Category Archives: Poetry

Made In The Shade 4-1

—Perhaps the question is how important is it to be published?

In the long run, it’s not that important, but it does wonders for the poet’s ego, and it can determine whether or not they continue to pursue this chimera. My early success in getting work published in both Rolling Stone and The Paris Review reinforced my belief in myself. I knew all along that Charlie Perry, the copy editor at Rolling Stone, was using my short poems as filler, and I was alright with that. It was not, after all, a poetry magazine. On the other hand, it was only many years later I learned that Tom Clark, the poetry editor at The Paris Review at the time, accepted my poems using the “dart board” method of choosing work. But, by then, it was too late. I had already invested too much in the exalted opinion of myself to go back. He should shoulder some of the blame for my monstrous tenacity in the face of repeated failure.

—Do you feel that you have made enemies, partly because of your success, or even lack of it, among poets?

Rather than share my paranoid fantasies, which I assure you can be lengthy, let me just say that most of the enemies I’ve made among poets, I have done so unintentionally. Probably because I naively believe that all poets are equal, and in so believing, I’ve transgressed against the self-serving elitism that is so prevalent. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that there is exclusivity among poets. If someone tells me that they are a poet, I’m willing to take that at face value. If their work suffers in comparison with some of the more talented contemporary writers, they are no less poets. Perhaps their skills are not as developed as a poet who’s had the benefit of a university education and the connections that go along with it. For whatever reason, in spirit, it does not make them less of a poet. To claim to be a poet is to recognize the place of language in your life. And that’s relatively simple and allowable. The hard part is dedicating your life to the pursuance of being a poet and not looking back.

—What does that have to do with making enemies?

Nothing, probably, except that by not being overly judgmental I have violated the simplistic fundamental of ‘if you’re not with us, you’re against us.’  Someone is bound to take exception and put a political spin on it.

—Why don’t you write political poems?

I don’t have the inclination, and besides I don’t want to say something that I might have to take back. I have to admit to being naive and foolish, but when it comes to things political, I would like to play my cards close to my vest. First of all, it is foolish to trust government. One should live in constant mistrust of its intentions. It is unpredictable and unwieldy, and unaware of how its actions can, for the sake of paperwork, affect the lives of its citizens. Are we cognizant of the bugs we crush underfoot when we are out strolling in the splendor of our existence in the natural world? No, of course not. Self-government remains our only alternative, constant vigilance in the service of a spiritual integrity. Then we can pass easily through the bars of light like a shadow against dark green foliage, disappear like a vapor into a harmony like that of the cosmos of which we know so little, about which we presume so much, this harmony of mystery.

—Does the thought of government always make you so metaphysical?

You caught me on a good day.


                Life imitates TV
                          numbs me with inescapable fear
                                       distracted by commercial
                                I can still feel
                    the actual shock
               someone out of control
               snuffs a segment of the female population
               what’s crazy
                              he ain’t the first
                    o reptilian terror!
               (I should never watch 
                                        the evening news)
               everyone’s worst possible fear come true
               film at eleven
                              by then it’s too late
               potential for flip-out increases
                    in direct proportion
                    to the quickening pace of life
                                   in the fast lane
                    the formula for brutality
               proven by random highway death
                    otherwise known as
                              American Roulette
               it was only a matter of time
               victimized by the curse of ingenuity
                              too good to be true
               sink to the lowest common denominator
               bottom line of senseless death
                         no longer gods to blame
                         demons find vent     
                    drawn by unremitting carnage
                    that gores day and night
                    with such regularity
                         you can count on it
               bagged in plastic bodies carried off

10/4/89
that bebop thing with a late century spin
when you talk in those terms you give yourself history
I’d just as soon look at my watch
what shows am I missing 
I’m entertaining enough as it is
now it can be told
art imitates entertainment
if it were only a little more consistent
there might be some money in it

“I’m going to Disneyland!” sez Yamaguchi the skater
I’m going to dithyramb! sez I the poet
doing my best to imitate Newton’s Long John
well aware that his paronym has made
a long and lasting impression on the native psyche
and must forever be co-referents in cultural history
once again through the looking glass (lens)
what’s under the rock of consciousness stirs examined17

and then there’s the saxophone
are we blessed or what

cartoon duck head

retake and mistake

Virgo: Archeology of a very personal nature continues to occupy much of your inner life. Once you’ve peeled away the layers of past experience and learned to differentiate between the expectations of others and your own needs, you’ll be ready for the major role of your life: The Real You. It’s pick and shovel work.

10/8/93
windowpane portrait
when you look out and see
your reflection

obsession decanted
to a mere fizzle

VICTORIA IN THE MORNING

The noisome heat of Indian summer reverberated through the shorter days like the crash of cheap brass cymbals. I was hoofing it to town on my way to the post office, having stepped out of the cool of a late morning house without realizing how stifling the day had become until I was about half way there. That’s when I ran into Steve Lavoie. He had Victoria Rathbun in tow. They had just hitchhiked up from the city, spur of the moment. It had only taken them two rides. I wondered that it had taken that many. Victoria was radiant as usual: copper hair piled in ringlets on top of her head, pale skin so transparent it glowed, eyes flecked green, and of course, a skimpy tank-top and very very short skirt that would have caused most heads to turn in admiration and outright desire. I added a couple of six-packs to the items I was supposed to bring back from the store, and we eventually made our way back to my place. Pheromones travel well on hot days. Soon Jeff showed up with a quart of economy brew. He called Andrei who called Dick. Steve called Michael-Sean. Before long there was a gang of poets crowding my living room. Everyone was well aware of Victoria’s considerable literary talents and erudition, the perfect combination of beauty and brains. To rescue the boys from a permanent case of drooling slack jaw, I suggested we write some poems together. I set my Olympia typewriter on the mantle of the old gas fireplace in the living room and let the poets do their thing. Much of what was said was probably wittier than what went on the page. The puns and fun lasted into early evening. About that time the beer ran out. We then headed over to the Knotty Room to play some pool and drink more beer. It was still unseasonably hot around midnight when Steve and Victoria and I staggered back to the house. I shook out the old sleeping bags and we all took turns puffing into the air mattress. One of them had the couch, the other one had the floor, and by then I didn’t care who got what. Early the next morning, after I had made coffee, I found Victoria sitting in the cool of the yard, basking in the first rays of light coming over the ridge and moving across her bare thigh like a hand, my hand. There’s nothing like the scent of stale perfume in the morning, I thought to myself. It smells like. . .like Victoria.


          Useless information
               the telltale sign of entropy
          mounts the scale of complexity
                    on the way
          the less specific more likely
               to ride the curve to diversity
               
          I pick the oddest moments to think of these things
               
          eyes closed
                    fingers crossed
                             elbows to knees
                                        knuckles to chin
               
                    constant review
                    no matter what
                    reflects the latest
               
          success
               that’s the question
                                   success
                                        who needs it
               
          a flock of hands fly up
               that’s what I think too
                              for the birds
               
          “birds eat shit”
                    according to William Carlos Williams
               (I couldn’t have it on better authority)
               
          and that concludes our lecture
                         on the evolution of the species
                    for today
                              thank you

10/10/92	
I am a tree
I grow thicker
with age

10/11/91
an eye hooked directly to the imagination
a tiny square photo depicting
a native woman of Southeast Asia
right outside my window one morning
only the contrast and contour of a dead
leaf caught on a thread of gossamer
once a breeze passes through to dispel
the enchantment of shadow and light
spins suspended toward another configuration

head gear

(give a man enough space and he’ll explode)  

breakfast returned as marriage 
and evening moans 
      in the attitude of standing trees 
a toast with wine to success 
not French but wine all the same  

10/11/93 
frigid orange light
drapes the forested hills
creamy clouds against
an ever darkening blue
sickle moon smiles down

an answering thought recalls it all

buried in the bushes
last Wednesday’s newspaper

green hillsides flecked
with gold leaves
high clouds band the heavens
clatter of a leaf rake

latch

in the shadow of a glass bison


10/12/86
in near morning’s anemic light
bamboo stalks bend before a sudden gust

porch light on day and night
newspapers mail piles up

gone crazy I escape
the terrifying sanity of calm days


10/14/89
Don’t let your sense of propriety engineer you into extinction.

POO: Poets of Outer Orbit. . .their motto: “Poetry is shit!”

still life: every space has a face

                                                 10/15/90
Dear Alice,
Well I think I may have it somewhat together here. When I went dredging through the archives, I came across a bunch of stuff I thought might be of “interest” to you and the readers of Scarlet. The dream/gossip idea immediately made me think of that old dreamer and etherophile, Max Jacob, and so I enclose a couple of translations of his strange stuff —I haven’t seen these particular prose poems of his published in translation in any mags or collections of his work, but I’m sure that Michael Brownstein or Ron Padgett (or both) have translated every poem and loose fragment Max Jacob ever penned. Also enclosed a couple of my pale imitations of the master dreamer which kinda fall into the dream/gossip category. The Bolinas piece I’ve had around for a while. I never thought I’d ever get anybody to seriously consider it (since I don’t consider it serious), but after Collum’s “haibun” in the last issue, I don’t feel so apprehensive about sending it to you. I had an idea for a series of “Pat-journeys-off-to-give-a-reading” travel journals (a la Basho) which starts with the one I wrote about going to New York City to read at the Poetry Project in ‘78. But since I’ve virtually stopped giving readings (or travelling any great distance to do so) that idea has about stopped in its tracks. The contents (light hearted to say the least) also fits your “gossip” criteria. I do fail to mention a delicious chicken dinner that Joanne served up, and how Magda, Lew Welch’s ex and Huey Lewis’ mom, showed up just in time for the meal and promptly bombed us all out with a chunk of hash the size of a Milk Way. I still don’t remember how we all managed to make it down to the library for the reading. But from all accounts (polite or otherwise) it went well once I managed to untangle my synapses


               As I take the turns
                              that make up the curves
                    of my existence
               I invariably run into a few walls
               (nose throbs from bump)
               it’s a regular house of mirrors
                    the way I can’t 
                                   make up my mind
                         the cruel hoax
                    begins when I take
                    the cans to the curb
                    the sky’s color red
                         though through
               the night I thrashed
                         in the sheets of possibility
                    rearranging the furniture
               in the hazy living room of dreams
               they come back to me with my coffee
                    cardboard 
                         (could be styrofoam)
                            cutouts of people
                         I don’t even know
                    situations whose probability
                              is real enough
               I get back in bed
                         but dream no more     
                              gaze out the window
                    into walnut’s intricate pattern
                              of shadowy leaves
                         where sparks of brightening
                    morning leak through
               and distinguishing color can appear

THE ARCHIMEDEAN SOLUTION  
(Or, Hit the Road, Jack)

One morning after another party, there came a knock on my door. Andrei, Steve, and Lana stood there, shoulder to shoulder (in Andrei’s case, shoulder to ribcage), in a rather bedraggled condition. They had stayed up all night, talking and drinking. The problem was that at one point they had gone for a drive and ended up on some off-the-beaten-track dirt road. Steve’s car was stuck in a ditch. They had come to me to help them push. I dutifully slipped into my boots while reciting a list of some of my more colorful expletives, pulled my hair back into a working ponytail, and accompanied them, on foot, to the scene of the mishap. Sure enough, Steve’s Nash Rambler was sitting slightly askew to the overgrown logging road, the right rear wheel lodged in a narrow but deep ditch. After a few vain attempts at trying to muscle the car out of the rut, we stood around looking red in the face and breathing heavily. Except for Lana, of course, she just looked gorgeous. Then it came to me: the Archimedean solution! I had Steve get the jack out of the trunk and attach it at the rear bumper close to the edge of the ditch. We took turns on the tire iron, ratcheting the rear of the Rambler up until the entire back end wobbled precariously at the top of the jack and the wheel had cleared the confines of the ditch. At this point, I had everyone stand on the bank on the outside of the ditch and, on the signal, we all pushed the car toward the road. This caused the Rambler to fall off its perch, flinging the jack dangerously into the air. Our united effort, however, was just enough to move the car so that when the wheels hit the ground, the right rear tire was out of the ditch, but just by inches. Steve started the car up and got it back onto the road. Pleased with myself, I turned to Andrei. “Where were you guys going, anyway?”  He shrugged. “Don’t ask me, man, I don’t drive.”


             “Scoop the mellow pumpkin”
                              those days over for now
                    plastic teeth
                    eyebrow pencil
                    create the difference
               the unconscious unleashed
                                   if you’re lucky
               full moon and the adventure of night
               I experience in the excitement of my kids
               though at the back of my mind
                                             some nut’s
                              got the candy poisoned
                              or razors
                                   pins stuck in fruit cookies
               hard to heed the caution going full bore
                    in the dark
                              just waiting for something
                    horrible to happen

               survived time change days brisk bright
               amber atmosphere turning leaves enforce
               morning mist chill sops the fallen to rot
               low sun glare floods autumn streets

               taste test time

               enormous dildo-like flowertop
               Chinese coffee
                         (black with a dollop of O)
               I’m only dreaming of course
                    caught between events
               gladiator of the seasons
                              I need someone

The ants of rain warn of the approach of rain. The first of rain is a blessing of rain. That is the disguise of rain. The damp of rain, the chill of rain sends shivers of rain up the spine of rain. Soon there is the too-much-of-a-good-thing of rain. The wind of rain whips through the trees of rain carrying the debris of rain tumbling along the asphalt of rain and washing across the windows of rain which run with myriad rivulets of rain. The silence of rain reveals the cunning of rain to the exile of rain.


10/16/87
across the surface of sleep
a flat stone skips 
awaken to ripple of dreams

when we become pure information
then we’ll travel to the stars

10/17/89
earthquake!

10/21/94
432 (9), the number of the Goddess/Time

some words have to be drained of their meaning so that they may 
join others to really mean something

I find myself constantly seeking the effect of synthesis, a restless, haphazard quest

10/25/87
Keith Abbott and Anselm Hollo dropped by right around the time the leaves whose bright contrast in various stages of atrophy always astound with their mellowing auras. Keith claimed that the yellow and purple vineyard rows were talking to him. Anselm insisted that he keep his eyes on the road, remembering, no doubt, his own erratic meanderings behind the wheel. Anselm was much taller than I remembered him. I don’t know why I had pictured him as a gnome. Perhaps it’s the gnome-like glee he displays when the repartee reaches a certain frenzy. Ah, the inevitable spinouts of the mind! The thought police are asking to see your license. “Sir, are you a citizen of this country?” “I’m a fucking Viking!”  “Can I see your green card, please?”  They stayed the afternoon and too soon it was dark and they had to head back. I can’t remember a thing we talked about. 

10/28/90
The rejection slip read: “Your poems are both good and original. Unfortunately, the parts that were good weren’t original, and the parts that were original weren’t good.”18

Endnotes:
[17] Each formal unit in the poem, the phoneme, the word, the grammatical bonds or elisions, the metrical arrangement, the stylistic conventions which attach it to other poems in the historical set or family, is charged with a semantic potential of innovation and inexhaustibility. The manifold of possible meanings is the exponential product of all possible sense or non-sense words as these are construed, imaged, tested, indwelt through the interaction of two liberties: that of the text, in movement across time, and that of the receiver.

[18] Nothing necessitates the generation of the fictive. In the immense majority of men and women, early impulses toward the making of art have withered away altogether. The production of executive forms by the poet is a supremely free act. It is liberality in essence and a wholly unpredictable choice not not to be. Only in the aesthetic is there the absolute freedom not to have come into being. Writing the poem is the illusion; reality is the poem to be written. Once written, poems become relics, ossified remnants of vague moments of consciousness. Poems simply anticipated their own misreading.

Subtext:
“. . .the leaves o’er Orpheus’ head are isosceles triangles —d’you think he notices—boom box blaring bass thud, grooving. Across the street a black pine holds up a crown of confused branches like a wild dark green spiky hairdo, the trunk rising sinuously and even appears to have a waist. Above where the waist would be, two limbs have been removed leaving the pale circular scars of perfect placement and proportions resembling nothing less than breasts, the early darker growth rings at the center of each cut like the caramel aureoles of a beautiful maid. During the transition from one song to the next on the tape, there is a resounding silence broken all too soon by the whine of an automobile engine gathering speed and the thunderous cacophony of the next cut. Only the sound of the Uzi’s wielded by the carload of Pachuca Locas, a gang of wild homegirls who effectively chop poor O to pieces as precisely as if they had used a food processor on a pound of mushrooms is louder. . . “

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Made In The Shade 3-3

9/4/94
went right by my birthday
didn’t bother to check the odometer

button holes gaped like tiers of silent mouths
the certain cynicism of my reflection

coming on that moon
          gully mist
and a cool drizzle
drenches orange petals
surf up from a storm
          way way out
blasts the granite to sand

9/10/90
I dwell on the page
year in and year out

Maxims of Modern Life:
1. These days when a man glimpses death over his shoulder, he stops to put on his running shoes.
2. You win, and you lose, all at the same time—the lot of a parent.
3. One day we all go our own separate ways—no explanation needed.

9/13/91
Virgo: You’ve overextended yourself. Time to decide which associations to keep and which ones to dump.

long awaited the visitors arrive
the tea cups have been set out

this is the way I’ve come to know how to live

9/14/91
auto satori
happens in Japanese cars
auto epiphany
in European models
auto jackpot 
from Detroit

               Casual my sleeves pushed up to
               my elbows that’s the way I want
               to be immortalized in marble
               fist to hip and staring off
               to a point where a hot little
               turn of the century sports 
               car is parked at the curb
               and the pigeons are pecking
               at the cracks in the sidewalk
               as I compose my very first poem 
               effortlessly 
                                   forever

               say again
               
               I was just thinking
                                   thanks

               (the sales girl of my subconscious
               goes back to filing her nails)

               I shop around
               a knick-knack here
                    a gaudy trinket there
               in the great flea market of ideas
               the forgotten at bargain prices
               recall for sale
               never finding what I really want
               caught in the contest
               between the magic and the terror
               
               huh
               
               like I said
               I posture therefore I am

—Suppose that there were a California School of Poets, who would they be?

A question like that can only lead to trouble, mainly because of who might be left off such a list. There is also the danger of saying “California” and meaning the West Coast, or vice versa. There is not the cohesion or concentration of literary talent in one close area as there is in that black hole of New York City. Many writers are on the West Coast because they want to get away from the light devouring gravity of the literary scene back there. Or they’re looking to make the big money in Hollywood. Be that as it may, there seems to be no central area where the literary talent congregates. It’s a lot more disparate. Writers are more into woodshedding, living away from the big urban centers. There are loose networks, of course, and much of it is based more on personal friendships than on any dogmatic line. San Francisco, historically, has been the so-called cultural mecca, and the Language School had a formidable presence there for years. Now Los Angeles and Seattle are holding their own, with LA outdistancing the Bay Area just by the sheer number of writers.

