow. Two tethered horses are often grazing down this last stretch; I saw one on Saturday when I walked the full 5.8 miles.

I'm a week overdue in paying my respects to the Basura Bash. Some time back here in the Tres Leches Herald-Tribune, I was grousing about the trash in the trees, the one blemish to our beloved greenbelt. I've since found that with the recent rains, much of the trash was washed out of the trees, and then last weekend, I was greeted by a few hundred folks up and down the trail, who were pulling all manner of trash up out of the woods and creek - such is the city's annual Basura Bash, which works to reclaim all the city's waterways. I have it on my calendar to be in their number for next year's bash.

This morning, I did my own mini-Basura up and down the trail, picking up little bits of trash and plastic water bottles. Passing under the Eisenhauer Road bridge (another little peek out of the trees), there was a plastic HEB bag, a few bits of trash, and a longneck beer bottle. HEB bag just crying out for me to pick it up and use it, even blown open by the breeze. I earmarked it for the return trip, but another hundred yards down the trail, I passed a pair of good old boys out for their morning constitutional, both with bags and grabclaws in hand; sure enough, on the return trip, bag and bottle and trash were all gone.

Sun broke through a couple of times on the way back to the trailhead, flashing corydalis brilliance on the way out . . .

Gonna be awful hard to go back to skerl tomorra . . .


Sunday, April 04, 2010

Red Star: for Robert

Bobby Lee from Abilene, diligent baby boy lost in the swagger of Wall Street, Baylor boy, assiduous little man in big bog clover, the partnerships were beckoning, the caroms were caroming, little between him and God, save for demagoguery, who the more gogue was certainly up for grabs, till night fell on his heart and he were a very lost little lostie all by himself in the little skies of Manhattan, towers towering, but little hearts squeezed into the pasta shells of linguine heartbreak.

Woke one morning in that big West Texas bed on the Upper Westside, Central Park out the windows, Gail-ey Girl down the dark ladders, unswooned by the swagger, unimpeded by all the Barnum and Bailey, slipping down the pikes to parts west and Erie-ward and on into the big heartlands, leaving the edgy edgesters to theyselves. This prissy babe abdicating on the wherewithal of megalomania for Routes 66 and all the other blueberry cobbler burghs down the tubular dreams of those who find bliss in smaller quilted patches, singing a new song, savoring the nothing wrongs with fisheries, Catskills, Samsonite luggage, calculations of the pig, variations on themes of the Woody-mind, not Emerson and his ghastly brood.

Cheryl, bruised apple of his eye after the winds down tornado alley left him gasping in the last pew, theodolite in search of a new day, a topography sans god and all the rest, rogaining his way down a dreamscape that steals the heart before the heart sets her sights on the prevarications and egotisms of righteous despair . . . Cheryl, dabbler in need of rent, takes pens and pastels and renders his lost eyes in all their gaping horror, the emptiness of desolation, you know that desolation, you drove it one gaping-wounded blood-ridden drive through nighttime Lubbock, Buddy's soul in rhapsody but yours gutted on the floor . . . Cheryl, pockets his five Ben Franklins - what is sour Mammon to his pierced soul? - renders him the Pagliacci fool for love, the lost afterbirth of crucified passion, the kiss-off of see-you-on-down-the-highway-fool, these baby boys die hard, fast asleep in their arrogant errors, the miscalculations of skunkweed cul-de-sacs . . .

See the fool, see the agony, see the way out . . .

Walked out, this Bobby boy, walked down the Avenue, Elaine's and all the folderol a foggy mist, walked, Van-Winkled his way to oblivion, sought the solace of the naked head beneath his shaggy pate, dreamed himself a new pelt, rogained apotheosis, hirsute avatar, deranged Adirondack poet of the five and dimes, he could find no other sense to the peepshow distillations of the Big Boy colloquies. The first trail into the first woods, Hudson School painted glory, he shed, not some but all his clothes, right down to the pinstriped satin boxers, his genitals ripening in the glory of a new mown world, new moon blossoms, that formerly shaggy pate did rise like a harvest moon: three days of unshod miles, feet calloused by the footpaths of his ancestral cinnamon bears, bulk returned to his heart, bearing him up for the journey home. He prayed for a new coat and watched as the glossy red sheen filled out arms, legs, back, and face - body and soul melting into his new Easter morn. The Christ of the Holy Bear kindled a torrid forest fire in his lungs and heart, and the missional cries were heard forever in the forever evermore.


