Friday, December 14, 2007

Looking Ahead - excerpt

TWO YEARS AND FIVE DAYS FROM NOW I will be in a small European town. It is a town not familiar to those who haven't travelled abroad, but by no means esoteric. German. I believe it is German. German or Italian. Yes, the cliched barber poles tacked with red-green ribbons are nowhere to be seen. It is very likely Milan. It could be Regensburg. It feels like autumn (which in either country could be mistaken for December in Kentucky). There's no one around, no signs so no language by which to steer, so for the moment I enjoy the lightness of the mystery. Larger cities. Their convergence is directly proportional to their population. Frankfurt, for example, is only 3.2 feet from being within the borders of Manhattan. Rome, I have been told, is already Philadelphia. Smaller towns. Somehow they manage to evade the torrent of progress. Some people simply can't afford even last year's fashions. They even smell old, uniquely themselves old. I take a deep breath and am satisfied with the aroma of foreign breath, circa 1967. The breeze. It almost isn't there. What is present is sharp and wet, confusing my pores, my eyes. The skin oils at the thought of it. The town, as it is, is a model railroad accessory. The train never stops here, but is used to give the environs as a whole a realistic flair. Vaulted homes boast ancient beams, woodwork exposed on the lower half. Just like in fairy tales my head mumbles before I have sense enough to edit it. "Yes, just like. Those stories make up the plot more than the setting." That'll keep it quiet for a while...
(to be continued someday)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


By chance or
by God I know

why Borges says murmur
not whisper in his piece
on Babylon -


An opaque blue breeze
souths here each night,
while blood flickers on the tracks

photo by

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tree trunk split
legs in cool fall air,
a splayed testament subdued
but ubiquotous
an absolute vital nature
like woman

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Id to Ego

Dear Michael,

It is important for the sake of what you love,
for the sake of doing right by that which keeps you moving forward,
to enter all
and give yourself over. I have seen you
lounge comfortably around the edges.

You really shouldn't be so cocky.
You're a poem, too, you know.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Old No. 9

At two miles per hour it arrives for the three hundredth time, and this before noon. It's the old guard (Hooray!) orbiting plaster of paris capped with history to the last detail.
Nostalgia is borne on colloid plumes -
part faded wish, part heated oil - and always best
used in open air.
You can see it in their jaded eyes, their old dreams now to scale, but they keep looking for old No. 9 to take them over the hill.
I love it when it hits them,
see that its just another plastic revolution,
a false chance at the ideal,
at least one wheel
always spinning out of whack.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Finding the Frequency

In a rare moment this weekend I have found the frequency, the frequency of the invisible to and fro of the All. I found it and I matched it for a second. At that moment I was part of it in its dance.

As a series of cars passed me from behind parked on the boulevard, I contradicted
the fact that I was sitting still. No, I was going backwards along a thread made concrete
in the moment by the dragging of my jagged fingernail across my gumline.

Its speed matched exactly (and that is the secret, I am convinced) the speed
by which I was overtaken on the street.

The taste, an underground transmission I could not interpret
but strong enough to be received clearly by anyone in the state.

I celebrated.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Minnesota Poet Laureate

Long time no write. I have to learn to shoot more from the hip. Anyway, a little something from the life...

Minnesota to Have Its First Poet Laureate

Let the games begin.

For those of you who may not know, Tim Pawlenty has reversed his decision of last year to institute a poet laureate for the State of Minnesota. The country as a whole has one (currently Charles Simic:, and some other states have them. Details vary regarding duties and appointment times. In Tennessee the position is appointed for life. Its neighbor to the north, Kentucky, states that the poet laureate need not even be a poet. Go figure.

You mention something to a friend while drinking, and you never know what'll come of it. Next day I woke up to see someone had nominated me. Anyone could nominate anyone, and you could even nominate yourself. And yes, as my friend Dylan said in his column, Shady Dealings (see anyone who has ever written a rhyming couplet was throwing his hat into the ring. Best of luck, I say. Well, the film Rocky was not great because he won the climactic fight but of the epic battle he put up against the odds. In that vein, I took the nomination seriously and submitted my statement of vision and some writing samples, as is the requisite. For the sake of edification I figured I would share the vision statement with you. Comments welcome. I'd be curious to see what you think of my ideas.

