Tag Archives: The Pink Elephant

Made In The Shade 4-2

—But what is it about poets that irritates you so?

I get fed up with all the posturing. Poets are a crock, and poetry, by association, becomes a crock. Ted Berrigan once said, “Poets in America think you wait in line to get famous.”  I’m not interested in joining the literary elite on their self-proclaimed pedestals. I can’t belong to a club that would have someone like me as a member.

—All the same though, you feel that poetry is essential, right?

Poetry is essential. One way of focusing our lives is through metaphor. Something is always compared to something else. How closely the match is made is how its intrinsic value is established. Metaphor is what we place between ourselves and the mundane to renew experience. Symbolism is an attempt to synthesize, institutionalize metaphor, which is essentially a spontaneous act of consciousness available to every sentient being. The vitality of poetry relies on its ability to remain spontaneous.

—What fills your day?

I watch the clock. I get caught up in deadlines and delays. I procrastinate. I believe I’m going to resolve this dilemma by putting my life in order. I make notes, lists, plans, appointments with myself, and never show up. Then I set new deadlines and conveniently forget. The slips and tags of paper upon which I scribble my resolves collect on my desk and never get referred to again. Or if I do look at them again, I try to make poems out of them. Basically they become laments at the passing of time, a case of ubi sunt. My guilt provides me with an excellent memory for all these pressing details, which, with my mostly irrepressible optimism, I manage to project further and further into the future. Tomorrow, after all, is another day.

The dawn of rain is the color of rain. A morning of rain passes with no letup of rain. Buckets of rain slop over the eaves of rain. A glaze of rain spreads over the landscape of rain. Each drop of rain ticks off a second of rain. Minutes of rain turn into hours of rain. Days of rain turn into nights of rain.

Hunce died. We all expected it just not so soon. He was attended by those who loved him. Even if we didn’t realize it before we did now. We all walked around dazed and tried to assure each other that yes, the end had come, but still we gaped in disbelief at the man we had once known as skinny, even emaciated, now a bloated ball of gray skin, cold to the touch. With the life gone from him, he seemed so impersonal, so distant. He was never that way alive, always so engaging, so receptive. We clambered up and down the narrow stairways that he had fashioned to resemble catwalks on a suspension bridge as if they weren’t there. We did what we had to do. And the ambulance left and the volunteer firemen returned and the deputy took his report. Still we had to wait for the mortuary van to come for the body. Hunce didn’t appear to be in any hurry. We had the look of a party at which the guests were waiting for the host to leave. We toasted him with his champagne. He was a beautiful man with a beautiful heart. Hear, hear. He had a big heart. Yes, his body finally caught up with his heart. Hey, that’s cold. But then, so is he. When the van arrived we had to load him onto the elevator, the one he had constructed when he no longer had the strength or the breath to climb up and down the stairs. It was a 2-foot by 2-foot contraption that was powered by a winch bolted to the crossbeam of his three-story gingerbread A frame house. We had to lift him from the bed. He was at the very least two hundred and fifty pounds, closer to three hundred of, pardon the expression, dead weight. We wanted to let him down easy, with some respect. Try moving that bulk onto a four foot square platform, the elevator. And considering how narrow the passages were anyway (remember the catwalks on the suspension bridge), it was with bare respect that we tousled the naked body around those labyrinthine corners. After a couple of attempts and maintaining as much dignity as possible, we finally fit him on his winch driven chariot and played out the cable down to the bottom floor. There the guys from the mortuary loaded him onto the gurney and shrouded him, first with a white sheet and then a red velveteen wrap. They wheeled him out the door, down the steps, and across the mock suspension bridge. That was quite symbolic, that last. He went from one shore to another even if the river he crossed was merely a cement-lined trench he called a moat. After he was gone, we said our good-byes to each other, too, and went on our various ways to reflect on what we could no longer deny.

