Leafless walnut draped with orange light in the freezing cold draws everyone to the window breathe clouds on cold pane little fingers crisscross the collective moisture evidently TV’s more interesting much more first understand being alone then laughter the source of vowels and the only true feelings we dare admit in public more on that later much later an instinct for parody can be like having a .357 magnum stuck in the waistband of your jockey shorts it will show you for what you are
— How do I feel I’m being perceived?
— Once in a great while someone will overcome their own preconceptions and actually see you in all your shining armor.
—And what is my opinion of others?
—If you can’t beat them, outlive them.
—Why did I even consider writing in the first place, especially if the rewards are so few?
—When you first thought to write, it was a spontaneous abandonment of your physical presence for an ethereal state where fragments of language fit together like hydrogen and oxygen. If you’d only thought to leave it at that. There you were in a Navy classroom being taught electronics. Eyes glazed, your brain slipped into neutral and you found yourself in a flux whose flow was language. It was like being immersed in the pure stream of an underground cavern. You were totally in the dark yet not in the least disoriented. You were in fact quite at ease with your environment, a fluid weave of ideas, meaning and references outside of the prescription of logic. You have tried to regain that state ever since, through artificially induced means as well as just plain patience. If you had left it at that maybe you’d still be there. As it is, you didn’t. Your curiosity led you to investigate others who claimed to have sampled the waters and were bottling it for consumption. Your mistake. For it is exactly that which has lead you astray. You have gone through libraries on the subject and come away like a soggy sponge. The waters have become so silted with useless presumptions and preconceptions that they are mired to the point of sluggishness. Now most of your energy is spent trying to extract yourself from the muck of self-consciousness. Once you put pen to paper you give in to that insatiable desire that got you here in the first place.
— Why did I choose poetry?
—Because it doesn’t go by the rule; the rule of popularity, the rule of prominence, the rule of ambition, the rule of self-aggrandizement, the rule of intellect, the rule of elitism, the rule of thumb. All these rules and more are present in poetry and each tries to impose its legitimacy over the others. Still poetry manages to surprise with its unruliness. Poetry can’t be defined by the rule of commerce any more than by the rule of denial.
— How can I be sure that I am a poet?
—You feel like a poet, don’t you? Though you don’t look like one, you write like one. You act like one, when you play the fool. Why should there be any doubt that you are one?
—How do I go about writing a poem?
—It’s very difficult to talk about how it happens or how you do it because you don’t know what you’re doing till after you’re done. Then it’s either interesting or it’s not. That’s all. Of course, if it’s not interesting now, it might be interesting later, and if that doesn’t happen you forget about it. If it is interesting, you can play with it, type it up, or maybe lift it entirely from the page as is, as if it were some worn segment of butterfly wing discarded after its brief span of usefulness. The poet gets it second hand, after all, and the reader is lucky to get it, if at all.
Skull and crossed bones not an easy thing to look at especially in the mirror first thing in the morning all the rules apply for mistakes too but like everything else they’re written on the head of a pin why bother the slow elegance of the night before a stick in the mud greets morning’s blue cold and colder light is all there is I look at what the cat dragged in February gray sky populated by bare branches just praying to be pruned I become ancient holy
I stare into the mirror of rain and see the reflection of rain.4
2/2/87 Rejoice! The minor bear stirs from his journey to the underworld. Urpheus returns with songs of the reawakening! O furry four-footed prognosticator! (Re: Joyce.) 2/3/89 relief collapse “thank god that’s over” one ray on silk web joins bamboo stalks 2/4/92 declaim that passionate righteousness nail his hide balls and all to the wall the manuscript looked deflated as if someone had let all the words out VIRGO: Concentrate on work and creating a better framework for day to day matters. Eliminate red tape, trim your budget and your waistline. Make a firm commitment to yourself and your priorities. At night, get plenty of exercise.
