Tag Archives: Tom Clark

Made In The Shade 3-2

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

make space in table clutter 
hurry find something to write on

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

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

the dialogue will continue
after these messages

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

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

8/5/89
silent alarm

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

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

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

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

CALLING ALL POETS

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


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

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

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

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

free floating anxiety

a man chasing a dog
southbound highway seventeen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

		         “feel like making love”

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

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

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

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

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Made In The Shade 1-2

Leafless walnut
draped with orange light
in the freezing cold
draws everyone to the window

breathe clouds on cold pane
little fingers crisscross
the collective moisture

evidently TV’s more interesting
		much more

first understand being alone
then laughter
the source of vowels
and the only true feelings
we dare admit in public

		more on that later
			much later

an instinct for parody
can be like having a .357 magnum
stuck in the waistband
			of your jockey shorts
it will show you for what you are

How do I feel I’m being perceived?

Once in a great while someone will overcome their own preconceptions and actually see you in all your shining armor.

And what is my opinion of others?

If you can’t beat them, outlive them.

Why did I even consider writing in the first place, especially if the rewards are so few?

—When you first thought to write, it was a spontaneous abandonment of your physical presence for an ethereal state where fragments of language fit together like hydrogen and oxygen. If you’d only thought to leave it at that. There you were in a Navy classroom being taught electronics. Eyes glazed, your brain slipped into neutral and you found yourself in a flux whose flow was language. It was like being immersed in the pure stream of an underground cavern. You were totally in the dark yet not in the least disoriented. You were in fact quite at ease with your environment, a fluid weave of ideas, meaning and references outside of the prescription of logic. You have tried to regain that state ever since, through artificially induced means as well as just plain patience. If you had left it at that maybe you’d still be there. As it is, you didn’t. Your curiosity led you to investigate others who claimed to have sampled the waters and were bottling it for consumption. Your mistake. For it is exactly that which has lead you astray. You have gone through libraries on the subject and come away like a soggy sponge. The waters have become so silted with useless presumptions and preconceptions that they are mired to the point of sluggishness. Now most of your energy is spent trying to extract yourself from the muck of self-consciousness. Once you put pen to paper you give in to that insatiable desire that got you here in the first place.

Why did I choose poetry?

—Because it doesn’t go by the rule;  the rule of popularity, the rule of prominence, the rule of ambition, the rule of self-aggrandizement, the rule of intellect, the rule of elitism, the rule of thumb. All these rules and more are present in poetry and each tries to impose its legitimacy over the others. Still poetry manages to surprise with its unruliness. Poetry can’t be defined by the rule of commerce any more than by the rule of denial.

How can I be sure that I am a poet?

—You feel like a poet, don’t you? Though you don’t look like one, you write like one. You act like one, when you play the fool. Why should there be any doubt that you are one?

How do I go about writing a poem?

—It’s very difficult to talk about how it happens or how you do it because you don’t know what you’re doing till after you’re done. Then it’s either interesting or it’s not. That’s all. Of course, if it’s not interesting now, it might be interesting later, and if that doesn’t happen you forget about it. If it is interesting, you can play with it, type it up, or maybe lift it entirely from the page as is, as if it were some worn segment of butterfly wing discarded after its brief span of usefulness. The poet gets it second hand, after all, and the reader is lucky to get it, if at all.


Skull and crossed bones
not an easy thing to look at
especially in the mirror
first thing in the morning

all the rules apply
			for mistakes too
but like everything else
	they’re written on the head of a pin

		why bother

the slow elegance of the night before
a stick in the mud greets morning’s blue

cold and colder
		light is all
there is

I look at what the cat dragged in

February gray sky
populated by bare branches
		just praying to be pruned
I become ancient holy

I stare into the mirror of rain and see the reflection of rain.4


2/2/87
Rejoice! The minor bear stirs from his journey to the underworld. Urpheus returns with songs of the reawakening! O furry four-footed prognosticator! (Re: Joyce.)


2/3/89
relief collapse
“thank god that’s over”


one ray on silk web
joins bamboo stalks


2/4/92
declaim that passionate righteousness
nail his hide balls and all to the wall


the manuscript looked deflated
as if someone had let all the words out


VIRGO: Concentrate on work and creating a better framework for day to day matters. Eliminate red tape, trim your budget and your waistline. Make a firm commitment to yourself and your priorities. At night, get plenty of exercise.