MN Poet Laureate Statement of Vision:

How many times have we seen the US Poet Laureate come and go and wonder what he or she had done to further the art of poetry? Appointed to this post, I would approach it as a very real job. I have already reaching out to other state poet laureates to see what they are doing, what successes they have had and what obstacles they have faced. I am gleaning some vital feedback, and will continue to do this.

Were I appointed, I would open a dialogue with other poets and literary institutions about the current state of poetry in Minnesota. Gleaning their pertinent ideas, I would then work to integrate them with my own to formulate two to five solid initiatives to put in place, such that they would continue after my tenure, inherent within them the potential to grow and expand as desired or needed.

Initiatives I currently have in mind are:

(Re)introduce the average citizen to poetry. Ask your neighbor and she will likely share that she just “doesn’t get” poetry or that poetry is written for an audience that does not include her. With the wealth of poetry styles and history at our disposal, people need to be enlightened to the fact that there well may be a poetry that resonates with them. With the help of local organizations like Resources and Counciling for the Arts, The Walker, etc.), I would coordinate poets, from the academic to the underground, and enlist them to read all over the state, in expected and unexpected venues and in conjunction with other disciplines (music, multi-media, etc.) to show citizens the many faces and potential of poetry. I find this tantamount to the future of poetry in this state and, indeed, the country.

Work with teachers, poets, organizations such as COMPAS (Writers and Artists in Schools), and other appropriate administrators to concoct a viable poetry program that could be implemented in high schools across the state. This program could be standardized to a point, with a certain amount of flexibility to be built in based on region, teacher, and context. Once established on the high school level, this model could then be used to create a similar program for K-12. The goal here, clearly, would be to introduce the beauty, power, and potential of poetry to young minds at a time when they are more open to such concepts.

Were these two ideas alone put into action in the first year of the Minnesota poet laureateship, we would place itself firmly on the bleeding edge of the arts in this country. I would state clearly to the citizens of the state what my plans are and ask them to hold me accountable.

With the institution of this post, our state has a unique opportunity to prove it does not take the arts lightly. In making your choice I plead with you not to choose someone who will rest on their laurels or simply promote their own poetry or private agenda. Elected, I would ensure its inaugural year would be one of action, not hollow symbolism.


As stated I have begun seeking out and emailing the current poet laureates for the states which have them, asking them about their successes, best practices, and failures. I haven't received much back, but I plan to keep asking and perhaps invite the Duluth poet laureate, Barton Sutter, to be interviewed for this blog.

Whatever the outcome with the Minnesota poet laureate appointment, I say let's hold the position accountable for doing SOMETHING we can see and feel in regards to poetry in this state. I nominated a couple of talented poets myself, whom I believe would take the position seriously. If either of them were to get the post, I guarantee you would see something happen.


Autumn is upon us and with it the ennui and depression that always rabbit punches my soul. Fighting through it this year.

Working on a new chapbook, ideas for future postings of video, and interviews with writers.

I have a book review published in the latest issue of Whistling Shade ( of Rough Traces by Jason Wesco. It's a solid collection of poetry.

I'm also reading again on an almost regular basis at a local open mic I like. Never thought I'd do that again. Never say never, I guess.

Friday, October 19, 2007


I cannot help thinking

that the schism between the sciences

and philosophy is simply

the result of a poorly drawn Venn

diagram a century

and a half ago. A blacksmith perhaps

a pendantic baker


Others I realize that art is best represented
as exactly everything around us from
telephone wires crossing themselves ad
nauseum, parking lots lost or otherwise
but all in a relative dimension one quarter
or one eighth an inch beside its palpable
counterpart. A discarded condom as a
sonnet by Donne. The onramp to 35
a found fragment by Pessoa. All of it in
plain sight like the secret of the world
printed out for all to see

400 pt.
in white

photo by It's Greg:

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Quiet Thoughts on Fighting

"What can you know about yourself, if you've never been in a fight?" Asks Tyler Durden. Good question fictional guy, but with me it's more like vicious shadow boxing.