               View evolution
                         as a totally whimsical
                              poetry simulates
                         that play
               if not
                    give people what they want
                                   a good time
                         code for failure
                    but magnificently
                              learn from mistake
               what’s taken years to perfect
               take the easy way out

               “I was the first crazy person
                    I knew”
                              says Jack

                         I believe him
               there’s risk involved
               chance mutation
                              over the eons
                         like shifting light
                    kills time
                    complexity grips
                              like a mesh glove
                         the predictable
               thankful for that
                              go on to something else
                    the future
                         a worm in the apple


What skill Andrei lacked at eight ball (had he ever held the pool cue the same way twice?), he made up for with telekinetic talent. To call him the “king of slop” would be a vast underrating. Andrei and I occasionally got together for a game of pool at The Pink Elephant, the Monte Rio biker den where the term “iniquity” was still in a protean state. The dim smoky interior, the rank ozone of stale methane, and the hulking, hairy, unwashed shapes who supported themselves on the available furnishings appealed to Andrei’s perverse European vision of the States where saloons resembling those of old Western movies actually still existed. At any moment, Gary Cooper or Bob Steele could be expected to exit the men’s room, buttoning up. He also enjoyed the dangerous irony of exploring the finer points of trigonometry while quaffing a thin domestic brew and exchanging veiled witticism about the clientele with me. It was as close to living on the edge, and still have math, as it got. Of course as the day progressed and more and more of the amber bliss was consumed, the fabled telekinetic ability had the tendency to become befuddled and then to call him the “king of scratch” would be a vast underrating. But this particular day was not one of those. Andrei had played, or “not-played” as the case may be, practically all afternoon, and had won by default more times than not. The rest of the time he had made multi-ball, multi-bank shots that were either geometric marvels or simply blind luck. In fact, he made almost all his shots with his eyes closed as if picturing the lay of the balls on the green felt and letting his imagination do all the work. And he could have continued winning on into early evening were it not for the sudden awareness of the looming shadow of a mass of humanity. The bar had suddenly filled with Hell’s Angels up from the Bay Area on a weekend run. They were jolly enough sorts, on the surface, at least. One of the larger and hairier than normal bikers in leather vest and leather pants plunked down his quarter on the edge of the table where Andrei was playing, thus signifying that he was next in line, as is the custom. At that very moment, Andrei allowed his worthy opponent to scratch on the eight ball. He sized up the situation. His next opponent wouldn’t be one who appreciated the subtle nuances of telekinesis. Yes, it was time to relinquish the table. He bowed to the man he had just defeated and admitted that he’d won by default one too many times that afternoon, and it was only just and right that he give up the honor of playing through. The man was genuinely thankful and could hardly believe his good luck. That is, until he turned and looked his new opponent square in the tattoo. The giant biker cranked his pool cue into the blue chalk cube, crushing it. “I’ll break!” he announced. By then, Andrei and I were already making our way out the door.

“Stay tuned to 1420 mhz”19
implores the cosmic DJ

fuel filter needle valve
vapor lock or maybe voltage
regulator plug wires or
distributor all I know is
the engine’s missing
the brake lights don’t
overcome with bone numbing
lethargy a symptom of 
the most modern of malaise
helplessness in the face
of overwhelming technology
I retreat into my cave
lick my wounds and review
the alphabet in front of
my personal computer
at the back of my mind
the glimmer of a fear
when was the last time
I backed up my files
there’s just no escaping 
the grip of techno-neurosis

How can I arrive at these monumental discoveries if not through the miniscule details of day to day—suddenly the mundane reveals itself to be of a universal order: the cosmos in a mote of dust, galaxies whirl, cream white, on the solid black surface of this morning’s second cup.

Doubt and a certain lethargy accompany me on my appointed rounds. I’ve lost touch with my work, my words, and in the reacquainting, there doesn’t appear to be the same fervor of intent. The work of review is deadly, once wonderfully pithy and sage lines thud with a heaviness that recommends them for the ash heap. Dogged by the persistent question of “why bother?” blaming the weather is no longer as effective a solace as it used to be. 

