Friday, August 23, 2013

22 things I forget to mention

one:
Nothing yet to be made of the day but some wet hair clinging to the nape of the neck, coffee that's too hot to power down, a groaning neighbor regretting last night's play-making. I type a bit, reach into my pocket and come upon a to-do list of things to finish. It was folded a dozen times, it seems, each crease deep as wrinkles in an experienced skin.
I made the list a week ago.
Every deadline has lasped, every task is incomplete. I hate myself for some minutes, sip at the coffee, cringe at the cold hair teasing the wet locks adhering to the back of my neck.
Time to go.

two:
Hair cut, short, bristles. Cold wind cuts through the spikey clump like a lawn mower taking out a large section of unruly grass. Chill of the night as the night sky falls over a line of roofs that vanishes against a black tarp of starless sky, replaced with strings of lights that burn like the head lamps of stalled cars on a strange road that curls around a mountain range no one has seen from the air.
Why did I get a haircut. Yeah, that's right. That woman on the bus asked me if I watched Jerry Springer.
No, I said, I don't.
Well, she said, breathless, breathless, you look just like Jerry Springer, and I got on the bus and you were sitting there looking out the window and then you turned around and I said Oh My God, there's Jerry Springer.
I'm better looking, I said.
And my god, she continued, you look just like Jerry Springer, and I'm looking for cameras and a microphone, but you said you don't watch Jerry Springer...
I've seen it once or twice, I said, but no, I don't watch Jerry Springer...
But I said, Oh My God there's Jerry Springer, but you said...
And so the woman who cut the hair wrapped the towel around my neck and asked me what she could do for me.
You know the kind of hair cut middle aged guys get when they're trying to hold on their fleeing sense of youth? Short and spikey, almost punk rock...
So you don't mind if it sticks up?
Nope, I said, let's bring it on home.
Number three clippers?
Yup.
Okay...
And a fine hair cut it is, I thought outside the store, feeling the bristles with the tips of my fingers. Strange to the touch, soft, and grey. Grey as the sky was that day. Wet. Drops. Rain. A downpour. Rain.

three:
Tapping a finger on a hard counter top does make time move faster, nor convinces others in line that your cause is greater than the needs of the others in line. He looks at his watch, the third time in under three minutes and ponders what is at stake as the bank line crawls, inch by aggravating inch, toward an open window. Everyone seems calm, collected, even the children hanging on to their mother's hands are quiet , eyes wide and seemingly transfixed on a puppet show that is playing for them in a dimension on their eyes uncover. Tapping the folded paycheck and deposit slip against the watch he just looked at makes matters worse; now he knows what time it is, too late to ditch the line in order to be in the office on time, too late to even call a taxi , too late to do anything but wait.

four:
Down time, and she thinks of the city that unfolds before her from the hotel window, and thinks of all the people and all their histories in the buildings she can spy from the writing table she sits at, people with families sitting at desks of their own or standing, running between rooms with important papers or calling some one with news of either business or of home life or maybe even plans to be made for when ever leisure time evinces itself, she thinks of lives trapped in jobs in careers or marriages or cars on the freeway going to the superbs after five or to the center of the insanity near the break of day, when the sun is still cold and the coffee is too hot to sip without a burn on the tender upper or lower lip that quiver at the thought of another day smiling to clienteles that are themselves people trapped in their concentric circles of routine, longing for a time when they might only have to stare from hotel windows in a city not of their residence, abstracting the lives of residents and keeping them at bay, at once, in the distance of a long fog that circles around the end of an imagined peer while small white and yellow lights illumine what remains of a visible coast line, vanishing toward Mexico, ah , she thinks, it's time to leave, ah, she thinks again, adieu, farewell...

five: Cloud Clearing Joy
On most nights after most days I stay sober long enough to make it without a drop to midnight, when the whole thing starts again, though I might nap for three or four hours about things that fill the emails and answering machines with an unaddressable fear of what waits beyond the next recognizable landmark, a school or burger franchise, a dread that creeps up behind the words and sends a tremble through the hand either holding a pen or motioning over a keyboard, a panic takes invades the language we use to tell the world, our friends, our bosses and lovers that we are ready, that I am ready for what  intensity this day and this day alone brings me,
I say, sometime before falling into dreams and in the half waking hours before the sun hits the roofs and sneaks through the folds of the drapes to fall on the bed where we pretend to be rested, our feet emerge from the end of the bed covers, a wind has found a crack somewhere in the insulation and sends a breeze through the room, words slur with the narcotic of nodding,
"This machine never sleeps, it's all waiting, again, the sadness and stresses of the bad coffee and miscounted change for the pastry, the news about all the missing children after bombs change the face of cities that don't have a chance against the results of advertising, there is no sleep, I think I would be thirsty but for..."
But for other dreams, perhaps, that I have where I am drinking all the time from endless streams from silver faucets, and I only become thirstier, hungrier, more aware of a world that still spins and complicates itself."
I don't know what any of that means, but this is another morning, it seems a good time to put on a shirt, clean socks, pants that still have a crease, thinking through the shave and the ride to work and the endless faces with an infinite selection of expressions to match the bottomless contents of their respective packaged miseries, of your face alone at home in a light that makes your entire head a sphere of such cloud-clearing joy that all such hours of slog and trod are worth the hassles with price checks, gift certificates, phone calls from amnesia victims , you offer me a soda and a steak, a kiss, something like that, that's what I think when I don't drink,
 and I find that I miss you all the more.


six:
Joe Lavano and company are playing a sweet set of notes on the player, linked saxophone choruses that skip beats and chase rhythms that crack and break and then regroup in a wonderful, witty, winsome aparatus that configures each grunt and growl through the reeds into a continent of pitches, dialects, musical communities that keep their accents while the borders stretch and the dialogue gets more exciting, profound, the differences falling aside like clothes that are useless in the hot climate, where only similarities are noticed, distinct, memorable, a democracy of crazy time keeping.

seven:
I like my coffee in the morning with a newspaper from a work before. It's so stimulating to be always catching up with the news, to stroll up to head line rather than have it run me over with an urgency only neurosis can sustain. I drink the coffee, I rustle the pages, and find something satisfying that what I'm reading is no longer news, but history, over long enough to make sense in a world where mornings are an hour of warning shots saying beware of the day ahead, go back to bed, go back, go back…

eight:
Good morning, good morning, ah silly me, yes, a newspaper that is a week old, how quickly, how fast the days are enshrined in foot notes and commentary, our Instant Boswells have entombed is in print that is already fading and turned brittle to the touch, the microfilm is cracking as I turn the wheel in my memory of the graduate library looking up the major incidents of Bernard Shaw's great New York City adventure, I was yearning for coffee while in the stacks, a newspaper that at the time would have been one from the same day I woke up, that, a cup, a paper , and table on a patio to read and sip and opine into a nearby wood on a vacation that doesn't have a calendar to contain it, no work, no phones, just me and a cup, a paper and clear skies, and I might as well say, some birds to fly over head to cry out and leave their mark as my mind attempts to unmoor itself and drift with the eddies of current events, I wake up, yes, startled, an electric jolt, and shake my fists at the birds, five clenched fingers against the clouds, no good, I wish she were here, I look for a phone book, a phone, I wonder how it is she can get on with her life after the history we've had...




