Sunday, December 21, 2008

from something in the works...

"The Lao woman in the large round sunglasses laughed too hard for the crew in the courtyard. They didn’t need any of that on a Friday afternoon. The week had given them hell enough. The heat was enough noise for them and if there needed to be more noise, they would be the ones to make it.

For these that’s what’s left, a writer might say. Truth is some just do better work out of sight of the rays of summer. A little something in a room, nobody looking. What’s wrong with a little help between the calls you have to make? Between whoops and howdoyadoos to the roving security guards a lot of okay okay don’t get excited. We work something out. We work it out. Like Mexico mañana, mano. We work it out.

The skinniest woman at the table grabbed the lighter with authority and sucked hard. Five beers in, performing Bic CPR is an act of necessity. Marlene, or whatever, stood up quickly, cell phone already to her face. A car horn behind and she’s around the corner in a dramatic exit worthy of Shakespeare. You’ve seen the move before, and not in movies (the film industry hasn’t quite caught up to some parts of real life). It’s a move that seems entirely practiced. It’s a statement of freedom, the proof that should that ship come in, you’re packed and ready to go. To her long-time drinking buddies it always means the same thing. Importance. The call is more important than they are. It is a chance to escape, and she jumps at every one. Every time that Nelly ringtone disrupts the universe, they swallow their pride, left behind again for whatever good might come. The first look is horror, then sadness, then a glance around for their own stroke of luck or at least to pretend it doesn’t hurt so bad to be abandoned so easily. In public a loose hold on dignity becomes a used condom stepped over in a hurry..."

from Twin City, a work in progress

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Latest Doings...

Recent Publication
New poem, "River Lesson", published over at the cool thought blog (THOG)
This Side of Paradise:

Would love to know what you think of it. Comments are enabled at the site.

In other news, I am now an Official over at Facebook's Poets and Writers Registry. Will be posting ideas, poems, thoughts and such over there regularly. If you are on Facebook, drop me a line there.

The Dishevel'd Salon
My monthly happy hour gathering of writers and poets here in the Cities, has gotten an needed tune up and will be going strong until the end of time, at which time it may be reduced to quarterly. If you are a writer or poet in the Twin Cities, shoot me an email, so I can add you to the mailing list. Would love to meet you.

Just returned from a Thanksgiving visit to the backwoods of TN. Long walks and observation. I continued taking notes for a work I am writing on that region. Childhood memories mixed with present-day observations with the running theme of the myth of moonshine. May be a chapbook, may be developed into a larger work. Time will tell.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Make Up

Sometimes they remember
That they’re widows passing

The fine young men
On the square

A laughing strength
Counting out the years

Gone by
But sometimes you can see it

To a now ancient surface

A tender habit
Of dignity

Recalled slowly
And red

Across the lips

Monday, October 13, 2008

Little Pink Houses

Be it a result of the political air about us these months, or merely the constant and natural reaction of the streets crossing just outside the door; I notive the clear tones of words like 'action' and 'connection.' Those sounds made with the inflection of the righteous and the pride of the chosen matryr. Their employ is never strained and never complex. Grassroots, they seem to imply, are simple structures one does not dissect, but accept, nurture, wrap inside ideas of community, home, hearth.

Middle-aged women, having finally allowed their bodies to evolve beyond roles of mother and wife, are now soldiers of puporse, the bloodless battle for the future of their souls, their district lines as they intersect with notions of dignity.

They age further and become the ancient women I watched today at lunch. I saw them first through the window before I even entered. Two tables long and dotted with their male counterparts, their faces and hair already on the slow march toward a unified whole. They were almost indistinguishable from one another in stature and gaze.

Each looked around her as others spoke, as if confused by the sound, as if they should understand but could not. Like so many names, birthdays, faces, and broken smiles, they had lost the facility to connect with the living, gained the uneasy gait of the dying. And, somewhere in the eyes, a hint of sadness. The only thing more unbearable than the clueless fall into suffering or death is is to glimpse that spark of recognition in the victim, the whispered sign that reaches out to us, begging without shame, for saving.

It was the men who were sentient. Fitted with pointed caps pinned with mementos and shining proof of valor. Chronic bills and countless pain garnered in the name of freedom. A lone, plastic American flag is taped to the back of a wheelchair. The flag is made in China, but not Japan. For the group sharing their strange memories, that is the important thing.

A memorial gathering a Taco Bell. Veterans of a foreign war. Men and women who put aside the immensity of their lives to serve a cause bigger than the universe itself, a foe straight from the radio serials of their childhood. Sitting together over chalupas in a place they themselves fought for.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


There comes a point when you must
record that which you have to forget.

Video by Nelson
@ Bottom Union

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Perchance to Dream

When it comes, it isn't. Call dreaming a riddle.
Water doesn't feel wet when you're in it,
and dreaming is dead real when it begins.

