Tag Archives: Jeff Miller

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 2-2

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 1-2

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. . . .”