nine:
Sometimes I wonder if I was born or merely set aside in another dimension of newspaper grey and was launched into this world because what ever the case was running low on the premium designs.
Its a habitual thought, a shudder of doubt when staking hands or crossing streets or visiting people who and which are so familiar, so complete in intimate nuances and shared knowledge that they seem alien and strange, like specimens under glass in a museum I keep visiting for a lesson that just keeps turning the corner to the next gallery when my hard shoes hit the tile. Everything I looking for is just out of focus, short of the designs I see and have drawn.
Believing the world is seeing beyond the box scores and trusting what it says on the certificate; the biography has already been started, a page of facts that have gotten absurdly complicated, in love their own inventory of details that are pressed now in their uniqueness, creased and pleated, ready for rough waters I imagine await at the end of the map, where boats fall off and drift with sails full of solar wind until I wake up and yawn and scan the items on the table, the newspaper, the dirty bowls, someone else's pack of Marlboro 100s. The universe is reassembled, seamless as death itself.
Years ago I wondered if there was life on other planets precisely at the time when she left me, or asked me to leave, I wondered who else in this darkness knows this hurt as well as I?, and I stared for hours at her apartment\ as if trying to make the walls fly away, to lift her off the sofa, away from her meal , and bring her into my arms where I stood in the dark, next to a payphone, with out change to call out far enough to the wilderness where there is only wind and tall grass, maybe houses at the bottom of canyons that you see from jets leaving your home town before you enter the clouds that will drag on the wingspan, I would stare and the walls would stay where the carpenters intended them to remain, there was nothing to see, but I stared harder, right through the building, to the stars I knew were there, receiving radio waves, TV shows, thoughts of strong desire translatable only by action, hear me, hear me, who else shivers in a dark corner in unique misery, genius of articulated regret, who else speaks when no language gets the purity of the idea right, just right, thus forcing one to live in craziness, at the end of the alley, drinking from bottles I've pealed the labels from?
As usual , the stars don't answer, they don't say a word

ten:
In front of things adorning the lawns of our town, I abjure to squint of cranes and deers, jockeys with faces white as the walls of empty gallery stoic as they are in their enameled resolve,
Not here or there nor on any brush in sight can relief be spelled in a flick of the wrist , a motion that captures the tone and twist of a minute in this day when all the frustrations seemed they might just dissolve like thin sheets of sugar under warm tap water and just wash away, there is not a gesture that lets me let go of things short of releasing all fingers from around the neck of the idea that is old, inert, unable to be redefined or made new by new paint on old boards.
The doors of the houses are wide open , dogs whimper and yelp their routine protest about weekends out of the town, in the back of the truck, it’s broad daylight, the sunlight is spread like miles of smiling bed covers over the happenstance of my moods in this moment, the newsboy pitches my newspaper to the roof, again, it’s business as usual, a full schedule of things to do or lie about doing.
Should I continue with my walk to the beach in a constricted stride, suffering the thoughts of phone calls that seemed to be about everything that was never said until the night past and hysteria goes back to sleep, my mind seems a cave with deep, blurred echoes of what we talked about, the impossibility of the desire, the attraction to fires, bright lights at the end of cigarettes?
Damn these animals and doors, damn this daylight, damn the world and it’s orderly progression.

eleven:
Not here or there nor on any brush in sight can relief be spelled in a flick of the wrist , a motion that captures the tone and twist of a minute in this day when all the frustrations seemed they might just dissolve like thin sheets of sugar under warm tap water and just wash away, there is not a gesture that lets me let go of things short of releasing all fingers from around the neck of the idea that is old, inert, unable to be redefined or made new by new paint on old boards.


twelve:
My tie cuts off the blood to my head and my socks have holes in them that are as old as toe nails that continue to grow years after clipper ships found new shores to set foot on, you imagine water everywhere along with the music of pipes ringing during hot showers, you hear the streaming sirens of lost songs glide along your body, slide down your breasts, your hands find a motion that is fine for trilling along the unsaid syllables that fill the room with steam and then you discover and are dumbfounded by the fact that your panty hose vanished during the night and there's no telling where it went, now there is steam coming out of your ears, come, I say, and let's have our usual breakfast, black coffee and two cigarettes, any style.
thirteen:
Morning light crawls over the street as the fog recedes back to the corners of the earth that are invisible in the glare of spring and summer days.
"It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood" is song I hear coming from the next room.
A devastated newspaper is spread over the breakfast table.
"Nothing beats a great pair of legs" I say, and this gets your attention. You're walking around in your underwear, toothbrush in your mouth, feeling around the lunch counter for a pen so you can write a check to the School District to cover the cost of a class field trip to the Zoo. You tilt your head, and try to grin around the tooth brush.
"Nothing beats a great pair of legs except maybe a full house" and you laugh; grab the first pen that appears from a layered surface of bills and memos, and then yell "Emily, turn off the TV and put on your shoes, I have the check and I'll be ready in a minute."
The TV doesn't go off, and you go into the other room, and the yelling commences again, more threats, tears, the beams of the pitched roof raised with threats of no desert, movie or field trip if Mr. Rogers doesn't vanish from the TV screen, Emily stands her ground and you pull on a skirt, a hand made shirt, two shoes from the prop department, you're ready to go.
"Won't you be my neighbor...?"
Emily turns off the TV and sings to herself as she readies herself for school from a time zone only six year olds live in, she sings lyrics that have never been written and won't be sung again, she abides by rules that are correct, substantial and relevant only to this instance and then no more and never again, I can hear you drumming your fingers on the door, I can almost hear you tap your toes in those drama department shoes that are too small even for your ballerina feet.
I'll be at the hotel all day, answering phone calls from all over a shrinking world where everyone says hello and good bye in accents that sound like their ducking gun fire in towns baking under cruel desert suns or from penthouses or office towers that try to reach the sun and conquer it with incredible piles of theoretical money that catch fire in the glow of hubris,
All I can say is "One moment please" and connect everyone to Room Service, House Keeping, The Bar on the Roof, rooms where the guest hasn't emerged from for three days, or, sadly, tell everyone who wants to stay that we are sold out, every room has a paying customer, so sorry, no please don't threaten me, sorry, I cannot take your money, please understand, the rooms are all occupied, so sorry, please don't threaten me, lower your voice, sir and madam, please stop screaming,
I realize my joke has it wrong, so wrong, a full house never beats a great pair of legs.

fourteen:
Too many minutes have dropped off my watch in line at the movies buying tickets.
So many minutes are lost as the microwave beeps along it's growling, turning, chirping away, turning the food inside into something that's hot as guns in Duck season but unrecognizable as anything I'd want to put in my mouth.
The library shelves bear their spines with titles that allure and beckon from under their fine dust patina, but all I can do is wave them on, bid them goodbye, there is not enough time left in the week after all that fast food and instant coffee, so many rapid distractions keep me on my feet, spinning in the spot where I ought to be sitting, passing out when I ought to be absorbed in small print, foot notes, facts that didn't exist until I read them, but there is no time left after doing all the things that save us time, This is an affliction I don't have time for.
Could I have THE 24-hour flu instead?

fifteen:
The lust of italics is obvious, the wake of roses taken seriously, off-kilter are the fingers making a path through your hair, a new part where a comb finds the soul under the brain that keeps you wondering about the world,
Those nights, half asleep, a small fist raps your back, you say it wasn't you, but floorboards groaning the way they do in old houses that sag in fall, swell in summer, contract in winter, and all that's left for spring is laughter and fear when everyone goes out doors again after dark, testing door knobs, it wasn't you , you say, only the house or some such thing,
Shared chills or beads of sweat, the double “s” molding prevailed, every position and posture on the mattress a buried language of what wasn't said any of those times when working was more heartache to keep for an idea of love that seems to choke because nothing seems funny anymore, nothing weighs less than an unwanted ton, we change positions as if speaking too fast for court reporters,
"I hope I don't dream" you say. " or if I do, let it be of a big black wall with nothing on it, just blackness, blackness..."
The apartment is so quiet that it is the refrigerator that sings us to sleep, a high and ghostly whistle coming from it's deep frozen stillness. We drift off as headlights flash across the ceiling and car radios play music pulled from the air from other states, we drift off while the house sinks deeper into an earth that wants it all back.