No images this time
words again

Thoughts printed and careened until they
were forced back on themselves for nourishment
in a kinetic recoil. They bounced, fought and merged.
Each moment a sentence or two scrolling across my vision,
Yielding a slew of urgent questions clamoring for the floor.

“Were you to repeat this, would you use first person or third?”

“Which one of you is experiencing this? How do you determine?
How important is it to be right?”

“Do you see how every context already saw you coming, laid

There is a pendulum here, a three-dimensional shadow of the one poised above the heart of the city. It sways in multiple directions at once and at different speeds. The lie is that one can reach, within it, some kind of détente. You pen your best lines, deliver them with passion and perfect timing. You state the case of your life to tacit response. You walk away with a smile, believing this time the deal with the Devil has been figured out. This time, you win. However, the deal has been perfected on the other end to lead you to this false confidence. There are always advantages to allowing the enemy to believe he has won.

Photo by Paula Campbell (

You return to the act of creation to find that you have, indeed, come out ahead, as long as you do not dig too deeply, study the boundaries with too much scrutiny. Best to pick a medium and a closed universe and ride the blind wave to an ephemeral satisfaction. Walk beyond the taped off areas and you see that your world is a room within a room within a room of people that don’t stop laughing.”

The questions begin to fractal and assume the stance of a lecture meant half to warn, half to entice. The responses I generate naturally half-asleep load and fire just as easily as the questions arrive, pounding holes in the exterior of inquisition and exposition alike. But it’s old hat for the other side, and whatever damage you think inflict is compensated for immediately, replacement axioms, paradigm shifts are born to fill the holes. Your attempts to gain control over the shifting parameters of form, function, perception, and acceptance yield little – all your might just to tread water.

Like trying to punch holes in the flow of a fountain.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Southern Cross (to bear)

Page 248 and Fleming's still choosing coffee over the bottle. He still gets the latter, offered up by the old and weathered and dying either to make some tiny ammends to the fragile, or - almost forgiven - to try to get a rope around a little bit of beauty, take it down with them. A rabbit's foot. A four-leaf clover covered in gold.

It's funny that it is here and now, in this umpteenth journal that a realization hits me. I'm starting to sink back into some relaxed, southern earth I didn't think stuck around low these twelve years up north. By all rights it ought to have come about after some small tragedy, stolen wallet or busted locks or lips on the way back from a night to remember. But there's been no such loss. I think it comes to others this way, but when you're as sensitive as I am, it doesn't take much. And the Lord God whoever has clearly taken this into account and doled out epiphanies in right and proper proportion.

I see, and now I know.
It feels real and I'm the kind to heed what it might come to mean.

The language that speaks to me these days rests in valleys not covetous of surrounding peaks, but resigned without a word to a place that cradels wind and rain instead of braving it for old Scottish ballads and shitty overpriced scenescapes circa my granddad's living room.

It's a language that can drink like my father did for a time, like I've heard his dad did. It could break noses by looking at them. It's the language of earlier times hid away in attics and spider basements. Younger days full of whatever the hello powered them, like crack we can no longer afford. Nights too much like contstantly pulling a butt from the fire for one last taste of what's been bought and paid for. I dreamed I talked with Buford, my mother's father the other night, in a way I never did when he was alive.

"Finishing up when the clouds are gathering" he said "is the best example of heaven."

"It's a sign sure as losing the lottery." I added bitterly.

"The air getting colder and your lot burning its last till payday. I don't know," he drew out with a cigarette smile, "timing like that should give a guy some hope in something."

I stared at my shoes and paused out of respect. These were words he could do something with, and I should find a way, too. Some simple scrap meant for better than fading into the backdrop of days. He said he tried reading some book from China once that was supposed to hold some wisdom. The "I-Ching" I told him. I gave it to you. All he could remember was the number of times it used the word 'auspicious'.

"Seemed like a bunch of fortune cookies with a bar code." He laughed embarrassed, trying not to disrespect it as a present from his grandson.

But these sentences, the ones he doled out wistfully in my dream, these were something that could make a life with legs under it, should you have the gift to know what the hell to do with it.

I finish Provinces of Night and begin Crime and Punishment. Lord help the kind of dreams I'll have now.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Strongest Thing in the World

"The night of Cisco's demise Bloodworth had been trying to keep a mare and the stallion apart. He had penned them in separate pens. Between the pens and joined to them on either end was a barn with a sloping tin roof.

Sometime in the night he woke to bedlam. He could hear a voice screaming, dogs barking madly. He jumped out of bed and ran into the moonlit yard. The stallion was screaming and thrashing about inside the barn. Bloodworth saw with a stunned disbelief that the stallion had climbed a stack of haybales at the end of the barn and somehow managed to clamber onto the roof; the tin and two-by-four lathing had not held, and the spotted horse had fallen in a jumble of tin and broken lumber. The horse looked like a unicorn struggling to free itself from a snare and he saw with horror that a sharp section of rotted lumber had imbedded itself in one of the horse's eyes like a horn. He'd struggled in the darkness dementedly with Cisco trying to remove the splintered board until he finally noticed that one of the stallions front legs was broken and he gave up and went to the house for his gun.

