Friday, October 31, 2014

art and other transformative endeavors

each time i make something and put it out into the world it feels like an exposure, an exciting mortal flash, as though the essential parts of me have been borne, the titillating, the wide smooth parts with ghost-like muscles moving upon them, little black humped waves, the kiss-me parts, the parts with eyelashes which open and with eyes that look deeply into your soul. but there is a line that can be crossed, that is crossed, whereupon one becomes unwittingly too naked, naked as a whale's eye, as sad, as exposed as the whole wide and breathing ocean.

Thursday, October 30, 2014


Throw up the mind -
you are falling 
from the rooftop of history,
your nightgown fluttering.

The two tendril white cords 
you like to draw together 
around your neck
are flailing like arms unfettered,

while your arms themselves 
ease out
into space-full 

for even in their calf-thick tonguedness,
your arms, your body
has always been brighter
than your costume.

It has known for centuries
what your pretense can never know -
that your pretense is but a match,
an infantile magnesium burst struck and sputtering out,

and that your body is instead 
the amaranthine light 
that plants susurrate 

   ceaselessly   feverishly   toward nighttime.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

the coming cold does prick

huddled inside from autumn's
prescient wind and lengthening
lingering threatening shadows 
karin, let's say
lights candles, coddles fire
pathetic fallacy is   pathetic ... fallacy
winter this way does come
its bold blast of entrance through
not some external door
but the small door inside we batten
always two nails short of task
and lumber cross-bar rotten

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

story, iii

i drove the nose of my car up onto the sidewalk where the group was loosely assembled. again i was on the wrong side of the road. i believed my insertion would be enough to disperse the bodies and end the violent situation. i believed a witness was powerful, wielded power.

my presence did nothing. and yet i could not believe this.

it is difficult to remember. but it is not only time which causes my lapse in memory. it was difficult to conceive of even as it unfolded, difficult to recount to myself or to others some moments later.

there were bodies mulling about, the men seeming a little lost, a little accidental, the other women now mostly quiet. they were uninvolved, and it seemed - unaffected, but sentinels marking this ground as their ground, claiming it. the woman who was perpetrating the violence was a very striking woman, perhaps in her late forties, shapely, short (enviable - it looked good) jean jacket, tight jeans, her black hair up in a long pony tail, large hooped silver earrings. i didn't think it actively but yet there was the thought inside my visual interpretation of the scene of how she could so easily be a model, a representative of her culture. she had a strong proud jaw. she drew her arm back and punched the other young woman again in the face.

in the real world when one person punches another Newton's laws are not as evident as in the movies, a thing does not move in equal proportion to the force laid against it. the thick dumb body of the young woman simply accepted the force into her flesh, barely moved with or against it. did i see her punched in the face? i did. a few times. she made no discernible sounds.

and then she was down on the ground, her hands up to protect her face from the blows she had already received.

the windows were down in my car. i shouted out to them, a voice of reason, come on guys, stop this! i was like a chihuahua yapping, i guess. no one paid me much mind, except a few straggling guys who eyed me, one who put his arm upon my passenger side window eventually as though he were casually chatting.  i yelled again louder, trying to insert a deeper reason into my voice, authority. i shouted again and again, at first asking for the violence to stop and then pleading for someone to intervene. surely, with no doubt, they all knew one another. they must be invested. they must care.

in moments i had hope that i did have influence. the strong woman would reel back and turn. the other women would crowd around her and settle like birds on a wire. the stricken woman would have a moment's peace to her body. but then for no reason that i could ascertain the strong woman would stomp like a wrestler, throw her pony tail back like a headdress, and clomp toward the body on the sidewalk. as the young woman's hands were up protecting her face the other woman started kicking her with such force. over and over into her stomach.

jesusgod i screamed now! jesusgod, stop this!!! somebody, help her!

i sat in my car. i yelled.

my children were two blocks away in our house which sits on the sidewalk a stone's throw away from the bridge which connects "our" community to "their" community, exposed on the sidewalk through the front windows which many of these same people walk by daily, drunk, high, unemployed, hopeless, and sometimes happy, sometimes with groceries, sometimes in camaraderie. sometimes simply alone.  my children playing their games or watching television, perhaps wondering where i was and what i would make for dinner, right there through those windows. nothing shielding them. so little protecting them.

there is no such thing as anonymity in this town.

she kicked the young woman so hard. i could not imagine the pain. i could only think past what pain must be felt, toward the idea that critical damage, maybe irreparable damage, was being inflicted upon a person by another person. right now. in front of me.

i screamed more. oh, and laid on my horn. blasted it over and over.

nothing changed.

cars drove past us on the road.

it is difficult to admit but i thought about this as it began to happen. i thought about crying. it is true that at the same time i was also crying, but i thought about it strategically, as a kind of force, an interruption in what was happening, a plea or pry to change the situation. and so i cried from a deep place in me and i cried from my mind too, and i begged. i begged and begged and begged, someone! someone please help her! jesusgod, fucking christ, someone!

this is when the young man came to my window. he leaned on his elbow and hooked one foot around his other leg. there was great effort involved in his balancing.

my mind was under assault. she's a fucking human being!!! i pleaded loudest. i repeated. believing this must mean something to someone. this must be the leverage i was searching for. it was indisputable!

