Monday, March 27, 2017


It grew dark, and he could
sense the mountain
soften, arid
plains grow wet, while
somewhere between them,
a song.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Dancing With Rilke

"Spring has returned. The earth
is like a child that knows poems;
much, O many...for the work
of that long learning she wins the prize."

Yes -
birth inside birth like a seed,
tomorrow's hope today
please come; help us to life again

"Strict was her teacher. We liked the white
on the old man's beard. 
Now the names of the greens, the blues
we are aloud to ask: She knows! She knows!"

Why is it that we always forget
to take your essay colors
and hoard them like grain, that we may sustain
ourselves deep inside these lines.

"Earth, school's out, you happy thing, play!
Now with the children. We want to catch you,
merry Earth. The happiest will succeed."

But you never slow your promise
to keep us young by keeping pace.
And it feels like an ancient lesson
always running beyond our grasp.

"O, what the teacher taught her, all those things
that lie pressed in roots and long
heavy branches: she sings them, she sings them!" *

But you are here;
I feel you, a lover's breath short 
and long,
and proof that we are again
alive. **

* Left side: Frühling ist wiedergekommen. Die Erde from Sonnets to Orpheus by Rainer Maria Rilke,trans. by whomever runs this blog and myself.

**Right side: My spontaneous dance to Rilke's lead.

Die Musik

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Iterative Dying

As I finally begin to feel like my old self again, or rather my new self, I look back over my shoulder to see what I leave behind on the road. As I've said, getting sick slows it all down, turns me in and into a cordial goon. When it happens in winter, you've got a good recipe for deep well pondering and sweeping out the dusty corners of thoughts and feelings. Sometimes when it's bad, like this last time, it feels like a type of coma, wherein I stare out from a working mind, unable to bridge that gap between inside and out.

When sick plays with my head, I find myself reminded of Artur Lundqvist, Swedish writer and author of another perennial on my bookshelf: Journeys in Dream and Imagination: The Hallucinatory Memoir of a Poet in a Coma. Here is another work I discovered in my earliest MN days, alongside our friend Grendel. Lonely for a familiar place, my early months found me reaching both out for new experiences and in for solace. Dreams, dream states, drunkenness, things that made more real some inner space I felt I knew better than all the strange around me. Along with our affable monster, Lundqvist comforted me by sharing his own orphic explorations as he wakes from a 2-month coma and dangles his feet from the pier of dreams.

He covers much ground in his half-dead ramblings, and I soaked up his mutterings like a distracted Zen master. Returning to them two decades later, I see new things, seeds waiting for me to help them open.

He helped me let go of my former life and embrace the present:

" I know that death is nothing once is has arrived, neither darkness nor visual impressions, just as if one never existed, a repose like an extinguished flame, leaving no trace...what reason is there to fear nothingness or to rejoice in it..."

He told me he understood the well of my wordy thoughts:

" the dreams, a different reality beckoned, one that was both enticing and terrifying, hiding that which was concealed and must not be mentioned in clear words."

But, rereading him again this year, I find I have evolved in my thinking. The sick will return, the draw back may come, but I am intent to move forward, only forward, into the what's next.

"This bug has heart. It feigns exit from the body through obvious formalities of departure. What lies within now is more subtle, clicking and note-taking along with me, synchronizing the steps home I might not notice. Its saps my strength and drugs my work, my communications, but opens these doors inside to explore. More irritating that debilitating, but then it's the simple math that screws you up...And so, starting to understand it, I scheme - small but certain stratagems toward strength, below its own nether-radar line. Ginger, sleep, pepper, focus. Closing the gaps and tempering the weakest plates in the armor. I will outlast this, again, and harden in the process. So evolution."(journal 3/9/17)

Something for the next time the Nyquil kicks and you fall back and in:

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Visiting the Monster

"I am from weak stock, yo,...told you that.
The bones of my father's grandfathers scored
with defeat, failure at every turn." (waking thought 3/2/17)

Sickness and age
Sickness and age and winter

and monsters.

Reading Grendel by John Gardner again for the first time in more than 20 years. First book I read upon moving from Tennessee. The memories. Poor old monster, leaving his home outward toward new hills, lost and alone with a hundred soulsongs heard wrong inside his head.

The stuff that happens to Grendel is interesting, too.