What the spotted horse had done awed him a little. He thought then and he thought now the cry of flesh calling to flesh must be the strongest thing in the world."

from Provinces of Night
by William Gay

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Reading Provinces of Night by William Gay. Engaging writing, if not overdone at times. Interesting use of the southern vernacular, as may still be employed in the backwoods of today.
Can’t make out whether he intended it like Sebald. The evocative flow is climaxing about mid-book, reminding me immediately of Sebald’s The Emigrants. Intentional with Gay or a stumbling upon his groove like Jack (The Town and the City) or evidence of the steady state of enlightenment as with some unknown, an overlooked Montaigne, perhaps?

“Don’t forget who you are, where you come from.”

The sentiment rose from the page to sting my nose from pages 171-180. There are things that have yet to be said, I added. They’re just getting harder to find.

And it is this search that often draws me from hearth and home. Away the pit stops have me questioning goal and attempt ad nauseum. The attempt to reconcile universes. How much easier to live completely in one and write off the others to tabloid storytelling. But the Truth has a way of tracking down your zip code, interrupt you placid dreams. What behemoth and lumbering desires call to you from across lonesome roads, heated traffics?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Hearing French Ambient

Who knew when the French started being cool in the
post-modern age? Did their cache enjoy such health
that it naturally bled past the New Wave, riding it
without effort, into the electronic default?

I hear the beats now, soft, a breathy vox pulling
them like beads from her tongue. The seduction
capable of the stereo-type quadruples like an
errant gene come alive, squirming the whole
gender open in terrifying blossom.

The pouty kiss of that language sparked thanks
to up and comers of that country, the artist MIA of its
neighbor. Breathy moans were not invented by the French,
just perfected by them.

Struck by the cocktail: modern, sterile syncopation in a
vintage nubile base, as if Lady Day
decided to come back all carnal, just to give
her blessing to the future of fantasy.

Dipthongs rise and lilt in some breezy attempt.
A smile to lift the summer hem. A glimpse of sun
on knee, too conconscious of itself.

Each beat is a finger on a nerve point
unknowingly errogenous.

Every note a Kegel flex
around my wide-opened heart.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Beat Postcard #17: Oblivion

this is how we end it.
Rightfully so.
Here they are at the edge of open water.
How often are we so close to oblivion?
Would we know it if we were?
Infinity hovering over our tiny futures.
I imagine, looking at this card, that right
after the picture was taken, they all turned
and dove into the waves.
They just kept swimming until no one could hear them.
They left their clothes on the shore, along with their words.
The went on secretly
to break all records for long-distance breast stroke,
knowing beyond was worth everything they had.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Beat Postcard #16: Corso's Sour Grapes

Gregory Corso, Paris, France 1957
Eating grapes in his attic room at the Beat Hotel

"Should I get married?
Should I be good?"

One can easily see these words on the tip of Corso's
tongue,by the way he looks wistfully up and to the left.
At this moment he is considering his place in the world and,
more importantly,
in the Beat Universe.

"Astound Lanky Jane
with velvet suit and Faustus bane?"

This part has yet to occur to him,
as one can see by his eating of grapes
(an obvious metaphor for his pre-Goethe
decision to make deals he has no intention of keeping. )

At funerals and tributes,
why did he not pay attention?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Beat Postcard #15: Compost

Gary Snyder, Japan 1963

All this new stuff goes on top
Turn it over, turn it over

You cut your hand climbing the rock
but laughed instead, figuring on

Wait and water down
From the dark bottom

It was too topical, you said.
Let's talk a thousand years
of opening, the ten thousand things blood means.

Turn it inside out
Let it spread through
Sift down even
Watch it sprout

What flowing is more ancient
Than this? The earth
has it down, pumping itself
through the cracks in my laughter
night after night. Realize

A mind like compost

and regurgitate,

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Beat Postcard #14: Mugging by the Lights

Bob Donlin, Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, Robert La Vigne, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, San Francisco 1956
Standing in front of City Lights Bookshop

Why not revolt,
or at least bash some heads?

Because we've had enough of that.
In the face of death, let us take pictures of the faces of life.

Out of chaos comes order. Their words brought forth
the beauty of Brownian movement, the arabesque in the eye,
nose, and throat of the storm.

Of course they'd find wisdom in wine.
Light in the dark.
Salvation in the heart of the damned.

"Gather 'round, fellas. This dude's got a camera says it'll pick up our souls.
Ever hear such a thing?


Friday, July 11, 2008

Beat Postcard #13: Kral Majales

Allen Ginsberg, Prague 1965
Selected by the students as the May King ("Kral Majales") before being expelled from the country.