sixteen:
She crosses the street after standing at the corner for minutes that seemed nothing less than hours. He watched ,thinking of lyrics to write. She stood at the corner, jabbing the button of the pedestrian signal box, looking across the street as if to see if perhaps a store she wanted to get to before they closed might have flipped the sign over in the door, from "open" to "closed". As if she could see through all that traffic.
I know, he thought, a song about a guy watching a woman trying to cross the street while he tries to imagine a lyric he might or might not write. The irony, he thought, or was it just laziness? All these bagels are cold and hard as tile. He lights a cigarette, dumps the match in his ash tray. The woman is across the street, and vanished into a parking structure.
"May I have another Latte?" he asks a passing woman carrying a tray to the cafe service station.
"I don't work here" she says without breaking her stride.
eighteen:
You and I have watched lightning exploding silently behind the dress grays of twilight and we’ve kept on saying that the world just doesn’t work anymore and then laughed, drank more rum, sang an atonal riff before a garbled, tongue clucking solo, and then watched the lightning again for hours while it lime—lighted the small patch of trees and the few blocks of curving intersections you and I called home and thought diseased when we had a good buzz while walking past displays windows in shops we couldn’t afford to browse in on the blocks getting torn down, buildings coming down and nothing left standing but firewalls and brick chimneys, the world didn’t work anymore around the sidewalks we walked, you and have stood in the rain nursing paper cups full of Pepsi and Meyers, sad to see the neighborhood go because some one was getting rich while we were getting drunker luxuriating in the melancholy that the turf no longer reminded us of why we were angry about being cheated and being different from the rest, our misery was a shadow that followed us that even the lightning couldn’t cut through and remind us again what it was we were drinking to forget.

nineteen:
There is only the other side of the road when you come over, the other side of the tracks even though we live no where near a train yard.
I bow to your good looks and great legs and the meals you’ll make before you even notice that You’re tired of the sound of my voice on the voice getting real close to the speaker, becoming a grainy whisper alone the wireless sky,  “Maybe we should keep our apartments” you say, “just so that both of us have some place to go, you know, if all this turns out be only a mess, a mess...”
You drop a fork in the kitchen sink as the water runs over the lettuce, birds alight and fly toward the sun that is going away, “I give in to you’re wisdom” I tell you, “Whatever you think is the right thing to do...”
Across the street is a million miles away and the bedroom doesn’t exist at this precise minute, my magazines stack higher than any man’s ever seen,
But not every night is heaven when there some things missing from around the house when I look around,
This side of the street seems to be sliding off the face of a cliff that is losing the earth that gives in a severe inch with each storms that comes from the south or the north, each blast of electric guitar, every plane you took up to know when there is only me in an empty room older than I planned on being, more alone than what the law allows.

twenty:
What I’m not saying is that you ought to park campers on your front lawn, tire tracks deep in the mud that is slowly becoming merely mire with each rain that happens by.
Nor do I endorse leaving old couches and refrigerators in the alley three garage doors down or dumping in on empty lot where combinations of abandoned furniture and appliances can stare at the world that passes by them, mute as if in unending astonishment that anything comes to a finish..
What I am saying is that you don’t have to give away all your clothes because churches don’t fill the pews as do movie theatres or ball games during a series where so much depends on ball being hit by a stick that might fly over the cheap seats and into a window, into history that is.
Religion hasn’t been as good as the movies in decades anyway, and those kinds of ball games are rare , being , as it were, miracles true and factual, the only place where prayer makes sense and the game is more important than what any man or woman wants to with their appetites.
Find yourself a face to kiss and leave the Laundry undone just for day, wait until the net day off to sharpen the knives for battle (while I pray that day never arrives for that reason), stop for a moment and think about what you’ve been thinking about.
and when you’re confused enough, come see me, when I’ll put on some coffee and we can read each other from any book the house, my treat.
Twenty one: Lawn




It is just another day of lawn mowing in lethargic shoves, sweating under the arms under the sun's smarmy glare while the blades stroke and grab and cajole armies of sodden leaves to relinquish their height, their standing, their destiny for the good of the land, the glory of the hedges.

The smell of cut grass piled up becomes the legacy of the day, futures are based on what aromas filter from the back of the garage where blades of another kind turn to compost, break down into their essentials compounds and trace results, energy dons a new suit of clothes and leaves a trail for more life to come.



I stop pushing the lawn mower, lean on the handle. Pretty girls in summer dresses of bright, corpulent patterns walk by, hand bags and head phones waving free.



Part of me wants to wave back; part of me wants to be left alone.



The kid next door works on his car in the driveway. Engine parts are strewn about his feet.



The oil stains soak the cement. The leaves on my crescent hedge are turning brown as mud.

My mouth is dry and I crave water.
It's astounding what can happen when nothing is going on.



That's why I am not a painter; I never developed the art of not-getting-it-right. Rather, I'm still amazed of things in and of themselves, doing nothing, undressed of human perception or ideas, things just falling apart of their own accord unburdened with conceits of glory, glee or horrible, terrible, inconsolable sadness and terror.

An uncle of mine worked a farm his entire life and all I remember were several generations of farm machines left out in fields or behind sheds, rusted out and useless years after they rolled from the factory, and when I asked him about what he was going to do about them, he just laughed and said he planned to do exactly nothing because there was nothing to be done, no emergency to attend to.
"Those parts aren't hurting anything where they are" he said," I have a farm to run, not a garage.



My job is to make things grow, not go..."



Our fathers and their fathers knew something about things in this life running down, new things appearing as if out of the ether.




Swallowing hard, I push the mower onward in the path we've been blazing through the deep, molding grass. Onward, says the general, to where the sky kisses the edge of the earth/

twenty two:
Just tell the band to strike up a song that blends well with the color of a crowd whose faces blur in swirls across a whirling ballroom floor, high hats and tom-tom drums and cowbells filling the city blocks with locomotion that doesn’t stop until the clock hits the last minute of the last hour.
Everyone stops swirling to get their coats and then their cars to return to their homes and apartments that stopped seeming so extraordinarily alive with the things they brought to the rooms and hung up on the walls.
The music stops at midnight and the only thing you can think of now is how your feet hurt, how many hours to sunrise and the start of your term on the clock and in the customer’s face with service you know you wouldn’t hand your dog after the biggest mess he could produce on the rug you brought home from an enclosed mall.
But it’s late on the road, rain falls with an even temper, small fists bang the roof since the start of history, there are fields of applause your going through in the city on this drive, you drum the steering wheel as she leans against the glass, humming lightly, racing drums and quicksilver trumpets grow winged feet and chase one another from station to station to station on the AM dial.
She starts to sing something you don’t understand as the wheels seem to hydroplane over the asphalt, saxophone blasts a whole in the clouds and the moon is on you as you slow down the car coming to the apartment house,
Love seems to lasts forever in ash-silver light, you think, coming to the garage, the music cutting out and static going off like firecrackers on a string under the stars of a night full of train wheels singing along the rails with steel wheels
Clouds meander over the moon once more, the light is gone, there is only a garage full of tools and dirty boxes of unpacked stuff you never want to find.
Her eyes are closed, her head against the door, oh, to dance across the city in top hats, long sideburns, and long white gloves like we used to dream it would be always, this is what you’re thinking,

She sings a song without the words, nonsense syllables filling in spaces where lyrics used to be crooned,
“Do you know the words”, she asks, “do you know the name of the song?”
“Sure do” you said, switching off the ignition and tapping your forehead, “it’s up here somewhere, lost forever.”



Paragraph for lovers

There's nothing worth in noting that neckties and indexes of how swell the economy has gotten leaves us with nothing but a bad after taste of a hard sock in the jaw because the eyes drifted and lingered on anatomy that didn't belong to the head that was until the delivery of five in the fangs was craning its neck the way exotic birds with long legs do, averting the gaze so that nothing in the give and take and progressive accumulation of moments that keep on piling enough  until it all goes to waste will be set withing boundaries suggesting a frame, or   demand that the world get square and predictable, like a paragraph with an overkill of punctuation or a boy friend who was never quite a husband or a good lover but was keen to have around when the talk got serious like bent silver next to chipped plates.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A definition of ostracization

a definition of ostracization

I’ve been listening to Xenakis while half asleep against the grain of concrete walls. Louis Kahn had dreams of
flat surfaces grey or ashen and hard like leviathans guarding coin less realms of knowledge resting on a cliff,
facing an ocean that goes on until it pours off the edge of the earth. There are many railroad yards to travel through  before all the cement in the Midwest rises over the hills and minor cloudbursts along the interstate.
What streets of crushed rock and sand are those far beacons shining on.

Xenakis explodes on the faint threats of the avenue because there is  nothing there  until you drive into the
tall wall of seamless concrete grey as the fog that hides it. King Crimson chews up unlimited amounts of architecture that was stripped of every filigree and garnishment until only steel beams and poured cement remained to tell us how to live in the world we made false homes out of.  John Cage finds a penny, he hits it with a mallet, he smiles, he grins, he sits in front of the piano, prepared for anything clothes pins could dampen.  i am half asleep against the    Le Corbusier's worst mood, every false turn a right note as Mingus would play it.