the bold brave determined woman with the beautiful silver hooped earrings was now on the sidewalk on her knee near the belly of the other woman. she was inserting her fist over and over again into the soft midsection. i was not sure if she had a knife or not. while on the one hand i could not believe, could not allow myself to concede, that a person was being stabbed near all of us just like this, just now, i realized that it could very well be true, that real violence is dramatic and undramatic, is extraordinary and yet ordinary.

i begged the young man at my window. i begged him anything and everything.

but he only hung there casually eying the interior of my car, clearly marking where my purse was, noting my body, maybe how fast i was, was it worth taking the chance of grabbing my purse and running?  his eyes rolled slowly. they were dull. he was intoxicated. on something. he purred at me to make me quiet. he said, shhhhhh. it's ok. it's ok. my shouting grew quiet and folded itself into my crying. he repeated, it's ok. it's only her mother. it's ok. it's family. 

his eyes raised toward mine. we were silent for a moment.

i was thinking - her mother! a mother was doing this to her daughter!!!!

i thought of my own blessed daughter's body.

and i was also thinking, you take my fucking purse and i'll catch you, you fucker!

and then he opened his mouth and asked the impossible, do you think you can help us out with a few dollars for pizza?

the mother was now standing and stomping around inside the small crowd of uncommitted bystanders, friends, family, members of her community, our community. the girl on the sidewalk was unmoving. i did not know if she was alive. the dull young man, almost bored at my window, could not believe i was not giving him money, not helping them.

the inertia of the situation was too large for me. i could have no effect on any of this.

i pulled away and drove the two blocks home quickly. parked my car and ran inside.

9-1-1 was surreal. they seemed to ask all the wrong questions and with the wrong emphasis. i blubbered like a baby and they too seemed entirely unaffected by me. the information that passed between us seemed ordinary, perfunctory.

this small act behind me, the calling of the authorities, seemed as real as any possible leverage i could wield, yet so obviously and insufferably insufficient.

it did not occur to me that there would be a period of time afterward when authorities would not be present.

i stood in my kitchen crying, shaking, my body threatening to be sick. this something foreign that i had witnessed needed to move out of me beyond my insides. i threatened to vomit.  my house looked terribly ordinary. this was so offensive. my children were hungry but quiet.

it was only at this time that it occurred to me as an opportunity that had not occurred to me before - that i had not thrown my body over the young woman's. was my inaction better or worse than the truth that the very idea of it was only just now being born?

it was ten minutes later that i saw an OPP cruiser cross over the bridge into town with a Reserve cruiser behind it. neither was going fast. neither had their lights on.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

story, ii

one night after work i stopped at the post office to get my mail. as can happen in this small town which doesn't have a police force, i pulled up on the left side of the street, illegally parked my car as most people do here, jumped out and went into the post office to retrieve my mail from my allotted box inside the office. coming out i noticed down the street in the direction i was to go in the group of native folks who most days sit on the steps of an abandoned building. i pass them often, saying hello, shyly making eye contact and carrying on my way always aware of and conflicted by the complex set of circumstances that have brought them to these steps and keep them there. i do not judge them. i feel for them and wonder who i might have become if i had been born into their community. this day though it was unusual for i noticed that there were women present. usually it is mostly men.

it took only long enough for me to formulate the thought, this is unusual, before the situation, which so often is without incident, became something else. there were perhaps three or four women present. maybe five or six men. one woman stepped toward another. the word "bitch" rang out. and then one woman's strong arm was extended directly into the face of another. jeering began but only among the women. maybe moans from the men. then more blows were landed upon the body of what seemed like the smaller woman. i jumped into my car and quickly raced the block to where the group was loosely assembled.

i will try my best not to embellish, to only tell the truth, which is much harder than i might have imagined...

Saturday, October 25, 2014

story, i

perhaps now more than ever it is time to tell the story of what i witnessed, which is not my story or one story but the story, unfortunately repeated over and over. i'll not defend or explain my actions (but already under the story a motor begins to work in me that wants to do just this and so i will try to suppress it), only tell my futile (?) place inside it. i would like it to not be about race, and it is not, but it is also, as each story is about our inclusion, our exclusion, our trying to be alive for a moment...

Thursday, October 23, 2014

light and shadow, ii

but it is not so easily understood. it is not neat or simple. it is a fire burned down low, heat, but enduring soot and ash, and the threat of extinction. the forest is not good or bad, but both, or neither, only good and bad in our relationship to it. and so it is with man. we must go to each for sustenance, for survival, and we must retreat from each for the same reasons.

yesterday while driving to work i thought about this, this interplay, this balance between the necessity of solitude in the natural world and the absolute necessity of community, compassion and communion between people. i jotted down words like boon and benison, forfeit and scarcity. our reality is always adjusting itself. life's equation works itself out through us.

and then, of course, the terror in ottawa (but i hesitate to use the word terror; i use it only in repetition, parroting what has been said, for in spite of the unfortunate death of one man and the terrorizing of many, we do not, in scale, live the terror of the too many).