We were born after a royalty.

Some beats crowned kings, while others sang blank halls
for deaf compensation. Some were crucified, others ignored.

Now everyone cuts crowns from paper, walks
with an affected gait. We name streets after ourselves, claim thrones of our own design.

The latest can't even be bothered to lead us.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Beat Postcard #12: Opaque

William S. Burroughs, Gregory Corso, and Paul Bowles (r-l)
Tangiers, Morocco 1961

This photo is important.

Exactly two hours later Paul Bowles (left) saw himself in the mirror and noticed how far he'd come since his tea making days. Now he wore a tie. O life.

Gregory, on the other hand, was at the top of his game. He was young and strong and liked to emphasize this by standing next to Burroughs. He did this to compensate for feelings of inadequacy, fostered by the attention his compatriots received at midnight invisible parties.

Burroughs as already quite mad by this time. He'd looked like your grandpa since he was 22 and practiced the art of urban invisibility. He learned to see through things. He was pretty good

He knew why Corso stood so close.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Beat Postcard #11: The Jewish Ghetto

Allen Ginsberg, Venice, Italy 1957
Visiting the Jewish Ghetto

"and it is said that those who would steal from you
seek only your heart."

And I have seen those who have looked deeply into my heart,
only to be interested in possessions.

The joke's on them.
I've never owned anything that could bleed.

Interesting thing about this photo is
Ginsberg knows this guy is stealing his work. He always leaves a phony one out in the open for those who seek to love him.

Whatever the thief ends up doing with the words
he unwittingly markets Ginsberg's second-rate work.

I'm sure there's a lesson there, somewhere.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Beat Postcard #10: Joanne Kyger

Joanne Kyger, Almora, India 1962
Reading a guidebook, overlooking the Himalayan Mountains

The one on the rock still lives. She's a poet.
Married to Snyder then to another, how do you think it feels to still be alive after so much has gone?

She still has to face the audience. She can be seen, smile cracking at dedications, a walking relic that dignifies a religion not of her making.
A humanist totem or voodoo doll for the new age.

Whose name does she put in all those books. I hear she still can't bring herself to discuss Cassady. Don't blame her.

How? How does it feel to still be alive

after so much has gone?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Beat Postcard #9: Further

Neal Cassady and Timothy Leary, Millbrook, NY 1964
On board Ken Kesey's bus "Further", which Cassady had just driven cross-country

Gods should learn to shut up, Neal.

What happens when a god has a kung fu master, his imago sailing frothy above the highways he has forged.

Man and talisman combined with the feral uebermensch.

Can a mortal become elemental, or is left to some twisted birthright gone astray?

Where are our Neals?
Where is yours?

Do they arrive only after they have gone? Are they born or, like Golem, created?

Those created need to be replaced by those who create themselves.
We must invest in our own immaculate conception.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Beat Postcard #8: Orlovsky Overlooks

Peter Orlovsky, Yosemite, CA 1955
Overlooking the valley

Yeah, he thought he'd seen the last one, too. They were all the last one.

That's the only way they could continue.

If they, even for a second, believed in the enormous future that would come
they would crumble under the weight.

So they went for broke when they overlooked valleys.

He misses it, in turning his gaze to us.

"Ignore the camera, Orlo!" Jack would yell. But Peter just couldn't help it.

I mean, really. Look how deep it is.

How in the world
could a gaze make its way back up?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Beat Postcard #7: Cadets Howl

Cadets at the Virginia Military Insitute read Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg.
Photo by Gordon Ball

Dear X,

I actually bought this card a while back in San Francisco. I came across it while daydreaming about the very thing this card says to me.



Look at them. The words shooting into them like darts or rifle rounds, opened up like virgins in the night wondering what and how?

Embraced. Understood.

Some get the love, while others chank forward like broken pieces of ornate machinery. Some buy megaphones.

Create your ammo wherever the materials are to be found at cost. Curve the serif of your rifling for accuracy. Hollowpoint your words for precision and impact.

Be the difference between a thug and a marksman.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Beat Postcard #6: Ginsberg's Gabriel Horns

Allen Ginsberg, San Francisco 1956
Typing manuscripts in Peter Orlovsky's apartment on Petrero Hill

I use the typewriter as my pillow

Yes, my love. After days of raveging yourself with rains and screaming, you came only to me. Just out of reach, you fell. I lifted onl your head. Under it - God.

I dreamt I jumped into the nozzle of a gun.

I love your joking. We both know the only gun you admitted was the one we shared. You never jumped. You were in it the whole time.

My Gabriel horns, my Gabriel horns, unfold the cheerfulies, my gay jubilation.

I type your heaven'd words, and hate you for your death. Love over death you always said.

But Death wins again.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Beat Postcard #5: Ginsberg Ruined

Allen Ginsberg, Mexico 1954
leaning on a stick amidst ancient Mayan ruins

What ruination
have you paid homage to?
What crumbled dreaming is worth your pause?