Don’t get any ideas
	simply accumulate
		language leftovers

a gift
			of words
comes with the territory
the body
		examined
speaks to itself
		ancient formulae
to the point of distraction

that’s where the magic comes in

through mirror’s orifice
the other side of reflection
(what’s that motorcycle cop
doing in here?)

	transported

coffee
	break
		fixed

much better (more or less)

artificial swim
gone away with
a trout in mind

“momma said there’d be days like this”

ENTER THE PINK ELEPHANT

The Pink Elephant was known for its rough and rowdy clientele as well as for its own peculiar brand of congeniality. They also had two pool tables as opposed to the Knotty Room’s one. It wasn’t unusual for me to stop in for a beer every once in a while as I did with Joe Ivey one night. The pool tables were busy so we sat at one end of the bar that didn’t seem so crowded. An older though ruddy woman in an off-white crocheted hat and stained leather jacket and her younger companion were knocking back seven & sevens like they were lemonade. We watched the pool players, gave the high sign to some people we knew at the tables over in the corner. Joe didn’t see any women he hadn’t talked to before. We talked about his getting a mike and an amplifier for the up-coming reading. He said he had it covered. We ordered a second beer. The younger woman at the bar next to us had started a whining self-serving litany of tribute to the older woman for the older woman’s benefit. The older woman had obviously just sprung for the last round of drinks. The younger woman continued to fawn over the older woman, pawing the sleeves of her coat, playing with her limp mousy curls much to the older woman’s annoyance. “You have such beautiful hair!” declared the younger woman. “Yeah, and yours looks like hammered shit!” responded the older woman. Joe and I, exchanging looks of deep understanding, quickly drained our beers and left.


2/11/82
restless wandering
	room to room pen uncapped5 
lost in thought

my greatness of mind
no outside acknowledgment needs
only that in myself I believe
 

I researched the background of rain. I was writing the epic of rain using the ink of rain. The magic of rain is often celebrated in the fiction of rain. I expounded the philosophy of rain but no one wanted to hear of it. I rejected the religion of rain for the dance of rain. I supported the strike of rain. The sky of rain is a continent of rain. I said no to the drug of rain (but I got wet anyway). I calculated the constant of rain. The violin of rain played pizzicato accompanied by the drum of rain. I drank of the water of rain. I paid heed to the proverb of rain. I never knew there could be so much of rain.


“it’s alright” says the radio
(from where I get my signals)
	“here comes the sun”

news interrupts more
(a spokesman’s voice is totally uncomplimentary
to public speaking and invites ridicule)

je ne sais pas

what does that mean
“youth is not” or “youthful no more”
“youthfulness past”

I don’t know

2/15/75
Dear Jeff Miller — Thanks for letting me see your terrific poems. And for the two quarters that dropped out of the envelope and bounced across the post office lobby floor. I assume they’re for return postage. That’s very thoughtful of you and they paid for my cup of coffee at the Knotty Room where I read your poems at my leisure. They are flippant, arrogant, full of bombast and bravado, and a vitality that makes the connections actually spark. Please thank David Bromige for suggesting that you send your work my way and if you ever get out to Monte Rio, please stop by. The Romanian poet Andrei Codrescu just moved up here from San Francisco and he also liked your poems — he was sitting next to me in the Knotty Room when I read them. Maybe I can use a couple of them in the next issue of my magazine, The End, which Andrei will be helping me edit. By the way, Andrei has visions of this area being the next art/poetry Mecca a la Bolinas, but I don’t know. For one thing, we’re not isolated enough and no one has yet started stealing the highway signs that lead out here — all that could change overnight, of course. We’re also putting together a little reading series at a café near here called Stone Soup at which I’m sure you’ll be welcome to read. Anyway, thanks for the poems and the cup of coffee    


2/12/89
a veritable truck stop
menu for breakfast
who’s gonna do the dishes? 

learn by not knowing
know by not learning

blissful ignorance
blissful anything

wash one dish
then another

2/13/89
thinking counts

2/14/91
match burns twice
a lot like love


Released like a balloon
		upside down

frantic recapitulation
sheer fabric rents
show up as flaws

the pitter patter of tiny hammers
like the sound of a cobbler shop
that only exists in storybooks
the pounding of one big hammer
inside my head like an aspirin
commercial seen only on TV

much unresolved
	I sing the blues
surrounded as I am
	by all the clues

I haven’t the faintest
(harmonica stomp break)
			oh yeah!


I forgot about the amnesia of rain when I went off in search of the source of rain. I got caught up in the anarchy of rain. The white of rain obliterated everything. I prayed to the ancient of rain and was blessed by the holy of rain. I endured the tedium of rain in the forest of rain. There was a report of rain for overnight, but only the gauge of rain would tell the true story of rain. The etching of rain was obvious in the erosion of rain. The bird of rain pecked at the edge of a puddle. I was beginning to feel the strain of rain. I lounged around in the underwear of rain. I had become a child of rain. My madness was a souvenir of rain. I cursed the damp of rain. Still, I listened to the patter of rain. After a month of rain, it was time to prepare the ark.