Ornette Coleman drags himself from his chair to the microphone and. lifts his plastic saxophone  begins to play an alien chaos that makes the atoms of the tempered glass window separating the control room from the sound proof suffering  spin even faster and then melt quite suddenly, leaving a hard, globular bit of bad attitude as Coleman finishes his run through the Scream Machine. 

New York has a skyline that was once   transcribed as music to crane your neck by. John Cage glides over the blades of grass , silent as shade on an alley wall, and appears suddenly and hungrily in a doorway at the top of a stoop. Over the rooftops there is construction everywhere, under the roofs are fights with knives and celebrity chef spitting contests.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Eagles take over the City Dump

Quit defending the Eagles! They’re simply terrible - Salon.com:


The serious Eagles fan would come to the defense of this band--seemingly as much despised as they are loved by fans--and maintain that their cynicism, despair, and weariness were anything than the routine posturings of experience-glutted rock stars, the more being that they were artful and could write good song hooks and manage to keep their songs under a certain length. Granted, although a tune like "Hotel California" , paced at a tortoise crawl and it is slow in duration, is a notable exception, notable in that it contains everything that is objectionable to this band a collective projection of the zeitgeist. 

The lyrics are laden in down cast metaphors where the secreted meanings are grandiosely proclaimed, exhibiting a "you know what I mean " vagueness that is an  bullet to interests in whatever forbidden knowledge these musicians gleaned from their adventures at the edge of their own limitations.  An amazingly successful rock band with some indisputably talented musicians, the Eagles are a band I never cared about. Even in their best songs they seemed, smug in the depths of despair, depression and bad-luck stories their songs evoked. Tuneful, well crafted, laden with nicely arranged guitar textures and incidental instrumentation,the sweetly harmonized lyrics were a first rate evocation of bankrupt imaginations trying their best to out -bottom the rest of rock and roll's iconic desolation row residents. In meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous there there is the tradition of a having a leader "qualify" , that is, telling their tale of what it was like, what happened and what it's like now. 

The telling, or testimonial , if you will, would normally contain some sordid tales of their past that their  powerlessness over alcohol led them to, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly; the point is to make the listener understand the inevitable destruction this path results unless the alcoholic or drug addict has their moment of clarity and grasps a solution, which are the components of the "what happened" and "what its like now" parts of the formula. There is the habit of some members with years of recovery (such as it might be for them personally) who eschew the solution and instead tell one horrible anecdote after another; this is not generally appreciated by other group members seeking a confirmation of the hope that is supposed to be contained in the rooms where those meetings are held. This turns testimony in a drunkalogue and the effect is of someone who takes an inordinate pride in the horrible things they have done--each instance of bad luck,lying, theft, jail time, divorce, traffic accidents, job loss,  sexual misbehavior become like bullet points on a resume. 

Whether they intended to or done, those who overshare such things wallow in the gloom and their words become pointless. So with the Eagles, who have spent decades writing songs as if they are the only witnesses to the end of the world, a world where only they are citizens worth listening to. Theirs was a music akin to an old car with a great, shiny new paint job; attractive surface gleem, noisy and tired under the hood. For all their gold records and fanatical fan base, they have proven to be even more tiresome than U2. 

"True Blood" licks up a lumpy gruel

'True Blood' or bad 'Blood'? The campy vamp show isn't what it used to be - TODAY.com:

The only thing that make me like this show again is for GOD HIMSELF to show up and bitch slap these vamps, fairies, changelings, werewolves and the like with dead, cross -eyed mackerel and so make them aware of what a, humorless,  inane gathering of jerks, liars and layabouts they are. The show has jumped the shark, but the shark leaped from the water and chomped this vapid projection of bad taste in half. The show is so tasteless that the shark spat out the chewy viscera and binged watched The Banana Splits to crowd the memory from its primeval memory.  The show was marginally interesting at the start and was genuinely funny and sexy, but now it has gotten so absurd that you wish the characters would just pop a vein and croak right there on the street before they have the chance to utter the next insipid line of tripe that passes for dialogue. I am sick of sexy vampires. 

Author Elmore Leonard dies at 87

Author Elmore Leonard dies at 87:

A major loss for American literature here; Elmore Leonard's crime fiction were marvels, character studies of folks at the margins of society who , we found, had personalities more complex and subtle than he we might first suppose. His writing was clean, uncluttered, moving with a virtuoso's ease through the wonderfully engineered ironies and odd twists his strange world forces upon its self-directed inhabitants. No one wrote funnier, wittier, more natural sounding dialogue than Elmore Leonard, and no one could tell a tightly plotted thriller as well as he . His genius lay in his ability to become invisible as an authorial personality while his richly askew crime capers unfolded. After reading novels like "Pagan Babies", "Get Shorty" or "Rum Punch", I would at times stare at the print on the page and just appreciate the absolute brilliance of a master at work.

Friday, August 16, 2013

poetry makes you punchy

I recall a frustrating  "conversation" with contributor to an online poetry forum who was, to put it nicely, determined beyond all sane measure to say naive and empty headed things about poets and their poems. His resilience was the only thing that was remarkable in this intensely retrograde chat, as  no matter how severely he was corrected, ridiculed,  verbally stomped, even caught and prove to be a plagiarizer, he just came up with more inane platitudes and thefts from other writers. He wouldn't admit when he was incorrect or mistaken ,he stuck to his guns, and something in me rather enjoyed t his man's willingness to be a gadfly for every tired trope and generality he through into the conversation . You know the sort, the little man with the steroid ego who for reasons only God or Homeland Security understand has a habit of internalizing every truism, cliché and new age adage they come across, creating a moldy stew of babble they might think they can get loose women with. It's crazy making. Lately he's said this:

To be a Poet, you must be a Dreamer, for Poetry is the product of our hopes and aspirations.

To be a poet, it helps if one stops making Absolute Statements about what a poet must be or what one thinks is required for a poem to be valid. Above remarks like that make you sorry that anyone spoke highly of Universal Literacy. All a poet needs is a talent for the craft, an interesting way wit the language, and an openness to let the poem they're writing assume a form that is not strained, or made to conform to some specious and dubious requisites ; poetry made to do so is often turgid, vapid, bombastic, myopic and finally gutless when it comes to delivering the goods that the results of good poetic art should, that sound of surprise, the unexpected perception, that inexpressible feeling caught in terms of the unforgettable. It helps as well if one who desires to write good poet not address themselves as Poets, with a capital "P", lest they mistake themselves for priests, seers, mystics, oracles and all other manor of shaman whose existence is of use only to comic book writers or fakes and layabouts who find the personage a handy way to circulate their malarkey for yet another go around. It's my belief that artists, while engaging their muse and expressing the rush of inspiration through their art, do indeed bring together  unlike things that make for a heady  set of discussions among readers and critics as they try to unpack what is beneath the surface, but it's also my thinking that such artists, and poets in particular, are as clueless as to what the subtler elements of their work means when considered together, or even how they found     their into the work to begin with.  I rather favor the idea that interpretive criticism, the sort of digression that brings art from it's theoretical justification and makes it relevant to otherwise  undiscloseable experience.


There came a question during one of those distracting and always fun bull sessions about matters a particular klatch has a passing knowledge of as to whether contemporary poets are more interested in the eccentricities of the page appearance rather conveying a discernible message. A wide open topic, choice for PBS talk radio shows where a host tosses out one broad thesis after another, letting the dogs sniff it out and tear it apart. Among my group, the wear and tear on the intellect was a minor concern; this wasn't lifting weights. The gentleman who posed the question wasn't a reader of poetry, at least not for pleasure; it was a field he perused so he can gather examples of lexical sin against an enemy he's constructed. Some folks just can't have enough straw men in their lives. Good writing is what I needed to be engaged, I said at last, but the problem was really in the expansion of what "good writing" is. It's not a template applicable in all circumstances, without change. There are infinite variations on a common ground.