but what was true for me in whitman's "i sing the body electric" remains true. at no point can we afford to cast aside the necessity of drawing together with other men, especially in times of fear, for despite our differences, we are always alike in more ways than different.
I have perceiv’d that to be with those I like is enough, 
To stop in company with the rest at evening is enough,
To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh is enough,
To pass among them, or touch any one, or rest my arm ever so lightly round his or her neck for a moment—what is this, then?
I do not ask any more delight—I swim in it, as in a sea.
There is something in staying close to men and women, and looking on them, and in the contact and odor of them, that pleases the soul well; 
All things please the soul—but these please the soul well.

as i haul my trash to the curb this morning a woman is walking along the sidewalk toward me. i know her. i've known her for thirty years. we skipped class in high school together way back when and walked the rises and valleys of a temporarily deserted golf course together, we then relatively poor (and still), the beauty and irony of us owning for a moment such a barren vista of the rich on a frost encrusted morning not lost on us then, even at fourteen. we plodded along then separated from the world and remaining so in many ways. one of the last times i spent time with her, perhaps five years ago (and with many years in between), i told her that i loved her, not because i was actively in love with her, but because very plainly who and how she was in the world, i loved, like a friend and like a stranger. since then we've only waved, said cordial niceties, and made on our own ways through the world inside this small town where our own two children now brush against one another in town and at that same high school we sometimes submitted ourselves to. sometimes this kind of love, this kind of brotherhood, is, or has to be - enough. we afford one another berth for individual differences, strange and personal interpretations and articulations of this world, but in a heartbeat we'd draw near to offer help or shelter.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

light and shadow, a walk

last night, after another unfortunate day of carefully calibrating efforts and animal eye watching, engaged in the dehumanizing leveraging of being a person at work among other people (how is it that to be with people is too often to be dehumanized but to be in the woods is to be restored?), i walked through the woods. the first bitter cold night of the year. my winter coat on, a scarf, a hat, gloves, and still i was cold. i walked slowly, glad to be close to things, but it was with effort that i poured my body into the deepest folds of my clothing in an attempt to stay warm. i was full of yearning. i want to be here, i longed. passing, i touched the last leaves holding to the oak trees, a few beech.

at the second bridge i happened upon my husband who was also walking through the woods but from the opposite direction. we came together in the middle of the bridge. we exchanged few words. we drew close and i asked to draw closer, warm my face. he put his hands upon my cheeks and we kissed, our kiss almost without motion. we breathed through one another. and then we continued on in our own directions.

i met the moss on the tree and took the tree full into my arms, laid my face onto her side. she was dry today and slightly abrasive but i laughed for she smelled so good.

as i walked a sentence moved in me but i wasn't sure what it was. it had a torso and momentum but i don't think it had legs. it was more a pneumatic movement. i tested again, i want to be here. i watched my footing over roots and rocks as my eyesight failed. the forest was darkening, the sun setting. although the sentence was uttered like a fist to a table it was not quite right and so again, searching, so badly i want to love.

i stopped at a small oak tree. really it was rather comical. it was only about two feet tall but it had unfolded over the course of spring and summer the largest leaves possible. i bent down to it and put my face to one of the leaves. it cradled my face and my face cradled the leaf and i struggled, But - i do want to love.

and then i questioned, is it that i want to love or that i do love? and is my love that thing which moves with me through everything? is love itself the thing with momentum? is love the thing which gives us the opportunity to be here, the ability of presence?

the next rise, the one after the scrambling of footing on loose stone, vertical. up further over the horizon, now dark, the aspen. i looked up. the sun was low now. i could not see it. it was beyond the river, the woods, beyond the road beside the woods, beyond the graveyards. yet the tops of the aspens shone. they shone! looking up i felt light on my face despite being so far below, deep in shadow.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

news from the front must consider what's happened in the rear

we awoke to the colonel whacking us hard on the black toes of our boots.
it was to be another day of steady assaults, onward, forward, progression:
toil gear ballast weight blast ascension -
every step we took upward, toward the crest of the hill, after breakfast,
mandated by the State of the World,
the hand written memo sent down years ago,
the dictator - god,
the transcriber - dyslexic.


at each point we must decide our articulation of the world. to decide now is to necessarily consider the beginning.


there's a place in the woods where i run, where one winter a few years ago five slender evergreens fell and were covered in a blanket of deep snow. in my conscious mind i don't know why, but unconsciously i think of these trees as jesus christ.

today i run by this place and reflect on the trees, countable, and somehow below my consciousness, uncountable.

"sacrificed" himself or his son, or "surrendered" -

sacrifice, a severed action. surrender, throwing ones arms up and entering, further, the flow. i think right here, this far back, we have disserviced ourselves. right here we began speaking a language (whether we're christian or not) that presupposes an approach to life that will ultimately fail. do we concede that we are outside of ourselves, outside of one another, outside of the world? do we continue to rive, or do we recognize our connectedness and engage in the ultimate act which would free everything and everyone, which would mend us all, surrender? 

it is a question, not an answer, for while my mind can see the answer, i fail at living it in all of its aspects. how might i ask it of the world if i fail it in myself?