—Not to beg the point, but you haven’t mentioned any names.

I was trying to avoid having to, but if there were a California School the prime progenitors would include Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder, Lew Welch, Joanne Kyger, and Philip Whalen, just as the icons of the New York School are said to be Kenneth Koch, John Ashbery, James Schuyler, Barbara Guest, and Frank O’Hara. A gang for each coast.

—Isn’t the function of a literary movement primarily to secure publication of poets connected with that movement?  

That seems to be the way it works. The poets associated with L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E magazine, for example, and its off shoots, succeeded quite well with this strategy. Their publications were professional if not conservative. They presented the tenets of their philosophy in the accepted academic manner with much of the same professorial aplomb that you would find in any university house publication. They served up definitions and apparent conclusions. They appeared to have a goal. While the rest of American poetry reveled in the leftover anarchy of the Beat era or was held hostage behind the gates of academia, they presented a clear direction for the future of poetry. It was like they had it all mapped out. Their publishing record was amazing. Once you had the blessing of the inner circle, you were virtually assured a book of poems. They captured academic citadels and the apologists that come with them. They became literary darlings. They churned out tome after tome, spewing chapbooks from just about every small press in the country, and their monumentally indecipherable anthologies clogged the arteries of biblio-commerce, lining the shelves of specialty bookstores with their slick but ultimately insipid spines. Success, yes, but at what price? Where are they now? And is anyone reading that stuff? So, I guess the answer is yes, an organized effort is more effective in getting a group of writers’ works published. The Objectivists are a good example of this, so are the Surrealists. History has already passed judgement on them. The jury is still out on others.


9/17/89
Day’s mood chill with damp, blanket of gray clouds and the brow beating worries that accompany it. Those miserable raindrops, who told them summer was over? The oblique rays of late September had yet to bleach the golden landscape. The staggering heat of those late days like a door open onto a blast furnace reduced to a finger-numbing cool. And that semi-tropical ease evaporated like heat from a body whose circulation narrows its confines, and the grandeur of leisure is replaced by concerns over the mundane. Dust collects indoors to remind us of our transitory nature whereas outside of this tomb we are joined easily with the free flow of air. The ancients lived with these superstitions so long they’ve become second nature now and without them we wouldn’t know enough to come out of the rain.

9/19/92
the antiquity of denial is noteworthy
righteousness arrived with property
and the choice of ownership or divestiture
moral value is basic diluted by possessions
less is moral and more is less moral
to deny is to remember who we are and
to remain moral is to keep that in mind

9/20/91
The formula for poetry is PIE: personality (wit) intellect (form) experience (content). Without one, the other two don’t make it.

smugshitdisturbinginsufferablecondescendingbadmouthingblowhard

9/22/90
now I worry over every precious  
little inkling of my existence

in waning day clouds continents of fluff and light

it’s 1984 all over again

never trust a man who takes the laughter out of meaning

growing up we diminish the purity of our feelings by accepting responsibility and an overriding symbology that lets us hide how we really perceive things. . .once the human has reached the age of seven (the age of reason) he or she has had it as far as really experiencing. . . .

               Have I always been this forgetful
                  	       I can’t remember
               some Marcel Proust I am
         	      one moment to the next without a thought
                  	  worth hanging on to
               unmemorable to the extreme
                  	       I mean
               I’m the only one whose thoughts cause
         	                          instant amnesia
                  	  kids sound off
                    in their own hierarchy of things
         	                     desires mainly
               accumulating the need
         	                to have more than others
                  	       the original social disease
               if I deal with the present
         	      I can see its relationship to the past
                  	       a kind of artificial memory
                    made of assumption
         	                     and speculation
               I suppose I was that way at their age
         	      now my desires
                  	            compounded over time                              
                    return the original investment
         	           in the memory bank
                  	                      where was I
               I had forgotten to call the plumber
         	      dripping faucet reminded me
               and distracted toaster pops up
         	      while I’m out of the kitchen
                  	                 my muffins get cold
               I’m guessing but 
         	                I forget therefore I am

HOME MOVIE II

Ragtime piano roll music over pan up of a huge cement phallic fountain which then erupts against a background of tall yellow California grass and the mottled variegation of multiple evergreens in the distance. A blurring pan across the landscape. A fire burns in the firepit. The back of a woman at a piano. Die are cast and pennies move about to form shifting designs in a stop action sequence. A large sensuous wave breaks over itself.
Close up: Hunce Voelcker stares slightly above the lens and holds that gaze with an air of not quite agony and not quite ecstasy for the duration of his recital. The ocean breeze whips his wispy hair. In the distant background, the cliff-lined Pacific and the white glare of sea froth. His voice over speaks the introductory passage from his Hart Crane’s Voyages.
“. . .and Cutty Sark was drunk. . .the myth was sucked.. . .”  
Medium shot of Hunce donning his hat at shore’s edge. Another breaker spills over itself. Piano roll music over.
Close up: Dick Gallup’s long black hair surrounds his head like a dark halo obliterating everything but the mask of his face. He remains passive and a little self-conscious as if sitting for a portrait, eyes framed by glasses. His voice over speaks his poem.
“. . .urban blues may make me gray. . .victory or defeat.”
Close up of oil painting of Rich Taggart by Jose Lafitte. Medium shot of Jose watering the garden.
Close up: Rich Taggert, young handsome face’s trusting gaze at the lens, delicate cheek boned, seductive in a passive way. His poem is about Phaedrus.
“. . .the fire in turbulence. . .the scrotum’s blossom. . .”
Piano roll music resumes laconic. Medium shot of water rolling over a dam. Segue to wine stream from bottle neck into glass. Medium shot of Gil Helmick putting the bottle down, raising his glass to the camera.
Close up: Gil stares insolently into the lens, challenging it to be more than it is. His droop moustache and the wiry unruly tufts guarding his hairline give him the presence of an absolutely sane and ruthless Edgar Allen Poe. His voice over speaks his poem.
“a tiny explosive up for grabs. . .irreverently armed assassins”
Close up of Susan in profile with Gil glaring in the background. Medium shot of a woman at piano (presumably Susan).
Close up: Phil Newton, angry young poet with angry young beard stares relentlessly at the lens with angry dark eyes. His poem’s about eyes.
“. . .the sly eyes of kindness. . .two black eyes. . .”
Medium shot of Phil walking off into lush green underbrush. Resume piano. Medium shot of phallic cement fountain spouting jet of water. Medium shot of Ellen Appel’s husband, Doug, and their son, Adam. In the background, the sloping wooded landscape of Hunce’s property.
Close up: Ellen, the golden hue of waning day attached to the wisps of her hair in the slight breeze, mugs a pouty insolence, assured that it won’t affect her stark intellectual beauty. Her voice over insinuates her poems.
“. . .the yellow jackets are unrelenting. . .not adrift. . .”
Medium shot of Ellen, nude, bathing in one of the ponds in Hunce’s moat while husband and son look on.
Close up: Pat Nolan in straw hat with green plastic visor bringing cigarette to lips. Top half of face obscured by shadow of hat. Thoroughly animated, whistling, drinking from white coffee cup, mouthing words of insult. His poem about hitchhiking is a tribute to Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
“. . .the coffee trade is brisk. . .a car pulls up and I get out.”
Close up of baby Irene, cherub cheeked, golden curled. Music resumes, harpsichord and piano duet. Medium pan across the construction site in Pat Nolan’s back yard. Close up of Irene again, removing or placing something in her mouth.
Close up: Gail King, framed by a blank sky, coyly expressive indicating a giddy uneasiness with the camera hence the protruding tongue and the wrinkling of the nose. Her breathy voice over in the upper octaves speaks her prose poem.
“Mom was spaced out. . .a touch of science fiction. . .”
Medium shot of Jeffrey Miller and Michelle leaning on the fender of his old Ford, looking under the hood. Close up of Jeffrey’s hand placing a wad of bubble gum to seal the hole in the radiator hose. Raucous ragtime piano over.
Close up: Jeffrey’s head cocked to one side, dirty blond hair not so much slept in as lived in, generous amounts of mascara (raccoon-like) around half-lidded eyes that seem the perfect companion for the smirk and the delta of lip beard straight out of Dumas. The winning smile lets go with a puff of smoke. His poems sparkle, irreverent.
“. . .it felt like a kiss. . .I’m not Ted Berrigan. . .”
Stop action sequence. Medium shot of Hunce in a red dress, Jeff  in a suit twirl around the old VW station wagon. In the background, the red hued wooden A-frame of Hunce’s house. Medium shot of Alice’s yellow Vega zigzagging across the parking lot under the Monte Rio bridge. Montage of shots showing Andrei and Alice Codrescu mugging for the camera in their home. Close up of Alice’s portrait of Andrei on the wall. Up-tempo piano rag.
Close up: Andrei framed by luxuriant black curls of his long hair (shades of Louis XIV), dark compelling eyes give it the Svengali routine, lips under the dark moustache rouged. His Romanian accents curl around his English words.
“. . .a man of hair. . .my fingernails look good in jello. . .”
Medium shot family portrait of Alice standing to one side behind Andrei sitting with young Lucian on his knee. Resume piano. Montage of stop action shots as all the players appear one by one in front of the piano in a jovial gathering of artists and poets, Ellen reprising her nude scene stretched out atop the piano. Long shot of phallic fountain in the shadows moves in for close up of water jet gushing from tip. Linger on water stream. Slow moody piano. Long shot of sun in the trees at sunset as the signatures of the poets crawl across the landscape. Spare laconic piano. 15


9/28/91
Souls migrate like continents. Souls migrate with the sureness of continents. We all have our faults towards which we lean. Time erodes the standpoint from which we view ourselves, the curse of immortality.

I’m never done with anything

too many directions
not enough places to go

The theory of reflexive utterance is simply struck by phenomena (any), the mechanism of our souls (insides) starts the whelming and depending on the time or mood we are either speechless or like a mug with a good head we can translate our wonder into the creaks and groans of crying out loud

the baroque of being organized

no matter the technology
photos don’t show everything

language doesn’t change
it shifts like light

               Strife grief constant
               smooth cosmetic numb
         	      shatter response fail

               not exactly Mark Twain
         	                but what can I expect
                  	  screws clamped tight
                    I grind out my disappointment

         	           “I believe in love” 
                  	                      radio mocks

               feeling for a friend
         	                     (one of the few)
                  	       served injustice
                    with a side of heartache

         	           and I had to find out
               the hard way
         	                the dreaded phone call
                  	  of the ‘80’s
               where the tense
         	                     on the other end
                  	  is past singular

               another mistake admitted to
         	      and its residual sadness
                  	  like the odor that comes
                    with the opening of
         	                a can of worms

               “Hey, it sucks!”
         	                          I want to shout
               and it’s not even
         	                any of my business

9/29/97
Dear Jeffrey (in Heaven), 
     I know that’s where you are because all dogs go to Heaven (poets included). Poets only visit Hell in their mortal lives or for literary conventions. I’m writing this twenty years after your death16, and as we approach the millennium (something you would have had great fun with), the frenzy intensifies — all this fuss over a round number. Gail and I are the last of the old poet gang still in Monte Rio. I know you’re not surprised. Everyone else has moved away or died. I won’t bore you with news of the dead for obvious reasons. Andrei is in New Orleans. So is Gil. Dick, last I heard, was still driving cab in SF. Ellen is a teacher in Vermont. Rich is back in SF, and Phil is living off the land in Oregon. Lana landed in Oxnard. Michael-Sean dropped off the face of the earth (maybe you’ve seen him). Keith teaches in Boulder. Carol lives in SF, Karen is wildly successful, and Steve is back in Oakland. I’m still here because I didn’t have anything better to do or any better place to go.
      You probably know that Hunce and Andrei guided you across the Bardo plane with their readings from the Tibetan Book of the Dead shortly after your demise. A few weeks later your poems were read at an amazingly surreal memorial event in Cotati by a gaggle of friends and famous poets. You would have hated it. And within six months a selection of your works appeared, complied by Andrei and Jim Gustafson, and entitled The First One’s Free. You would have disagreed with the selection. As the title suggests, the books were free. Alive, it’s doubtful that your words would have seen print with such swiftness and ease. Ironic, isn’t it? As it was, once published and delivered to bookstores, your volume of poems was on its own. Unfortunately, the fact that they were free might have worked against them. Bookstores are not, for the most part, interested in “free” and the reading public regards anything free as disposable and probably not worth their time. Hence, a few of us took it upon ourselves to sell your books to used book stores, a copy at a time, so that they did eventually find their way onto shelves with a respectable price rather than in the bargain bin or the throwaway box. Your fame is also assured by another friend of Andrei’s from Denver, Ivan Suvanjieff, who became a great fan of your work and published some of your unpublished poems in his magazine, The New Censorship. Andrei also published your works in his magazine, Exquisite Corpse (no pun intended, I’m sure). You haven’t been forgotten. In fact, a filmmaker from Budapest looked me up a few years ago. He was comparing you to Kerouac and James Dean. You would have died, laughing. You were designated the first “punk poet,” after all. He wanted to produce a documentary of you for Hungarian National TV. I told him that you had worked on Christo’s running fence, something that would resonate with his countrymen. And I told him how your heart was ripped from its place when you were thrown from the car when it hit the tree. I took him out to Hunce’s and to where you used to live. He took some pictures out by the old whaling boat. Yes, it’s still there! Then his car got stuck in a ditch. I had to help him out using the old jack trick, you remember the one. Some things never change. In fact, they repeat themselves. I never heard if the documentary ever got made, but at this point, do you care? Whenever I dust off a copy of your book of poems to take down to the used bookstore, I always think, his was such a great beginning, it should never have been an end. Say “hi!” to everyone “up” there for me.


                       When there’s nothing else 		
                        to be done
               		     it’s hard to imagine
               		sitting still for this
               		a corona descends 
                    		and surrounds
                         		the body
                    	to announce
                           	   a pop quiz
               		tell
               		me who
                         			“who”
               		are
                    		you
                    	I examine my fingers
               		conclude the obvious
               		these agents of my desire
                    	have seen it all
                    		but they ain’t talking
               		I have to take an educated guess
               		so much for learning
                              anarchy at least entertains
                             I never get the whole picture
                  		           the blanks
                                 left up
                  	       the imagination
         		                     fills in
                               opportunity is having the time
                  	  to sit and say
                                “I don’t know”
         	          golden light pales
                                electric high hum
                                                   sputters
                                   near
                         the bottom of the page

Endnotes
[15] Hunce Voelcker first taped the poets reading on a reel to reel machine in his attic workshop. Then he filmed each of the poets in a setting of their choosing with a Super 8 mm camera. The premiere showing was at Hunce’s, attended by all plus some. The tape player and the projector were synchronized by hand, Hunce flipping the switch on both machines simultaneously after he’d yelled “lights out!”

[16] Death is a displaced name for a linguistic predicament.

Subtext
“. . .the name Orpheus itself belongs to the oldest level of Greek  names. . .pre-Homeric. . .an initiator whose power transforms even the wildest creatures, animals and men who live in the wilderness. . . associated with the initiation of young men in the wilds of nature. . .there something significant was disclosed to them in music and song that delivered them from their blood spilling savagery and gave a deep sense to the ceremonies of transit from immaturity to adulthood. . .the announcer of this mystery played the lyre but was not a mere singer. . . .”

Made In The Shade 3-2

8/1/92
the natural priority of my inclination
words well up and I dip in my pen

make space in table clutter 
hurry find something to write on

poets need more self-advertising t-shirts
than they do frames of mind
no that’s not it but it is
innumerable enlightened moments
		not all that different
expressed 
		succinctly
across someone’s chest
a revolution
where elegant vies with vulgar
and neither ever really wins
certainly not
		a whole class of people
dressed in promotional ware

some plunk down 
a day’s wages
			easy
for the privilege of wearing
	the label
others get theirs
with a carton of cigarettes

the dialogue will continue
after these messages

“I don’t dare tell 
the voices in my head to shut up
I might miss something”

now
you can shut those voices off
and still not miss a thing 
with remarkable
		(another revolution)
advances in neuro-electro recorders 			
play back those curious	
fades and surges through
		your language center 
in those moments when
nothing is coming across the wires
or
rent someone else’s
at your local brain wave exchange
plug into the electrochemical
flux of someone with mighty synapses! 

8/5/89
silent alarm

8/12/95
a private mythology repeated
at odd vulnerable times
the words an opening flower
petal by petal the legend grows
nothing but rubber bands
aimed at a preponderance of guilt
these are tangerine sunset days
 
each breath a mistake
no less a weight as well
a cat on piano keys
so random my own melody
a wound down mainspring
as a neglected clock shiny
faced ticks away all the same

8/14/91
I don’t want to join your reality
and have to believe in your bullshit 			
the sooner you stop trying
 
to convince me the sooner you’ll
believe in what you know to be true

VIRGO: The phone rings off the hook this week. You’re super popular. Everyone wants to get next to your classy touch.