          What difference does it make
                    or slime
           whatever it is I want
                              I have
                                   I need
           to get to it
                the exquisite is fine
                until it turns to shit
           see what I mean
                         go for it
           I see geniuses
           who smoke the same cigarettes as me
                down some blind alley
                         looking for a light
           jump the gun
                              flat out
           up for grabs
           sort through the noise
           calculate substance
           the delicate paralysis of anticipation
           so far so good
                         but I tarry
           looking for the right mistake
           I do it all myself
                         and ask no quarters
                large denomination currency           
                something else again
           finally acknowledge
                              there’s no last word

I took up the collection of rain in the church of rain where the prayers of rain were answered with an abundance of rain. The confidence of rain grew with each passing storm of rain. I spent a weekend of rain rapt in the meaning of rain. I watched as the spirit of rain rose out of the carcass of rain as a fine mist of rain. In the empty house of rain, the answering machine of rain picked up.

Dear Huncie —
     This may be hard to believe. I dreamed last night that you had faked your death and were living with a woman. The old gang was all there, Randy, Tammi, Rodney, Chad, the Teddy Bear Twins, and they were furtively, though with your consent, sheet rocking over the wood paneling. Your wife was a harried, raw faced woman who bit her nails to the quip, I mean, quick — maybe it was just Jeff without make-up, you know dreams. . . .  At any rate, I woke thinking of you. You who, while the world raged around you, maintained that priceless innocence and relentless intransigence, unwavering in your belief that you would live your life your way and make it a work of art, no matter what. You had a sacred bull named Oceanpeace penned in your pasture, a dog named after Hart Crane’s famous poem and your masterwork, and Veggie-kitty, the cat. The moat surrounding the glass, wood, cement, and brick A-frame sculpture you called home enshrined and memorialized your autobiography in dioramas of sculpted concrete (Mt Shasta, scenes from Death in Venice, miniature versions of the Brooklyn Bridge, Apollo, sodomy, etc.), and was traversed by a walkway made to resemble the fabled bridge. Your diet consisted of macaroni and cheese, V8 juice, and gumdrops, enlivened, on occasion, by a veggie weenie. You cut quite the figure up here in the country in your sweat stained sombrero covered with anti-war buttons, feathers from various fowl, and stalks of grass. You also sported a Boy Scout kerchief that I used to think was merely sly symbolism till I found out later that you actually had been an Eagle Scout. I’m sure that at one time you represented the quintessential hippie to the local folk. Your parties were legion and legend, clothing optional as always. There was the orgy. And I don’t hold a grudge for not being invited. My question now is: why only one? On the other hand, there were your annual Hart Crane birthday parties to which I always felt honored to be invited. You set the table with your mother’s best china and sliver. And when your guests arrived, and after we had toasted Hart with Cutty Sark and read from his poems, you served your specialty, macaroni and cheese, from a silver tureen. I’ll never forget the pretentious female poet who exclaimed, “this isn’t Kraft, is it?”  You replied indignantly, “Certainly not, madam, it’s Rice-a-roni!” To which someone added, “The San Francisco treat.”
      Irene remarked on an eerie coincidence recently, typing up this manuscript. It reminded her so much of her transcription of the manuscript for The Bridge, your work in twelve volumes. The fact that I was using the same “volume” organization for my “big” work struck her as similar, as did some of the more obvious affinities for the arcane that we share. I felt like I should comment “and we’re both on the same path to obscurity,” but thought I’d wait till now to address it. Our bids for fame are foolish, secondary to the making of our art. Of all your published books (Hart Crane’s Voyages, Gumdrops, Sillycone, and Up The Revolution, to name just a few), your final work was the vehicle of your years of scholarship and musing on the various themes in Crane’s great poem. It was the means by which you could consolidate, with mature vision, the swirling galaxy of literary and metaphysical elements that were a part of your creative universe. That great work, where is it now, where is it known? Where is it renowned? Pity that you died before finishing.
     I admired your meticulous preparations for death, obsessive to a point, and obviously a way of distracting yourself. There was so much work to do and so little time. Irene would come by after school to do the typing you could no longer do in a mad rush to get it all done before that end date, which I realize now, you knew precisely, Hindu astrologer that you were. I don’t think you were concerned as much with your physical deterioration as you were with the realization that your life’s work would most likely lose its greatest advocate, that your place in the annals of literary history might be nothing more than a bookmark. You began to look over your shoulder. You became desperate. I watched it happen. And I realized, too, that this is the fate of those of us at the edge of the circle, to spin out of the mainstream, blissfully self-indulgent and ignorant of what is occurring at the center. So now, in conducting my present enterprise, I see your footprints on the spiral path ahead of me. It is, as you must have finally realized, all illusion. Our words will live on, however, perhaps as free electrons recycled into the slipstream of the unconscious rather than as pre-packaged clumps of language with the half-life of plutonium.