Ginsberg is wistful in Mexico, the second America.

I heard Rilke visited ruins, too, only to pine for them upon returning home.


Where would you stand and hope, pine? Where in your world?

Let us begin on our back stoops, where the view of the scrap pile will soon be replaced by comfortable lofts. Benchmarks for the elimination of pining.

Build our cities first on the inside.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Beat Postcard #4: Ferlindoggie

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, San Francisco 1984
Posing with dog in his City Lights office.

It is a strange variation.

A strange distillation well within reincarnation.

Each time we come around again we're more civilized. Try as we might, to the generation unto which we are born, we are less feral. Look at your grandfather (look at his). Look at their words. Look at the portrait on the wall.

Ferlinghetti knew this too, while having this picture taken. Hence the dog as feral familiar.

But it backfired. Today dogs are as coiffed as we are.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Beat Postcard #3: Gregory and God

Gregory Corso, Lowell, MA 1986
Visiting the religious grotto described by Jack Kerouac in his book, Doctor Sax

My view of Corso is forever tainted by a scene in the film The Source, wherein he throws a fit during a discussion of Kerouac, saying " stuff puts most of his [or their, referring to the other known Beats] to shame."

So this picture is classic to me. Gregory stands beneath the savior, not revering but planning.

"Savior, huh? Sounds good."

He stood there for an hour and a half trying to figure out who you have to blow to get yourself nailed to a cross.

If you have to ask, maybe it just ain't to be.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Beat Postcard #2: Paul Bowles

Paul Bowles, Marrakech, Morocco 1961

By this time Mr. Bowles had lived so long in this strange and succulent
culture that he had almost forgotten his native tongue. He knew this,
and it pleased him. The way he saw it, if it didn't stick around, he wasn't
supposed to have it.

"If your tongue abandons you," he used to say, "learn to speak tongueless.
No mouth? Learn to dance."

His buddies liked this idea in theory, but were too attached to the tangoes
and sambas they created with said tongues.

Mr. Bowles prepared mint tea.

They took wine.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Beat Postcard #1: Herbert Huncke

Herbert Huncke, Waverly, TX 1947
Working on William S. Burroughs Marijuana Farm

The shovel was stolen, too.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


I am less than what the world says.
It has been very kind,
but my jig is up.

It outruns me without even trying,
some natural engine of atoms
and waltzes I am left to enjoy from behind.

Deciding I was too much work,
even my dreams have taken up with other men.

And you have the nerve to ask me if I still love you.


You are the least of my worries.

Monday, June 23, 2008

They’re Already There*

By kurafire on Flickr

On the corner the kids are stopping each other
and talking like travelers of the world.

I’ve seen them make themselves dirty,
desperate like Mad Max
or Rimbaud in the alley.

But Eliot didn’t work any less
at his passion,

and he held down a bank job,
wrote The Waste Land.

But in this spoiled little town
so much depends on
looking like you live on the edge
everyone else has forgotten.

It’s an easy fashion when you’re 19. I’m not,
and when was the last time
you heard someone mention Eliot?
*or "More Proof I Am Getting Old"

Friday, June 20, 2008

You promised me postcards

Photo by Neal Casal (

You promised me postcards
from your new, far off life

And when they never came
my love began to grow

As DeSade praised his wife
the more he was alone

The way hunger only grows
When left unfed

So was my sun merely a spark
Until you closed your eyes

Thursday, June 19, 2008


By grange85 on Flickr

If I Stir
for William Stafford

If I stir in the night, my love,
To write what I see on the horizon,
Please do not be upset with me.

I know it is just another dawn,
That I, too, need more sleep before it arrives.
And, yes, that not everything is waiting to become my poetry.

But in those tranquil hours
When the universe itself seems to doze
I promise you it becomes something else

The secret of the world
Observed like you
Through a lover’s grateful prism.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Found: On Death

Ben is dead.

With 50 pages left, Ben is dead. The shadow-god of Wolfe's Look Homeward, Angel, has died of pheumonia. The death scene with family encircled has moved me deeply.

Thoughts, naturally, of my own brood, my own memories to be.

How will I mourn? In bedside vigilance of prayer? Cornered

howls for everything that was not?

An how will others encounter themselves

in my passing?

What thoughts, once seeking me out to play,

will flicker off for some other diamond,

another hardened stone in which to see their own in a perfectly

broken brilliance? Will they cry for the one left behind, the strange refrain

that had no more worlds?

Without even trying

I turn it to me.

What egoism arises

from death.

to my brother, found in old journal

Monday, June 2, 2008

Brand New Sunny...cont.