Monday, October 20, 2014

with our hands together like this for prayer we create the gesture of a shelter, the church itself

can one get any higher in this life than to have the body work, to have the arms respond to weight, to have the legs carry the mind in strides across streets, surprising the mind in their capable length and boundless momentum, to have the flesh work like a proud rooster well above some sinking line, scratching itself against stone, to have the skin bow her damaged face and spill a blister, to have the eyes squint from the sun or from the cold, loving themselves so entirely as to want to preserve themselves, to have the heart quicken in fear and to have the body whiten also in fear, at first at the acquiescence of contact with the hard world, but then the body's own hardening, bruising, becoming dark against and then into like a stubborn shoulder pressing in exertion, and then the pressing of the body altering the course of the world, the body in the end being altered back, this point of convergence the christening, to have the stomach ache, to hope, its point of voiddom desiring the opportunity to form around a point of what is real, and to reward the stomach with alms, with tokens, to have it briefly sated like a lady beneath a tree on a hill, then to have it stand again, to have the cock rush hard with desire, or the walls of the vagina to flood with anticipation, to have the body shoot itself forward into the loving arms of void to beget more flesh, or even for the body to take a good shit, we have to reason, the body moving the world through itself, shedding stuff to make room for more moments, even this a miraculous concession. what have you to seek in this life outside the body? even the mind springs forth from her, every word, every idea. this is your imagination's house. without her you are lost, you are homeless, an atheist without even the contrary religion of "no." without her you are what's out there - the stone's deafening silence.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

from the root of man's being i dream most voraciously

somewhere between the blessing and cursing, to live as sharply perceived as any ripe sentence in wallace stegner's short story "Genesis" would be akin to living a life well-lived according to jeffers or faulkner. or even me.

"On those miraculously beautiful and murderously cold nights glittering with the green and blue darts from a sky like polished dark metal, when the moon was dark, leaving the hollow heavens to the stars and the overflowing cold light of the Aurora, he thought he had moments of the clearest vision and saw himself plain in a universe simple, callous, and magnificent. In every direction from their pallid soapbubble of shelter the snow spread; here and there the implacable plain glinted back a spark- the beam of a cold star reflected in a crystal of ice."

Saturday, October 18, 2014

anyone's history might be heavier than we can imagine

"i don't want any of it," she says so quickly, closing her door and returning to her teenaged bed, the box wet, stored for years in the shed between the characters she's been and is: photos of a child beaming, a silver spoon once for digging with a raw and jagged edge, a silver baby cup, small boxes of figurines and keepsakes, a small notebook with a warning scrawled on the cover, inside: "everyone blames me, everyone hates me," the large print words her own indictment, self prescribed, world proven. the tiniest package i unravel, its weightlessness and weight nearly break me. protected inside balled up foolscap - two needles with large eyelet holes, one spool of white thread.

a crow flies through october rain because that's what crows do, and commuters commute

the October rain comes in hard, cold and unforgiving
digging her spurs into the dark haunches of the night horse month 
which trembles at the oncoming steadfast serrated crest of winter

as i drive past a field at the head of a row, a farmer kneels 
and palms some soil, handling the rain-soft sill, world's skin of the beloved
divining something mysterious but known to him as easily as body

further on another man opens the door to his truck parked along the railroad tracks
as though he's not noticed one drop of rain anywhere or anywhen, and leverages 
a rusted iron pole to the steel tracks, angled and weighted; inscrutable, to me, his work's intent

then the native lady through the grey, her form as patient as an advancing arm of a Newton's Cradle 
who has walked 17 for twenty years or more, first alone, then with child, then adolescent, 
and then young woman; now walks alone, sodden, greying, between the two towns again

a flagman flares his sign at me, then waves it, lulls me into a temporary standstill
his wings tucked behind his shoulders, tethered and bulked beneath his ragged rain gear
his face flashing no emotion, only wearing the rutted rugged fact of work

Jeffers said of old Tom Birnam
no thought nor emotion spoken more complicated than all his ancestor's 
a good life lived beneath sky with horses, hunting and cattle

as we lean forward on our commutes from a to b
embroiled in our fight to keep our windshields clean
by the force of some button or mechanized lever.

(*17 is the trans-Canada highway)


The Wind-Struck Music by Robinson Jeffers

 Ed Stiles and old Tom Birnam went up to their cattle on the
     bare hills
Above Mal Paso; they'd ridden under the stars' white death,
     when they reached the ridge the huge tiger-lily
Of a certain cloud-lapped astonishing autumn sunrise opened all
     its petals. Ed Stiles pulled in his horse,
That flashy palamino he rode cream-color, heavy white mane,
     white tail, his pride-and said
"Look, Tom. My God. Ain't that a beautiful sunrise?" Birnam
     drew down his mouth, set the hard old chin,
And whined: "Now, Ed: listen here: I haven't an ounce of
     poetry in all my body. It's cows we're after."
Ed laughed and followed; they began to sort the heifers out of
     the herd. One red little deer-legged creature
Rolled her wild eyes and ran away down the hill, the old man
     hard after her. She ran through a deep-cut gully,
And Birnam's piebald would have made a clean jump but the
     clay lip
Crumbled under his take-off, he slipped and
Spilled in the pit, flailed with four hooves and came out scram-
      bling. Stiles saw them vanish,
Then the pawing horse and the flapping stirrups. He rode and
     looked down and saw the old man in the gulley-bottom
Flat on his back, most grimly gazing up at the sky. He saw the
     earth banks, the sparse white grass,
The strong dark sea a thousand feet down below, red with reflec-
     tions of clouds. He said "My God,
Tom, are you hurt?" Who answered slowly, "No, Ed.
I'm only lying here thinking o' my four sons" biting the words
Carefully between his lips "big handsome men, at present lolling
     in bed in their . . . silk . . . pyjamas . . .
And why the devil I keep on working?" He stood up slowly and
     wiped the dirt from his cheek, groaned, spat,
And climbed up the clay bank. Stiles laughed: "Tom, I can't tell
     you: I guess you like to. By God I guess
You like the sunrises." The old man growled in his throat and
     said "Catch me my horse."