        At odds with electricity
	first off this morning the light 
	bulb in the kitchen came on for 
	an instant before it made that 
	slight snapping sound that signals
	that its little tungsten backbone 
	broke and blinked out forever
        (I always hate to throw them out 
        so perfect and symmetrical there
        must be something that can be done 
        with them besides gasoline bombs) 
        then cleverly slicing tortillas 
        in quarters and slipping them into 
        the toaster I forget distracted by 
        the children playing in the yard 
        and the next thing I know I’m 
        unplugging the toaster stomping 
        out flaming wedges of tortilla 
        seconds later the smoke (by now 
        invisible) triggers the alarm 
        which I have to smash with my fist 
	once I get to it to get it to quit 
	later vacuuming the motes of dust 
        in the amber patches of light slanting 
        in onto the living room rug the 
        cord on its automatic recoil gets 
        yanked out of the outlet producing 
        an arc or spark and a tiny snake 
        (more like a worm) of black acrid 
        smoke the insides of  the plug fried 
        to a stub on closer examination 
        I think of shaving thankful I 
        don’t use an electric razor

CALLING ALL POETS

            Aram “my arms are warm” Saroyan had to back out as the radio show co-host with Andrei because he would have trouble getting from Bolinas to KPFA, the radio station in Berkeley. No more trouble than Andrei who didn’t drive. Or me, who didn’t drive either, and whom Andrei, at the last minute, had asked to fill in. We traveled either by bus or by thumb. And since someone had torched the Greyhound bus in the parking lot in Monte Rio one night, the bus didn’t come up that far any more. Alice or Gail could be counted on to run us around locally, but when it came to long distances, we were generally on our own.
            Once getting down to Berkeley was solved, we made plans as to what we were going to do with the half hour slot once a week that KPFA had so generously offered Andrei. I suggested a poetry call­-in show. Andrei wanted live on-the-air interviews with guests. We agreed to do both. For the first program we contacted a few friends and told them to call in with their poems. That worked fairly well, and when there was a lull in the program, one or the other of us would read from the works of Ted Berrigan or John Ashbery, and make snide comments about news items we found in the Poetry Project Newsletter or Poetry Flash. Before we knew it, the half-hour was over. We were exhilarated, flush with success.
            The next week we hitched back down, having primed our friends again beforehand, anticipating a repeat performance of our first success. We had to work a little harder this time and there was a lot more dead air. The poets we had expected to be dialing up obviously had got cold fingers. Some people did call up. One read a poem in Spanish, and another, a rather long and stupid paranoid rant. Then one guy called and recited a suspiciously disjointed poem that repeated a woman’s name over and over amid gasps and wheezes. Andrei’s raised eyebrows told me that he was thinking the same thing. Our first obscene phone call! But there was still time to burn. Andrei dialed up Tom Clark’s number in Bolinas, but Tom must not have been listening. We let the phone ring over and over the wide-open air waves before Andrei hung up. I read from a calendar of events and by then, thankfully, time was up. That was hard work, we decided, and we would have to be better prepared next time.
              The next time was in the middle of a fund raising marathon and so the show was relegated to fifteen-minute segments, which made things a little easier. Calling All Poets was allotted four such segments. While we were down on the street during one of the pledge breaks, who should come strolling by but Darrell Gray. We shanghaied him to be our guest on the next segment. He was surprised, pleased, and accepted it as his due, managing to pontificate and giggle on literary matters in that fifteen minutes of air wave fame. Then Andrei left for a book promotion tour and I was left to do the show by myself.
            I introduced something called the “in-house critic” which was essentially a laugh bag, a joke shop item that produced an annoying, obnoxious laugh. I’d play it after someone called up with a particularly bad poem. But listeners weren’t calling in much anymore. So I arranged with the radio engineer to cue up a couple of spoken word records ahead of time, and when there was a lull, I would sign to him and he’d play the record. I’d say,  “go ahead on line one, you’re on the air” and on would come the voice of Ezra Pound booming out the Cantos, or Dylan Thomas, or Williams, or Eliot. And once in a while, a real person would call up to read a poem or to say that what I was doing was stupid.
            The frequency of the show was down to once a month by the time I got Michael-Sean to be my guest one sunny Saturday afternoon, and believe it or not, it was in the middle of another pledge week. The format was a little different this time. Before getting to the meat of our show, we had to chat on the air with the program director and a woman writer he’d brought as his guest. We were supposed to extol the virtues of listener-supported radio. Everyone said their piece as to why the listeners should call up and pledge their support of the station. All except for Sean, who was uncharacteristically quiet during the on-air conversation. Finally, the program director, hoping to draw him out, asked him how he felt about listener-supported radio. Sean had an opinion and since he’d been asked, he stated it. “Public radio sucks! The stations never plays any good music (i.e., metal) and there’s always some stupid people in boring conversations about things no one cares about!”  The director’s guest wanted to add something of her own to defend the programming but Sean touched her on the arm to tell her that he wasn’t done yet. At this point, the program director said, “Don’t touch the guest.”  Michael-Sean stood up to emphasize his six-foot plus frame, scrapping the chair loudly across the floor, and indicating to himself with his thumb, replied, “I am the guest.”  Needless to say, when Andrei got back from his tour, the show was no more.


8/16/87
to Jack bursts of great writing were more important than maintaining a perfectly balanced prose and pose

have you ever lifted that cup
to your lips with more heft
than was actually needed
in some moment of absenteeism
and basically missed your mouth
dribbles on a clean shirt attest

8/17/87
revelations from behind the goat cheese curtain
 
quaint and hideous
 

8/18/89
They reburied Frederick the Great today next to his sixteen greyhounds

free floating anxiety

a man chasing a dog
southbound highway seventeen

e-pi-pha-ny
it lasts about as long
as it takes to say it

“blow out the candles”
and don’t beat the crap
out of your friends for 
touching the presents
they brought you

8/20/93 
vouz avez trouvez une autre amour
I know you less now than I knew you before

were there any songs that
didn’t remind him of her

8/24/85
T-shirt ideas
*Art is the alternative to money, it doesn’t dirty your hands*
*Entertainment is not reality, poetry is not technique*
*Ambition is like a gun pointed at your heart, it will rob you of integrity*

rule #1: get an editor
rule #2: get a second opinion

               Wait
		                             the sun’ll
	                 break through
			                     the fog yet
	                 the whole world 
	                 relies on memory
for its existence
what I remember
	                     becomes later 
light glancing off
the tops of trees 
as cool morning recedes 			
experience
and live through it sometimes 
		                           some things     
have to be relearned 
like tying the laces
	                    of my shoes 
enhancing the moment 		
                                          almost forgot
or cued by a song
	                   I begin the intricate fantasy
	                   surrounding music
I can see myself
	             as if it were 
		                      yesterday
I find I write
	                  not to recall 
	                  the events of my life
	                                  but renew
each time I come
		                         upon the page
  

— I seem to shun literary society. Why?
You often claim to be misanthropic and this is admittedly a self-protective ploy to keep certain people or a certain type of person at a distance. Too much attention and conversely not enough in a social situation have the same disruptive effect on your sensitive yet gigantic ego. Literary events often take on the air of a trade show and it is disturbing to see so many of your fellow authors prostitute themselves to public opinion, sink to the lowest common denominator, merely to ensure acceptance in the eyes of a fictive and elusive public. As well, you are extremely jealous of any attention lavished on anyone but yourself. For all your lip service to the uniqueness of each artist in their own right, your incredible competitiveness seems to undercut this particular altruism. That you are aware of this, even peripherally, is probably the motivation behind your reclusiveness and your professed misanthropy.
—I’m being rather flip about all this. Obviously there’s more to my withdrawal than that.
Of course there is. You’ve met some of the great names of your day, those who were in, even those who were out, and for the most part, they were a big disappointment. Also you saw yourself in their self-indulgent attitudes and it made you sick. You thought that if this is what poets are like then you didn’t want anything to do with them.
—I’m not only a poet but a near famous unknown one. Am I experiencing any disadvantage in being almost famous?
There are those annoying moments when someone will come up to you and ask, “aren’t you someone famous?”  Perhaps it’s the way you hold yourself, your posture, your particular aloofness at that moment which causes them to assume this. You are, of course, obliged to admit that you are, after all, no one in particular. On the other hand, there are times when it seems that someone is going out of their way to ignore you, withholding what little due you feel you are entitled to. This can be just as maddening. Were you totally famous, then you could be gracious in accepting your recognition and righteously contemptuous of those whose jealousy of your achievement is obvious by their awkward pettiness.
—So there are some real drawbacks to being recognized in the poetry world.
Once you have the power in the poetry scene you immediately become the “enemy.” The principle of the poetry scene being that starved dog principle where you throw out
a little scrap of food and all the dogs leap at it with fangs bared and ready to kill for it. Poetry scenes are like that. There are so few bones and so many dogs that the competition for survival immediately turns poets into back stabbing creeps just to get their names in print. That’s what it’s like in academic circles, that’s how it is on the literary grant circuit, and that’s the way it is with any of the hundreds of self-serving poetry crowds everywhere. And it has absolutely nothing to do with poetry.
—That’s a pretty scathing indictment. Are there no worthwhile poets writing today?—There are a half dozen American poets who are for real and not playing at it.
—Would you care to name them?
That wouldn’t be polite.
—What do they have in common?
A source in the primitive. In the pre-logical.
—Describe something of the Monte Rio, or as Codrescu called it, the California School of Poets, and say something of those days.
Those days were very exciting and fruitful. Andrei was a comrade d’esprit. And he lived right around the corner and over the hill. It was a tremendous affirmation to my own creativity and direction. And of course there was the shared interest in French poetry as well as in recreational activities. Eventually we formed a friendship that transcended the fact that we were both poets. As for the “California School of Poets,” I’d be inclined to attribute that to our penchant for making things up, the amusing pastime of placing ourselves in the flow of history. It has a lot in common with defacing public monuments, drawing whiskers on the Mona Lisa. The people who take that kind of label seriously are probably lacking in their own lives. They’re like the guy who laughs because everyone else is laughing but has no idea what’s so funny.
—So what you’re saying then is that there is no California School of Poets?
No, there could very well be such a school of poets, but I’m not aware of it. The California School of Poets Andrei alludes to in the notes to UP LATE is a mock campus, one that references the New York School, and in many instances includes writers associated with the East Coast scene. There was a smug satisfaction on our part in knowing that affixing that label to ourselves irritated the more sanctimonious and self-righteous on either coast
.


8/23/84
Dear Steve    
My literary advisor and guru has suggested that I bail out, claim a three year abscessed tooth as being responsible for Life Of Crime. That’s stretching it a little, though it would be easy enough to disavow much of what we printed. A lot of it was incredibly lame. But there’s something about Life Of Crime that’s too dangerously ruthless a thrill to pass up. From the outset, I realized that we had to work with the givens, spruce them up with all the wit we could muster in a kind of kamikaze editorial desperation. Dealing with such sheer stupidity made us reckless, a thrill in itself. We began by blasting and lambasting people we were fond of, playing it safe because we knew most of them could take a joke. By the second issue, strangers and bystanders had joined the fray and the mudslinging took on pandemonium proportions. I remember being surprised, pleased. We began attracting subscribers. The Artaud piece14 kicking off the third issue was an excellent slap in the face aimed at everyone who read (or wrote for) Life Of Crime. Then some who became mired remembered that they didn’t particularly enjoy being sullied and took their mudballs and went home (or retired to the sidelines to watch from there). They were the smart ones. Because that’s when things got serious. Axes were brought to grind. Some of these idiots were after blood, and Life Of Crime became the vehicle through which they could vent their spleen. It took the fun out of the original idea. Even so, I never wanted to disassociate myself from Life Of Crime even if the faux pas of others became my own. I tried to be accommodating to all views, no matter how hysterical, and was thus perceived as pathological, or at least rabid, paranoid, and vindictive. Life Of Crime will continue in whatever format you or I decide, individually or collectively. We will continue to print the drivel we receive, exchange gossip, spread rumors, and just generally be disagreeable. Our respective esthetic will grow apart not because of any meaningful difference, but simply for the sake of dissension and the heat it creates. As you well remember, Life Of Crime was originally an idea for a screenplay about poets. Not so much a “lives of the poets” as a docudrama detailing the day to day existence (or non-existence) of poets as well as delineating certain character types common to the milieu, a soap opera of sorts, but an honest appraisal just the same. Everyone I talked to about it thought that it was the most boring idea they’d ever hear — everyone knows poets are ultimately self-centered and consequently boring. Why is that? Anyway, a newsletter makes much more sense (though I’m not all that convinced). The means are at hand: typewriter, mimeo machine, paper, ink, a modicum of wit, and no typing skills required. Basically, the same problems, poets and poetry, are dealt with in these pages. Poets are the inspired and the foolish. Usually only one or the other, and the latter at that. The follies and successes can be examined against a backdrop of pettiness, pretension, charlatanism, ruthless ambition; all the factors of drama in the futile quest for the unattainable. A tid-bit of gossip here, an innuendo therepretty soon you begin to get the picture. The lives of poets, lives of crime, unfold before our very eyes.


 Since none of this matters
				                                     here goes
	      the intricacies of saying something
		            lost on listeners
		            who hear only 
			                what they want to hear
                                                        behind the words 
		            that make all this up

a major philosophic discovery was
	“I think therefore I am” 
	now
		the question is
		“who the hell are you?”
		petty
			   bourgeois
		or both
			silence broken
				       internal combustion’s
			rush of air 
	      caused by unusual speed
(this used to be a quiet neighborhood)
		
                           mammal blink

		         “feel like making love”

think about dinosaurs whose 
direct descendant I begin to feel like 
(too good for my own good) 
a cloud of volcanic ash passes over 						
the upper end of the food chain 
snuffing anything with its head
stuck above tall grass and brush

End Notes
[14] “All writing is garbage. . .people who come out of nowhere to try to put into words any part of what goes on in their minds are pigs. . .the whole literary scene is a pigpen, especially today. . .all those who are masters of other languages, all those for whom words have meaning, those who represent the spirit of their times, and who have named those currents of thought. . .I am thinking of their meticulous industry and of the mechanical creaking which their minds give off in all directions. . .are pigs. . .those who still believe in an orientation of the mind, those who follow paths, who drop names, who recommend books. . .these are the worst pigs of all.”

subtext:
Surrounded by the technology of our wildest dreams, still we dream. That should tell us something about ourselves. We should be happy. Not that we’re unhappy but more correctly in a state of seriousness, a terminal state. Why don’t we see the humor in the fact that we’re still the same Paleolithic monkeys who’ve learned to manipulate symbolic characters in an attempt to determine our fate? All the tangled webs of allusion we weave, all the hypothetical talk will not change the limits of the physical facts. And our assumed progress, that linear illusion, will remain unlimited only in our dreams.

“. . .’Police?. . .The Poet’s Café. . .there’s a riot!’. . .A SINGLE GLASS OF WATER LIGHTS THE WORLD. . .MIRRORS WOULD DO TO REFLECT FURTHER. . .the police show up with a black Mariah, a quartet of plainclothes flics (trench coats and fedoras) and a squad of gendarmes, and wade into the knot of brawling poets. . .can you imagine that many poets under one roof without some words being exchanged. . .the tribunal questions Orpheus. . .’Your occupation?’. . .’I’m a poet.’. . .’Your file says you’re a writer.’. . .’It’s almost the same thing.’. . .traveling the backside of a mirror when the mail man arrives. . when you get back from the dead, the mail’s most important. . .”

Made In The Shade 3-1

7/1/82
I am told untold sorrow 
by a little bug in my ear 
disappointment balloons up
like an empty mail box
my hand reaching out into
the bottomlessness for letters
or packages or postcards
or the answers to my dreams

7/2/82	 
secret sensuality
naked admission
uneasy desire
frequent denial
casual forgiveness
mortal paranoia

VIRGO: To everything there is a season, and this is yours. The good times have begun to roll. Now you benefit through friends and/or organizations. You’ll adore, and deserve, the limelight. Add to this: across a crowded room, you may meet a stranger. . . .

7/4/91
way the air feels warm heavy
comforting enveloping light
leaks through the trees along
a ridgeline reddish at first
then orange gold till a white
flood erases every shadow
in the voluptuous garden
morning glory tendrils up
stretching with fragrant 
departing dew sip too strong 
java bare feet on cool plank
step vast lush vacancy of 
waking moment promise of ease
and relaxing freedom cricket
fireworks the 4th of July

7/6/83
it’s stinking hot
no shoes no shirt no service
so long Ted

7/7/95
I will always return to these pages
I like to read in-between the lines

screwed
potential runs out of gas

large discolored log is
severed head bobbing past

        In Part Two
	there are actually photographs of me 
	foot on the seat of a chair
hand to chin
	                 flipping pages
	gesticulating
                                               (not as nasty as it sounds) 
		                 caught in the act of performing    
		                 a shadow play
	(I use my hands a lot)
others picture me leaving town
                        a celebrity to my friends 
glad to see me 
		                  glad to see me 
			                                               go 
	takes days to get back
	            to where I was 
         though only one by bus 
	            I get the hero blues
         unappreciated and sane 
                    home again
         touching ground digging in the dirt 
         reflecting in the hot sun 
         was it worth all the money 
         I got feedback flash lag 
         quite noticeable in the stark
         fluorescent lighting of the classroom 
         connections few a real sitting 
         on of the hands atmosphere 
         which is why you should always 
         bring friends to
	                         your poetry readings
an unraveled basket of nerves 
                                              after words
fragile as cherry blossoms

—I speak a great deal about the poet’s locale, his place, in my work. Is this a geographic term or am I thinking of an inner sense of being?

The universe can’t be observed unless you observe yourself at the same time observing it. Give yourself a place to stand and you can move the world. That’s not original with you, by the way. “You are there,” as Walter Cronkite once said, and “there you jolly well are,” as Lord Buckley also remarked. Gertrude Stein talked of Oakland having no “there” there. Where you are at allows you to write what you are because you are not only influenced by physiological circumstances but by physical circumstances as well. The inner landscape mingles seamlessly with the outer one and they reflect each other in very subtle ways. Add the distortion that language can apply and you have artifice according to your particular skills and inclination.

—That kind of puts me on the outside of the circle of accepted convention when it comes to thoughts on poetry. How does where I’m coming from, my locale, interact with a supposed audience for my work?

Your notes toward the future are bound to be local. Whether poetry has ever had an audience, on the other hand, is a moot point. The number of serious poems that have signified much to anyone beyond a very restricted minority is small. The proposition that poetry is in some ways the highest human accomplishment, the one most imitative of the original enigma of creation, is almost universally accepted. But that universality is conventionalit is an abstract password of culture rather than something that most human beings have felt in their bones. “Can anyone hear me?” is a question for the most part that will go unanswered. If poetry is acknowledged at all, it is as a conventional referential experience, not as something that is sought after privately in time of need and comfort. This point would have been just as valid in a period of greater literacy. Today, it is a point hardly worth making.

— So is my poetry nothing more than a presentation of facts that have within them a resonance that can affect meaning on the level of language?

Increasingly you grow less confident that the “facts” have a stable eternity “outside” the contaminating range of an altering, culturally, and linguistically governed psyche. To obscure is to alter. To define and to understand, even in the most neutral abstract fashion, is to incorporate the evidence within a particular matrix of human choices, images, and symbolic reflexes. To put it another way, where the natural sciences have been largely concerned with the transmission of force. . . gravity, magnetism, thermal energy. . . we appear to be moving toward a model in which it is the transmission of information that matters most. The radical wonder of live matter is not mechanical force but meaning. These are echoes of Orphic belief, that the grammars and creative modes of speech have their counterpart in all of nature so that life is language and organic processes are articulate forms.