Ah, but there. It's crossed. I've lost if I don't swoop in with an element of pop culture. As if discussion of thought and theory has to be tethered visibly to soil. Fine, I concede. Surly Bitter Brewer seconds to Rogue's Black Brutal. It's a fact to be taken as fact. Belhaven Wee Heavy cocks them both. Mixing the ideal with the earthly. It's not even the level of Baroque wordplay that might make a ramble of this sort acceptable. The demilitarized zone of intellectualism and diddling one's own grey matter. Is it onanism when one wishes to express and not merely bask in the moment of spinout jubilation?

Perhaps such a display can be forgiven if it yields something beyond the self. Those plans on the table, the ones I spoke of earlier. Those responsibilities never mentioned, yet counterbalanced with instances of more. What Gadda does in translation. What intent does to complascence. How it all seems connected to the last inch of cigar on which I draw, attempting to enjoy the taste and not the heat. Not yet old enough to glean flavor from the full range of the spectrum of heat.

This, the part that will stay mine. I speed up to leave skid marks on the moment, only to realize the lack of track upon which to run...etc. etc.

I need a week of abandon. Italy, Germany, England. Some realm far enough away that I can call it aether. Time there. Carved out of long, unadulterated stretches of the soul's hologram. Steps down strange streets taken slowly. Everything slowly. Drawing on a fine cigar. A sip. Even writing, slowly, with a fine instrument, opting speed for the aesthetic enjoyment of languid unfolding.

Italy, with my anglophile tendencies winking amorously at England. A bit off, I see, as more and more enter the bar. Local poetic champions adding a bit of charismatic dirt to their noble vitae. For some of us, the dirt is all we have. We learn to build castles that don't last the night.

Italy. It hits me like the bathroom grafitti. "Dead Carp" writting in the shape of a fish. "Screw you" which just makes me feel wanted. I have never imagined Italy beyond my reverie, yet now I plot to work there for a summer, real friends with real family who might make it happen.

What do I believe could happen? A timeless moment to carry with me like a fob back into my routine life? Something to fondle as I wince through days? A split second snatch of melody that alters the cells of the heart? Yes, I expect as much. I am still that young. To research a city's gunning legacy, and respect it with response. A fine point put to the country who puts itself forward - its major meccas at least - in a way that illustrates the Parisian Left Bank in ways itself can no longer.

For this meantime, then, I will sprint within my confines. The way I draw slowly on the final quarter inch of this 5 Vegas, Limited Edition. A smile of thanks to local liquor starburst Jay Johnson for his generosity....


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Freddie and the Baby King of Norway

I could see his smile from behind as he hopped the last step and waddled his nonexistent ass into the bar. He was an orb of fat and back hair atop a small square of plaid boxers. An single scoop of tried jokes and b.o. I immediately wanted to call Freddie. Bulging through his once manly mane, Freddie approached the only decent looking girl in the place, who was seated close to the door facing inward to convey that old simple secret, "I am not easy. You have to talk to me first." He gave her neck a friendly squeeze more about his ability to get away with such a move than a gesture of friendship. He took up his pole position at the bar earned over the last month, paid for in half-paid tabs and requisite last call promisings, and tried to make her smile.

In my hometown in TN this ubiquitous move is found in year two of any Player's curriculum. After the paralysis before the fear of paralysis in the face of certain virginity (final exam, year one), it becomes all about the offense maneuver, judging tactics and timing. There are lateral moves that call for motion toward the confident ex-cheerleader (and subsets thereof, dependent upon her marital status, financial success and lasting popularity in the community she has no intention of leaving). A more linear advance can be made on those out of their element. With proper timing and tempo she can be laughing beside you despite your overbite and only three more drinks from eyes hard shut and gripping the door handle.

And then there are guys like Freddie. His is an effective confidence born of indifference, of admission of one's inexorably frozen fate. It is bravery before the barrel of a gun, discovering time and time again that some bullets are only deadly if you believe their bullshit. Most just hurt, and that's nothing but another tic come game time.

The resort bar is named Baby King Haakon's Bar and Grille (I couldn't make that up) having what to do with the local mythos of infant kings saved by Thorish half-brothers, epic decents down a mountain just outside the video arcade, peppered now with more mortal, but still impressive, boogie boarders. Here in the bar, it's a strange kind of beat down VFW and ecru collared visitor center. Some have ventured far to seek the firework marketing of a winter's fun pinnacled in chance adventure, family-gathered R&R tinged with the implied hope of a carnal backslide. Others are simply locals from the nearby town of Cable who have saved paycheck drippings for a chance to show spouse and kiddies Daddy ain't as bad as he sounds at midnight. More often than not the weekend getaways end up hair-splitting declarations of success, failure, and wall-mounted contentment.