Easter morning


Sunday Scribblings #209: Mentor

This is a rerun, but it certainly fits the "bill." Archivists will have encountered this three times now in Muravia: originally, back on September 3, 2007, and then again, for SS #115 in June 2008. When I think "mentor," this man is still the bedrock.


[Be forewarned: the following is meant to be an homage and a confession, but in the truest spirit of Murat11’s blogs, it will be, first and foremost, as we all know, a ramble.]

This past week, in the wake of the Larry Craig buzzing, I was driving in early morning traffic, listening to an addle-brained local broadcaster engaging in faux journalism with his incessant “I’m just askings.” I suspect that his apparent attempts to be “objective” had more to do with Mr. Craig’s Republican affiliations than with any issues of sexual orientation; I seriously doubt that the likes of, say, Melissa Etheridge would have been accorded the same deference.

At one point in this faux-caster’s radio twaddle, he invoked the phrase “homosexual lifestyle.” So much for journalism. Just what is, I ask you, a homosexual lifestyle? What, for that matter, is a heterosexual lifestyle? It’s clear, from subsequent comments that Mr. Faux made, that you could substitute “cruising and promiscuous” for the words homosexual lifestyle. If cruising and promiscuous = homosexual lifestyle, then there are quite a few of us out here in hetero-land that qualify for new sexual designations.

Howzabout we retire “homosexual lifestyle” to the graveyard, right beside “I’m just asking”

So saith the hummingbird darting outside my window.

It is very clear to my visitors that, when not going all goo goo and nostalgic, I have lately been deeply involved in The Episcopal Church’s (TEC) and Anglican Communion’s (AC) quagmire regarding issues of “full” or “non” inclusion, as it relates to the blessed place of all people, regardless of sexuality, to be accorded equal standing (seating, and kneeling) within both TEC and the AC: equal standing here = LGBT rights to marry within the church, rights to have marriages and unions blessed within the church, rights to serve in capacities from diaconate right on through to Archbishop of the See of Canterbury. The word “rights” seems a terribly legalistic and inappropriate word for something which, to my mind, should be a given. I don’t think the Son of Man was into parsing the “rights” of women, children, and men: he kept it simple—a two-pronged mantra. If we can’t think with the clarity and hearts of children, we end up with the primatial mess in which we’re currently embroiled.

Over the past few weeks, all of this has had me thinking again of Bill.

In September 1978, I moved to Austin, to attend the University of Texas Graduate School of Social Work. I was, as it happened, also newly married, and newly cast in the role of stepfather to a beautiful 4-year-old stepdaughter. Most of the “enlightened” folks around me thought “one” of those new developments would have been challenge enough, without going for all three. I chalked that kind of talk up to just the kind of thing I would expect from social workers with agendas to grind; they may have had a point, but who lives a life as “rationally” as all that?

One of the earliest items of business our first day of school was getting our assignments for field placements and field supervisors. I was assigned to Bill; I would be working with him at the Travis County Child Welfare unit. The prospect scared me to death.

In a meeting full of intensely dour world-savers, Bill stood out with his infectious (well, not infectious to his dour brothers and sisters) mirth, his bright smile, and his raucous, cackling, grackle-like laughter. As I sat in terror of knocking on the doors of child abusers, I wondered, what in the hell does this man have to be so happy about?

Here’s where the details get a little fuzzy, so the actual chronology may be just a bit off.