There are writers whose works are stunning to look at as a kind of typographical art, but reading them winds up being an insufferable experience, unpleasant not so much because the poems are difficult but more because the writing is just plain awful, being either willfully obscure to disguise a lack of any real feeling toward their experience, or, most typically , for exhibiting an inane, unoriginal and cliché choked sensibility that would never have gotten out of a junior college poetry workshop.In either case, the visual look of a poem is a distraction from the mediocrity of the piece being read. Good writing always matters, and there are many , many wonderful poets whose works have an originality achieved through a mastery of language that fortunately leads us away from the nagging dread that a tactless and unschooled Avant Gard has completely overtaken the conversation.

Good poets , I assume, should in some way be interested in the language they muster up to convey the usually ephemeral essence of their muse; it's the art's stock and trade. Language made fresh, reinvigorated, reinvented-- I have no arguments with anyone who earnestly attempts to make language convey experience, ideas, emotion, or even the lack of emotion, in ways and with techniques that keeps poetry and poetic language relevant to the contemporary world, the one that's currently lived in, but there is a tendency for a good many young poets , fresh from writing programs, to repeat the least interesting ideas and execution of their professors and to make their work obsess about language itself, as a subject. The concern, boiled down to an unattractive absolute, is that language is exhausted in its ability to express something fresh from a imperialist/patriarchal/racist?/individualist perspective, and the only thing that earnest writers can do is to foreground language as their subject matter and investigate the ways in which proscribed rhetoric has seduced us and made our work only reinforce the machinery that enslaves us.

This kind of stuff appeals to the idealist who hasn't had enough living, not enough bad luck, not enough frustration or joy to really have anything to write about, in large part (an grotesque generalization, I know), and it's easy for someone to eschew the work of absorbing good poetry -- Shakespeare, Stevens, Whitman, Milton, Blake, O'Hara-- or learning something of the craft and instead poise their work in non-sequiturs , fragments, cliches, sparsely buttressed inanities, framed , usually, in typographical eccentricities that are supposed to make us aware of the horrific truth of language's ability to enslave us to perceptions that serve capitalist and like minded pigs.

More often, this sort of meta-poetry, this experimental notion that makes a grinding self-reflexivity the point of the work, reveals laziness and sloth and basic ignorance of the notion of inspiration-- the moment when one's perceptions and one's techniques merge and result in some lines, some honest work that cuts through the static thinking and makes us see the world in way we hadn't before. I speak, of course, of only a certain kind of Avant Gard, one I endured in college and have since survived when I found my own voice and began to write what I think is an honest poetry. With any luck, some of these writers will stop insisting on trying to be smarter and more sensitive than their readership and begin to write something that comes to resemble a real poetry that's fresh and alluring for its lack of airs. Others might do us a favor and get real jobs. Others, I think, will continue to be professional poets as long as there's grant money to be had, and will continue in their own destruction of forest land.

It's useful for the poet to remember that what he's experienced and how he brings order, sense, and irony to their stories is better grounds for poetic inspiration than "hopes and aspirations" , quaint and gutless talking points that, truth be told, a reissuing of the lamest and most vulgarity retrofitted cliches. You feel, at times , that the low standard the beginning bard aspires to reach is a matter of law. A surfeit of mediocrity and third rate thinking about the state of the art and and the fuzzy-lens blather that passes for an aesthetic philosophy in it's regard can make you paranoid , if just a little. Too much abstraction might make you assume the universe has switched alphabets on you, while a drought of more challenging work creates a sense that powers behind the scenes have organized their resources to keep the collective intellect on low boil.

The real work of poets is to bring their skill as writers to work through the contradictions, u-turns, diversions and unexpected changes they experience while on their way to achieve their ideal circumstances. The poet desiring to write better verse should ignore advice from poetasters and instead improve their writing. There are no short cuts to becoming the poet readers will continue to read, although that doesn't stop those who know this, myself included, from trying to slide up the banister to greatness. It's a lesson again and again; when the giddiness of the experimentation goes away , one confronts the work with the knowledge that one has written below one's abilities , which leaves only two choices; rewrite or toss the effort out and start over. Poetry is process.

Genius in a hurry

Jack Kerouac had a native genius for language that I think was, tragically, obscured by the writer's urge to embrace experience in a hurry. In a hurry he was, influenced by both the elusive notion of Zen to be in the moment (or better, be the moment) and the zipping virtuosity of Charlie Parker and Bud Powell's jazz improvisations. 

Up tempo, crazy fast, instant configurations of genius adding up to a pulsing , nerve rattling kind of genius, these elements inspired Kerouac, but even at these speeds his heroes, both musicians, writers and even Zen masters, were required to take their time and learn the dictates of their disciplines; Parker's or Coltrane's or James' fluidity and near perfection of instant creation are the result of endless hours of practice and learning to go beyond one's habit of relying on easy conclusions, tired tropes or fussy, pretentious, hyperventilated phrase making and considering the sound, the effect, the expressiveness of the words their putting together. 


One learns, hopefully, to be elegant, poetic and original with alacrity. Jack Kerouac could indeed be moving and genuinely beautiful in what he wrote, but these moments are exceptions--there is such a need in virtually all his work to make experience more vivid, more real with overwriting that

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Unspooled

 I thought Jackson Brown and Jane Fonda were insufferable when they trotted their famous selves in the service of anti nuke and antiwar causes, but the on going meltdowns of Lindsay Lohan,  Spears, Mel Gibson, Michael Richards among many in the unblinking public eye at least made one realize that Brown, Fonda enlisted themselves in crusades that at least sought justice; whether one agreed or disagreed with their positions was a different matter, because when one overcame their automatic resentment of their celebrity, the merits of their positions were what had to be debated, not their fame. With Lohan, one greets her fame and her actions with bemusement and comes away stupefied by the attention she warrants. She is, shall we say, a pen without ink.What I find despairing is that we seem to  be developing a species of D-List celebrities who aren't merely famous for being famous, but rather are famous for being consistent screw ups, malcontents, kooks , assholes and creeps. We seem to be producing them faster and more bountifully than we ever have. Or it could be that with the advance of media-focused technology and twenty four hour news and gossip venues, those minor celebs who normally would have been forgotten while they got other jobs and otherwise remain obscure now have a second act in the limelight. This says little for the quality of mass audience that seems happy to consume the skankiest details. Lohan, though, will suffer the ironic fate of being merely famous as a result of her antics, fuck ups and spotlight-seeking partying. As with Spears, she can no longer make the specious claim that she's an artist, an actress, someone who makes a living creating entertainments for an audience willing to pay for the privilege. She is a Professional Celebrity, a loathsome distinction. Might we be seeing the emergence of a female Danny Bonaducci? I hope not, 'though there's a reality TV show producer chomping at the bit at the prospect of having Lindsay Lohan drag her increasingly trivial self through a succession of whiny episodes. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

SHORT ORDER

Little Denny kept sliding off the lunch counter stool. The waitress poured his mom another cup of coffee. The waitress laughed, a snorting giggle.

“That’s cute” she said, turning to look at Mom, a young woman in her mid twenties who’d been peering at a magazine as she poked her food. She dropped her sandwich to her plate and grabbed Denny’s arm.
Her voice was an irritated hiss. “Shit” she said, “he’s doing this on purpose, the little weasely rat—“
AS“OwwwwwwwwwwwwWWWWWWW” yelled Denny when she yanked him upright on the stool, forcing into an impossible posture. His face met the edge of the counter half way, where he could see a history of dried and chipped gum wads gum that marked the trim like mountain ranges on molded globes. The hamburger Mom ordered for him sat on its plate in front of him, a mountain of meat and sesame seed buns.
“Now eat” his mother demanded. Her long finger that had been leafing through the magazine pointed to the plate, looking crooked, shaking, with a long, twisting fingernail curling toward the charred patty as if to drop something from a claw. Denny cringed again.


“Eat” she said again “eat and quit fucking around.” Her voice was a hoarse bark.


The waitress, whose smile shrank to a chastised ‘o’ from its cheeky glory, turned to her tasks , minding her own business. She pulled half empty ketchup bottles from a shelf under the counter as Denny reached over the chasm between he and the counter and grabbed the hamburger from the plate. It was the size of a football in both his hands. Squeezing it tight, he raised it to his mouth and then turned his eyes to Mom in order to see if she could see him doing exactly what he was told, a mature boy of 4 and a half!