                    This old man died last winter, having
lived eighty-one years under open sky,
Concerned with cattle, horses and hunting, no thought nor emo-
     tion that all his ancestors since the ice-age
Could not have comprehended. I call that a good life; narrow,
     but vastly better than most
Men's lives, and beyond comparison more beautiful; the wind-
     struck music man's bones were moulded to be the harp for.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

while listening to an interview with Eshleman about one of his life's work, Vallejo

every time i hear of a man stepping forward toward the line, bravely, with passionate chest, without fear of consequence, i hear in the wings the sympathetic sentiment, ah, before the higher action - wait! before the feat, we understand, he must provide dinner!

my dear listening ears, come closer. you dear sympathetic and coiffed crowd, this is no play. no one is playing at anything. it is simply not possible. dear people in your seats, seals who prefer to bark to slinking through the grommets of ice which beg your body to tunnels which lead to god knows where, you who do not wish to dare the fish who might get away - you must learn to thrust your dinner from your mind and let it dwell in the dark corridors of your body where it belongs. live hungry. and then, live hungrier. to what dark depths does your mind now travel?

(Eshleman's book of Vallejo translations is one of the most important books i've encountered, as is Eshleman's passion about understanding the world. the interview i listened to can be heard here, although, sadly, it provides little insight.)

Monday, October 13, 2014


we are held right here in the cradle of these two truths, life formidable gift (connected) and life terrible benign indifference (isolated), as though we sit upon some terrible beast holding both horns, riding dangerously into tomorrow.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

because we're not dead yet

::New (Soma)tics::
by CAConrad


Introduction to (Soma)tic Poetry Exercises...

I cannot stress enough how much this mechanistic world, as it becomes more and more efficient,
resulting in ever increasing brutality, has required me to FIND MY BODY to FIND MY PLANET in
order to find my poetry. If I am an extension of this world then I am an extension of garbage, shit,
pesticides, bombed and smoldering cities, microchips, cyber, astral and biological pollution, BUT
ALSO the beauty of a patch of unspoiled sand, all that croaks from the mud, talons on the cliff that
take rock and silt so seriously flying over the spectacle for a closer examination is nothing short of
necessary. The most idle looking pebble will suddenly match any hunger, any rage. Suddenly, and will be realized at no other speed than suddenly.

(Soma)tic poetry is a praxis I've developed to more fully engage the everyday through writing. Soma
is an Indo-Persian word which means "the divine." Somatic is Greek. Its meaning translates as "the
tissue", or "nervous system." The goal is to coalesce soma and somatic, while triangulating patterns of experience with the world around us. Experiences that are unorthodox steps in the writing process
can shift the poet's perception of the quotidian, if only for a series of moments. This offers an
opportunity to see the details clearer. Through music, dirt, food, scent, taste, in storms, in bed, on the
subway and at the grocery store, (Soma)tic exercises and the poems that result are just waiting to be
utilized or invented, everywhere, and anytime.

The last large wild beasts are being hunted, poisoned, asphyxiated in one way or another, and the
transmission of their wildness is dying, taming. A desert is rising with this falling pulse. It is our duty
as poets and others who have not lost our jagged, creative edges to FILL that gap, and RESIST the
urge to subdue our spirits and lose ourselves in the hypnotic beep of machines, of war, and the banal
need for power, and things. With our poems and creative core, we must RETURN THIS WORLD to its seismic levels of wildness.

The aim of (Soma)tic poetry and poetics is the realization of two things about my work: (1) Everything around me has a creative viability with the potential to spur new modes of thought and imaginative output. (2) The most vital ingredient to bringing sustainable, humane changes to our world is creativity.

This can be enacted on a daily basis.

It's ALL Collaboration. Anyone who ever fed you, loved you, anyone who ever made you feel
unworthy, stupid, ugly, everyone who made you express doubt or assuredness, everyone of these
helped make you. Those who learn to speak with authority to mask their own self-loathing, those may
be the deepest influences on us. But they are part of us. And we have each fit together uniquely as a
result, and so there are no misshapen forms as all are misshapen forms: from tyrants to wallflowers.
Every poem written is filtered through the circumstances of the poet, through the diet of the poet. Just
as unique is every reader of poems, for a thousand different readers makes a thousand different
poems. We are here relying on one another whether or not we wish it. There are no poets writing in
quiet caves because every poet is a human being as misshapen as any other human being. The
room can be as quiet as possible, earplugs can be administered, but the poet still has a parade of
influence running inside from one ear to the other. The quiet room cannot blot them out, it can
however help the poet listen closer to the music of their own creation. We are not alone in our
particular stew of molecules and the sooner we admit, even admire the influence of this world the freer we will be to construct new chords of thought without fear.
(forgive the spacing which i did not correct. this appears as prose in his book, which i look forward to reading in its entirety.)