I found that, in addition to my terror with regard to knocking on doors, I was also terrified about the prospect of meeting with Bill for our weekly supervisory meetings. Intimacy with older men was not something I had ever been comfortable with. I had, for all practical purposes, been a fatherless child, and while my relationships with two stepfathers had not been in any real way hostile, they had been marked by a great deal of anxiety: silence always weighed heavily in the air of any car rides that may have featured just the two of us. And Bill expected me to show up weekly for a meeting with him to bare my soul and work ethic?

Here’s where we get to the cutting edge:

Somewhere in these early weeks, a new friend of mine mentioned that she had been a therapy client of Bill’s; to this item, she also posed a question: “Do you think he’s gay?” I didn’t know if he was gay, but after the question, I did know one thing: I was terrified by the possibility. And I can’t even say exactly what that new terror was even about, which is my point here: I think homophobia is much more than fear of being the same, or of being seduced, or any of the other absurd and ridiculous notions that attend it. Because what I felt was pre-verbal: it went to the very core of me: there were no thoughts, images, or specific worries: there was just terror.

[If this terror is what the global Anglican Communion has institutionalized within itself, as my friend Kenny Strickland suggests, then we have our work cut out for us.]

So, added to my pedestrian terrors, I could add the angst of a deeply existential one. I was absolutely horrified by the prospect of my next meeting with Bill. But, I couldn’t duck it.

There are things you do in life about which you cringe upon recalling them later. I do not cringe about that next meeting with Bill, but the me that grew through my relationship with him is astonished that I was once so very confused and lost.

We went through our meeting pretty much as before, looking at my cases, my documentation, looking at my – old social work catch-phrase – “use of self.” Social work has gotten no better, perhaps even worse, at its penchant for ridiculous neologisms.

Near the end of our session, Bill asked me if there were anything else I needed to talk about. I should have just asked him if I could throw myself out his two-story window, but instead, I blurted out: “Are you gay?”

As if that were any of my fucking business; as if it made one bit of difference.

The room was very quiet. Bill smiled a very warm smile and his face turned beet red. He leaned towards me, clasped his hands, and said gently, “In all my years of supervising students, you are the first person to ever ask me that. I’ve been expecting the question for years.”

“Yes,” he said, “I am gay. And I am perfectly fine with telling you this. But: I expect you to respect this information, and not ever hurt me with it.”

I was astonished by his honesty, and by the courage of his vulnerability. I was simply blown away—and so was the terror.

Bill was the one true mentor in my entire 20 years as a therapist. He was by far the greatest of my human fathers. He passed away several years ago, but I love him to this day. His genius as a clinician was to keep things elegantly simple, and not get caught up in a wash of psychobabble. He taught me the deep healing of laughter in my work with my clients. Once, when I called him to refer a good friend of mine for counseling, he listened to a laundry list of what my friend was struggling with, laughed, and said, in summary, “Oh, so he’s just a big ole mess. We’ll have a lot of fun.” My friend came to love Bill just as I did.

(Bill loved messes and challenges. Later in our year of working together, he told me that when the supervisors were divvying up the new students, no one would touch me. “They thought you’d be too much of a challenge. I told them to give you to me, that we’d have a lot of fun.”

Two students in that incoming class were Harvard graduates. Both of us were shunned for the same reasons: Bill grabbed us both.)

The truly great therapists are so much more than clinicians: they are shamans. Bill was one of the greats.

He may have blown away my existential terror at our meeting at the Rubicon, but it took a bit longer to take care of my more pedestrian fears. A few weeks later, we met after I had managed to run off all the clients he had assigned me. These were all individuals who had been reported for ALLEGED child abuse or neglect, claims that were in need of investigation: I was responsible for substantiating the claims, not swallowing them whole hog.

Bill said: “You know, if you sum up your approach to these folks, you’re just another cop. These people have plenty of cops in their lives, plenty of bossy parents. They don’t need another one. You need to figure out how to be something different.”

The key was simply getting to know them, talking to them, hanging out with them. I never lost another referral that year. And I took that simplicity into my 20 years of practice. My goal at all times, even in the most heinous or difficult of situations, was to be able to speak of things as if we were simply breathing.