Mom was sipping her coffee, the sandwich on the plate with two bites out of it, staring at the waitress who was pouring the remains of the ketchup bottles into a single vessel, so to waste not a drop. 


Denny squeezed the burger so tight that the patty slid from between the buns and hit the floor with a wet slap that sounded like a kiss heard in rowdy cartoons. The phone rang, and when the waitress reached over to grab the line, her arm swept into the bottles and knocked them to the floor. The bottles shattered into a hundred red, bloodless shards. Startled, Mom spilled her coffee.

Little Denny fell off the stool.

Monday, August 12, 2013

It comes down to whether you appreciate the conflations Ashbery artfully manages as he penetrates the psychic membrane between Steven's Supreme Fiction, that perfect of Ideal Types and their arrangements, with the material sphere that won't follow expectation, nor take direction. I happen to think that much of the interstices he investigates are results of artful wandering; Ashbery is a flaneur of his own musings, and the Proustian inspection provides their idiosyncratic, insular joys. Had I thought Ashbery over rated and a bore, I'd have turned my back on critical praise of him and left him cold; I have a habit of keeping my own consul regarding reading preferences, as I'm sure all of us do. But continue to read him I do, over several decades.  
Not a rebel, not a polemicist, hardly a rabble -rouser who makes speeches and writes incendiary essays against injustice, Ashbery is an aesthete, a contemplator, an intelligence of infinite patience exploring the spaces between what consciousness sees, the language it develops to register and comprehend experience, and the restlessness of memory stirred and released into streaming associations. Ashbery's are hard to "get" in the sense that one understands a note to get milk at the store or a cop's command to keep one's hand above their head, in plain site. Ashbery's poems have everything the eye can put a shape to in plain site, clouded, however, by thoughts, the cloud bank of memory. He wrestles with the still-engaging problems of Aristotle's metaphysics, that the things in the world are only the expression of an Idea of that thing, which exists prior to manifestation. It's a slippery metaphysics, a guarantor of headaches, but Ashbery wears the problem loosely; he pokes, prods, wonders, defers judgment, and is enthralled by the process of his wondering. Reaching a conclusion for him seems to mean that he is done writing, and no poet wants to think that they've used up their vocabulary.One might think that the mtvU audience might be more attracted to arch romantic and decidedly urban poet Frank O'Hara, whose emphatic musings and extrapolations had equal parts rage and incontestable joy which gave a smile or a snarl to his frequent spells of didactic erudition. He was in love with popular culture, with advertising, movies, the movies, he had an appreciation of modern art, he loved jazz and ballads, and he loved being a City Poet. He was more the walker than Ashbery, I suppose, or at least he wrote more about the going to and coming from of his strolls. unlike Ashbery, O'Hara loved being an obvious tourist in his own environment, and didn't want for a minute for his poetry to leave the streets, cafes and galleries where he treads. Ashbery is more the stroller who gets lost in his associations triggered by what he beheld. Ever more the aesthete than his fellow New York Poets, he was interested in things a little more metaphysical, that being that the reality that exists in the inter-relations being the act of perception and the thoughts that are linked to it, which branch off from the perception and link again with another set of ideas, themselves connected to material things observed and remembered. O'Hara was immediate, like the city he loved, while Ashbery allowed his senses the authority to enlarge his perception, to explore the simultaneity of sight and introspection. In a strange way, Ashbery is the more sensual of the two, willing to examine that even the sacrifice of immediate coherence. I’m not a fan of difficulty for the sake of being difficult, but I do think it unreasonable to expect poets to be always unambiguous or easily grasped. Not every dense piece of writing is worthy by default, of course, and the burden falls on the individual talent. Ashbery's writing, for me, has sufficient allure, resonance and tangible bits of the recognizable world he sees to make the effort to maneuver through his diffuse stanzas worth the work. Poetry is the written form where ambiguity of meaning and multiplicity of possible readings thrives more than others, and the tradition is not a parsimonious use of language, but rather a deliberate expansion of what words pieced can do, what meanings they can evoke, and what sensations they can create. Prose is the form that is, by default, is required to have the discourse it carries be clear and has precise as possible. Poetry and poets are interesting because they are not addressing their experiences or their ideas as linear matters subject to the usual linguistic cause and effect; poetry is interesting because it's a form that gives the inclined writer to interrogate their perceptions in unexpected ways. The poetic styles and approaches and aesthetics one may use vary widely in relative degrees of clarity, difficulty, and tone, but the unifying element is that poetry isn't prose, and serves a purpose other than the mere message delivering that is, at heart, the basic function of competent prose composition.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Getting old with Lolita






It's odd to imagine that Vladimir Nabokov's novel of sexual obsession Lolita is over fifty years old this, and it's a little more unnerving to realize that I am the approximate age of that tale's cringe-causing protagonist, Hubert Humbert, that sad, grey character who wooed the twelve year old title figure with such a beautiful and odiously applied poetry. David Gates waxed elegant in an old Newsweek essay on the Lolita effect in American Life five decades after it’s publication, and sure enough on finds in his views that the gamy combination of arousal and repugnance remain the novel’s notable effect; Nabokov, never one to have faith in human motive rising above the blinkered self-seeking, enjoyed having his characters go through their obsessed paces, almost as if they were subjects in a behavioral modification experiment, and I’ve little doubt that he wanted the audience to squirm a little as well, much as Hitchcock would have done with his films. The readership and the film audience are made to feel like voyeurs, and the artfulness of both the novelist and the film maker is creating narratives one can’t turn from easily, unnerving though they may be. Re-reading it, I feel Humbert's physical aches and pains and even some measure of his longings for the touch of a women's skin against mine--I remain a romantic sensualist when all my protesting about the course of the world are said and done with--and yet there is a horror, trepidation in a minor key as Humbert's fanciful seduction of the girl proceeds. I remember reading this in my early twenties thinking it erotic and wonderfully alive with what it made my young soul yearn for, but thirty seven years hence the same novel is a little unnerving. I have lived long enough to have experienced a bit of the adult obsession that our author put to page in 1955, and it's not nostalgia or another manner of euphoric recall. Lolita is Nabokov's peculiar masterpiece that indicts us along with Humbert in the foul pursuit of young Lolita's virtue.

The novel endures because Humbert's interior-designed arousal has not been mitigated by the art of the writing nor a change over time about what is allowable between the sexes. The novel is a joy to read for the rare genius of Nabokov's writing, and the grime-crusted salaciousness of Humbert's game is still revolting. This is the novel's great achievement, a comedy that indicts the reader as being likewise culpable in the seduction of a seeming innocent. I think it's more a matter that Lolita has aged well because the subject of a middle aged man's infatuation with a very young girl continues to give us the creeps fifty years since publication, and that Nabokov's writing remains musical, full of light, and wonderfully seductive in it's conveying of sensation.Nabokov was not an optimist in thinking that his characters would rise above their instincts and desires and do something selfless and noble, and with Lolita he hands us a masterpiece that is ageless because it retains the capacity to corrupt the reader and leave them feeling less certain in their moral stance for the pleasure they've just taken from the author's artful description of gamy undertakings.
The tension is purposeful, I think, to the end that Nabokov's comic pessimism was directed not to instruct a moral lesson, but rather to show that our personalities are problematic things in that we acknowledge what is wrong and what is bad for us and yet pursue our worst inclinations with sweetly rationalized zeal. We are entranced with Humbert's poetics as he waxes about the authority of his senses , and it is there we find ourselves seduced, willingly surrendered to beauty created to describe what is morally unsettling. This is Nabokov saying "Gotcha"!
Where Nabokov got his inspiration for his "gotcha", but all the twists and turns in his relationship (or lack of relationship) with his wife Vera is academic in the most anemic sense, since what we continue to have finely diced ambivalence toward is what he finally imagined in the novel Lolita, as alluring fiction. It remains the job of the indexer and the hagiographer to draw the precise and mathematical formulations as to the relations between the author's failings as a human being and the deceitful decorum of his elegant and untrustworthy narratives; for the reader seeking a distraction and an amusement the important matter is the complexity of our response to Lolita's seamless pulling from two directions.
This isn't the only fiction where he's artfully drawn situations and casts whose multiple duplicities all create mischief of varying degrees of transgression in the erstwhile pursuit of a mutating Ideal. Pnin, Pale Fire,Ada, Look at the Harlequins are all wonderful deliberations on bad faith. I am willing to accept that Nabokov was a personal bastard himself to be able to write so richly and so well of so many spoiled, privileged and vainly deluded creatures; his moral lesson , if there was one he presented, was that one ought not assume that there are firms moral lessons or insights to deep seated truths from the exposure to beauty and elegance; beauty is only a condition of our need for pleasure, and in itself does not make the gamier stuff in this life--the lying, the cheating, the ill will and violence we do toward one another-- sympathetic or defensible merely because it happens to be filtered through an attractive lens. Humbert is a man of self-made pathologies and lacks anything of the Tragic Hero, a great man who, despite great deeds and good works, offends the Universe with exclusionist pride.
He is perhaps a Pathetic Figure, someone objectively without redeeming virtues or qualities who willfully and blissfully contrives a habit of thinking to make their pursuit of gratification seamless and undisturbed by an intervening conscious. Tragic Heroes who started out as individuals who have the potential to make the world a better and more just place, but who have a fatal flaw that will ensure their demise. Humbert is all Fatal Flaw, a ruinous example of errant humanity. The novel is an unrelenting study in sheer pathology, made more disturbing by Nabokov's willingness to grace certain thinking with.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A dry well gets all the attention