"What can you know about yourself..."

You think you know you? With friends, strangers, assholes, even all alone in the tub like a Zazen moron chanting to the bobbing of his own body parts like it was the mantra made flesh. But you don't. Making love or hanging from a rope, you won't get the whole picture. Like trying to make a circle from a square. It's asymptotic: you'll only add smaller and smaller sides of the polygon. Hell, I'm not sure there is a way to know yourself anymore. Every context seems hopelessly flawed.

Speak in public.
Join a gym and train obsessively.
Write every day and read your crap weeks later.
Go to strip clubs and have real conversations with the dancers.

It has begun to lightning outside, and I have all of these thoughts around page 32. It's always around 32. Jesus. Bruce Lee. Rimbaud lasted a few years longer, or not depending on your definitions. I've outlasted them all by more than a whit. I've missed my chance to go out all supernova and pretty. I can't one-inch punch, and I can't walk on water. I just get caught up in books about walking London's M25 on foot and digging the psychogeography by a guy that writes a sentence like looking at the Eiffel Tower. Page 32 and my son goes to sleep on the couch, and I think this is going to be brilliant, so I sit at the kitchen table and look up new verbs by candlelight. By page 34 he's wide awake and wanting to play trains. I fight to be patient. I fight to be a dad.

"...if you've never been in a fight?"

Fight. Hell, I'm no badass. Artists these days come off like they are the next incarnation of the Last Dragon? How many times have I, simply because I've been caught up in the cliche? I can't count that high. I can carry my weight and run when I need to, and I'm wrinkled enough to see that it all sounds like a line from Whiskeytown or Sun Volt. And I'm okay with that, too. But damn if claiming yourself as anti-tough isn't the same thing. A man can't even be nothing anymore. Get up and get your ass to work. Do a long day you'd rather not be doing at all. Come home and try to be a decent husband, father, friend, what have you. Call that guy a fighter.

So go ahead Tyler, ask your cool question, but we'll have to define terms if we're gonna' get anywhere.

Break a nose?

How about a bad cycle.

A fight club?

I'd rather open a cult of love
for everything that's still alive
and kicking.

Monday, September 3, 2007

A Gin Remembrance

Birthday gin tastes best, especially when it's Hendrick's. None of that phlegmy twang the liquor so often desposits in the back of the throat. In its place a floral bouquet made crisp, the latter by cucumber, the latter by bathing the whole mess in the vapor of rose petals.
It is extra special tonight, too, since it brings back memories of The Dakota a couple of weeks ago. A night of jazz dressed in fashionable brick faux facade, the chic splash of wine colored cymbal drapes. Another sip and I sudddenly remember where I hid my napkin notes made while a white dragon raised nine-thirty eyebrows with his saxaphone and unexpected madnotes. It wasn't gin at the time, but a dirty brew not likely to be soon repeated. Now the napkins.

Evening star blonde walks out tight but languid diva all practiced jazz chanteuse shoulders and still flat tummy for successful boyfriend and shiny vest made for the C-sharp she starts us with. She looks over at the

who is Joan Baez no lie but no wrinkles either and if sex, we don’t care to see it unless she's got a side we haven't seen. Hair frizzed as if it's grown beyond the need. The gray streaks respect and we do for her demure and comfort before keys not playing but played. Only once a glance and smiled up at us and over to the science professor at trap set thin almost eighties piano tie whose name I heard as

Jay Epstein

but I saw as mad scientist Clayton Forrester with match grip and nodding to years of set up take down and across state for what little is divided among five. A little easier he found it to smile in sporty old lettering thin sweater at Joan’s trickling keys and constant smile of singer turned his once in a while way. In bar glass reflection I saw it in his whimsy—a plant still growing and Take Five. Watching him and old friend kept close, the bassist

Terry Burns

childlike chicken dance elbows to a rhythm that outlasts us all. He's always a smile for a friend. A perfect laugh shares himself and said drumming prof while the corner crone ages with her since 1969 standard now without husband Friday night.
For mine and all the aging blonde stakes her claim toward something vintage. Her smile suddenly authentic stops me, a laugh at staid elder on the sax who 's name sounded like
who now contents to play the chassis of this convertable on twilight back road to third base. See he shook her and us all with star point of restrained solo hijinks that reveal nothing short of a learned and subtle genius. Powered her smile for the remainder of the evening, it did and we.