       To start up the trash compactor
	first I stand in the  garbage can
	then I jump up and down
	in other parts of the world
	people flock to the birthplace
	homes of the notorious holy and
	popular go through the garbage can
	to find some little of significance
	touch a world that they can
	only conceive of in a dream my own
	stomped down dressed in brown
	paper to make room for the more to come
	there are many curiosities to feed
	one of the many days when everything
	must go and leave like I do for
	a couple of days in the big city
	where every face (and there are many)
	holds a story that can be told
	in one or more sentences or tourists
	beckoning to each other to hurry
	in a language of their own business
	the bourgeoisie from other countries
	matching their inflated currency against
	ours in a never-ending spending spree
	that gets passed along to their dopey 
	kids trailing behind with slung airline
	bags and short trousered rosy legs
	the hills alive with cable cars and 
	swarming with Chinese who live here 
	like the Pacific is a river you just 
	step across which is absolutely true

7/4/94
Dear editor The article on the reopening of the Pink Elephant two weeks ago, and the commentary it elicited from Bob Jones as well as the “Talking Pictures” in this last issue point to something that is more pernicious than religious bigotry, racism, and sexism (homophobia, misogyny, misandry). That pervasive undercurrent is classism. Even and if ever all the former were somehow abolished or neutralized, classism would still hold its inequitable sway. Hierarchy rules, it’s a game of social “king of the mountain,” and the higher up you are the more difficult it is to see what is below. It’s as if all of those who place themselves above others can only look down but cannot see. Consequently they make the assumptions of the elite, and more often than not, they are misassumptions. Is there any wonder that there is distrust between the classes when sanctimonious pronouncements are made by those who live high on the hill about those who live down on the street? The great poet Bob Dylan once wrote, “I wish that for just once you could stand inside my shoes.”  The self-righteous with their politically correct agendas have no place to stand, really. Some of the people quoted were clearly stating class prejudice but can we expect less from these publicity seeking new age hypocrites? Only their pet project is worthy of community approval. I don’t remember Mr. Davis advertising his Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners but he reached out to the whole community and for those on a tight budget around the holidays his generosity was most welcome. Have the high and mighty done anything near as selfless for this particular segment of the community? If Steve Baxman weren’t Mayor-for-Life of Monte Rio, I’d nominate Mr. Davis, for his humanitarianism as well as for his business savvy. The Pink has always been a center of cohesion for many people even when Monte Rio was more than a one water trough town. With its reopening comes the hope for the return of this unity. For those who bemoan the scourge of alcohol and wish to limit its availability, prohibition didn’t work because it concentrated on a symptom, not the cause. As long as there is oppression of working stiffs and the exploitation of labor by the ruling class, there will inevitably be a desperate class, a class whose only solace is mind and body numbing drink and drugs. Those who sit and meditate on their silk cushions have no idea and even if they did it would probably be a false memory. I say spare us the classist snobbery of these faux aristocrats with a misguided sense of noblesse oblige. The Pink will reopen. Long live the Pink! May it succeed as a watering hole for the entire community, and may it prosper.


DEATH OF A POET

It was a night of the full moon and as it was July the day had been blistering. The party was at Andrei and Alice’s and just about everyone was sitting on the old ramshackle porch swigging their favorite beverage. Jeff in his thirteen hole t-shirt was there drinking a beer even though he had sworn off booze weeks before. It was his 29th birthday, after all, didn’t he have something to celebrate? “I made it this far” he told me and then mumbled something about death or dying, something I immediately dismissed as being Jeff the morose poet which he was when he was drinking and which was why he had stopped drinking so that he could be Jeff the sharp intelligent poet. The joke about the “lead dogs” got old real quick when you finally picked up on the self-destructiveness behind it: Jeff driving home from the Pink Elephant drunk would occasionally hit the steel girders of the bridge crossing the Russian River a glancing blow with the right bumper or fender and comment “whoa just hit another lead dog!”  So there was a problem. But on this bright night the only problem seemed to be how to stay cool. One way was to spit your drink in someone’s face so that they in turn would spit theirs in your face which then degenerated, with the shout of “free shower!” into people pouring drinks over each other’s head and with that pieces of Jeff’s huge birthday cake came out of nowhere to splat into someone’s face. The couple humping in the brightly lit kitchen were oblivious to it all. Then someone found the hose though Alice put her foot down about bringing it into the house and whomever had the hose had the power which then erupted into spontaneous mud wrestling. I like to think I remained above all those shenanigans but I can’t remember. I do remember the next morning the telephone banging through the corridors of my empty aching skull. It was the red telephone but I wasn’t expecting any calls from Moscow. It was Andrei. “Pat,” he said, “I don’t know how to tell you this. Jeffrey was in a wreck last night.”  I waited to hear what I knew was coming. “He’s dead.”


7/8/89
claim made to immortality by dying
with these contradictions we live

the dead become important just by the way they are talked about

7/10/93
As a poet I can only stand in awe of being and be absorbed in the task of self-transformation, striving to extend the range of my own realization of. . .what. . .there’s a word I’m looking for. . . .13


7/18/89
on the eve of the revolution
(two hundred years later)
banks versus the people again
those who have taking from those
who barely can manage littering 
the streets with human debris
equations in the math of history 
explosive inexcusable negligence
no one should live like that
plutocracy: the food of the future
in other words: EAT THE RICH! 
shelter in their mansions burn
their antique furniture for warmth
wear their fashions to tatters


7/19/91
These thoughts I had with my eyes closed. I was given a demonstration of how the most popular radio commercials were done. First the man talked into a large brown paper bag to give his voice the proper tone. Then an anvil the size of an ant was dropped through the bottom. I had to give advice to some people on head lice. “I’ve worked with kids for seven years” I heard myself say. “I should know what I’m doing.”  I felt a vague displeasure when I sat up. Thus began a very difficult day.


7/20/90
thin and anti-social
the “me” formula
spirals down the banister
hats enhance appearance
experience vs. authority


                It’s hard to believe
		I’m wrapped in a cocoon
		of love by those who surround
		me with their attention 
		in spite of it all
		nevertheless and regardless 
		of my own inconsistent humor 
		casual or inflexible
		but always seemingly aloof 
		or preoccupied by myself
		I recognize the heartwarming 
		in my daughter’s exclamation 
		in my son’s laughter my good 
		wife’s unconscious song 
		my oldest boy’s manly grace 
		the tent of sentiment
		a gesture in the forest of 
		unrealized feeling 
		protects me from the great 
		unknown’s deadly solace 
		somewhere a report says 
		more widowers die of heart
		break something that seems 
		positively logical to me 
		the stars are mine I can say 
		because alone anything           
		has endless possibilities 
		but with my family there’s 
		nothing but this one moment 
		that contains all I need for 
		the foundation of my empire

7/21/89
private lightning zaps me alone
(my toenails spark unconscious)
it might not be so bad after all
I think determined to persevere
and make peace with the largely
buried past of ill-chosen words
a ray of sunlight cuts a swath
across the brown living room rug
and competes for attention with
the white flowers at the window


7/25/82
There’s a word for it I can’t find
morbid preoccupation with passing day
weep in a dream for someone still alive
a deathbed scene of high hysteria
one that borders on surreal comedy
unable to let go in my letting go
but forgotten until late afternoon
called up by some foolish and
insignificant transition of moments
the disturbing scenario puzzled together 
out of fragments of dream images
their ambiguity hauntingly chill
in the end it comes down to this
I have to bring myself to say good-bye


7/28/91
out of time my head in the clouds I walk rolling the ball of earth on the balls of my feet and passing the scenery to the edges of my vision where my ears can catch the whisper of its movement thankful for what’s a breeze to me

                Don’t want to hug
				nobody
			don’t wanna be hugged
		standard operating procedure 
			for the self-indulgent
		affection			    
				might as well be 
					infection
		what started off
				as a great day 
			goes to the dogs
			it’s their afternoon

		heat melt drip tongue out 
		from the shade the world 
		seems white with light 
		pale yellow at the edges

		yipes! I forgot
			I was watering
				the garden 
			(now swamp)

		I have to punch this picture
		to make it look right
		the use of force like when
		I broke the handle off
		the car door is all I have

		only sound
		low flying plane in
		the bright blue


—Can I explain the degree of consciousness or unconscious with which I create a poem?

Sometimes consciousness is like a radio. You listen to a station that has a lot of static and dead air. You tune in, you tune out. You catch snatches, formulate speeches, worry riddles, solve problems. Something repeats itself at odd moments as if some kind of code and you wonder: ‘What is it telling me?’  Galaxies of thought float through the time frame. Unfortunately the connections are light years apart. Change the station.

—Do I work better in isolated places? In going to live in the country, the ends of the earth as it were, did I want to put a physical distance between myself and other poets?

Probably. You weren’t very productive as a poet in the years you were an apartment dweller.

—Does poetry constitute the aim of my existence?

Yes.

—Would I say that my life as a by-product is existing without me?

Yes.

—Am I always so dogmatic?

Only when you’re talking to yourself.


Endnotes
[13] It may be that every utterance, every act of writing, obeys the principle of the conservation of energy as universal as is that in physics. Expelled from silence, language does its irreparable work. In words, as in particle physics, there is matter and anti-matter. There is construction and annihilation.

Subtext
“. . .heady riot out of frame all reason does dash and frantic outrage reign.. .crazed maenads run about the prophet who among them singing stands. . .flock about him as when a sort of bird having found an owl abroad in daylight, hem him in full round which forestalls him round and pull him to the ground. . .and murder him who never till that hour did utter words in vain nor sing without effectual power. . .and through that mouth of his (oh lord!) which even the stones have heard and onto which the witless beasts had often given regard. . .his ghost then expiring into air departs. . .the nymphs take the detached head and set it adrift on an apple bough as they descend the mourning river in boats with sable sails. . .then his head and his harp float past a far flung village. . .his harp yields a mournful sound, his lifeless tongue makes a certain lamentable noise as though it still yet spake and both banks in mourning-wise make answer too the same. . . “

Made In The Shade 2-3

HOME MOVIE I

It’s Gail’s twenty-fifth and there’s a hand-crank 8mm camera loaded with film ready to record the party. Coincidentally, it’s also the longest day of the year. Alice and Andrei arrive first, hand in hand, down the stone steps onto the weathered redwood deck. Their young son Lucian picks his way carefully down, one step at a time. They smile, making their way to the refreshment table. And there’s baby Irene, a bulge of diaper, plastic, around her waist. The record player spins an album. A red flower in a vase has been placed in front of it. Wow, Gail is wearing her well-fitting red halter top! She sips from her glass into the camera. That’s Susan, whose birthday it is also, swaying to the music. From the back, everyone partaking of appetizers. Michael-Sean appears from below as if through a trap door, his hair in a magnificent blonde pompadour. For an exhibitionist, he certainly has an aversion to being filmed. Hunce has joined the party, sitting crossed legged on the deck. He shares one of his cigarettes with Sean. They look sheepish. Sean raises his eyebrows as if surprised. In the background, baby Irene is climbing up a chair and reaching for something on the table. She has ditched her diaper. Her mother hovers nearby. Alice has a card in an envelope in her hand. A group freezes in front of the large outdoor stone fireplace. This is a movie camera, people! There is a lacunae of some length. The operator had not turned the turret lens completely around thus blocking the aperture. A potted plant in a wooden box comes into focus. Lana Michaleczko has arrived and is telling a story at the foot of the steps when she notices she’s being filmed. She is such a ham. She hops on one foot, stumbles, and then laughs. The subject becomes the feet of guests:  the sandals, the sneakers, the boots, the loafers, the slippers, the thongs, the Japanese getas (Lana’s). Baby Irene is being urged to dance, barefooted naked innocence. Everyone is dancing. Alice with Andrei, Steve Lavoie with Lana, Gail with the baby. Andrei bumps hips with Lana, the big show-off! Susan sways alone in the shadows, cool in her shades. Sean is making marks on a piece of paper with a pen. The birthday poem! Hunce looks over his shoulder into the camera. Nothing now but chests. Andrei’s shirt open down to his waist. Lana is wearing a tiny gold chain around her neck. She has the most interesting chest. The camera lingers. Steve’s bright polyester shirt open at the neck. A ball rolls across the deck to the baby. The shadows longer. Alice stretches her legs out into a last patch of warm sun at the end of a long day. Light attends her like a halo. Lucian catches the large beach ball and throws it back to Lana. Steve gives it the James Dean lean against the railing, beer in hand. A mobile of tiny pieces of driftwood catches the failing rays, turns slowly, trembles at the hint of a breeze.


6/4/90
hopeless pedant

you can think about yesterday and tomorrow but . . . it’s forever today

6/10/94
ninety years later:  day blooms ink spilt a wild Irish rose

ah the symmetry of platitudes!
like the simplest of elements
is how they endure
codified scribbles chatter on
long after the scribblers have gone

the age of improvisation has us grasping at straws

6/12/85
it can’t be my night to do the dishes!

what is this string called love

6/14/90
surely in isolation one becomes a god

6/20/90
summer always starts with a sunburn

        Where did I leave off
	last night admiring my newly
	completed gate in the dark
	the moon and its few stars
	told me what the weather
	would be like today

I have successfully predicted the future
(woulda been just as right had I been wrong)
now the rest of it can fall into place
the thousands of dollars in the mail
phone calls of adulation and fanship
book movie TV contracts and demands
for personal appearances and talk shows
bank errors in my favor $200 every time
I pass GO and I don’t have to go 
anywhere to get it (it comes to me)
even though I have a brand new Jaguar
at my disposal and a new chauffeur

I have been asked to leave

I’m off

		again

gap widens between words
what used to be just a leap
now an overnight jaunt
at supersonics speed
			with prices to match

I need the convenience of being there
at any given moment which is always now 
 

—I am, if not one of the more intelligent, certainly one of the more irritating poets around.

Not following the style of the time bothers people, it’s perceived as politically incorrect, and is viewed as an opposition to what they’re doing, a rivalry, certainly one that doesn’t exist. That rivalry really existed only for the Language school because they figured that they could do something other than what was being done at that point.

—It’s my moral position then which is irritating?

There again, you have no position. You’ve been a little like Gertrude Stein. To a certain group, you’re considered an original writer with original things.

—I never would have thought of comparing myself with Gertrude Stein.

Don’t let it go to your head. It’s merely a form of comparison. There are people in every period of literature who aren’t “in.”  No one’s bothered by it. Whether you ever will be “in” or not, it’s all the same. Years later things are discovered that might have bothered some people, but back then you could have cared less. Even among the most extraordinary figures of the time, certain people have incredible qualms, a sort of fear. People like Watten who are nevertheless intelligent find what you have to offer isn’t in line with what they predicted, it’s outside their expectations. They have an absolutely clear dogmatic line on it, foreseeing everything that might happen. You find that naively foolish.

—Have I disturbed a lot of people by my stance?

No, not at all, because you’ve had anything but a public life. What little public life you’ve had has been with others who were interested in your work. You hardly ever give public readings and when you do, they’re not attended. In fact, you’ve never had a public life.

—I have said that poetry is a basic act of speech, of utterance. Am I implying that self-expression is the poet’s motivation or is there more to be said? Is it my desire to communicate, my interest in possible readers? Impossible readers?

The writer is the deputy of his own ego, of that self in perpetual flight before what is fixed by writing, the mind in perpetual flight from doctrine “who speaks is not who writes and who writes is not who is” as in Rimbaud’s “I is another.”  You must choose between being a terrorist and being an egoist. Writing is play at which you try to maneuver in the tight place in which you find yourself. Wedged there, you struggle between the hysteria needed to write and the overwhelming corrective influence of your consciousness to produce something that will bring the mob to your door. On the one hand you seek to be desired, and on the other, you’d rather not. You’re hysterical and obsessed at the same time. You delight continually, endlessly, in writing as a perpetual production, an unconditional disposition, an energy of seduction. However, while you write, the writing is at every moment leveled, banalized, made guilty of the end product to which it must eventually contribute. At every moment of the effort, lost, bewildered, driven, you can only say to yourself, keep going. After all, what is literature but something that is read, if it is read at all, for what it is rather than what it is about. As far as imagining the reader of your work, possible or impossible, that aspect never enters into it.


6/23/89
Editor, Russian River News—Mr. Erikson’s letter is unconscionable. It is blatant political opportunism and the nadir of human compassion. To use the tragedy in China as an excuse to point a finger and gloat is the sign of a microscopic mind. Political affiliations aren’t really an issue when human beings slaughter other human beings. What happened in China is a catastrophe. History is full of examples of man’s inhumanity, and this happens to be one of the more recent and more graphic instances. That the world was witness to it perhaps involves us more in the guilt of the action, fuels our sense of frustration, and outrages our sense of morality, but we should also face up to the fact that brutality, cruelty, and callousness toward our fellow homo sapiens is not exclusively a communist predilection. Were the National Guardsmen who shot and killed the students at Kent State communists? Hardly. The point I’m trying to make here is that political affiliations are secondary when it comes to matters such as these. Repression and absolutism comes in all shapes and forms, and yes, even in a democracy there is the same rule by fear or terror of reprisal — just ask a black man in the South. Saying that because you have a communist government that this kind of tragedy is inevitable is nothing more that off-the-shelf jingoism. To do so is to forget the march of human history. In the West we labor under the smug illusion that we are enlightened and above such brutality. The Chinese who hold the record for the longest continuous civilization in recorded history have no such illusion. State sanctioned murder is part of their cultural heritage. In this century alone, they were slaughtered by the Japanese, then after the war, by the Kuomintang (sic) aka the Nationalist Chinese, and Mao’s revolution. If we really want to point a finger, let’s point it at ourselves, the descendants of European stock who committed genocide on the native peoples of this land. Just the words “Wounded Knee” should be enough to shut our self-righteous traps. To use this tragedy as an occasion to spew hackneyed clichés of “us versus them” is cynical. We should instead be reflecting on the fact that sentient beings with all the best intentions in the world have been kicked in the teeth once again by our own latent brutality. The finger pointers are also the ones who would point the guns. The petty, single track minds who only see black or white are also the ones who would be myopic enough to give the order to fire
.


6/23/89
get a haircut!