Bill was born in Gonzales, Texas. He’s buried down in Lockhart, but he lives in my heart to this day. Bless him, for he certainly blessed us.

And Happy Easter, amigo.


Saturday, April 03, 2010

And one . . .

Another Zilker musicmaker, complements of Anonymous. My Austin days ended with 8 1/2 Souvenirs. Always happy to find more to browse. Would have been very happy to have walked by the sounds of this . . .


In the old 'hood . . .

Stumbling into Austin blues diva Carolyn Wonderland yesterday got me thinking about my old Zilker neighborhood, Kinney Avenue, and the wonderful house that was the last house I bought before our current nest. I have to say that I've loved three of the four houses I bought, but this beauty was special for lots of reasons, an old Craftsman home, built around 1915, and moved, at some point, from downtown into the Zilker 'hood. The previous owners had been architect and landscape architect and evidence of their passions was all through and around the house. Old skool Austin folks; when I bought the house, there were no keys, no working locks - never had been: true old Austin spirit.

My favorite place was the garden room, just off the master bedroom. No curtains in the bedroom, just a lush gorgeous shower of coral vine that made curtains absolutely superfluous, save in January and February, when it froze back. Bath had a huge, walk-in, room-sized shower with walls of glass brick and a floor paved with black river stones. Huge windows in the bedroom, old elementary school roll-up windows . . . okay, enough: I meant to drool on about the garden room: out the bedroom door, into the room, paved with big limestone flagstones. A hand-crafted stone bench, and then at the south end was a two-story tower, open to the sky. The walls of the circular tower were "paved" with wine bottles that had been cut in half, to create a glorious stained glass effect. The piece de resistance: at the base of the tower was a hot tub. Could lie in the tub at night (or anytime, of course) and sometimes see the moon through the open top.

Nuff said, nuff ruminating. This ain't really all about that stuff, anyway.

One of the many cool things about Zilker was the fact that it seemed to be a haven for Austin musicians. I have no clue whether Carolyn Wonderland actually lives there now or not, but I like to think that she probably got lured in with the others below.

Ball. Marcia lived a couple streets over, big sprawling old cottage, lots of good trees. I used to walk by with Thunderheart AKA Mr. Handsome, my gorgeous red bullmastiff - and did he ever know he was gorgeous. He sure weren't no poodle.

Lou Ann
Barton. Never saw LAB in the neighborhood, but she lived only four or five houses down on Kinney. Simple house, quiet, had to wonder if the girl was even in there.

Vaughan, big brother of Stevie Ray (I have a student at the Instituto whose parents named him after Stevie Ray), lived about four streets over, right on the big bluff that overlooked Zilker Park and the famed Barton Springs pool. JV could probably have rigged up a giant rope swing or zip line and dropped right on into the BSP.

Escovedo. AE lived just around the corner, one street over, notorious for his early morning rooster - the scourge of the woman who lived in the house just behind mine. Many was the time I'd hear her screaming in her back yard, "Shut that f-ing rooster up!!!" Rooster never really woke me up, but she sure did. I had always assumed that Alejandro was the son/nephew of Santana percussionists Pete and Coke, but the WikiFolks have him as their brother. Jury's still out on that one.

Harold McMillan
. Harold lived in an apartment down the street. He and I went all the back to social work grad school at UT; spent a summer together wandering around central Texas, north and east of Austin, as part of a needs-based survey group. Had some good times camping at Fort Fisher in Waco, of all places. HM left the social work program after his first year, went on to get a master's in another program, but more importantly, started, in the parking lot of a west Austin liquor store, the Clarksville Jazz and Arts Festival - still going strong now as the Austin Jazz and Arts Festival, pulling in some great musicians through the years - McCoy Tyner, Roy Hargrove, Jimmy Smith, and several members of the Marsalis familia. I saw awesome sets with Nicholas Payton and Jason Marsalis at the historic eastside Victory Grill.