Friday, October 10, 2014

death of the penumbra, man

it was an unprecedented state of mind. i think it would be safe to say it was beyond the realm of imagining. somehow a mechanism worked inside of me (logic?) that propelled me to the other side of a world which man existed inside. it was the first day that ebola had arrived in america, although i don't want to sentimentalize this north american population. it had been brewing in me with all of our colourful and diversified destructions every day of my life and the history i had brushed against in each ramified moment.

one foot. one step. and i crossed a barrier i didn't know existed. how could i, i born of this human state of consciousness? how might it be possible to imagine beyond?

one foot. one step. and i broached imagining and i knew it. it settled into me like stone must settle into time.

eliminated from my blood was every sentimentalization, every abstraction.

with these eyes, which originate at the place of self (which betrays my stake in things), i could see it. systematically. simply. a world with no man.

my other foot. another step. i walked on. looking.

the world. the world unimbued. simply the world. the incredible world which i love, but without mind raising it, without mind loving it. river through rock. trees growing upwards. foxes trotting and living and killing and sleeping. what it is now. but only world. cold. undescribed.

i was in the woods and yet i understood there was only the woods. i tried to love it. but i didn't exist any more. and so?

only the world.

how surprised i was to grieve. and yet i did. i grieved for the absence of adjective to cradle the thing again. i walked and a cold patience occupied every inch of me.

but not every inch. not yet. i suppose it was only the action of occupation which left room in me for grief. it wasn't total annihilation - yet. the advance was the slow dying. the sorrow was only the shadow before the thing dissolved and there were only things themselves remaining.

no more man. more more sorrow. no more cries of awe.

how sad i was. how impersonal the world. the forest, my chosen home, a cavern, a statement with not one question left, only final and enduring pronouncement.

it was a good long walk of nothing. nothing to say. nothing to describe. only icy blood. and an absence of time.

and then, as i walked, as the leaves floated downward,  one darted upward.

but it wasn't a leaf. it was a bird.

misunderstanding? understanding? what did i know?

without meaning to, i sniggered.

and the cold sun of autumn seemed to shine around the padding of fox feet which must have existed in many places, no matter how distant. and a crow circled overhead, with no language but fine, so fine, so tailored. what did anyone have to add?

and then, as the world shows itself, and even shows us if we pay attention, as i neared the river and as the river swallowed up my sound, before me on the unpeopled trail stood a porcupine. a porcupine. standing as high as he could on his two rear legs. a porcupine never seen here before in my decade or more of walking. taking his place on two legs on the trail, the trail where no human would ever be again.

i crouched low and watched him.

i weep now to think of him, how perfect, how delicate, what mystery it was that he knew to nibble. how intimately he stroked the tiny pine. how time broke upon this simple bodily communion. the body of the porcupine was engaged in the act of cherishing the world. i was entranced. i was heartened. the world was not cold, although that too. what did the porcupine need me for? to tell him he made love with october?

after he investigated each invisible sweetness he lowered himself like a careful millipede after extension. and he huddled off across the bridge. to stop again, there, on the other side at a new plant and taste a taste we will never know enough to label.

a world with man. a world without. the world.

how, or is it why, do we squander, not only the earth, and not only each other, but the opportunity to cherish this consciousness, to touch each thing with body and mind with love, love in all of its varied forms, for surely each poem, each photograph, each act of art, and each act of conversion in nature: crops, animal husbandry, reproduction, even simply enduring (sustaining the body) within the confines of time unfolding in this multifarious world (time, which opens potential), is our opportunity to touch, to interact within this, divine or fortuitous (it hardly matters), possibility.


afterwards, that evening, as the world gave the leaf as bird and the porcupine's intimate being on two legs, i came upon and read, for the first time, robinson jeffers':

Shine, Perishing Republic

While this America settles in the mould of its vulgarity, heav-
   ily thickening to empire,
And protest, only a bubble in the molten mass, pops and sighs out, 

   and the mass hardens,

I sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make fruit, the 
   fruit rots to make earth.
Out of the mother; and through the spring exultances, ripeness 

   and decadence; and home to the mother.
You making haste haste on decay: not blameworthy; life is good, 
   be it stubbornly long or suddenly
A mortal splendor: meteors are not needed less than mountains: 

   shine, perishing republic.
But for my children, I would have them keep their distance from 
   the thickening center; corruption
Never has been compulsory, when the cities lie at the monster’s 

   feet there are left the mountains.

And boys, be in nothing so moderate as in love of man, a clever 
   servant, insufferable master.
There is the trap that catches noblest spirits, that caught -they 

   say - ­ God, when he walked on Earth.

Autumn Evening

Though the little clouds ran southward still, the quiet autumnal
Cool of the late September evening
Seemed promising rain, rain, the change of the year, the angel  
Of the sad forest. A heron flew over  
With that remote ridiculous cry, "Quawk," the cry
That seems to make silence more silent. A dozen  
Flops of the wing, a drooping glide, at the end of the glide
The cry, and a dozen flops of the wing.  
I watched him pass on the autumn-colored sky; beyond him
Jupiter shone for evening star.  
The sea's voice worked into my mood, I thought "No matter
What happens to men . . . the world's well made though."