6/24/89
go to a music festival where everyone has long hair!

now when I dance
it feels like I’m
carrying an added
appendage around
my middle section
no longer light
on anyone’s feet
fluid and lithe 
hardly the word
wobbly waddle
all I can manage
of what once was 


6/25/82
time is merely a cartoon that helps us understand the span of our existence, a pattern of arbitrary divisions and decimals and exponents which schematize the pulmonary cycle; when breathing stops so does time—then the cosmos take over.

the choice is between being everything and (consequently) nothing or just being one thing at all.

after a late season rain
ignorant of grammar
the weeds reach higher

6/28/91
dead start awakened by 
the thud of rain drops
this drizzle
	making a nuisance of itself
the season takes a step back
 

The dogs of summer come out
				on the new moon
	they leering trot at the gutters
hoping to find a few heels to snap
		their shit yellow eyes light
				the fear of centuries
	fanged with the drool of intimidation
they know best our destiny
	desperate as theirs

“this is genocide”

fog cover lulls the deadly impulse
	only bees bite
			in gray light
a lethargy that extends to the joints
and pulls the chain
			on bright activity
pulls on the skin
				of the face
	and makes it long

“putting pain in a stranger”

rearrange the matters at hand
syntax’s dull surprise thuds
like Darrel Gray’s hip bone
on the marble floor
		of the burnt out
hotel where poets danced
				milled
and dropped of their own accord
to a low point
	in the history of literature
        “she ain’t gonna do right”
 

6/29/93
remember posture
the way the spine
holds the head high
forces the chest out
hope that the stomach
will gravitate toward
the backbone belongs
to another faculty
memory of the way
things used to be
little consolation
for the aches the pains
twinges tics tremors
sit straight chin up
take it as it comes

6/30/85
I ain’t no hermit Buddhist poet yet. I am too often enlisted in the aid of my vanity, yearn to get in the swim of the microbic self-devouring scene and lucky I’m not because I’d be among the first to be consumed so I keep my distance, try to work within my limits. I might have more in common with the village idiot.12 

Virgo:  Your magnetism proves irresistible to an attractive member of the opposite sex. You have definite ideas and are not very interested in other people’s suggestions. Be prepared for slow but steady progress.

heads of grass in full flower catch a fading light
a whole field of silver-wigged aristocrats

beyond the valley of exhaustion
the peak of headache pain
fatigue and eye blear

where was I
(pain can be so distracting)


“You treat me badly” the song goes
but when I
		sing it
				sounds like
I’m talking to myself

	brief interruption sponsored by
	a totally lack of confidence
		available everywhere

program discontinued due to allergy attack

back to square one
			where it seems
there’s always a crowd
	of familiar faces

	“fancy meeting you here”

the joke’s on me
it’s just taken this long
	for me to get around
				to laughing

		(ha ha)

	meat hat on backwards

piano guitar intro familiar
	as memory looms up
		from the back of the head
	where the speakers are

“a change in the weather is a change in me”

PINK ASS

These were the days of food stamps and belt tightening around the end of the month. I had just enough in stamps and change for a half gallon of milk so I was shagging it into town one dewy summer Sunday morning, my rubber sandal soles scuffing the asphalt. It was early and only Noonan’s, Monte Rio’s other grocery, was open. Kelly, the Pink Elephant’s bartender stretched out of his old Lincoln as I passed the bar. He nodded a greeting, keys in hand to open the place up. I padded past him to the other block of businesses. I paid at the counter with a wadded one dollar stamp and a pile of pennies and dimes. The cashier grimaced at my unkempt barely awake appearance. I had just rolled out of bed, the kids screaming for milk for their cereal, after all. As she rang up the purchase, the lights flickered and the old wood floor shook. “Did you feel that?”  Earthquake? “I don’t think it was an earthquake,” the customer in line behind me said as we both headed for the door. Outside, people were gathering on the sidewalk across the street from the Pink Elephant. I sauntered down with my bag of milk. One man pointed at the Pink. “It’s ass fell off!”  It seemed that Kelly, having opened the doors, turned on the lights and the jukebox, unlocked the safe, had his usual morning urge and had retired with the sports page. A quick review of the previous day’s box scores and the first paragraph of that irritating sports column and he was done. The Pink’s bathroom, as the Pink itself, was a cobbled together structure on pilings fifteen feet above Dutch Bill Creek. Built in installments long before any established construction codes, the bathrooms at the back with “Dolls” on one door and “Guys” on the other were actually on a small outdoors deck attachment. Kelly flushed, folded the paper under his arm, and strolled into the bar feeling a lot lighter. He was just getting ready to change out a beer keg when he felt the building sway and then the crash as the entire deck fell to splinters into the bushes below, broken pipes spewing fountains of water. It was the flush that broke the elephant’s ass.


The camera shows the poet at play
	other 
		more fearful moments
		remain invisible
				unspeakable
	just yet
a fear as obsessive as painting the floor
	in a New York City
		rent controlled ghetto flat
		black and trying to find
				some order
	in chaos
a return to a more primitive state not
	unlike Utah
		where the bare bones of the psyche
		peek out from around the sagebrush
				of terror
	phantom-like
and the imagined remains in its place
	while the death grip
		on a particular state of mind
		that predates the mammalian
				take-over
	tightens
so speak my strangled thoughts in half
	sentences
		mistaken in appearance
		distraught in thinking
				I am
	what I appear to be
the practice for violence begins young
	to that effect
		I am still a child
		caught in the crunch
				I can do nothing
	but play

—Who would be my ideal reader, just the same?

Your ideal reader would be someone of average curiosity and open mind who could read one of your poems and react by saying “That’s poetry? I can do that!”  At that point they have accepted a template, a grid through which to apprehend their reality. They will have or have had a recognition that they can compare. If they understand that, then they are beginning to understand what you’re doing and so have begun to understand what it is about poetry.

—In general, am I writing about what is personally most important to me?

Only if what’s important to you is a continuous state of flux. You can’t otherwise put your finger on it. You’d be surprised by how insignificant things can seem important, and vice versa. If anything is important it’s this transitoriness. Most of the time you are blinded by the mundane and oppressed by the critical. Then one day, an hour, a minute, an instant opens out into a vast meadow, the Elysian fields, and with this nameless joy comes timeless song which is then translated into the particular language convention of the time base you are alive in. And how that translates for you is in the daily apprehension of your circumstances where the insignificant is exalted through song or words and makes a kind of spiral ladder at whose conclusion is the spark of life.


Endnotes
[12] Life shouldn’t be disappointing. If nothing else it is consistent in its suffering and that in the face of it all we are helpless. There’s suffering because nothing stays the same which plays havoc with our desire to hold on to what works even if only for an instant which in turn causes the anxiety that makes us suffer. Nothing lasts forever and even that is gone in an instant. Life isn’t anything unique by itself. It is what comes after what went before and what goes on before what’s to come. Conditioned by the past, it affects the future. It is merely a chain of instances linked by memory, desire’s intelligence. It matters not one way or the other, it’s all the same. All we can hope for is a kind of direct intuitive knowledge of these facts which surpass reason and rule out any further discussion. All things being impermanent have no separate and independent identity. The absolute is inherent in all phenomena. Ultimate reality cannot be explained in terms of existence and nonexistence. Everything is real. Each thing is identical with all things.

Subtext
“ . . . the Cinzano umbrellas articulate the slate sky of Paris in the springtime. This cafe is the haunt of literary pretenders, and where you wouldn’t find Orpheus dead, but today of all days, he has stopped in for a glass of white wine with one of his old editors. Of course he is recognized by everyone. The whispering starts. Why is he here, first of all, and it’s been said that the great poet has gone dry. Maybe he’s after some fresh blood, it’s suggested, but even that mere suggestion of literary vampirism is received coldly. The young writers who frequent this establishment are well aware of the real vampires who prey on the creative talents of the young and innocent, those who collect poets the way a headhunter collects skulls. Orpheus is not one of them, his problems have more of a personal nature. Eurydice wants a sacrifice . . . .”

Made In The Shade 2-2

FROM NEW YORK TO MONTE RIO

Dick Gallup spent some time on the Russian River. He was associated with the New York School of Poets as well as being one of the “Tulsa triumvirate” which included Ted Berrigan and Ron Padgett. Dick, family in tow, drove up from San Francisco, where he’d been staying, to visit Andrei one weekend. Fresh from the Big Apple, the idyllic spring weather and laid back California life style extended numerous possibilities for beginning life anew. Before long, Dick, Carol, and kids had moved up to the River, and the literary scene was notably enlivened. Andrei’s prediction that Monte Rio would soon become the next Bolinas was beginning to appear likely. A community of writers blossomed and a reading series was deemed necessary. A local café called Stone Soup obliged with the space. Jeff Miller was one of the first poets to read there, along with Dick. The series was quite successful until a grease fire burned the tiny wood frame diner to the ground. The community of writers rallied and soon another venue was found. Dick’s arrival also hastened the adoption of literary labels as designations for individual poets. It started off with the obvious tagging of Dick as “the New York poet.”  Once that was established, everyone, in a fit of morbid self-consciousness, imagined what their own labels might be. Andrei was the “Transylvanian poet” of course, and Hunce Voelcker was “the Bridge poet” because of his obsession. Jeff was “the punk poet” because of his spiky hairdo. I was “the haiku poet” because I had just devoted an entire issue of my magazine, The End (& Variations Thereof), to western Haiku. And Michael-Sean Lazarchuk was “the LA poet” although he was merely from Southern California. As well, there were also the River Poets, the Just Awful Poets, the Poets of the Vineyard, the Women Poets, the Gay Poets, the Academic Poets, and the Crazy Poets. All the ingredients for a self-devouring microbic literary soup were mixing and coming to a boil in the little bowl of a valley of mist and redwoods watered by a winding narrow green river. One of the first things to boil over was Dick leaving Carol and moving back to San Francisco. After all those years, two kids, they were through. It happened as I was helping them move into the house I had just vacated. One moment I was lifting furniture and the next thing I knew I had emotional baggage on my hands. Those things happen and they’re hardly ever pleasant. Michael-Sean, up for another of his visits, was upset that he’d just missed meeting Dick. Dick had been featured in Ted’s poems and had shared the intimate details of Ted’s life. As a consolation, Gail took Sean over to meet Carol. Carol had known Ted, quite well in fact. And since nature abhors a vacuum, they were drawn to each other right away. It was a match made in poetry heaven. Gail wrote a funny account of how all that came about, and how she, as the Haiku Poet’s wife gave the New York Poet’s wife driving lessons in an old ‘64 VW with a stick shift. But that’s another story, full of stops and starts, jerks and stalls.


5/1/90
“American genius (in lit) cannot be distinguished by a casual glance from charlatanry. Purity of intention lies at the heart of American achievement.” 
                                                         –Hugh Kenner

5/2/90
fantasy doesn’t have to be real

feed the disaster of apprehension
I have become mediocre destitute
imagination like fleeting thought
never to return or be regained

“I’ve forgotten more than I can remember”

religion—organized sex with the best part left out

feeble asides

animate pliers	

5/8/90
Mon Cher —     
Already, bootleg tapes of your appearance on Nightline are on the black-market. I got mine through Voelcker Video Ventures, a video pirate down the road in Duncan Mills. You were brilliant, professional, larger than life though smaller than actual size. The piece was touching and you were its perfect expositor. There was much cheering in our living room when we saw your image appear in that familiar square to the left of Ted Koppel’s ear. The fact that we were seeing it “post-event,” so to speak, made no difference. Wish I’d been at the Pink (now since closed) knocking back a few when Nightline aired—I could have said, “Hey, I know that guy, me and him used to play eight ball at that very same table over there!”  Anyway, amigo, congrats on being chosen to deliver a beautiful (poetic) piece (a near first on near prime time) on the liberation of your homeland.
I won’t bore you with the well-known details of my existence, but as you know, life continues, and as Seneca said, “destiny leads those who are willing and drags the rest.” 
A bientot.


Rays of light
			enter my head
	brighten up 
		some dark little corner
revealing little more
	than what’s left of shadows
everything that happens
			in the dark
		has scurried off
I pare my nails in the meantime
	I’m using myself as bait
		(if you couldn’t tell)
and wait
		for the gnaw
				on my nerves
the better mousetrap isn’t used on mice
	it has a captive audience

	tonight’s full moon
		creeps up
	above the tree line
   (is it too early to take a bow?)
	planets surround it
	Venus’ white marble
	Mars’ red comma
	and some other dots
	in the pale glow
	of a hot nickel
	flipped up into
	the dark of night

			mantle of mist
	cuts the stark pointy
		silhouettes in two
clear as day
 

What do I expect from poetry, anyway?

You have no idea. You really have no program or established plan. You never ask yourself if you should ever sell your writing or not. There’s no theoretical substratum. You live, you write, you’re a poetit doesn’t mean anything, fundamentally. You’re a poet because you want a vague so-called freedom, but really you just don’t want to go to an office every morning.

Do I credit any one writer, ancestor or contemporary, with a strong influence on my poetry?

You read. Everyone and everything. That’s the prime requisite, you read extensively, and pretty soon your head gets packed with all kinds of stuff and then some of it leaks out of the end of your pen into what you’re writing in that the trivia comes out between the lines or as quotesdepending on how you feel about plagiarismor whatever, as impossible paraphrases. So no one writer has a corner on influence and all are mixed nameless into the reflex of memory. There are writers you revere but they’re much the same ones that everyone else is in awe of, too. There are vast repositories of literature to draw from, ancient and contemporary, classical and popular. All writers offer you something even if it’s nothing more than the recognition that you would or could never write that way.

How long does the writing of a poem take me?

—Sometimes you just write something in your notebook and turn the page and write something else and forget about it. And you continue to write in your notebook and days later during a pause in the action you leaf back through the pages and find what you’d written on one particular day and wonder “where did this come from?”  Then you go back and reconstruct as best as you can remember to determine whether or not you wrote it or lifted it from someone else. Not that that would do anything to hamper its utility.

—Should I be troubled by this, that I rely so heavily on what I read to affect what I write?

What you read has more of an effect on how you write than what you think. You are an information junkie, a detail demon. Trivia is like candy. What you write is determined by a subtle chemical interaction triggered by one or more of the senses which transports the assessment of those sensations into a realm beyond the physical. It is a suspension of belief that allows the imagination to color certain aspects of existence that are often hidden or unnoticed or invisible unless enhanced. Writing is a physical act, pick and shovel work. The best thing to do when digging a trench is to sing, it enforces your rhythm. Thinking would only hamper you so you don’t think. That’s what you do when you take a break to wipe your brow and swig from the canteen. You’re thinking, “Why am I doing this?”

—Alright, but what about thought? Profound thinking? Am I totally devoid of intellectual depth?

You’re surprised that you have any thoughts at all no matter how banal and that’s why they get jotted down. Sometimes that’s all there is, and, after all, your pen is always ready no matter what. Then you go back and throw out the really leaden thoughts. Or some. Otherwise you keep them and make more banalities to go along with them. Something that seems no more than the sickening thud of hitting rock bottom can end up weeks later an airy lyric central to the mechanism of your latest creation. Though writing creatively is sometimes compared to fishing in the stream of consciousness, you don’t always throw back the little one. But to get back to the point, often what starts out as philosophy with you ends up as science fiction.

Then, what is intelligence?

The word “intelligence” is a rubber band of ambiguity. There’s the logical or Cartesian form of intelligence, but you mean something else, a freer form of the problem. For you intelligence is the penetration into what the average “normal” man finds incomprehensible or difficult to understand, the everyday mysteries that are the foundation of surrealism which in the latter part of the century have become nothing more than raw doses of reality TV shows. There is something like an explosion of meaning, something you aren’t likely to get from a dictionary. We are men of the same order, you and I share a community of vision which is why you understand this idea of intelligence, enlarged, drawn out, extended, inflated. . .

—In what sense have I enlarged, inflated, exploded the limits of creation, according to my own intelligence?

Try to shy away from the word “creation.”  In the ordinary, social meaning of the word, it’s very nice, but, fundamentally, you don’t believe in the creative function of the artist. You are a man just as any other. You have a job to do. The word “artist” was invented when the painter became an individual, first in monarchal society, and then in contemporary society where they’re supposed to be gentlemen, an archaic concept all its own. They don’t make things for people; people come to choose things from among their production. The artists’ revenge is that they are much less subject to concession as when they were craftsmen. Unfortunately like poets they deal almost exclusively in framed metaphor rather than in the thing. So angst can be expressed on the square canvas or the rectangle of the page. Let’s move on.


5/4/93
Affected by the negative
worry’s sad anticipation
frozen as a turd on the tundra

the horrible awakening 
from the dream of life

spend a lot of time looking
for things I don’t need to find

5/9/89
fleeting sunset caught
along the edge of a single cloud
in the rearview mirror

5/10/90
Sudden California as opposed to Gradual California

5/12/89
ah, the four seasons of my discontent. . . The Guggenheim, the National Book Award, the Pulitzer, Book Circle Critic’s Award, After Columbus, Before Columbus, Best Unknown Poet Award, The Posthumorous Award, all of them will never be mine. Feelings of alienation so familiar10 and yet so alienating, push me further back into myself, to that self-comfort of self-knowing which is the same as asking “why do I care?”  I care that I don’t care. Every day myriad new names are appended to the already long list of pretenders. Why am I any different? Should I ask that my name be removed from the list? It’s a thought. I am repulsed at the thought of being associated with such Sisyphean futility. Day in day out, though, I find myself caring to be in this mental place where what I do is what everyone else does.

5/15/89
what have you got to lose

brilliant burning in anger
but getting burnt out

the acrobatics of memory
what was once becomes now

                                Artifice
		of pen
	from which words
			dribble out
a closed universe
		only
		a message in a bottle
	no deposit
	no return

air struck wind feels good
as it dips into heat of day
and takes me out of my skin
I spin with the world around me
a cavalcade of clouds a carload
of teenagers a covey of quail
couple stray mutts kids crying
close call I almost stepped in
dog shit at the side of the road
I may have thrown my back out

I’m in for a big surprise

“what’s the matter”
refers to something
	entirely out of context
a question frequently asked
		around here

“no more electric trains”
sinks in

5/26/87
we have abandoned the reader for the writing.
“Know what? You’re not supposed to understand it!”

“In this poetry business, there are rings of intrigue.”
					—Amy Lowell

brains with stones already in them


5/27/89
	“night’s magic seems to
whisper and hush”
	I am the loud one exhaling

I know these moods11 
they will pass

gray noon
time molasses

when you displease the goddess
you become an insignificant worm


5/28/83
his face just flies apart when he cries

there is no spiritual enlightenment
only paychecks

VIRGO: Break new ground with your writing skills or musical talent. Something you launch will create a ripple effect. Logic only goes so far where romance is concerned.