Wonderland. CW's new to the pantheon and, as I say, I ain't got no idea where she be livin' in Austin; her bio sez she that when she first moved from native Houston to Music Mecca, she lived in her van for a couple of years. (Down under the pecan trees in Shady Grove?) Girl's definitely got the groove: great chops, great growly blues voice.

Sis Deville
. Found these folks, while falling into Wonderland. CW's one of them. Fun stuff, too. Surely one of them's in the Zilker 'hood.


Friday, April 02, 2010

run for ms c's money . . .


can't do without her . . .

Ms. Mood tipped me to the second one. I was looking under the wrong name. Thanks to her again too, my music guru, for Elegant little place.


podging the hodge


I slipped from my bed this morning at 3:15, wobbled my head for a few minutes in front of this monitor screen, washed that same head in the kitchen sink, and then headed over to our church to take the 4-5 am shift in the overnight prayer vigil that follows our Maundy Thursday foot-washing service. Last year, I took the 3-4 am shift with friend Hall, and we followed that with breakfast at the IHOP just down the highway. This year, I returned to my usual 4-5, sharing it with Jeanine. When Annis and Robert came to spell us at their traditional (how long this tradition for them?) 5-6, Jeanine and I slipped out quietly to our cars and went our separate ways. This morning, the hour flew by. I'd brought along poet David Rosenberg's A Literary Bible, his life-long love-labor'd translation of major chunks of the Hebrew Bible, as well as Kahlil Gibran's series of imagined Jesus monologues, from the voices of those who knew, or knew of, him. While sitting in the quiet darkness of Reconciliation, I chose to read neither; I simply sat in meditation for what seemed little more twenty minutes.

Driving away from Rec, down Starcrest, two temptations sat upon my shoulders: the temptation to drive straight home (a mere three minutes away) and slip right back into bed, or to drive on out and join the still-nodding morning. Save for last week's coffee-fuel for the road trip to and from Dallas, I have shunned the brew for the past month, as part of my recent re-dedication to a healthier way of eating and living, but there was something so exquisite about the air this morning, and the darkness, and the emptiness of the streets, I let go of all my best intentions, and slipped down Nacogdoches Avenue and headed for the Quarry Market's Starbucks, the one place I knew the party would already be on.

In truth, I was looking more for coffeehouse chapel quiet, so I was a bit surprised by the number of cars already in the parking lot. Inside, the two barisatas sported the bright smiles of people who have long been into their days; in one of the comfy overstuffeds was a grizzly bear of a man who looked to be sleeping, more than waking. In another of the chairs was an SB barista on brief hiatus from his call to the coffee altar. At a table, two chicas were about the scholarly business of the papers strewn out between them. After placing my order, a party of four (literally, a party: for 5:15 am, these four seemed awfully alive and boisterous in their twentysomething "ain't it beautiful . . . crystal blue persuasion") rolled in; I made the error of taking a table that would guarantee my proximity to their grackle-like mirth, when one table over would have put me right beside the mujeres bibliotecas. After ten minutes, the lust-for-lifers rolled their stadium cheer out into the day, leaving the rest of us to our dozings and readings and the generally anonymous guitar'd voicings of the SB soundtrack. Anonymous until sister Joni piped up into the crystalline morning with "Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire," with some of my favorite lines: Come with me / I know the way, she says / It's down, down, down the dark ladder. . . For a poet, I am often one of the most literal-minded readers of the stuff. The scent of those lines had always recalled Alice to me, until one day - many many years after their living on my turntable for months on end - it occurred to me that those "dark ladders" might just be junkie tracks down an arm. O, the sweet bliss - the sweet fire - of ignorance.