Don’t get any ideas simply accumulate language leftovers a gift of words comes with the territory the body examined speaks to itself ancient formulae to the point of distraction that’s where the magic comes in through mirror’s orifice the other side of reflection (what’s that motorcycle cop doing in here?) transported coffee break fixed much better (more or less) artificial swim gone away with a trout in mind “momma said there’d be days like this”
ENTER THE PINK ELEPHANT
The Pink Elephant was known for its rough and rowdy clientele as well as for its own peculiar brand of congeniality. They also had two pool tables as opposed to the Knotty Room’s one. It wasn’t unusual for me to stop in for a beer every once in a while as I did with Joe Ivey one night. The pool tables were busy so we sat at one end of the bar that didn’t seem so crowded. An older though ruddy woman in an off-white crocheted hat and stained leather jacket and her younger companion were knocking back seven & sevens like they were lemonade. We watched the pool players, gave the high sign to some people we knew at the tables over in the corner. Joe didn’t see any women he hadn’t talked to before. We talked about his getting a mike and an amplifier for the up-coming reading. He said he had it covered. We ordered a second beer. The younger woman at the bar next to us had started a whining self-serving litany of tribute to the older woman for the older woman’s benefit. The older woman had obviously just sprung for the last round of drinks. The younger woman continued to fawn over the older woman, pawing the sleeves of her coat, playing with her limp mousy curls much to the older woman’s annoyance. “You have such beautiful hair!” declared the younger woman. “Yeah, and yours looks like hammered shit!” responded the older woman. Joe and I, exchanging looks of deep understanding, quickly drained our beers and left.
2/11/82 restless wandering room to room pen uncapped5 lost in thought my greatness of mind no outside acknowledgment needs only that in myself I believe
I researched the background of rain. I was writing the epic of rain using the ink of rain. The magic of rain is often celebrated in the fiction of rain. I expounded the philosophy of rain but no one wanted to hear of it. I rejected the religion of rain for the dance of rain. I supported the strike of rain. The sky of rain is a continent of rain. I said no to the drug of rain (but I got wet anyway). I calculated the constant of rain. The violin of rain played pizzicato accompanied by the drum of rain. I drank of the water of rain. I paid heed to the proverb of rain. I never knew there could be so much of rain.
“it’s alright” says the radio (from where I get my signals) “here comes the sun” news interrupts more (a spokesman’s voice is totally uncomplimentary to public speaking and invites ridicule) je ne sais pas what does that mean “youth is not” or “youthful no more” “youthfulness past” I don’t know
Dear Jeff Miller — Thanks for letting me see your terrific poems. And for the two quarters that dropped out of the envelope and bounced across the post office lobby floor. I assume they’re for return postage. That’s very thoughtful of you and they paid for my cup of coffee at the Knotty Room where I read your poems at my leisure. They are flippant, arrogant, full of bombast and bravado, and a vitality that makes the connections actually spark. Please thank David Bromige for suggesting that you send your work my way and if you ever get out to Monte Rio, please stop by. The Romanian poet Andrei Codrescu just moved up here from San Francisco and he also liked your poems — he was sitting next to me in the Knotty Room when I read them. Maybe I can use a couple of them in the next issue of my magazine, The End, which Andrei will be helping me edit. By the way, Andrei has visions of this area being the next art/poetry Mecca a la Bolinas, but I don’t know. For one thing, we’re not isolated enough and no one has yet started stealing the highway signs that lead out here — all that could change overnight, of course. We’re also putting together a little reading series at a café near here called Stone Soup at which I’m sure you’ll be welcome to read. Anyway, thanks for the poems and the cup of coffee
2/12/89 a veritable truck stop menu for breakfast who’s gonna do the dishes? learn by not knowing know by not learning blissful ignorance blissful anything wash one dish then another 2/13/89 thinking counts 2/14/91 match burns twice a lot like love
Released like a balloon upside down frantic recapitulation sheer fabric rents show up as flaws the pitter patter of tiny hammers like the sound of a cobbler shop that only exists in storybooks the pounding of one big hammer inside my head like an aspirin commercial seen only on TV much unresolved I sing the blues surrounded as I am by all the clues I haven’t the faintest (harmonica stomp break) oh yeah!