I envied something in Freddie's gait, the gleam in his eye as he walked in the door. The happiness of seeing his people already at the helm, his throne, already warmed with the game. Not that being the one to pop the evening's cherry would have gotten him down. No, Freddie was the kind of returning band camp senior who relished that role too, took a repeated pride in being the one who got things going down here on the best part of the first floor by the arcade (Burn Out Champ two years running), where the real fun is should you drag yourself all the way down the hall, to Cable, to pay to play in the snow. The Packers were on, so that's all she wrote. The place was Hrothgar's mead hall after good defense of the realm, songs and swears swelling into the loyalty of small town souls to their chosen guilds. Almost medieval, just outside the urban glow of some bigger, real city.

Telemark Resort
Cable, WI
January 2008

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Brand New Sunny Happy New Year

The film of the last few years has been stripped, forcing me to accept potential as it mingles with brand new life. It is as though it heard me say Enough! No more waiting. As if the world I believe had not written us off. The passing thoughts and plans of Major Accomplishment, which had been taken down and stored, are suddenly assembled on the table in front of us. Stacked in columns of Babel or flat rows of solitaire. Red king on a black queen, maybe gin. The plans before us will be weighed against time, energy, and propriety, with a thumb on the losing side of chance. With a dare and an eye on the witching fade into the future we must order them and begin. Resolve them with the Reality. Though some plans must be postponed in lieu of others, it is the zest of those chosen that will propel us forward to what we are to become and become in the world.

It's the opposite of youth, the incessant revving of the engine in neutral, the starting point from which all things at once are possible, but not yet begun. I've spent entire summers there. Wasted years more lithe than these. But then perhaps it is a necessary waste charged with making us take up the years left with more appreciation, more focus, more commitment. To move beyond the regret of what we've wasted. That feeling that must devestate us, but show us it is not too late.

O what it takes to get some of us started! A glance at one's peers, perhaps. Desdamona's jump to an overdue musicality. The steady progression of those we respect in envy. Sons and daughters reminding us the wrinkles we've earned are lines of real demarcation. Regret is too easy. The water there is perfect. Stay a while, it says, build up your potential. It is important to visit, but never stay.

Whatever the causes and metaphors, the time has come. 21st century, a few years in. The placement of my thoughts and ideas and reverie and hope into this hole for reasons only my penchant for exhibitionism understands. That part of me which whispers unsense into the dark.

to compose in miniature with the belief that, like current web design paradigm,
a minimalism in form portrays content in a glorious fountain of gravitas.
As if sans serif ascribes to each the moving of mountains.

All of this in the afternoon sun, but not without a whiff of bowel. I know enough to know my epiphanies have their price point. Even the loftiest of notions have the ability to take sudden headers off cliffs. What I would pay for the optimization needed to assure successful flight. My bougeouis crust thicker, despite my best intentions, a possible side effect of age. How much effort will it take each time to strike some healthy vein? What it really matters in the long run. It takes a multi-dimensional chart to make sense of it all, the kind used in costly presentations at the Landmark Center not over the lunch hour, but at seven with apps.

"How to Advance Successfully in Urban Stratego"
paired with Savignon Blanc.

"Speaking Effectively with Institutions of Art"
presented by the Walker. Bad martinis, extra.

Cover charge for the chimera of hope.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Crumbs: I-VI

Snapshots from a lunch at Great Waters.

Pasty white men shot
Into suits
Sausages Bluetooth toward the future
Rightfully paved

Stumbling gentry
Eskimo pie lunch date
With oblivion

Tiny women keeping
Company with chimps
Success promised more than
This pimping

Another vagrant promenade
Every can's a hope
The leg up
Everyone else has been given

In the courtyard
Predictable pop music
No one knows where

The look of refinement
How quaint the thought
What am I
But the reason

Saturday, May 10, 2008


It's because our lives are not dramatic enough,
I suppose,

until the mannequins you love do not stare back
and t
he world is an equation you're just too stupid to understand.

Not the world but the continent we ignore
our chosen plot of better or worse,
old age pondering of paths not taken
like a lame consolation prize.

They say it all happens so fast
but only when you start noticing,
wrinkles and pain and things that leave you,
I should not be telling you this
so you can enjoy another day of blindness.

It'd be childish to think you don't know this, of course,
but f
act is there are skies that take you
for granted. Their
colors beg questions
you never make time to answer.

Aromas can put you a good 10 years back
to broad-backed pieces of luck with
fake tans that helped you join the ranks.

I love you
one of the best sounds
you'll ever hear,
sounds a lot like the birth of your first as he
fights his way into the world

It's because our lives are too dramatic

to waste time with repeated dress rehearsals,
especially plays that aren't meant for you.

Don't blow it by ignoring

the scenes around you -
tiny, meaningless things.

That's the one you get for free.

Find the things that teach you
what's nothing and everything

Keep them before you
til the credits roll.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


May 5, 2008

Waiting room at dentist.
No serrated wordplay
can cut through the MPR
classical monotone of
rambling and forced
hospitality that makes this
room a perfectly acceptable
place to die.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Old Oil

I had the rare pleasure last night of drinking old oil from a metal keg.

And it was sublime.