2/21/86
Four days of steady rain, manuscripts, books stacked on boxes stacked on boards stacked on mattress stacked on chairs stacked on couch stacked on table, all else under water.

2/29/92
Here some days down the road after frenzied activity and no time to really introspect (inspection of the insides) and calm down I am forcing myself to come to grips with my real life rather than the one that requires me to earn money at any opportunity even if it means I am perceived as grumpy and bad tempered and hard to get along with because I hate to portion out my time and give a little here and a little there I mean I want all of it to myself for as long as it takes for me to get sick of it and really what’s going to happen is that I’m just going to go through my yellow notebook and type in the notes I made myself when I had a spare minute or so and all the entries will probably all be about how little time I have to do anything and that will be so depressing that I’ll just stop and have to go do something else like prune the trees or clean out the greenhouse or sweep the floor or straighten up the living room and I mean it’s even depressing just thinking about it and realizing I’m wasting my time doing just that!

VIRGO: If you’ve been waiting to make a move on someone, what better time than now? Choose to be free from inhibitions, guilt, and bondage. You’re ready to recognize and act on the opportunity to express and accept love.

Afternoon already
      and the tenor of day
		still
			undecided

a mist white veil
	approaches and recedes
	about the only activity
on the deserted streets
		of the neighborhood

mail delivery          off schedule

a golden glow enters the realm of the room
it’s sunlight but appears to be otherwise
it lifts the spirit
			illuminates the imagination
with its transforming presence

why then the yawn
(must be the nap of my beard)

days and nights
		go by
	in the process
each individual
all the same

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

[5] There is anymore no difference between poetry and prose as both are writing now, one being viewed in an archaic mnemonic i.e. verse form, and the other in paragraph; both can contain poetry as well as prose. There has been a great fear of blurring the distinction between the two, but undoubtedly this is merely fear of the obvious — the impulse to sing is apparent in both forms, and intrinsic; more prosaic reports and journals can do without, but in any instance when wonder (strong emotion) is to be expressed, poetry is enjoined. We can wonder at our daily lives or express awe at the magnificence and mystery of the cosmos. We can do it in a passage of prose or in a couple of (or one) stanzas (music voice notation).

Subtext
“Lincoln, Lincoln, I been thinkin,’ a penny for your thoughts,” the children sing, “I cannot tell a lie, gimme some cherry pie.”  So much for the holidays. More are needed to establish a base of culture. Free time to free yourself and give yourself away to love.

“ . . . sitting under the spreading oak, Orpheus is unaware of his impending rendering — he is the fool on the hill. Once O is confronted by the vacuum of his beliefs and the illusory qualities of language, he attempts to join words in such a way as to reflect the essential chaos underlying illusory existence. This has the effect of causing basic imbalances and anomalies in the very nature of perception; after all, singing rocks, dancing trees, and so on can be disconcerting if not overly cloying. But the perceived is entrenched and will tolerate mutation only so long before the perception police swarm in like white blood cells over incipient infection and render it insensible. Which is what happened to old O. Ripped to shreds because he had the audacity to try to charm the cosmos. . . .”

Made In The Shade 1-1

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

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

it’s just me
		the rain
				and the radio

(night wears on)

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

better yet

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

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

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


1/6/92
then everything stopped

pellets of light fall from the pale sky

weather transforms vision (illusion)

I know
what
I know
all
else
I guess

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

plume of ash shoots into
the upper atmosphere

“go ahead
	slap him”

flying apart like a mannequin
with rubber bands for joints

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

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

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


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

the sylphs are visiting again

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

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


there’s no zone
like home


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

What’s my middle name?
–Ulysses.

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


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


LITERARY MANNERS

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


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

time is entirely man made

I lived a multitude of lives
in the last few seconds


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


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

it came off in my hand

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


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

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

I won’t break my teeth on shadows

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

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

radio provides sidewalk sounds
I could be with friends in Paris
 

THE WRITERS CONFERENCE

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


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

my habits are getting old

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

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

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


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


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

radio tuned all
the time to the news


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

trying to sort through
the mud slide of dreams

sedentary
		ancient unconscious mass
	undermined by
			the ceaseless sleet of sleep

light winds forecast

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

I have to endure the growls of reality

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

enough infinite variety
I’m hungry
 

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


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

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

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

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

overfed the robins
	bend the bare limbs
dropping before flight

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


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

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

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


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