I may have bitten off more than I can chew
which is why all this is so hard to swallow
it’s gulp time immobilized by fantastic disgust
conservative to the point of distraction
when I come face to face with the great stuff
I don’t even have an inkling of how to take
and the fruitless impersonations I endure rot
often surprised by how seriously I can be taken
my moments of truth few the rest make-believe
in one scenario I’m as brilliant as morning
later on it’s revealed that I have jaundice
end up spending some time on the funny farm
not true of course I’m as sane as the next guy
drawing the smoke of inspiration through a straw

the grand scale of landscape doesn’t diminish
at the horizon
distance reduces vision
where’s this stuff come from
						             anyway
grin and bear it
				quote unquote
no matter what
“there’s something fluent in the transparency”
the words of the review continue
“that stinks worse than a spoiled banana republic”

and isn’t it about time
a VW bus full of fans
			stops to pick me up
they’re surprised to find
		I travel by thumb
just like I said in my poems
of course
	my life imitates my art

5/30/84
A large crowd came to hear Alice Notley read at New College. Rows of chairs had been set up in what once had been a mortuary chapel. To name the names of the literary set in attendance would leave open the opportunity of omitting someone or mentioning who was not there. Suffice it to say, a queue formed to have a word with Alice. She would read her sad poems tonight. She had read her “jokey” ones yesterday at the San Francisco State Poetry Center. She might even cry. Yesterday, also, she had gone to Berkeley with Philip Whalen. They had gone to a sculptor’s bronze foundry, and then she had hunted the bookstores for first editions of Ted’s books . . . .  Tomorrow, she would go shopping for the boys, and Sunday return home to them in New York City. “I don’t even know what I’m doing here.”  Long fingers touching her cheek, she gave half a smile. At the podium, in her purple blouse, she was a regal priestess. Her incantations, her witty digressions, her mood pieces were delivered with a rushed breathiness. She presented her works with an accomplished air that made obvious her practice and invention. Their integrity was solid, beautiful as well as modern. She read from her published works. And she read more recent poems that reflected the grief inflicted by the loss of her companion of many years, Ted Berrigan. It became quite evident that these two great poets had made quite a team. Through him, she had verified her strength. His invention had been the source of her inspiration. Her natural power and talent had been his affirmation. There was one image that depicted their union as a whirlwind that circled them like the stroke of a brush, blue in color. It sounded more permanent than a band of gold. In other works, she alluded to her children, and things taken from Mad Magazine and Star Wars. Throughout, she was constantly in touch with her everyday life, realizing through language, like a true artist, the opportunity presented by everything for poetry. And so it was. Alice made it so.

5/31/86
The story goes: this guy goes to see a psychiatrist and says, “It’s my brother, he thinks he’s a poet.”  The doctor frowns (he’s a Frowndian). “This sounds serious,” he says. “Does he teach at a college or university?”  “No.” “Has he received any government grants or awards from private foundations?”  “No.”  “Does he teach poetry in grade schools?”  “No.”  “Does he teach creative writing in adult education programs?”  “No.”  “Does he hold poetry workshops for seniors?”  “No.”  “Does he edit or publish a literary magazine?”  “No.”  “Does he publish literary criticism in literary periodicals?”  “No.”  “Is he claiming lineage with an acknowledged poet of the past?”  “No.”  Anyway, this goes on with the good doctor exhausting any avenue that would justify the brother’s claim of being a poet. Finally, he says, “This is indeed serious but . . . (pausing like a good Freudian) it isn’t untreatable. I believe we can work out a program of treatments that will, for all intents and purposes, eliminate this delusion.”  “But that’s the problem, doc,” says the man, “we’d like to see him cured, but we can use the poetry.”  

Pin to distraction pulled
			objective senses nullified
         by sweep of the beat
		             what underlying flows out
	            simple sentences
	            the basic code to the strands
		               that connect me to the sky

		               “I’m your puppet”

           transmission clearly worded
	             suspends superstition

	            unhealthy interruption

         day warm enough to stray full tilt introspection
         spreading leaves scatter light on concrete
         shade of another year grown into place
         tons good weather seems to lifts off your back
         day’s pasture widens in a sudden green rush
         I find myself arms akimbo growing with it
         spinning through the eons stop to feel
         thick air of morning swift breeze of afternoon
         pale sprouts flash their tiny spears in the sun
         garden stronghold of regimented vegetation
         dart of salamander bug and bee among the leaves

admiration for my choice of words comes from far away
too far away to make any difference
								                and too late
         a pirate edition sails away with the royalties
         despite my regards the gloved hand’s goodbye

End Notes:
[10] “Who needs the suckass scene? I scratch my own back and don’t need nobody kissing up like it’s gonna do them some good. Let’s keep our distance. That way I don’t owe you and you don’t owe me. There’s too much of politics in the world as it is. Ain’t gonna get the poetry any better and it’s gonna alienate the true hearts who don’t want no truck with those machinations in the first place. Why do we have to sell ourselves? Ain’t it enough what we distill into this imperfect medium of language? Why do we have to promote it any further than the edge of the page?”

[11] But if progress is not to come to a standstill, concepts of being and objects must remain plastic, must be modified, enlarged, limited, transformed, must separate and unite continually in the light of experience. If they become too rigid and turn into a system which claims to be self-sufficient, the mind engaged in such a system will go on working inside it forever and ever, cut off from any contact with reality which these very concepts are supposed to represent. They become the object of a hollow and useless dialectic and the source of deathly infatuation.

Subtext: 
Undercover report:  subject talks to himself. Complains of not being understood, being taken for granted, too little sexual activity, over-active imagination. Vain, examines his own image in the polish of his fingernails. Admits to having forgotten more than he can remember. Observed getting messages from the car radio. Finally noticing the lack of significant mail in the last several months. Beginning to suspect a conspiracy. Moods subject to change without notice. Continues to write poems throughout. Conclusion:  obvious obsessive personality.

“ . . . Eurydice’s death by snake bite and Orpheus’s failure to bring her back into the day light figure only in later myth. This idea is mistakenly deduced from pictures on vases that depicted Orpheus’s welcome to Tartarus where his music charmed the chthonic snake-goddess Hecate into giving special privileges in the afterlife to those who had been initiated into the Orphic Mysteries—an affirmation of the poet’s efficacy on the serving vessels of the day. Eurydice’s victims die of snake bite, not her, whose name means “wide justice” or “all just” and as Hecate is the serpent-grasping ruler of the underworld to whom young men were sacrificed, their deaths caused by a vipers bite just above the heel. Orpheus chose not to submit. There’s more than one way to skin the cat . . .”

Made In The Shade 2-1

MY BREAKFAST WITH ANDREI

A haystack of grated potatoes emits columns of steam; bright yolked eggs float on a thin film of oil which a diminutive, hair-netted woman tends with the crook of her spatula. The napkin holder is flanked on one side by catsup and mustard dispensers, salt, pepper, and a silo of sugar on the other. They are enclosed at the far edge of the gray Formica by a half corral of chrome which also encompasses a pot of relish, a metal cruet of cream (perpetually empty), and a tiny glass ashtray—there are four of them, with the same compliment of condiments, stationed down the length of countertop. The stools at this end of the Knotty Room, mounted on chrome pillars, swivel, crest-like backs upholstered in red vinyl. Andrei has an incredible stack of mail in front of him in the form of little magazines and review copies of small press poetry books. He orders the magazines by size on one side of his coffee cup and the review copies on the other side. Directly in front of him is a small but impressive pile of correspondence from publishers and famous writers as well as just plain fan mail. I can always find Andrei down at this end of the narrow diner after I’ve been to my post office box and retrieved the few postcards, rejected manuscripts, and bills. We thumb through the literary fare, incisively commenting on various aspects of various achievements. We create our own gossip, smug, sip from our cups of tepid river brown coffee. When the morning rush is over, we commandeer a knotty pine booth with the same red vinyl padding on the benches, similar Formica slab, and against the knotty pine wall, a corral of condiments and a jukebox selector with an “out of order” sign hastily scribbled on the back of a guest check taped to the curve of glass. Having seen the film, we wish to eat the book and order hash browns, eggs (over easy) and a raft of bacon, strips of which we had perceived earlier as having been constrained under a press of some sort and which led me to comment “must be some pretty fresh bacon.”  Jeff falls into the booth looking very very bad, his forehead seeming to crush his eyebrows, an expression that confirms how painful that must be, a letter in his hand from a collection agency ripped open with what looks like frustrated violence. He drinks his coffee black with the finality of a man downing a shot of whiskey. He recounts with bored insolence how he went over the side of the road with his newly purchased ‘54 Ford, saved from rolling fifty or so feet down the embankment when the front end wrapped itself around a big redwood tree. We all agree to a refill from the roving waitress and nod understandingly at how we are all propelled through this life by the cosmic winds and our own hot air.


Days that have gone
			fled waters
			under the bridge
tread the mill
		granted this species
to be able to repeat
	genetic mistakes
		over and over
clues to behavior
		locked in the vaults of ancestry
	I will never escape
	stare me in the face
	as do my own children

flakes of mental dandruff
	gather on the dark shoulders
		of ambition
the fragile furniture of my life
gets rearranged
			without notice
	frequently

drugs I take
			women I romance
	still don’t make the front page
distracted by the brandy in my cup
		and a song on the radio
		hooked for a moment
the way I will always be remembered

“ain’t it good to be alive” 

4/1/82
Disapprove of this last phrase

4/4/83
Bob Kaufman came to dinner. He didn’t speak much, if at all. His sinuses were continually draining. His companion, Lynne, did most of his talking. He would aspirate a word if absolutely necessary. “Want another burrito, Bob?”  What passed for “yes” snuffled out over the toothless gums. Afterwards he recited poems as if in payment for the meal. It was legal tender as far as I was concerned. He mushed out Olson’s The Kingfisher and the opening to Prufrock. Lynne had to give us hints as to which poems were which otherwise they would have been unintelligible. But there was a spirit to Bob’s intonation that made them poetry. Most of the time though, he was silent, resembling, at one point, a large caramelized rat hunched over the remains of the third burrito, a primal intelligence possessed by brilliant eyes.

4/5/85
Wild spring
Scudding clouds
O life!
Dark stream of swirling bogwater
on which appletrees have cast down
their delicate flowers
Eyes of girls among the leaves
Girls demure and romping
All fair and auburn
no dark ones
They blush best
Oh yeah!

4/7/83
Read what I wrote last night. Vague words for a vague emotion.

I wouldn’t operate machinery in this condition
but everything else should be a lot of fun
the question is why would anyone one want to
operate machinery under any condition
the perfect machine can operate itself
man is a perfect machine in one sense
but only in that sense otherwise hardly
that leaves a lot of room for other things 
imperfect half-formed thoughts and ideas
that come as visions or out of nothing
a kind of conjuring that comes from doing
and lets the body get next to itself
some half of wit joined to some equally
inept fragment of universal consciousness
accidents collisions all the things
a machine could never hope to survive
a machine can correct my spelling
as I sip from a glass and crush a butt
I think of how incredibly stupid I can be
but a machine can only be correct
I get the privileged fact of my mistakes
I get out of control but it’s an ancient
thing to do not that that’s why I do
I can remove myself from where I am
but a machine can only be where it is
flying high I can laugh at it knowing
that if it could (I’m thinking of TV)
that it would be laughing at me
a machine fulfills its particular role
mine fill scrapbooks in alphabetical order
the laughter of my kids activates me and
I become a robot of love and affection
a machine in the industry of family

4/15/88

Dear Richard —
Thanks for sending the manifesto—I appreciate your time and effort. I can’t say that I disagree with the essence of much of what is said. On the other hand, there are little things about the manifesto that bother me. There seems to be a suggestion of elitism in phrases like “writers we feel are worthwhile”, and in particular, I don’t like the way “expressivist” is used, or its connotation: “expressivist” = “recidivist”. In many ways this edifice of literary theory that “they” are building is a shadow Academy, a bulwark of Neo New Criticism, the elevation of the “professional” ethic (possibly a contradiction in terms) over that of a creative esthetic. I can’t blame anyone for wanting to legitimize their practice as a poet, but to parrot an already corrupt hierarchy of values is self-defeating. Besides the self-aggrandizement of some of the text, which is also in part self-deluding, the entire tone is humorless and severe as if the reader were being proselytized by an iceberg.
            The other problem with it is that while there are some fairly strong points, the manifesto as a whole goes nowhere. And as a basis for further discussion, it is rather flimsy. There seems to be a yearning to be accepted back into the womb of mother university, or for an academic acceptance that would legitimize their work. And to a certain extent they have succeeded. The texts and publications that they themselves cite in the manifesto should be enough to garner well-deserved attention. The question that comes up eventually is whether or not the poet is required to operate under the rubric of the university/academy, establishment or shadow. Can the poet leave the fold of the school or must there be an umbilical that is continually feeding him/her the latest in self-perpetuating professorial trends? That can be as great a rut as anything in mainstream poetry can be imagined to be. No denying that there is a crust of establishment poetry that is almost impenetrable to all but the most vapid compromises of intelligence and creativity. That, in most respects, is a given. The majority of poets writing today have encountered this. The politics of poetry (who is in and who is out) is a rat’s nest of backrooms and bedrooms, of favor mongering and toadying, none of which was addressed in the manifesto. Rather there is a choosing up of sides, a territorial imperative, a jargonistic imperialism which would create yet another class system to distinguish the haves from the have-nots. And of course there’s the obvious fact that while the theories, grand and altruistic as they are, have a certain intellectual merit, the poems that purport to follow this ideology have very little to recommend for themselves.
            Finally, there is the point of where the writers of the manifesto stand politically, and how they feel that the reaction against them is Rightist. Though this could very well be, personally, I could never consider them anything but Young Republicans, and at their worst, neo-Nazis. As avant-garde as they would like to think themselves, they come across in just about all their writing as conservatives.
            I hope I’m not being too unfair. A lot of their work I find very interesting. The importance of their writing shouldn’t be underrated. On the other hand, it might be unfortunate that their polemic overshadows their work as individual artists. My personal relationship with these poets I would ascertain as being pretty frosty. Life Of Crime came rollicking through town right during one of their more serious periods and the laughter, name dropping and ruckus was not appreciated. Their general animosity towards those they considered beyond the pale (or the literary “incorrect”) goes back before that, however. Ted Berrigan asked me to be on his panel at 80 Langton, commenting that he needed someone on his side. One of the few times one of that group ever talked to me was that night of the panel, before hand; he said, “Let’s not let Ted get away with this bullshit.”  He was referring, I later learned, to Ted’s invectives of the previous day.
            Otherwise there has been the wall of silence and disapproval from those folks. I’d take it personally if I really cared.


4/11/89
know what White-Out is
imagine a bottle of it
now find that place in
your memory where you store
my name and white it out

paper clips keep my shit together
that’s how bad it is
discouraged by the myopia
of an overambitious editor

4/14/87
An awkward resumption of all those things which accompany uncertainty or even just the inconvenience of not knowing what to do next and then not doing it. The law of diminishing returns and its applications.

4/15/89
I feel careful funny historic stuck up modern more rested playful archaic scientific rich that alive electric hooked lucky clever international alone loved wise superstitious free foolish sexy rough mysterious wet wired vulnerable cheated ecstatic together satisfied sad ok. 

4/21/91
subtle matter

overheard:  “Not that I want to make you self-conscious or anything like that, but with a laugh like that you must be great in bed.”

the assembled rumble of an arriving vehicle

in search of one’s self follow the trail to the old gods—there, in partial obscurity, unclothed of our present trappings and assumptions, in the damp half-light of a dim but palpable past, you can find yourself

pencil fades

missed out on the big sex orgy at Hunce’s—wasn’t invited

4/22/87
limp home

Since everybody’s been
there before me
	I’m the only one here
				when I arrive
everyone I thought
I’d be meeting
	was long
			gone by then

I wasn’t using my real name

(debris)

adult child conflict
confusion on everyone’s part
can lead to much crying
and near hysteria
resolve and placebo
a laugh track makes it all better
how oppression can be ignited
from such a small flame

what was I trying to say

there are times
when these words are nothing
compared to the wail
and cry of some two year old

language refines raw power
I give myself the run-around

4/23/91
big rain storm
fooled everyone

our own image on a smooth metallic surface is a portrayal of the ripples in the mobile electron sea caused by the rays that have reflected from us

4/23/95
forever at the door of the inexpressible8 
getting up the nerve to knock

same as same

time is a commodity
it serves us well


4/24/90
I’m pulling myself out of this skin
a sweater once large now too snug
and me once too foolish now just smug
room for rent please inquire within
I’d tear my hair out but there’s this
big Latin word for it and I’d end up
a weird segment on the evening news
trying too hard but I must be strong
just can’t go forcing these situations
that’s easily breaking and entering

4/24/95
There is an unimaginable gulf, one that shows up on no map but which is continually mapped though never accurately or for very long. It is too vast, too deep, and ever changing.

urine trouble

Virgo:  The next three months will be the happiest, most productive of the year. Though you’ll often feel pulled to center stage (to receive the plaudits you deserve), much of your most creative work will take place alone. This is the chance of a lifetime to take a creative challenge and fly with it.

It’s all blank tape
		black tape
I want to spill my guts
				all over the page
but I don’t want to die
	I look down the tree-lined street
	as it goes on forever
the majesty of the milling gray sky
and wonder if that’s the best I can do
days whistle by in my ears
		stir the trees
	as in time-lapse photography
the hair on my face has taken over
and I feel like a cop behind a signboard
advertising what won’t mean much for long
we’ll soon all become lawless and hairless
a sure sign of advancement
		a green light to the traffic jam
	known as evolution
a process akin to the slow cracking of ice
at the heart of a glacier
the seemingly haphazard crystallization
	just another statistic
		in a long line of probability
I am more lenient of a fanatic than some
					(apparently)
so why not become Buddha
		what else is there to do
head like a rock
		faceted or smooth
				shiny when wet
		in the throes of a tantric TV tantrum
I need something 
                a remote to change my mind			 

—I’ve stopped thinking of literature as something solely to be enjoyed; it is, rather, the substance upon which I feed. I write and many times it doesn’t go beyond that. This attitude doesn’t help my feelings of isolation and alienation much. Am I wrong to feel this way?

As a poet you often write for yourself alone. “Writing settles nothing.”  as Kerouac so succinctly put it. Once it becomes a part of your page it becomes other than it was. Once you have written it, written is what it is and inherently immune or oblivious to the rules and laws that governed it when it wasn’t. It becomes the thing written. It will bear only passing resemblance to anything but itself. Imagination in the written word remains a world of its own, a de facto parallel universe invariable, unique of necessity. Its facts apply strictly to what is written and will be written in a world of tangled but viable complexity. Based on what was and what might have been, it becomes.

—But I want my poetry to say, “I wanted that chocolate malt so bad I spilled it all down my front” and mean it.