Love The Wild Swan 

"I hate my verses, every line, every word.
Oh pale and brittle pencils ever to try
One grass-blade's curve, or the throat of one bird
That clings to twig, ruffled against white sky.
Oh cracked and twilight mirrors ever to catch
One color, one glinting flash, of the splendor of things.
Unlucky hunter, Oh bullets of wax,
The lion beauty, the wild-swan wings, the storm of the wings."
--This wild swan of a world is no hunter's game.
Better bullets than yours would miss the white breast,
Better mirrors than yours would crack in the flame.
Does it matter whether you hate your . . . self? At least 

Love your eyes that can see, your mind that can
Hear the music, the thunder of the wings. Love the wild swan.

Though the little clouds ran southward still, the quiet autumnal
Cool of the late September evening
Seemed promising rain, rain, the change of the year, the angel
Of the sad forest. A heron flew over
With that remote ridiculous cry, "Quawk," the cry
That seems to make silence more silent. A dozen
Flops of the wing, a drooping glide, at the end of the glide
The cry, and a dozen flops of the wing.
I watched him pass on the autumn-colored sky; beyond him
Jupiter shone for evening star.
The sea's voice worked into my mood, I thought "No matter
What happens to men . . . the world's well made though." - See more at:
Though the little clouds ran southward still, the quiet autumnal
Cool of the late September evening
Seemed promising rain, rain, the change of the year, the angel
Of the sad forest. A heron flew over
With that remote ridiculous cry, "Quawk," the cry
That seems to make silence more silent. A dozen
Flops of the wing, a drooping glide, at the end of the glide
The cry, and a dozen flops of the wing.
I watched him pass on the autumn-colored sky; beyond him
Jupiter shone for evening star.
The sea's voice worked into my mood, I thought "No matter
What happens to men . . . the world's well made though." - See more at:

Thursday, October 9, 2014


an important memory 
snow hill, dead center town
under streetlight even
every adult reasonably surrendered to safe conditions
tv, lamp glow, book, couch, whatever
but we four cocked
steadily stealthily ascending
paws metal traps and eyes silver
down! we shouted, down! we threw
no they: only us and us: no them
and we each time laughing
howling to dominance
howling through violence
howling with terror and glee
each sore spot on the body hard won
earning, not mind, but the muscle's work
never closer to my beloved friends
(and me not knowing the word yet)
laying my hands upon them, spiritual knowledge
or they upon me, empirical carnage
casting them out, or taking them in

snow hill in december
wet, tired


i struggle to understand what it must be to be fourteen. i have no idea. i can barely know myself today, never mind thirty years ago. but my daughter, in high school now, was given as an assignment to pick an important memory. she picked this time from only a year ago. she, with so many control issues, picked this night when no adult existed, when she and her friends engaged in the struggle we're all engaged in, but in a world emptied of everything and everyone else.

she came to me upstairs as i sat alone on my bed and asked, how do you think this shaped me? why was this important?

shyly, for she frightens me with her power of rejection, i offered her the word microcosm

she said very little, thought for a moment quietly, then left me there alone, but for one of the rare times without having thrown me any great distance.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

isn't it wonderful

gather, all of you, over there 
gather 'round the dull glow of heart-full
tuck your toes well beneath the blankets
baton the windows, double check the latches
ignore the tremors set into air to rattle you
outside the crows all-day midnight frolic
squalling, saying it simply, as it is, this world

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

leaf pile

so many brindled layers
impossible to imagine 
remember? is that different?
these arms which were once virgin
these legs which only knew momentum
what did it really feel like we were running toward?
already we knew the earth beneath was hard
yet we lifted our legs and trusted - what?
we sailed through the air
my brother and me   our eyes locked 
a common miasma denied   leaf rot     
childhood - where did we get it?
but no matter how hard we hit the ground
we laughed
got up
did it again

Monday, October 6, 2014

how to save the world (again)

redefine progress.

in order to redefine progress we must imagine, not from this moment but from the seed of this moment and into the future; we must write a sustainable (wise - huh...) mythology for all of us. otherwise it is only suicide, murder and destruction.

if we can manage the change then it is life and death and all the joy infused and common happenstance that comes in between.