I forgot about the amnesia of rain when I went off in search of the source of rain. I got caught up in the anarchy of rain. The white of rain obliterated everything. I prayed to the ancient of rain and was blessed by the holy of rain. I endured the tedium of rain in the forest of rain. There was a report of rain for overnight, but only the gauge of rain would tell the true story of rain. The etching of rain was obvious in the erosion of rain. The bird of rain pecked at the edge of a puddle. I was beginning to feel the strain of rain. I lounged around in the underwear of rain. I had become a child of rain. My madness was a souvenir of rain. I cursed the damp of rain. Still, I listened to the patter of rain. After a month of rain, it was time to prepare the ark.
2/21/86 Four days of steady rain, manuscripts, books stacked on boxes stacked on boards stacked on mattress stacked on chairs stacked on couch stacked on table, all else under water. 2/29/92 Here some days down the road after frenzied activity and no time to really introspect (inspection of the insides) and calm down I am forcing myself to come to grips with my real life rather than the one that requires me to earn money at any opportunity even if it means I am perceived as grumpy and bad tempered and hard to get along with because I hate to portion out my time and give a little here and a little there I mean I want all of it to myself for as long as it takes for me to get sick of it and really what’s going to happen is that I’m just going to go through my yellow notebook and type in the notes I made myself when I had a spare minute or so and all the entries will probably all be about how little time I have to do anything and that will be so depressing that I’ll just stop and have to go do something else like prune the trees or clean out the greenhouse or sweep the floor or straighten up the living room and I mean it’s even depressing just thinking about it and realizing I’m wasting my time doing just that! VIRGO: If you’ve been waiting to make a move on someone, what better time than now? Choose to be free from inhibitions, guilt, and bondage. You’re ready to recognize and act on the opportunity to express and accept love.
Afternoon already and the tenor of day still undecided a mist white veil approaches and recedes about the only activity on the deserted streets of the neighborhood mail delivery off schedule a golden glow enters the realm of the room it’s sunlight but appears to be otherwise it lifts the spirit illuminates the imagination with its transforming presence why then the yawn (must be the nap of my beard) days and nights go by in the process each individual all the same
 Into the late night, inspiration expiration; my magnanimity is killing me — potlatch syndrome.
 There is anymore no difference between poetry and prose as both are writing now, one being viewed in an archaic mnemonic i.e. verse form, and the other in paragraph; both can contain poetry as well as prose. There has been a great fear of blurring the distinction between the two, but undoubtedly this is merely fear of the obvious — the impulse to sing is apparent in both forms, and intrinsic; more prosaic reports and journals can do without, but in any instance when wonder (strong emotion) is to be expressed, poetry is enjoined. We can wonder at our daily lives or express awe at the magnificence and mystery of the cosmos. We can do it in a passage of prose or in a couple of (or one) stanzas (music voice notation).
“Lincoln, Lincoln, I been thinkin,’ a penny for your thoughts,” the children sing, “I cannot tell a lie, gimme some cherry pie.” So much for the holidays. More are needed to establish a base of culture. Free time to free yourself and give yourself away to love.
“ . . . sitting under the spreading oak, Orpheus is unaware of his impending rendering — he is the fool on the hill. Once O is confronted by the vacuum of his beliefs and the illusory qualities of language, he attempts to join words in such a way as to reflect the essential chaos underlying illusory existence. This has the effect of causing basic imbalances and anomalies in the very nature of perception; after all, singing rocks, dancing trees, and so on can be disconcerting if not overly cloying. But the perceived is entrenched and will tolerate mutation only so long before the perception police swarm in like white blood cells over incipient infection and render it insensible. Which is what happened to old O. Ripped to shreds because he had the audacity to try to charm the cosmos. . . .”