—The original sin of art is that it wants to convince and to please, like flowers that grow in the hopes of ending up in a vase. You write poems without expecting anything but the profound joy that you feel in making them. You can’t be preoccupied with the finished product. Sure, some things, everything must have a certain finality. When you start thinking about it, hidden doubts surface: the only finished products are the dead. These dead things, extinct, vanished, rubbed out, then can become tangibles of an imagined perfection. To live up to these expectations, you only have to die.


Death comes
	night and day
I learn of it in black and white
and if it’s someone
			in entertainment
especially music
radio’s full of reminders
that the good die young
meteors
		astonishing
	before they blink out
the better die later
warm to the touch
			forever
a kind of magic formula
that just rolls off the tongue
in the immortality of numbers
“some people tell me
		the worried blues ain’t bad”
other worlds call
I have a set of shelves
a tree to fall landscape
yard hang door plumbing
all in my immediate future
it makes no sense
	but that’s what
		I like about it
after all
	moment frozen in time’s
	just another ice cube
the ideogram for river
love birth love death love birth love etc
			I go with the flow
a movement that doesn’t stop for anything  

4/25/90
“There is no need for you to leave the house. Stay at your table and listen. Don’t even listen, just wait. Don’t even wait, be completely quiet and alone. The world will offer itself to you to be unmasked; it can’t do otherwise; in raptures it will writhe before you.”										—Franz Kafka

4/26/95
utter chaos

isomorph of the cosmos

day becomes a bludgeon
pulverized by a vast angst

4/27/90
Oldfatheroldartificerstandmenowandeveringoodstead9  

4/28/87
Familiar and popular as sex and violence, pop organ rhythm bar voice over flat monotonous primal exercise. “The time to hesitate is through.”  Power, lust, resentment, base competition, and if you want a good example of clone, take a look at the poetry scene which is a microcosm of self-perpetuation and outright cannibalism of the fittest, a kind of backasswards literary Darwinism. It is through this gush and pose bewilderment some, unknowing, must pass. It makes no sense, thus endures. If you chose poetry as your life, don’t let your intellect write a check your ass can’t cash.

4/29/91
do I have any imagination
or is it just one big
gigantic repressed memory 

Endnotes
[8] The assignment of meaning in poetry is a shifting, kaleidoscopic play, probably below the threshold of consciousness, certainly outside the pale of discursive thinking. The imagination that responds to poetry is personal and associative and logical, tinged with bodily rhythms, tinged with dreams, but concerned with a wealth of formulations for its wealth of wordless knowledge, its whole knowledge of emotional and organic experience, of vital impulse, balance, conflict, the ways of living and dying and feeling. Because no assignment of meaning is conventional, none is permanent beyond the word that passes; yet the brief association was a flash of understanding. The lasting effect is, like the first effort of speech on the development of the mind, to make things conceivable rather than store up propositions.

[9] There is a matter of elongation, a stretching of meaning and sound to move from one level to another and once that is reached another step has been taken as all things now and forever are in the past. The delight is in the opposition of meaning and sound as in homonyms, but in this case the multi-syllabification allows syntax to enter the picture and force the subject away from meaning into action.

Subtext:
“. . .‘Don’t look back,’ the three little words whispered to Orpheus by Persephone, have a resonance that echoes up from the underground like a hollow laugh. What exactly does that mean? Don’t look back or your memories will become lifeless monuments of stone? That seems like the obvious answer. After all what is past is gone and even if, like O, we wish to try to regain it and accomplish the feat, it is merely an illusion, and when we try to affirm the illusion with the appraisal of a backward glance, there’s nothing there but air. O may have thought he sweet-talked the gods into returning Eurydice to him, but he had essentially fooled himself. The greatness of his power convinced him that what he set out to do had been accomplished. Don’t look back had been planted like a pea under a mattress. It was the loose end of yarn that unraveled the fabric of his illusion. The princess of his unconscious had planted it there. In an uncontrollable fit of vanity, big O looked back to admire his triumph, his victory over the forces of life and death, his challenge to mortality, and what he saw was the transparency of his vanity, that is, there was nothing there. A lesson then for poets who feel compelled to examine too closely the illusions they create and feel the emptiness that crowds their lifeless words. Don’t look back. Believe in your accomplishments. Press on. . .”

Days pass in a trance or they are danced away in the skeletal jig, the deadly two-step performed day in and day out to a thread of music passed through the eye of a diamond needle which sews up the day in the shroud of night, deliberate as a fugue left to chance. An enormous patchwork quilt of every single moment (more or less) stretches out over the bed being made to lie in.

Made In The Shade 1-3

A dance left over from previous excitement
I gave my first kiss in the back seat of a car
in the back of a bowling alley near school
same day some little kid dropped a ball on my toe
my memory spins like a spring flung backwards
accompanied by guitar strains on the radio 
I was young it was wet wild and wonderful
probably like nothing else ever since or before
intense concentration of sensation copping a feel
a confession I make in a light-hearted mood
I could have written a song about it and made
a million but instead totally forgot until now

barring accident admits the inevitable
		crying chimes of a complaining child
		concentration it scatters


	“that’s right
				the women are smarter”
	not that the men are not as smart or smarter
					but they are truly alone
easier to take with children around

	I want to make this clear

	suddenly (as usual) realize
	the great fading beauty of my life
	can still be caught and touched up

the grunts and burps of actors on the screen do not
		redeem
they simply take all we have to give
		the plenty of time we should keep to ourselves
 

I am a man of rain sliced by the knife of rain, joining the howl of rain, letting loose with the piss of rain. The nerve of rain always astounds me. I was invited to attend the marriage of rain. I endure the torture of rain. Nothing escapes the spatter of rain. The truth of rain dropped out of the air of rain. I stubbed the toe of rain. The proof of rain is in the pudding of rain. I played the skeleton key of rain on the harmonica of rain. I practice the art of rain (watercolor). The cry of rain underscored the pain of rain. A piece of rain dropped on my shoulder from the limb of rain. The deluge of rain seemed like it would never stop. Then I came face to face with the woman of rain.


3/3/89
buzz me

a whole new understanding
from some old beliefs


3/4/89
some local Venus


3/6/92
Michelangelo's birthday has been canceled 
there’s some kind of virus going around


3/7/83
delicate blossoms
capture the daylight
no film in camera

life is cruel when our fondest dreams are those of revenge


3/15/89
tearing pieces of tissue
and daubing cuts after shaving
an art I’ve yet to perfect
“et tu, Gillette!”

Dissatisfaction like the pout of a young girl
grants the economy of excuses
		a breath mint
or the overwhelming lethargy of the uncommitted

“I want to love and treat you right”

practice ambassador ferrous material
a good day for plumbing
				     the recesses afterwards
as in the pipes are no longer
		circumstances

“children under five can eat for nothing”

no joke no comedy no shit
and a prohibition on disguise
flakes of matter fly like dandruff
on the shoulders of a dark side
no one ever gets to see
		even less acknowledged
like the following

out of talk comfort’s strength of conviction

a piece of cake begins as flour
and the apparent technique of centuries
action speaks the language of body
speech words the language of mind
there are no priorities of assumption
in this case
		only what needs be done

in the mirror advantage has its hand out

I recite the alphabet of rain. I don’t understand the language of rain so I have to read the subtitles of rain. I gather the pearls of rain. The sizzle of rain fried on the asphalt. I run the gauntlet of rain. Still get burned by the acid of rain. I awake to the glimmer of rain. A shroud of rain covers the river of rain. I hear the yowling of rain. It is the cat of rain. I stand in awe of the phenomenon of rain and ponder the meaning of rain. The grammar of rain eludes me.6


3/19/91
Dear Keith—This news is certainly hard to take. It’s a reminder that we are all approaching critical mass, the tightening in our chests at the thought of our unthinkable destiny:  that our mindless pursuit of another minute is but a vain illusion—backwoods Buddhism at its lamest (layman-est). My own personal isolation is certainly a hedge against that day, not that there’s any hiding . . .  And just when I was beginning to understand what “good health” meant! The eyes, the joints, the abused organs, the neglected muscles—I’m nothing if not battered, bruised meat. There’s a grim ironic humor about it all. I can still look in the mirror and see the seventeen year old kid I once was (though not as often as I used to), but when I run into an “old” friend then the passage of time is real obvious and their faces a much more revealing mirror. I feel for what you must be going through (though I can only imagine and maybe that’s why all the rambling sophistry.)  I hope and wish the best for you.


3/17/90
I followed the rainbow. It fell into a field carpeted with mustard flowers. It was set against a sky as dark as asphalt. Off at an angle the sun shone brightly. I steered the curve to the right and the rainbow followed me! I caught it out of the corner of my eye. Then bank left toward the straight-away, and there it was in all its glory, a full color prism of tiny droplets against the flank of a bronze hillock. The highway cut through the center of the bluff and I sped toward it. The broad bands of color advanced accordingly. Up the embankment from the vineyard though its intensity was beginning to fade. It was directly in front of me when I passed into the cleave of the hill. The spray of colorless wet spread over the already damp windshield. And that was it. No, as I explained to the kids, didn’t go bump over no pot of gold, either.

The rain which is taken as medicine
	in its expected season
		won’t stop
and now wide eyed the weather report
	becomes important
		satellite picture scanned
			for new fronts
	and the Pacific high
		cause of all the dryness
					in recent years
		nowhere to be found
waters returning to their original
				stream and lake beds
find them crowded with mobile homes
			tracts become lagoons
	or return to the bay
			they once were
high ground slides onto highways
	and leave out-of-the-way homes
		perched on the edge of tranquility
dreary cold and wet boards up houses
	pitches those within
					into throes of anxiety
so much to be done
			winter’s accumulated dust
			jostled confined nerves
	I mean how many books can you read
			how many rugs can you hook
		before mere mortality impresses
				with its tragedy
late sun as sky goes partially cloudy
		illuminates the edges of a window
		adds to deep gray
					    a faint yellow glow

—Sometimes I suffer from Roussel’s Syndrome: I work in my mountain fastness and expect that my creations have the pulse of life and that everyone is also in tune with them as if they were a permeating psychic literature. When I come down from the mountain, so to speak, maybe I expect, as Roussel did, the adulation of the citizenry. Roussel, as you know, broke out in a rash and was bedridden for weeks. For me, it’s mostly just a relief.

You should know that choosing poetry is an act of desperation.

I spent years trying to find an acceptable voice in the eyes of literate society and now that that seems unlikely, I feel that I might as well write in whatever way I want or can. Have I given up?

The uselessness of genuine literature is what makes it morally useful so you’re way ahead of the game there — its form is empty but present, its meaning absent but full. The real writer, a watcher at the crossroad of all other discourse, does not write about something, but rather just writes; the practice of writing is of itself excessive, playful, intricate, painful, subtle, self-indulgent, sensuous, a language which can never be that of power. Words describe the psychology of objects and writing is the progenitor of the technology of self-consciousness. Your problem is that vanity keeps looking over your shoulder. Don’t look back.

Do I have a persona and if so, who is it?

—The Deejay, MC Orpheus.


THE PHANTOM OF MONTE RIO

Andrei knew Hunce Voelcker from New York City. I had met Hunce there once myself. His book, Hart Crane’s Voyages, was prominently featured in many of the bookstore windows in the Lower East Side then. Now he lived a few miles outside of Duncan Mills, which, like Monte Rio, was just another wide spot on the road to the coast. He drove an early ‘60’s VW bug, yellow with a black Batman logo on the driver’s door. He was a character even here. Never without the sweat-stained Stetson, feathers, dried flowers, weeds, anti-war buttons in the hatband. A Boy Scout scarf around his neck (he’d been an Eagle Scout) offset a pallid drawn visage that many said reminded them of Lon Chaney’s Phantom of the Opera. Bad teeth and a compulsive smoker, his altruism and intransigent innocence were sometimes hard to take. He lived in a gingerbread A-frame surrounded by a moat filled with goldfish. Crossing the moat was a foot bridge somewhat replicating the Brooklyn Bridge. At the foot of the bridge, where the moat widened out into a small pond, was a cement statue of Apollo, and planted around the outside of the moat were hyacinths, the god’s flower. The A-frame consisted of three stories. Between the first and second floor, cables were strung to simulate the supports of a suspension bridge. Narrow, sharp-cornered catwalk stairs lead to the loft bedroom and library. At one end was a deck that looked out at the downhill expanse of a meadow bordered by redwoods. A weighted trapdoor accessed the third floor where in the low ceiling, pointy peaked attic the poet would weave his craft. The window next to the typewriter looked out onto another deck and a bird feeder, invariably busy. At the other end of the room, beyond the dark shape of the wood-burning stove, another deck overlooked that same downhill rolling expanse. In the sitting room of the first floor, the windows on the north wall formed an H, and on the opposite wall, a V that stood for Hunce Voelcker. What was not said by these simple initials is “Hart Crane scholar extraordinaire, magical poet, craftsman, shaman.”  In his own way, Hunce preserved the sacredness of ritual and believed in its power, unflinchingly, in the face of derision, even by close friends who could sometimes be condescending. But his beliefs were set in concrete. In fact, everyone joked that Hunce owned stock in Portland Cement. He must have. How many hundred pound sacks of it did he mix by hand gluing brick to brick, shaping it around plastic pipe to create a fountain-decked perimeter constrained only by the limits of the imagination? Or shaping the moat, terraced to meet the angle of the hill on which the house stood, itself not terribly perpendicular to the horizon, the statue of Apollo, the Mount Shasta replica, the crusty phallic cement fountains, some whose outlines were emphasized by tiny squares of colored mirror imbedded in the mortar, as well as mosaics made of broken bottle glass and bits and pieces of tile inlaid in the cement constraints of the moat, and at each corner of the moat, a diorama depicting a point of Hunce’s magnificent obsession, the life and work of Hart Crane.


3/18/85
“These are my fantasies by which I may try to give an idea not of things but of myself.” -- Montaigne

nothing to report


3/19/89
prepared for poetry reading gave reading drank four beers danced twice


3/20/89
where are you when your best qualities are skepticism

a matter of adjudging the commentary and murmur of the previous evening, filing them in sequence, and in order of importance, and reviewing them periodically as your own best but subjective critique, sorting out the meaning of their intent


3/21/91
I have no energy
just like a particle

infinity:  one past now
Year of the Ram, 4689

VIRGO: As the week begins, count any news to be good news. A trip is well favored. Past progress provides a launching pad to new and exciting goals. Change is in the air. You’re off and running.

Hey I was up with the dew this morning
the pointy trees behind the house across 
the street looked black and rubber stamped
the mist turned a creamy orange at its hem
while above the cottony white dropped from
the bright blue shoulder of the early sky
but I was changing a diaper and my knee
had fallen asleep and I couldn’t get up 
to go to the window to get a better look
and then Flipper lost his hearing and I 
had to find out why it was just as I thought
we all want to have friends like the dolphin
instead we have each other and Cream of Wheat
I’ve had too much coffee and it’s only
seven-thirty I’m ahead of myself again and
it’s already time for another cup or two
the breakfast I should have had hours ago
because now sun comes in full and bright
through the windows of the back porch and
makes a shimmering design baby boy calls to 
recognizing its intrinsic intelligence and
possibility as I munch a possible apple
the dishes I didn’t do I feel guilty over 
when I hear the rush of water from the tap
in the kitchen I know someone else is doing
all I can think of is regenerating myself
getting stoked up so I can ski through
the day on the slopes of creative splendor
every move I make another click in the
right combination to amazing coincidence
the bright arc of fusion illuminates
when everything becomes quite clear in
the momentary flashes that electrify my world

THE POETRY READING

The cabin down below the main house where I worked had been transformed into an overheated, smoky, packed-to-the-rafters literary event. Someone from the University was videotaping it. Another enterprising soul had taken up a collection and returned with an ounce of marijuana that was promptly rolled into cigarettes and passed around to the participants after which time a very congenial atmosphere prevailed. The readers of poetry that night were myself, Michael-Sean Lazarchuck, and James Nolan (no relation). Fortunately no one read overly long and in no time, it was Michael-Sean’s turn. Now it was Sean’s practice to be pretty much oblivious by the time his turn came around, and tonight was no exception. He talked loudly to his neighbors while the other poets read, and tonight especially, as he was in pursuit of the fair-haired muse in the guise of Karen Gordon, the readers, and the audience for that matter, could have been in Kokomo. Another thing about Sean was his attitude towards his work. It ran hot and cold and there was no predicting as to which way the wind would blow. Hopefully he would be psyched up before a reading but that wasn’t always the case. The slightest whim could send him into a self-destructive tailspin and then his work was shit and he wasn’t going to read that crap to anyone. Tonight however, he simply could not be bothered as he was more interested in making time with Karen, but after much coaxing and physical coercion (which Sean thought laughable) from myself, he reluctantly shambled up to the podium through the sprawled maze of debauchees. He wasn’t going to make it easy, that was obvious from the mischievous grin. He sorted through his manuscript folder, shuffling one page behind the other. One poem would look promising and he would read it over silently to himself, shake his head and place it at the bottom of the stack. All the while those assembled waited in anticipation, though there were some at the back of the room who hooted their impatience. This continued for some time and finally Sean looked at the audience and stated flatly, “These poems stink.”  There were protests of “just shut up and read!” and “come on, don’t cop out on us now!”  Sean set the manuscript aside and looked out over the crowd purposefully. Then he began talking, easily, improvising obviously, about how he had been out walking on the beach at the coast and how coming across the dunes he saw a figure approaching, and as the person came closer, he recognized him as Frank! Well, he and Frank had a long talk about poetry that rambled on and on with Sean inserting quotes from Frank’s poems and even Ted’s poems and connecting everything in a spontaneous montage depicting the poetry experience with such vivacity that everyone in the room was stunned speechless. The creative process had been demonstrated to be the opening of one’s self to reveal the bright glowing core of being right then and there.