Sax and drums meet eyes for a higher moment of understanding and personal history. Nothing lasts, and the latter returns to his lot, resigned to let his old colleague take the limelight, but never forgetting that fork in the road all those years back. He connects again with the bassist, who has never let him down, his populist fate which he decides, like every Friday night, isn't a bad way to end a song.
So it makes sense that Hendrick's and a cool night like this would recall that night so. Rooted in that neon sharpness to keep the weekend a thing to covet, it also imparted a little something human, something bathed in the vapor of rose petals.
The myth of jazz distilled
a smile not so much imbued
as right there for all to see

Thursday, August 16, 2007

the moment your eyes

I've heard said, by those who have lived
here all their lives, that Uptown
rests on living ground. So one day
I parked my car and wandered into the bustling
intersection of Lake and Lagoon
and put my ear to the asphalt.
I did not hear the living beneath
the blaring of horns, but the whisper of unmade zygotes,
the rustle of a hundred missed connections.

I've heard said your face implies you
the moment
your eyes meet the one
you will never have
*Photo by escluso @ Flikr

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


For reasons I do not understand, the otherness of traveling in Europe does not overwhelm. If anything should, it would be this. Dipthonged language that implies a depth beyond our Americanness. Social custom speaking to a mode already gone by. Even the buildings are different. Most doors in German apartments are exactly the same. The door to the kitchen has the same lock as that of the entryway. You can drink spiced wine on the street.

Perhaps it owes to the power of myth of the Romantic within. We want to be a part of this foreignness to make us feel worldly. Perhaps a cultural memory of our origins. The reason some languages sound like songs from childhood. Other reasons are just plain obvious.

One is tripped up, if lucky, by train schedules and late hostel occupancy, opportunities of taste and secret alleys of consequence, but not by the looming strangeness of it all. The small differences stretch us acceptably. I feel it is rooted in the phenomenon of tourism - itself a living thing, though not sentient - in that one is completely submurged, unable to pick and choose what to imbibe. You grow gills or end up at the bottom of the tank.

* photo by Shanghai Sky at Flikr

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Part II: Lines That Encroach like a Web

It is a strange thing to say, but sometimes you find yourself uttering notions of such an odd generality that you are embarrased by them. In speaking of fear and evil, and I will say that strange thing now, that which I have feared most - and thus have found most evil - is the sense of overwhelm in the All. You no doubt see immediately my quandary. It is a queer thing to hear, yet does not seem esoteric as much as simply odd. To single out Everything as an object of repulsion. The individual components are benign enough, but they, coupled with their rippling implications to me and to each other, create a seemingly annhililating blast which all to often renders me frozen and sinking. I attempt to find the balance of these things find that missing call note that we all overloook. Trying to listen to a constant explosion to pick out a C sharp. This great stranger I have named everything from Odin to Progress and my engagement can best be likened to the way a toddler approaches a large dog - a terrible fascination that must be entered.

It comprises a zillion faces, each a simple sound from an even greater cacophony of contexts. It varies and has taken on every imaginable form I can conjure - from the words I perpetually lose my way in to the smoke from my mouth to the electron cloud of possibility each second that comes contains. I reach out to each one through the growl it emanates beneath the radar. To be clear I do not find it all evil in a sentient sense, but in that unique way our species considers evil that which does not care a lick about our survival. Chaotic Neutral. I cannot help but reach out to it, pull myself through it. What else can we do? It is not heroicism, merely the inability to conceive an alternative.