               “All right
                         but just for a minute”
               called away
                    by the holidays
                    my work piles up
               half sentences
                              and words
                         (some halves of wit)
                    clutter the desk
               the redundant lumber
                              of my thoughts
                         log jam
               “wonder what it tastes like on bread”
               “great if you’re a termite” she says
               “I haven’t looked lately maybe I am”
                    (minor identity crisis)
               back to normal 
                              or close enough
                    the rain continuous
                    awakens a frenzy of activity
               “I’ll be right back
                    and I disappear
                    into the underground
                                   dingy fetid stale
                                   (this is where I work)
               boxes of paper 
                              some with words some blank
                              some mine some not
                         through which I pick
                         a bag lady
                         pausing over the discarded
                    to repossess
                                   the imagination

They are conducting an assault on the crumbling edifice of literature. They are armed with arcane knowledge. Little do they know emptiness awaits them—wild flowers among the ruins. Disappointment etches those sad lines around the eyes and mouth, eats away at the underpinnings of hope and collapses a life into a heap of bitterness, mocks those who claim that it will never happen to them. Swallowing disappointment only leads to heartburn.20

boundaries the body expects
can recede or expand
depending on the quantity
fear over any variable
you name it as an
afterthought disaster horizon
the tap on the shoulder
past suddenly present
blots out the future or
some other grim prophecy

was I born yesterday
perfect in a flawed world

“adult enough” as in “I’ve had adult enough of that”

Partnership sinks as the rain continues. A sharp sense of duty hidden by hostilities stays hidden, out of the way. The bleak magistrate recalls relations out of fondness. Words spoken give clues by accident. A continued telegram evokes the nerves on display. Foolish attention bargains long into the night and the unbearable, active as a lung, pulses at the window. Its outline, rendered to a degree, awaits recognition and flies into the night, the face of which is turned away, no longer ample or kept afloat, but, sincerely, yours.

down spout roof repair
house paint and plant
yard a yard at a time
trees to shape or bend

The sound of rain follows me from room to room and when I settle into my easy chair away in my private corner I can allow the regular beat of drops on the roof and porch to lull me into an incomparable feeling of cozy well-being—also known as “drip therapy”

Virgo: All signals you emit are potentially resonant with values and intensities beyond those of bare information, i.e., inventory. Repetition is reality, and it is the seriousness of life.

           Hardly the miracle on Forty-Second Street
           but the frenzy of the season holds sway
           the slow days of discipline hasten nightfall
           harsh rain-stricken trees turn to brilliant
           as flares before the absence of color
           this is the way it’s done year after year
           thus this so familiar apprehension
           easily said in a completely different way
           body ache dread accumulates fallen leaves
           the sensible would have abandoned long ago
           and winter’s snow announced in advance
           by the chill autumn dawn’s rich deep glow
           the kernel of all meaning in a nutshell
           I went to all the wrong places
                    take off the mask!
                Halloween’s over!”
           ancient justification
                         spoken here
                 “ready to roar”
           I’m not about to pass up any opportunity
           if I can help it
           “I do just like all the rest”
           language personality language
           linked strange as it seems by passion
           even I was surprised
                    and I knew all along

—Being a poet, do you claim to live by certain unshakable principles?