I've been sick for the last week or so, and it's all slowed it down - thinking, moving, doing - and it let's the things you've outpaced catch up and needle you with nostalgia, harp songs pulling you back. The music started when, rummaging around, I found my first journal in MN, made myself. It was no less than Grendel himself who prompted me to start scribbling my own. The line-drawn pic above was still taped to the front, along with a cigarette butt. Ah, such virgin thoughts of loneliness.

What I love about Gardner's classic is that there is balance on many fronts: the magnitude of scope vs. size (Grendel comes in at well under 200 pp.). The heights of reason and the lows of brutality. Gardner himself, no doubt, valued balance, as reference to it can be found throughout the work. Too, I see Grendel himself as a fulcrum between the see-sawings of meaning and nihilism, of beauty and falsehood. The universe around him vies for Grendel's allegiance, but he is no easy follower.

So, also, do I find myself waffling between many things in this sick pause from life, many thoughts, many modes of being, many hopes, desires.

It's made me think about the nature and structure of the memoir I'm trying to write.

Perhaps no sprawling Prousitan omnium gatherum, but something small, memories to fit comfortably into your pocket, take to town, back home. Gardner knows better than to tell you everything, but through deft prose, (Thomas) Wolfe-like and flashing a spark in the direction, he leaves us to glean what we may. 

Yes, perhaps something like this, a focused beam on some center of my past, allowing the night around it to be wondered, highs and lows balanced with a knowing, childhood finally made right by the grown up, the work itself finished but waiting, as if one day if I might go back write the darkness, too.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

First and Third

IT IS EITHER A PLATEAU OR THE BEGINNING of an end. February brought with it this year a strange introspection (yes, beyond my normal, solipsistic overthinking), one of a higher intensity or order of magnitude than in years prior. I literally feel like some astral projection of myself, having taken a step back from my life, turning my domestic routines into a boring third-person shooter. It creates both a numbness and a calm, a balance and a borderline Surreal disconnect from work, cleaning, driving, what have you. 

I was reminded of a never-finished short story I started years ago about a man going through this very thing.

"And yet at the same time his patience seemed to be deepening. Someone had pointed the nozzle of his hostility for the banalities around us straight down or in. Moments what, at one time would have resulted in a display of emotional fireworks, now were sent straight into the ground or, God forbid, directly back into the host...It could be likened to the effect of drunkenness. Left floating int he eddies of the room, the world seemed to speed by oblivious to his needs or wants. For him the stings of failure, adversity, and even disgust had lost their barb, provoking a slower reaction and one always keening toward mere disappointment." (from "The Third Person" ca. 2009)

And so life becomes art. 

It feels also like change, a pupa stage. Maybe I'll use it to do things I normally wouldn't. Take chances normally eschewed because of routine. Who knows? Maybe I will.

The Music

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Of Distance and Depth

Feeling my 49 years lately. It really does go by quickly. Writing a memoir requires you to cast your eye back behind. Climbing toward some unseen summit, they say don't look down. It is fascinating, sometimes sad, sometimes shattering.

I still remember the strange color of sunlight on adolescent grasses, the shape of that girl's face as she turned to smile on me. The pain of rejection and the shame of defeat without a fight. But, too, the feeling of lying in a woman's arms for the first time and feeling wave after wave lapping at my shore, returned in full.

You might call it time numb.

 I suppose that's what we think age can do for us. The hard times and the good test your heart and strengthen your spirit, toughening your leather with heat. Arrows don't seem to pierce the way they used to, at least that's what I've learned to say to myself. Love, however, seem to penetrate more easily than every before, so I wouldn't say numb. I love more deeply than ever before. Pain now has armies to oppose it. Maybe it is just perspective. That sounds better.

Lately, I feel like I have been floating above my life, looking down upon the black and red colonies as they scramble to finish life before nightfall. Floating higher still, organisms become electrical impulses of circuitous life, like thoughts jetting from one node to the next, synaptic train junctions of coming and going, myriad combinations propose and plan and permutations of spontaneous hope go awry. When I see things from this distant vantage, the earth grows this amazing exoskeleton of lightning and will and power. And, like some god, it must now deal with the consequence of its creation.

Good morning, friend.

Saturday, February 18, 2017


Working on the memoir again. Trying to tell my story right again. Keep digging. Find a vein. Mine it. Bleed it.

Realization today:

When I think of my parents, there is a deep sense of sadness, of unresolved shame or guilt. I imagine a movie, in which I am the star, leaving my parents in some German fairy tale scenario, only to have me, in the last moments of their lives, attempt a hail Mary comeback to rectify all the wrong I feel I did them by leaving.