From my chair outside a local bar in Nowhere, MN, I am embraced ineffectually by a network of phone lines. Their angled vectors are the basis for large paintings in the Walker no one understands, but cursorily appreciates. They have birds that dart between them to assure us we are not ensnared. They are exactly what we need and to the proper degree. The lines intersect, convey, agree, and depart as the connection between things in the most simple of metaphors -- the questions from the woman at the next table to the bored 12-year old who would really rather be playing with himself in the bathroom, to the Journey songs on the jukebox, to the reason I have stayed in this chair as long as I have. For a split second I realize that this makes me part of the web itself, part of what I fear, and thus, if I remain loyal to my own sense of connection, part of the larger whorl I have termed evil. Thankfully, the thought lasts only a flash, already on its way, to trailer parks and bourgeois mansions alike, atop strands that connect and back again.
* Photo by Auntie P on Flikr.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Behind the Lines

An aesthete behind the lines mooning over the difference

The one between the sphere of his consciousness (rolling without end like those big marbles on Chinese restaurant Buddha fountains) and the monster truck (“Leroy’s”, it would seem if vanity plates don’t lie) just a few feet away. Hell. I mean he could call it Hell, but would mean no disrespect. On the contrary, he is the sort who would use a mythological term by which to ascribe to it a power, a grandeur greater, by far, than that due himself.

For since childhood, everything overwhelmingly foreign to him he has labeled evil. Vast playgrounds ending in ditches by the road, subjects of interest not immediately mastered, and at one time, a free radical called love. To this day, with three score years of survival under his lucky belt of Orion, his perception still holds true, but now it is the term itself, evil, that has changed. The change is, one could argue, as natural as puberty and twice as important. A change born of experience, of George Bataille, of a realization of his place in it all.

Sunday, August 5, 2007


WHAT I TEND TO LEAVE OUT are the spaces between here and there, where I watch the world with an accountant's eye. But what I omit connects the major organs, veins that are vital but assumed. I caught myself in the car, traversing a minor capillary from spleen to lung of the capitol city. Like snapping awake on a sleepy night drive, I saw going by a million million places from which I should observe the world. A lamppost on West 7th. A Vine Park bush. The fountain where the moon showers more of its attention than anywhere in the city. They were elongated and transient in passing. The only thing that stuck was the blaring ambulance speeding past, The driver's eyes catching mine for an instant telling me he was headed for some memory of mine on its last breath, having failed to honor it properly.

* Photo by Steve Benway (

Friday, August 3, 2007

From a quiet vantage - the machinery, the subtle movings of the city.

We've all experienced it. Perhaps alone, looking across a parking lot or dance floor, the churning that is not so much heard as felt. A combination of beer through dirty lines and flourescent hopes of getting laid. Connections are charged between strangers while heartbreaks are shipped out like couriers into the traffic then to our doors.

At the same time it often sounds to me like a distress beacon to change everything from the outside, as if we ourselves were charged with reincarnation.

* Photo by Jim Brekke (

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Choices Made

Reading in the presence of a gaggle of early twenties all smoking corn cob pipes purchased for the occasion, calling attention to them incessantly. If interrupted by a question from one of them, my reaction would be one or the other.

Given a mood, a certain shaft of light through the opposing window, I would calmly walk to the one with the soul patch and draw a line down in my mind to his Adam's apple and spread fingers from thumb. A series of acidic jigs to a big band tune in my head and everything would be done. The police would arrive as I was just finishing chapter 6 of my book. There would be shouting, disjointed movements - nothing like the fine dancing that got me here - probably a little excess.

Else, the world would be kinder. Eyes bulging and voice begraveled I would stand on the coffee table strewn with magazines and scream toward the ceiling. I would point in all directions. I would know the knowledge they seek.

"One p.m....It is one p.m! Please make note of that information and apply it to any circumstances it might affect."

Their surprised reaction would ease my anxiety about this next generation. Good to see the younger ones a little afraid of something, even if it is kindness.

Either way in egress I would cast a fleeting glance back to what is left behind - used tobacco, the bloody cliche of modernism.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Things for Which One Is Never Reproached

the first two in what, I'm sure, will be an ongoing list.

Not being able to find a specific page in a book fast enough.

In an argument, someone challenges you on a point. You assert it can be proven in, yes, THIS book. No matter how heated the other party is at your stance, they will never yell at you for not finding your proof faster.

Shaking your head at a strike during a baseball game.

Watching you, someone doesn't know if you are angry that the pitch was a strike, or if you are silently impressed with the pitcher's talent.

New Grass

With every line that is written

something dies, replaced

by something living.