Your hand in mine, we walk out
To watch the Christmas Eve crowds
On Fillmore Street, the Negro 
District. The night is thick with
Frost. The people hurry, wreathed
In their smoky breaths. Before
The shop windows the children
Jump up and down with spangled
Eyes. Santa Clauses ring bells,
Cars stall and honk. Streetcars clang.
Loud speakers on the lampposts
Sing carols, on juke boxes
In the bars Louis Armstrong
Plays “White Christmas.” In the joints
The girls strip and grind and bump
To “Jingle Bells.” Overhead
The neon signs scribble and
Erase and scribble again
Messages of avarice,
Joy, fear, hygiene, and the proud
Names of the middle classes.
The moon beams like a pudding.
We stop at the main corner
And look up, diagonally
Across, at the rising moon,
And the solemn, orderly
Vast winter constellations.
You say, “There’s Orion!”
The most beautiful object
Either of us will ever
Know in the world or in life
Stands in the moonlit empty
Heavens, over the swarming
Men, women, and children, black
And white, joyous and greedy,
Evil and good, buyer and
Seller, master and victim,
Like some immense theorem,
Which, if once solved would forever
Solve the mystery and pain
Under the bells and spangles.
There he is, the man of the
Night before Christmas, spread out
On the sky like a true god
In whom it would only be
Necessary to believe
A little. I am fifty
And you are five. It would do
No good to say this and it
May do no good to write it.
Believe in Orion. Believe
In the night, the moon, the crowded
Earth. Believe in Christmas and
Birthdays and Easter rabbits.
Believe in all those fugitive
Compounds of nature, all doomed
To waste away and go out.
Always be true to these things.
They are all there is. Never
Give up this savage religion
For the blood-drenched civilized
Abstractions of the rascals
Who live by killing you and me.
Kenneth Rexroth 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

a pocket full

so - my daughter, the difficult one, the only one, softened today for a moment while we were driving in the car and told me that when she was little and visited my sister she would steal three or four pieces of quartz from her back yard wading pool perimeter each time we visited. she had believed quartz to be terribly precious and so with incredible patience, over a period of a few years, and with only a few stones at a time, she would escort these jewels home in her little pockets and line our driveway with them. that's how we had so much quartz, she told me. i thought eventually we'd be rich, she explained.

as she yammered on and we drove on and as i hung on every precious word, inside of me the sluice let go and i filled and filled and filled with the richest and most regular of things.

form's core spills spores

it must be like how the pine branch bends in loving acquiescence to the wind,
how the cells in my hand lean out from my hand as my hand passes along your skin,
like how the verb cherish cups the air around it, how the world's attraction for what pleases it
isn't physical (but is) but is something more, deeply elemental, the core of what's eternal.
the Rufous Milkcap's head is convex, longing for the world to meet its heat by assentive contour.
its paler stem becomes hollow with age. (do you hear our time-honoured story?)
The gills are slightly decurrent, cream, becoming coloured as the cap but later,
only paler. The spore print is creamy white, with a slight salmon tinge.
The flesh is white, as is the milk, which tastes mild, through the mouth to the mind, initially, 
becoming, with time and attention, hotter, pushing pungent after time spent within. 
these are simple facts of the world, bawdy but nearly blank, uncannily utilitarian; 
i touch you and the word cherish flourishes through each cell and then to fire through the skin.

(i should nod to wikipedia for the description of the rufous milkcap. and i would like to add that this poem is not hyperbole or an effort of trickery through symbols. it is a truth i feel, the body, my body, through time and attention, has been carefully deconstructed to find in its wake the natural body of the world shining through inside my clothing. by the greatest luck i have found myself in love, a synonymous love, with the world and with my lover, my husband. this is loving the beloved.)

Friday, October 3, 2014

born of rock and air

caul eyed i clawed myself from flesh to flesh,
opened my stink mouth and wailed
until my mother stuck her flub jet to me.
i drew from her recklessly,
ruthlessly, with instant speed near peril,
ignorant of her ransacked nipples.
but now, high above the maple, birch and poplar,
indifferent yet of her name, but now too my own,
i sit the cold stone which doesn't know of time or terror,
only god's diaphanous core shot tight with vein-like arrows.

from this safe distance natural grace delivers it through me,
quartz veined through stone, love for her purely,
along with all the other nameless faces of humanity.


SIGNPOST by Robinson Jeffers

Civilized, crying: how to be human again; this will tell you how.
Turn outward, love things, not men, turn right away from humanity,
Let that doll lie. Consider if you like how the lilies grow,
Lean on the silent rock until you feel its divinity
Make your veins cold; look at the silent stars, let your eyes
Climb the great ladder out of the pit of yourself and man.
Things are so beautiful, your love will follow your eyes;
Things are the God; you will love God and not in vain,
For what we love, we grow to it, we share its nature. At length
You will look back along the star's rays and see that even
The poor doll humanity has a place under heaven.
Its qualities repair their mosaic around you, the chips of strength
And sickness; but now you are free, even to be human,
But born of the rock and the air, not of a woman.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

another thing we can't have

i have been staring for months at this phrase, "another thing we can't have." i've written short lists. i've erased them. modified them. rewritten. and yet i can't help but sense the phrase contains its most power with no list at all. in itself is its tragedy. in its empty self the staring eyes water.

another thing we can't have

yet -

lying beneath the sycamore tree i open my mouth to the water droplet that forms and threatens and then falls from the leaf formed by the same sentence.


it is the very absence of the thing which makes the thing rarefied, precious, impossible.


(first poem - )

another thing we can't have

the toast
the day
this poem

Wednesday, October 1, 2014



the animal, lame
by force of reason constrained
one bullet coerced through its brain

well, in theory...
but in real life (as in reality) folks
the bullet missed

and the cat pissed
and hissed and pissed and pissed
while i cried trying to take aim again


dear john (and he is quite dear)
was discovered in his chair
speaking nonsense not quite clear

they ushered him to hospital
and washed his bum
and cleaned his ears

and he pissed and pissed and pissed in his fine new chair
while the bullet wound down the
long white lovely corridors