Books by Fran Lebowitz, Steve Allen, and Shirley Jackson—one of which I didn’t throw away! - Slate Magazine:

Dan Kois has a blog entry in Slate where he sings the light praises of mass market books for their disposability; if a writer you've selected for your beach reading isn't keeping you enthralled, simply toss the offending book and go on to the next. He cites Fran Lebowitz, fabled New York humorist , and her collection of old magazine columns "Metropolitan Life" as example number one in paperbacks that wore out their welcome. I've watched Fran Lebowitz on a variety of talk  shows for near twenty years and thought she was witty and quotable and all that--she was refreshing in that she was genuinely funny and had no new book, movie or movie to plug--but I thought  she was above her pay grade as a writer. She was a joke teller who seemed to have been bullied by well meaning fans and reviewers into thinking that she was in the higher reaches of the American Pantheon of Funny Scribes. "Metropolitan Life", as described here, was a let down, of course, not enough laughs to justify all the words that came between the punchlines.

 I empathize with the columnists plight of having to write a certain number of words against a deadline pressure with the requirement of being literate, funny, easily editable by  pressed upon copy readers, but my sympathies are reserved for those who have by lines appearing two   or three times a week, plus feature stories, when required. Journalism and not literature you say, and fine, but this does fit my definition of a working writer.

 All those phone calls, all those notes, all those Google searches,  all  that research has to be constantly culled , updated, revised , vetted and finally written up in a timely manner, and be readable as well. Lebowitz had a monthly column, however, and though it's understandable that she may be one of these folks who can verbally sling choice bon mots, insults, quips and curses without the onset of migraines but found it difficult to face keyboard and produce, at will, a stream of words as a writer's job requires, she had very long lead times to develop a topic and create an interesting context for her punchlines; her prose need not have been merely a chatty delivery system for jokes of  inconsistent quality. 

Her reputation endures , which is fine, although I wonder if we are now able to refer to authors who no longer publish as being former-writers. "Write" is a verb, which connotes action , and for clarity's sake we would not be harmed by letting readers now what some celebrity authors used to for a living. A former boxer has no shame being referred to as an "ex-fighter". Why shouldn't writers be just as adult about the matter?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

George Duke

George Duke, a dynamic , versatile and wonderfully imaginative jazz keyboardist, has died. I was fortunate enough to have seen him three separate times with Frank Zappa's various virtuoso ensembles, and with the extraordinarily gifted jazz drummer drummer Billy Cobham in the Billy Cobham-George Duke Band. There wasn't any style or technique that Duke couldn't master and merge effortlessly with his own proclivities as an improviser and composer. He could master any of the ruthlessly complex pieces and arrangements Zappa could toss at him, and he could improvise with lyric grace, funk and deft alacrity over, under and between whatever chord and key changes happened to be in the mix. He was an amazing, under appreciated musician who gave me much pleasure in my concert going days. We've lost a major talent.


Monday, August 5, 2013

The Comings and Goings of Every Tide

Oh, I had thought of getting my thesaurus a good dusting off and making some of you readers work for your clarity, but the truth is that I've nothing critical or insightful to say after two weeks with a summer cold that would not abate, beginning shortly after my simultaneous celebrations of age, my 61st birthday and my  26th year of sobriety, my mind is rusty, crusty and mushy all at once. What is thought of isn't fresh, quick or crisp, in any case, and a quite a bit of air let of the tire that is my metaphorical ego; what I would be a sweet rant or a rapid essay outlining the contradictions inherent in some insanely trivial pop cultural matter is instead just a murmur of words, a rattle of syllables before the   brain begins to shut down again, for the night, delving into the dreams of tinfoil nostalgia and the kind of dread only the snoring and inert can experience. In stead of the rant, here is bit of prose wandering, a poem maybe, or maybe not, but certainly a kind of writing the demonstrates the quality of this flu ravaged stew we bemusedly refer to as a mature mind and personality to boot. Hope you find something to appreciate.-tb
______________________________

THE COMINGS AND GOINGS OF EVERY TIDE

Picture if you will,  full lips wrapped around a pipe denying it's smoky plume, 
Shredded dresses priced as high gear, the possibilities of  wide ties  and thick lapels
and belt buckles the size of home base coming together in an historical turn,
a sartorial demand.


It frightens me to think of these things, nervousness inhabits the veins the blood attempt to pulse through with something resembling a life. Better to be attending an elevated Mass, a refuge from in some hamlet where there are only phone books and want ads, admonishing the earth of slow down, to stay in place, to give a break on the gravity which costs nothing at all and costs us everything to defy as we ease ourselves between mountain ranges \and large bodies of water.

The whole thing sinks, against better judgment, my clenched and shaking fist, acres and acres of  prime land  boast the late bloom of architectural tyranny, coyotes, rodents, families  that have crossed the border seeking work flee the drying cement and are  crushed halfway across  the Interstate as police and

Television station helicopters chase one car full of guys who might or might]   not have done something someone a hundred years ago didn't like when the music
became too much like sex and men and women couldn't help but notice what there was to see beyond the archeology of clothes.  Meanwhile, meanwhile, in all the mean time
that never lightens up to what each hour means it's time for,  whole populations huddle in corners and vote amongst themselves for better dreams, visions from windows overlooking a coast line  where they can live with the comings and goings of every tide and slap of wave against  a white pier.



Saturday, August 3, 2013

FENCE

(a love poem)



A fence runs between
the houses whose rooms
are stacked with boxes of things
that collected over the decade,
ephemera of years that started
when love was love and duty
was a man in a tank watching
Aral mountain ranges on the
other side of a Cold War border,
hands ready for the pistol
and radio at his reach
lest any hoards tried
to dilute the United States of America
in storage,
I slept like a bone in
an airless vault.

But everything
was turned inside out
by the time I woke up,
the fence remains
but everything
I live next to is three stories high,
even TV antennas snatching images
from the sky are  gone from my view,
chimneys are rare
as  honesty at retirement parties,
satellite dishes sneak
the world to
my house of boxes.

And love became duty
to remain on the border
of the bed
my limbs stayed in,
too late realizing that
the line of death was
my breath heavy with scotch and mouthwash
and pithy  perfumes for the tongue
when all my speech became poetry
about duty and honor   while she nodded and brushed her daughters' hair, she takes a loose strand
from her shoulder, she examines the end, the hair is split,
voiceless, she speaks

This where it ends,
I cannot breath,
there are fences running all over the world going somewhere
and all
we do is put the past away
in boxes until the corners of rooms
crowd me
and speaks to me in loops of your language
that's liquid and lost in attention to
details that are about why
you become invisible
even in bed,
which is more like a mining camp
than the place where
dreams slip across the darkness
when we've stopped talking, when our eyes are closed,
when our breathing should be the same,
not a race to the sunrise.