I hoped for an orgy of Joni into the morning, but it was not to be: anonymous guitar-voiced mush still had the upper hand with the SB deejays. I slipped back into Rosenberg's Bible to read his startling translations of the Psalms and, in this case, Zechariah. It occurred to me that it was Rosenberg and his collaborator Bloom who derailed my lenten reading of Gravity's Rainbow last year, pulling me into their examination of The Book of J, and on into Rosenberg's A Poet's Bible, which was simply the precursor to the fat tome in front of me. DR has spent his entire adult life translating - in absolutely eye-opening fashion - huge chunks of the Hebrew Bible; the poetry he has tapped is astonishing. Since reading his Isaiah chunks two years ago, I have been almost completely seduced by Bloom's contention that much of the Hebrew Bible is as astonishing a motherlode of imaginative literature and characterization as his own Shakespeare-god.

Of course, the Hebrew Bible is not all literature and poetry, as last night's reading from the HB certainly demonstrated: we were "regaled" by an astoundingly tendentious inventory of the proper way to slaughter and eat the Passover lamb ("gird your loins, and eat hurriedly), a passage so awful and unnecessary, and ample indication of why Rosenberg has never presumed to translate the entire Hebrew Bible.

Enough. I closed the book on DR's psalms and walked back out into the still-black morning, grackles in joyous riot. The Quarry was once just that, a sprawling pit for the old Portland Cement Company, now long gone, though the designers of the hoo-haw marketplace wisely kept four of its towering smokestacks as watchful pillars over the conspicuous consumption rampant at their feet.

KRTU and some very fine trumpeted jazz took me home to here and now and maybe a bit more sleep . . .

This afternoon at 3, we will have our Stations of the Cross service. Folks in the congregation were invited to contribute meditations that we will read as part of the service. I was given Station II, the station at which Jesus is said to have taken up his cross. Here is what I wrote:


In the voice of the Granddaughter of a woman who was there—

No disrespect to the man they call The Beloved Disciple and his poetic, well, his poetic screeds, but The Beloved is the only one of the four gospelers who emphatically states that Jesus did, in fact, pick up his cross. Look to Mark and the two others who followed his tale and you see a man—Simon—a traveler from Cyrene, a pilgrim from 1,000 miles away in northern Africa—this is the man who carries the cross for Jesus.

It is beyond me to know what axe John has to grind against this carrier of the faith, a man who likely had no idea what compelling fate awaited him before he took his first steps in the direction of Jerusalem. No idea that obedience to his own faith would lead him to a crossroads not of his choosing, a rude bridling of all his very best intentions, compassion induced at the sharp blade-point of a Roman spear.

I mean no disrespect whatsoever, believe me, to the honor of Jesus, but let us not be deceived by Gospeler John’s sleight of hand: Jesus shouldered his cross long before he ever set foot on the road to Golgotha. It did not take those final days in Jerusalem—from victory to plunging despair—for Jesus to see, and shoulder, his cross. Likely, years before, a mere youth in his father’s workshop, he shouldered a beam for his work table and felt a shuddering recognition of what lay ahead.

It has been said that while Simon of Cyrene is the one who carried Jesus’ cross, it was Jesus who carried Simon himself, just as he carries all of us, when Roman spears compel us to acts of mercy that are nowhere to be seen on our busy, get-to-the-next-place, mapped-out lives. Life fashions the wood on our shoulders . . . we kneel under its crushing weight, and yet miraculously, if we attend to the silence within all its crushing din, we also feel the breath of one above, beneath, and all around us. Simon knew the truth: he may have carried the beam, but what is that compared to the weight of all of us?


Thursday, April 01, 2010

one word equestrian: humor

horsemen apocalypting

their frugal ways,

televangelism's finest hour

baked beans

skilleting the post-prandial

urges, decaffeinated


tax season mania


pas de deux

sliding down

the nearest travesty

collisions most weary

defenestrated funnel cakes

blending hodge

with podge, while

proctors envy the New

Hampshire boys in all

they genteel

Eli thievery,

Nathaniel and all his

bells and whistles,

Decatur-way they be

belles and whassles -

in the ginger room

apostles most wry,

bread leavened

beyond repair,

after the girds

are loined


the roundabout way,

judicial mercury
afterbagging the cabarets
tassels in the sweatlands

i...knew just what you'd say -

bless the beasts & all

the chillun

we be the best


down all them

tertiary ways.