3/22/91
Zen in the 90’s --
the young monk places his backpack 
on the front seat of his Volkswagen bus
(his begging bowl a corporate mailing list)

3/25/85
slam not the cake

the light
inside my head
makes me squint

ambiguity and indirection are methods of consciousness


3/29/81
Ah, the modern poem! in which meaning is glimpsed but hardly possessed. It’s like scientists inventing the electron microscope and concentrating on the instrument rather than the thing to be magnified. When you use language in this way, you magnify aspects of your reality. You can’t picture anything because that would take at least a thousand words so that writing poetry is more like dance, it’s a series of gestures and movements, it has its own music, and in this flow the mimetic arises, and the sequence of these actions signify, but never as an object, always as a verb; it is, like myth, the thing said.7 


3/30/89
lightning naps and other engaging forms of sleep
day marches through its artificial compartments 
each hour an additional weight to listless life forms
who like dust alight wherever the breeze blows
among open magazines and piles of library books
overworn socks night wear school notes hair brushes
the facsimiles of an existence scattered or strewn
as the archaeological refuse of a dig in progress
who’d dare disturb this sanctum with wakeful thought
radio drones on persistent static or a steady rain
a backdrop for the weaving of dreams into memory

Light is a kind of joy
it penetrates
		and gives delight
to the least
	magic of things
it leaves dark behind
and returns
	in its seasonal guise
the make-up of the skies
depends on the humor
		of the atmosphere
sun invisible
	but precise
			adept
at the shape and shadow size
wheel of fire turns
with its original awe
and potential as the source
as undoubtedly
		it always must
blue in its approach
red in its leaving

End Notes
[6] I have a certain ambivalence to all this. I’m not really concerned with what has been or what will be or even what is though the latter is unfortunately undeniable fact. If an adequate number of years have passed then those things are ancient history as far as I’m concerned. For me there is only what is about to happen, the happy or sad anticipation that the next moment I might come up with something really great or something really awful will happen. These are things I can’t control, don’t want to control, that are indications that life moves forward in a steady progress with moments of joy or grief lengthening or shortening the pace of events, how one day can seem like a week and one week can seem like a day. I spend hours examining the minute to see if it can blossom out into some generalization.

[7] Originality is a hand that’s been overplayed. The drive is to find how what you do fits what you are. Autobiography proclaims the individuality of destiny. The observer is observed as the center of his truly unique existence as complex as any systematic relationship.

Subtext
“. . . Orpheus reminded the gods of their place in the scheme of things. That’s how he elicits sympathy from Persephone; by reminding her of her earthly existence, the compassion of the dead for the living. But to teach Orpheus the impertinence of his logic, the gods show him the fickleness of human nature, the tragic curiosity, the crisis of faith! Once you look back, you’re lost—time passes, shit happens, and looking back is peering at shadows. Poets sing of yesterday to assure themselves of a tomorrow. By the time you read this, it is way past now . . .”

Made In The Shade 1-2

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

2/15/75
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

Endnotes
[4] Into the late night, inspiration expiration; my magnanimity is killing me — potlatch syndrome.

[5] 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).

Subtext
“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. . . .”

Made In The Shade 1-1

All the lost pens
			suddenly
all show up
		and I can’t think
	besides I’m using the computer

this rainy weather makes me lose my mind
a line not original with me
		nor the rain
DJ managed to find yet another
song about rain
I had lost interest in the idea
	quite a few cuts ago

it’s just me
		the rain
				and the radio

(night wears on)

the script of ego to be drafted
naked id exposed
		(shown off at least)

better yet

			lost in thought
			I have to unthink myself
			to get to the point

wind up dizzy instead
					where am I
	(at the end of my rope?)

I awoke to the drone of rain. I’d been having a dream of rain that was a real nightmare. I was attending the theater of rain and had joined in the ovation of rain as the curtain of rain came down on the final act of rain. That was enough of rain for me. I noticed the sharp decline as I stood on the precipice of rain. A hiss of rain preceded the rush of rain. I was feeling hemmed in by the stitch of rain. All of a sudden, there was a flood of rain and the thunder of rain hit the roof. The wash of rain swept the horizon away. In the mist of rain, the pines disappeared.


1/6/92
then everything stopped

pellets of light fall from the pale sky

weather transforms vision (illusion)

I know
what
I know
all
else
I guess

1/7/89
a pair of shoes 
exploded by the bomb squad

plume of ash shoots into
the upper atmosphere

“go ahead
	slap him”

flying apart like a mannequin
with rubber bands for joints

I picked up the radio
as the cymbal hissed
 
1/8/82
today’s a birthday for someone I know
and love
		a day to remember
				and then forget
heart-shaped sunrise at the breast of the ridge
radiates my sentiment
life is just one clever saying after another

1/9/95
time to stack everything up above the water line

1/13/90
The classicist believes he is passing on the flame of knowledge and learning while using a little to light his own candle. The romantic sees himself as the original and only bearer of the torch.1  


1/16/84
days unravel as spiral strands of DNA
more than enough information rides the airwaves
the chances to throw away money are legion
especially in Washington D.C. where skies are clear
a face made up like it’s trying to think

the sylphs are visiting again

1/18/90
the ice line creeps toward sea level

“the world will always welcome lovers”
talk about a phrase turning on its assumption
we’ll go down in history as
			The Irony Age


there’s no zone
like home


Who am I? *
–You are a famous unknown poet, or as Tom Clark once said, “an absolutely unknown unheard-of jack-off.”  You should have been a painter, a house painter. Your history is a joke, one pratfall after another. That you have achieved any success at all is a fluke and a vindication of your belief in the purely arbitrary, beyond what is laughingly called logic. If there is a reason, you are not privy to it. The mythology of self puts you at the pinnacle of poetry. On the other hand, you don’t see yourself as someone who will gain fame by writing poetry. Again, you aren’t deterred by this fact. You hold, after all, to the principle that as long as you make claim to this oh too human form of existence, you must preserve the poetic in your life, and all your convoluted thinking and plotting must never disturb for you its magic, but rather enhance and beautify it.

What’s my middle name?
–Ulysses.

Why do I write?
–You write to reveal someone you wouldn’t suspect just from looking in the mirror. You certainly don’t have the air that anyone assumes when they think of who might be a poet. You’re from the Johnny Cash generation! You walk the line.


*After waiting almost a lifetime for the representative from The Paris Review to show up for the interview, he decided that he might as well interview himself. Even if he didn’t know all the questions, he certainly had all the answers.


LITERARY MANNERS

Michael-Sean Lazarchuk was passed out on the couch and Gail and I were going to the movies so we pinned a note to his shirt telling him that we had. Next to Sean on the couch, his only companion, a jug of red wine, which was fine with him because, aside from writing poetry, his favorite pastime was sipping from the jug and then falling into a stupor and finally into a deep unshakable sleep. He never got violent, though maybe a little boisterous. “Chesty” he liked to say, especially when talking about poets he didn’t like or about unfair treatment meted out to people with long hair or those who looked plain weird especially out in the boonies like the Russian River. No argument there. And when Sean visited, things just fell into a methodical routine. First there was the ritual purchase of a gallon of burgundy, then there was what was called “drinking what’s in the neck” or more succinctly “drinking the neck” and since gallon jugs are not particularly known for their long necks, it was no time at all before we had progressed to “the old boy’s belly.”  No music other than Bob Dylan was allowed to be played and to whose songs Sean would howl appropriate lines. One of his favorites was “it sits on your head like a mattress sits on a bottle of wine.”  He also liked to croon “doo yoou Miss-terr Jo-nzzz.”  By this time we were taking turns on the typewriter writing collaborations, a pile of the latest poetry magazines and books at hand from which to steal lines or riff off of.2  And then later in the evening, half a jug by his side, he would recline on the couch like a visiting dignitary and recite lines from his favorite poets and we had to guess whose line it was. Once you got to know Sean and his preferences, if you guessed Ted Berrigan (known as “Ted”) or Frank O’Hara (known as “Frank”) you would usually be right. That is unless he slipped one in by John Ashbery to throw you off.


1/19/90
“le lit est fait par la main de demain”

time is entirely man made

I lived a multitude of lives
in the last few seconds


The pulse of rain was strong. It affirmed the life of rain on this morning of rain. According to the theory of rain, there should be about a week of rain. I watched for the leak of rain. Outside, a wave of rain charged through the shrubs. I had my nose pressed to the window of rain. I was beginning to bore of rain but there was more of rain. The refrain of rain overflowed into the afternoon of rain. I felt the slap of rain on my hand and saw the splash of rain on my glasses. Immersed in the sorrow of rain, I heaved a sigh of rain. The shadow of rain filled the sky of rain. I searched the references of rain for the origin of rain late into the evening of rain.


1/20/80
seriousness of purpose, humorous intent
little miracles of insight
“well, if I’m not the original hypocrite, at least a direct descendant.”

it came off in my hand

VIRGO:  During an enlightening discussion, you express yourself very well. Do not be disturbed if someone disagrees with your conclusions. Time will prove you right. Donate to charity.


Energy flags
at the mere mention of the legion
					of others
how can there be so many 
			and yet still original
	amazing
			isn’t it

long meditation shuts out
these annoyances
		a short cigarette
	and who could care less

I won’t break my teeth on shadows

pearls of rain
		strung on
bare branches
effective white mist
			hides all but
the familiar

days played away in a back room
	little by little
like a paper tape
		unrolled slowly 
				out a window

radio provides sidewalk sounds
I could be with friends in Paris
 

THE WRITERS CONFERENCE

One weekend when Michael-Sean was visiting, Keith and Lani Abbott, and Opal and Ellen Nations paid a visit, too. This had been planned ahead of time. Steve Kahn who was a park ranger, a writer, and friend of Keith’s from college had a big house in Monte Rio so the plan was to hold a “writers conference” and have a good time. Sean wasn’t too sure he wanted to participate but when the prospect of more wine was held out, he agreed. Soon the hours of talking, gesticulating, drinking, and carrying on began to wear on all of us and we were suddenly ravenously hungry; all except for Sean of course who had been drinking his sustenance all afternoon. Steve and I broke our brains trying to think of a local restaurant that would suit all of our tastes. Steve mentioned that someone had given him a couple of pounds of wild boar sausage but what could we make with them? “Bangers and mash,” as Opal suggested, just didn’t seem right so Gail said, “how about enchilada?”  Everyone liked that idea though Opal was a little apprehensive that it might be too spicy for his palate. “Oh don’t worry we won’t make it hot.”  Steve and I winked at each other. Gail said she had all the fixings at home so she drove off to fetch them. While the sausage was being browned, Steve suggested a game of cards to take our minds off our stomachs. “How about we play a couple hands of poker.”  Steve opened a bottle of a private stock scotch that someone had given him (being a park ranger had some advantages) and the game began. Soon Opal and Steve had most of the chips in front of them and it looked like dinner would never come. But it wasn’t long before Gail returned with the brown paper bag of ingredients and more beer and wine. “Guess who I found!” she shouted cryptically as she rushed into the kitchen. Behind her at the door were Andrei and Alice Codrescu. Gail reemerged to explain. “When I got home I saw this yellow car parked out front and when I went in the house there they were! Andrei was reading your mail.”  It was Andrei’s turn to explain. “We were just out for a ride in the country because we had to get out of the city quick and somebody told us about nude beaches on the Russian River and we wanted to check it out, you know, but we couldn’t find them and when we came to Guerneville I remembered you lived up here so we dropped by to visit but this is the amazing part because I didn’t have my address book with me so I didn’t know where you lived but we were in a gas station asking if anybody knew where the nude beach was when out of the blue like a flash of memory I remembered your address but you weren’t home and the radio was on so we thought you’d be coming back soon nice letter from Lewis Warsh by the way.”  Andrei was introduced around and invited to try a sip of scotch and join in a hand or two. Everyone knew Andrei had just been awarded an NEA grant so here was a pigeon ripe for the plucking. “Ah yes poker” he said as he straddled a chair, “Ah used to play this game back in the bunkhouse on the ranch in south Transylvania.”  “What kind of ranch was that, Andrei?” Keith asked as innocently as he could manage. “A cabbage ranch.”  After the guffaws had subsided, Andrei explained that cabbage ranching is practically the oldest form of agriculture there is, and it’s the world’s oldest profession next to prostitution and the priesthood, and that cabbage ranching was a well-respected occupation in Romania where the men who worked in the cabbage fields wore an outfit similar to the gauchos in Argentina though in actual point of fact the gauchos got their style of dress from an immigrant Romanian who had at one time worked on a cabbage ranch but finding no such opportunities in South America was forced to take up herding cattle, a lowlier form of work, so to remind himself of his dignified heritage he wore his cabbage ranch outfit which soon was adopted by the other herders and even the American word “cowboy” had its etymological roots in the name for the men who worked on the cabbage ranch which was “cabboy” short for cabbage boy and even today you will find in parts of the Southwest people who still pronounce it that way!  Andrei certainly brought the level of entertainment up a notch but he wasn’t a very good poker player and soon all the chips were in front of me. Enchiladas were served and true to the aroma, they were delicious though we weren’t able to keep our promise to Opal. Sean even nibbled some. Later on that night with a few exceptions drunk and barely sensible we stumbled over large boulders to a beach on the Pacific to watch the carpets of phosphorescence roll out at our feet.


1/21/79
smoked a dead bug
(by accident)

my habits are getting old

1/22/88
no one really knows the questions to these answers3

1/24/90
there are things deeply felt
deeply cared about that find 
no voice but through artifice

Comes another day of rain with its accumulation of rain. The measure of rain has nothing to do with the beauty of rain. From the sky comes a spurt of rain. It’s not the fault of rain. I just have no use for the rite of rain. There is no remedy for the carelessness of rain. The umbrella in the corner awaits the return of rain.


1/29/90
Dear Joyce–
Thanks for taking the review, glad you liked it. Interestingly enough I wanted to add a note with the review that said, “No Artificially Quoted Material Was Used In This Review.”  And I almost got away with it. For one, I’m lazy, and I hate running down those passages that elicited a particular superlative because invariably (if I like the poet) I’ll get sidetracked. Other times I don’t like to read the book until after I’ve written the review. . . .  And I dislike quoting parts of poems because even if they do “support some of (my) conclusions” (something I hope I will never be accused of doing), they undermine the integrity of the work for the sake of some frivolous impression, and I particularly dislike it when line breaks are denoted with a slash and made to serve the paragraph to save space—when you review an artist’s work you don’t only show a corner of the painting. Even so, I have gone through and noted the poems and where I would place them in the review were I to use them. And I’ve quoted passages from poems that would seem to serve the point . . . whatever that might be. Also fixed that sentence, and thanks for catching that because, believe it or not, it was haunting me—I happened to look through that review after I sent it off and thought “that has to be changed.”  At any rate, use what you can of what I’ve indicated where quoted in full. Maybe you could add a note at the end:  “Contains Artificially Inserted Quoted Material From The Work Under Review.”


1/29/91
blinded --
	peppering rage of desert storm
where are we going

radio tuned all
the time to the news


I’m about as prepared
as mustard
		to start the day

trying to sort through
the mud slide of dreams

sedentary
		ancient unconscious mass
	undermined by
			the ceaseless sleet of sleep

light winds forecast

the weight of hair
pulls on the skin of my face
the jowls of perception’s dog
	whose bark is fatal

I have to endure the growls of reality

everybody out
			of the gene pool
I guess that means me too

enough infinite variety
I’m hungry
 

I felt the hunger of rain. I was brought down by the gravity of rain. It seemed as though I lived in a world of rain. I made my way through the jungle of rain. The history of rain begins with the vision of rain. I fear the revenge of rain and the destruction of rain. I curse the invention of rain as the machine of rain sputters to life. I watch the play of rain on the windshield. The work of rain digs furrows in the ground. I read the book of rain in the solitude of rain. I pick through the anthology of rain for a poem of rain. I see through the transparence of rain. A sprinkle of rain waters the new flowers. The shower of rain bathes the bare branches. The edge of rain falls from the eaves. I find a picture of rain that gives a good idea of rain. I leaf through the dictionary of rain for the definition of rain. The dog of rain barks at the god of rain. At this time last year we had received only a fraction of rain. In the arithmetic of rain, every little drop counts.


1/30/83
absorbed by the page
	night and day detour around
a weary man at work

failing to get the point
	confused by headache fever
the flu takes over

temperature above normal
	sore throat headache eye pain
I can’t even see what I see

old and faithful tom
	his own tanning salon
a square patch of sunlight

overfed the robins
	bend the bare limbs
dropping before flight

pink neon --
	pale knot of light behind
the barred store window


End notes
[1]The poem is not created in isolation even though the poet much of the time accomplishes the task under these circumstances. Surrounding its shape on the page is a mass of inference, reference, deference, etc., which creates the atmosphere of its understanding. The poem today is the bride stripped bare of her bachelors, a cunning statement by Duchamp, and, as he himself discovered, a node on the organic nervous system of creativity. A creation has to be touched by the artist to live, it cannot be made or expressed by remote control. Art’s built-in imperfections are its signature. Consequently, does the poem stand alone out of necessity or literary convention? Also, why must it stand alone, out of context, i.e., prose, without environment (subsequently “environmentalism” becomes a new literary label)? Poets have been reconciling poetry and prose forever. The poems, the songs, are usually what the story is woven around. Every poet has a story, even if short, that surrounds the creation of his song. Sometimes up, sometimes down, the lives of poets accomplish a cycle.

[2]”Salting the mine”:  There are a few respected poets you steal from respectfully, everyone else is grist for the mill.

[3]Poetry has no context except for the page — a sad state of affairs. Removed and isolated by its wide blank margins, it acts as a relic of what once was a living tradition, a word of mouth.


Subtext
“. . . in woman is the female principle, the muses represent aspects of that principle, one of which is creativity and identified as Calliope, the mother of Orpheus. From her, Orpheus derives his creative power. Eurydice, his wife/mother/female principle is bitten by a snake and taken to the underground — writer’s block, winter of the intellect? i.e., Orpheus loses it/her and is audacious enough to go down to the dead after her. He regains the promise of Eurydice on condition of self-control. Pride of course foils him. Is it out of revenge then or simply sorrow that he personifies nature in his song or is he, male-like, tampering with the source? Then along comes a goon squad of wood nymphs (alarmed at his power over their realm) (driven to passion by his song) (following their wild instincts) (none of the above) and rip him to shreds and eat his flesh. Of course in this instance everyone knows that Orpheus is the sacred mushroom indulged in by a prehistoric goddess cult. His decapitated head, thrown into the river, floats downstream (through time?) where ape-like inhabitants fish it out. Orpheus’s head still speaks and the natives use it as an oracle that for the most part just pops, hisses, sputters in languages yet unknown, but once in a while there’s a clear and distinct message like ‘render to reality that which is real, and to fantasy, that which is fantastic.’  Fortunately no one was listening when the head spoke those words. The oracular brazen head of the Knights Templars is derived from this tradition . . . Dead, he becomes the hollow skull and then the bronze head, the bell, and the oracle, the entrance to the unconscious in the guise of an instrument, and eventually in the twentieth century, he is a saxophone . . . on the other hand, the Orpheus syndrome is when you allow yourself to be taken down by the feminine side and are consequently torn asunder (apart) by a cross current of opinion and indecision (i.e.:  the prerogatives of survival gone awry). . .”