Everything is inside out
and I'm stupid enough
to believe that the man in the tank
loves the world even as bombs go off
around the limits of our fences,

But now I love a room
with high ceilings,
empty corners,
rooms big to swing
a cat by the tail,
where my voice  rises high
and loud and rings against
the pipes and then dies
away like notes plunked
from a fine-tuned piano,
I love the discovery shoes,
sober talk, doors without locks,
windows left open
with every racket of car alarm
and leaf blower
and weekend carpenter
speaking to me in sounds
that bustle
in phonics that flash a language
that words trail
like a dog after its master
where back yards yield to one another
like lovers wearing blindfolds in abandoned parks
horrified that they might
be passing each other as
both their reaches miss their
objects of desire
and both of them walk sightless in the other direction,
around corners
and into busy traffic
before one, and then the other
takes off the blindfolds
to discover that they are
in a different city
than where they started the day,
every one is in another part of
the map, fenced in with invisible lines
that is the borders armies
make whole populations extinct for,
the world
might learn to do something
with fences that run up and down the
avenues and right into the living rooms
so that the couches and beds have
politics in every position you assume
running from stress, I say,

unwind my string
and kiss me, please,
you are a moon I want to have orbit me,
I am a gravity you cannot deny,
you make my fences sway in
your bluster and flower print dresses,
I regret fences I set up the day
you left town,

the last thing to be seen
were you on the other side of the fence
getting into your red Volvo
just before you drove away

with my heart in your trunk.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

There is no noise with out silence

Truthfully, I like noise, dissonance, blistering beats and bangs, cacophony of all sorts, screaming guitar solos, atonal saxophone pirouettes, collision prone drum work, pianistics imposing order onto uncontainable randomness. The scrape and scratch is the cadence of the urban life, due to either traffic congestion, jackhammers on every corner, crimes in progress, or downtown music’s ranging from industrial grate to loft jazz to post-vinyl hip hop; abrupt, big shouldered, bullying, the Futurist dream (or nightmare) of jettisoning the Present and blasting a tunnel through the mountain of complacency towards an unknown future. Or maybe even destroying the mountain altogether; what we can surmise, though, is that it
isn’t the future that is the matter of concern for anyone making this kind of noise, but the noise itself, the badgering, persistent barrage that will not give you a minute of quiet time. There is no room for reflection or  regret, there is only the task of making this    existence so unlivable that we will all eventually rise and demand Eden now, or at least aid in the destruction of those  technologies, customs and accumulated culture that makes the question concerning the quality of life a Moot Point.

But there comes the moment when I have to take a breather from being the frontlines of my combative aesthetic and seek tunes, poems, movies that provide respite from the grind; sometimes I wake up and think clearly for a moment that existence is already noisy and that my abrasive taste in tunes accelerates no inevitable dialectic.Fun as it may be, no universal good is being served. In fact, I am only adding to the clutter, in essence, becoming part of the problem. Sanity, for the time being, prevails , balanced on a thin sting, and my premature jitters seek , for a change, succor, not assault. The quiet side appeals to me as well, much as I love abrasive post-bop jazz improvisation ala Cecil Taylor or the raucous cacophony of Charles Ives;  there are those moods when what I need from art—and art is something which is a need—is a short harmonica solo, a small water color in a simple frame, or a lyric poem that dwells comfortably, musically on it’s surface qualities. One loves grit, but that doesn’t exclude finesse. Mark Strand’s poem here won me over with it’s surely played music.



My Mother on an Evening in Late Summer
by Mark Strand

1.
When the moon appears
and a few wind-stricken barns stand out
in the low-domed hills
and shine with a light
that is veiled and dust-filled
and that floats upon the fields,
my mother, with her hair in a bun,
her face in shadow, and the smoke
from her cigarette coiling close
to the faint yellow sheen of her dress,
stands near the house
and watches the seepage of late light
down through the sedges,
the last gray islands of cloud
taken from view, and the wind
ruffling the moon's ash-colored coat
on the black bay.

2.
Soon the house, with its shades drawn closed, will send
small carpets of lampglow
into the haze and the bay
will begin its loud heaving
and the pines, frayed finials
climbing the hill, will seem to graze
the dim cinders of heaven.
And my mother will stare into the starlanes,
the endless tunnels of nothing,
and as she gazes,
under the hour's spell,
she will think how we yield each night
to the soundless storms of decay
that tear at the folding flesh,
and she will not know
why she is here
or what she is prisoner of
if not the conditions of love that brought her to this.

3.
My mother will go indoors
and the fields, the bare stones
will drift in peace, small creatures --
the mouse and the swift -- will sleep
at opposite ends of the house.
Only the cricket will be up,
repeating its one shrill note
to the rotten boards of the porch,
to the rusted screens, to the air, to the rimless dark,
to the sea that keeps to itself.
Why should my mother awake?
The earth is not yet a garden
about to be turned. The stars
are not yet bells that ring
at night for the lost.

Mark Strand is someone who often works overtime to make the small things he chooses to write about into subjects that are poetically overpowering. Though he wouldn't be guilty of some fever pitched overwriting that makes the work of Nobel Prize Winner Derek Walcott seem like a riotous thicket of over simile’d  commonplaces--it has been said that the prize winner has never met a qualifier he didn't fall in love with and promise a home to--Strand has always seemed to fall just short of adding an item too many to his verses.

He does have a leaner, more genuinely lyric movement than does Walcott, whom I find more ornate than satisfying. Strand , to his credit , doesn't obscure the emotion nor the place from which is figurative language is inspired, arch as it occasionally reads. Walcott the poet, the world traveler, the cultivated Other in the presence of an Imperial Culture, reads like someone how is trying to have an experience. Strand convinces you that he has had one, indeed, but that he over estimates the measure of words to their finessed narrative.

That said, I like this, in that Strand trusts what his eyes sees, a series of things his mother was doing in a wonderfully framed triptych that might have been conveyed by Andrew Wyeth. It is a little idealized--the lyric spirit is not interested in the precise qualifier, but that adjective or verb , that rather, that both makes the image more musical and reveals some commonly felt impression about the objects in the frame--but Strand here has a relaxed confidence that is very effective. Brush strokes, we could say, both
impressionistic and yet exact.

Soon the house, with its shades drawn closed, will send
small carpets of lampglow
into the haze and the bay
will begin its loud heaving
and the pines, frayed finials
climbing the hill, will seem to graze
the dim cinders of heaven.
And my mother will stare into the starlanes,
the endless tunnels of nothing,
and as she gazes,
under the hour's spell,
she will think how we yield each night
to the soundless storms of decay
that tear at the folding flesh,
and she will not know
why she is here
or what she is prisoner of
if not the conditions of love that brought her to this.

This is the image of someone going about there daily chores and fulfilling their obligations thinking they are out anyone else's view, or better, the agenda of someone who hasn't interest in impressing any set of prying eyes. The mother seems less a figure in solitude than she does to contain solitude itself, comfortable and with intimate knowledge of the grain of the wood the floor is made of, the smell of the changing weather, the different pitches of silence and what the nuances of small sounds forecast for that evening and the following day. Most of all, this is about watching the world, the smallest world , both grow up, grow old, become frail and die, finally, aware of the seamlessness of going about one's tasks and the preparation for the end. This is a poem about preparation, I think; we, like the Mother, come to a point in their life when the gravity of things are finally felt through accumulated experience, as one's responsibilities have been added too over the years, and one develops a sense that what one does isn't so much about setting ourselves up for the rest of our lives, but rather in preparing the ground for what comes next, who comes next.

Somewhere in the work , toil , the bothersome details we get to rest and earn an extra couple of hours to keep our eyes close. The change happens slowly, unperceived, but it does happen, and the planet is a constant state of becoming, of change, and what changes too are the metaphors one would use to determine their next indicated jobs.

Why should my mother awake?
The earth is not yet a garden
about to be turned. The stars
are not yet bells that ring
at night for the lost.

It is much too late.