I realize more and more that poetry is a common property of the species, and that poetry has occurred to countless generations. The poetic gift is a given, and not out of reach of the ordinary person. It’s nothing to get puffed up about. The sole judge of poetry is the Muse, not textbook critics or publishers’ net sales. No public honor, no consensus of other poets, no stack of press clippings, not even the passage of time can give anyone more than the courtesy title of poet. As a poet, I feel reassured if, having written at the Muse’s behest, I find that I’ve said almost exactly what I meant. I reject dogma and patronage as contravening freedom of thought, and take care to live outside the literary establishment in the rough and tumble lay world. I give the Muse sole credit for my poems, and view what I’ve written as the Muse’s clarifications of my own confused thought, not as salable products or passports to fame. Poetry is a way of thought, non-intellectual, anti-decorative thought at that. Poets who serve the Muse wait for the inspired lightning flash of two or three words that initiate composition and dictate the rhythmic norm of their verse. Being a poet means that I believe in myself in a very basic way, that I have faith in the unknown. As a poet, as a genuine writer, I have to be a self-reader, a self-subverter of particular nerve and acuity. I test my intuitions, my need to “re-write the rules” against the historically formally available means of articulation. At a dread cost of personal means, at a risk more unforgiving of failure than any other, I, as poet, seek out the encounter with otherness where such otherness is, in its blank essence, most inhuman.

[19] 1420 megahertz — the common frequency of the universe, i.e., hydrogen

[20] The poem defines itself. It is either formal or informal. Its aim is always to be understood, preferably by everyone who reads it, but if not, then by a coterie of the enlightened and like-minded. Any poet will settle for the latter while preferring the former. Why else write? Anyway, why not write about “why else write?”  Call it a theory. All poets have them, even Han Shan. No one is better than another. All are valid at one time or another, within the space of an hour, within that of a lifetime. The poem sets its own limits. What counts is what is within these limits. Today there is a movement towards formalism even while informality becomes characteristic of every emerging lifestyle. All assumptions are suspect. All commentary is in itself an act of exile.

The twentieth century was over before it started. In a kind of premature ejaculation, the great innovations in art and thought exploded like a feather pillow within the first twenty years. After that, it was merely a retrieving of the feathers and trying to stuff them back into the case or make a pillow of your own. Still the world passes by none the wiser. Ninety years later these innovations are either taken for granted or still inexplicably ignored. Progress has plowed itself under. The one thing learned from all this is not to falter in the forward march (in other words, don’t look back) and make one creation the stepping stone for the next. Sisyphus aside, there is actually more than one rise to surmount. Be the bear who climbed over the mountain to see what he could see.

Cocteau’s Orpheus is listening to himself on the car radio, not his voice, but his words, even if they are attributed to the young poet. . .Orpheus had it right (or Cocteau caught it), that with radio (and now TV) our intermittent attention can pull in the random messages of language, as if the airwaves had suddenly joined the unconscious as the source of our poetry. . . Cocteau’s mirror leads to the unconscious. . .Orpheus as mushroom, ditto. . .the narcissus syndrome as part of the psychic experience. . .Jeffery’s death is Orpheus’ descent into the underworld in search of Eurydice (his muse) and he resurfaces as his manuscript which is edited and critiqued and then published (deconstructed) where it is found by some savages in the 25 cent bin where it sings to them occasionally. . .Jeffery’s death is also Orpheus’ death, torn to pieces by the maenads of opinion. . .his voice, however is still heard. . .he looked back. . .re: “yikes, o yikes!” (Cf. The First One’s Free)


Made In The Shade 2-3


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.

hopeless pedant

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

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

it can’t be my night to do the dishes!

what is this string called love

surely in isolation one becomes a god

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


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.

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

get a haircut!

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 

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

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
and dropped of their own accord
to a low point
	in the history of literature
        “she ain’t gonna do right”

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

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”


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
		more fearful moments
		remain invisible
	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
and the imagined remains in its place
	while the death grip
		on a particular state of mind
		that predates the mammalian
so speak my strangled thoughts in half
		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.

[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.

“ . . . 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 . . . .”