No, my penchant for the drink hasn't led me to panhandling Jiffy Lubes. Not yet. "Old oil" is the translation of Ola Dubh, Harviestoun's Brewery's unique collaboration with Highland Park, Distiller of the Year. I commend Bulldog in Nordeast for having the moxie to purchase two firkins of the stuff and serving it gravity as part of their regular Wednesday tradition, "Firkin Night." On Wednesday's the bar taps a firkin of a random beer - could be Summit, could be a rare, oak-aged elixir - and serves it without the use of standard Carbon Dioxide. The beer flows from the firkin like Gatorade from a Gott cooler. This old-school process elicits more flavor from any brew, considering it has it to begin with. Many macros taste so god-awful, they are served ice-cold, guaranteed to numb the tongue and hide the evil. Use marketing to tell your customers that this is "the AMERICAN way to enjoy beer!" and you've vindicated the way you hide your imperfections. But I digress...

Ola Dubh 30 starts with the brewery's award-winning brew, Old Engine Oil and ages it in casks used to store Highland Park's 30-year single malt scotch. This is the first ale to be aged in malt whisky casks from a named distillery and, with tracable casks and numbered bottles, the first with genuine provenance. Bottles are available in limited supply in the state for around $30. When I heard that Bulldog was offering 10-oz. glasses for only $6 AND served gravity? It's no lie I almost lept out the window to get to the car.

To the eye Ola Dubh is infinite black with reddish-brown hints at the edge. You see at once that it is too thin to be a stout, though the head was as dense as the best Guinness. The nose is that of a restrained baltic porter, a dank but clean cellar floor whose surface has enjoyed a spill or two of good whisky. Upon the first sip the word is creamy. At 8% A.B.V. this simply couldn't be smoother. I actually had trouble distinguishing when the thick, quarter-inch head ended and the brew proper began. The second word is balanced. After the cream one senses the impending attack of high-grade alcohol, but it never comes. The heat pirouettes and disappears behind a cashmere curtain of half-bitter chocolate. Truffle oil steps forward and punches the air only to be hauled off by security guards of currant, raisin, and clove. These flavors mug for the camera, each enjoying fleeting moments of fame. The result is an undulating spectrum of autumn for the beer-loving palate. The viscous finish brings you back to the name, and you're lucky. The oil bonds the deep flavors to your tongue to make this the best tasting–and longest lasting–beer you'll have in a very long while.

Future incarnations of Ola Dubh, I understand, are to include aging in Highland Park's casks of 40 and even 50 year single malts. Let's hope the Bulldog can commandeer a couple of those as well. If so, I'll be there, sipping age and strength in rare combination.


The Bulldog Northeast

Harviestoun Brewery

Monday, April 28, 2008

Review Online

"In 2004 Philip Dacey, English professor at Southwest Minnesota State University for 34 years, author of eight previous full-length collections of poetry and recipient of numerous fellowships, moved to Manhattan in a flight of retirement fancy..."

More in the latest issue of Whistling Shade:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


It comes to each of us, should we have had the double-edged good fortune of looking upon Grand Universals or Ideals, that age will ask us to prosecute them. Bliss. Infinity. The Northern Lights of our malignant speck will be summoned to defend themselves against the growing scrutiny of the present. For as we drift inexorably from the pinpoint of some original moment, the fabric of our culture fades and ravels out with an active imagination. Ideals compete more and more with the breeding multiplicities (entertaining us like toddlers), the latter boasting a stronger connection to reality. Bubble gum scandal. Entertainment that smacks more of violence than pleasure. Technological progress that advances our complacence not our insight. These are the facets that brag of reality? God competes with the money behind false idol worship as it approaches Nirvana.

It is an organic reconciliation, I suppose. A sort of passing of a Platonic torch. The speeding wine of youth consumed by its own consumption of everything now and faster. That which comes before just doesn't have the same bling. So has it always been. So it is now. At the same time I realize the vanity of this ramble and its necessity. The great ideals, like their human counterparts, somewhere in their vast innards, must find the patience for these flashes in the pantheon. Ready to smile should these newborn blips one day open their eyes.

Nor am I above it all, the way a diatribe of this tone would imply. On the contrary, it is only on particular sunny mornings that I am able to see the mirages I do. But as a blip myself I am moved to scream my thoughts into the void, in hopes that some small vibration might find the right fork and cause another. Nothing more than a pause for thought seeking out its kin.

from Dots and Lines
(a book that does not exist)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Exposed, again

New review of the Tequila Chronicles and interview with me over at RUMPOT MAGAZINE (


Friday, April 11, 2008


And when does it occur to you? Three-quarters into a weighty conversation with that old, but estranged friend? Between the covers, perhaps, of that ancient novel you finally decided to enter. Calling it a question of language and you begin to stalk it. Vocabulary - too easy. Syntax - too cold. Culture. Warmer. Jauss with his diachronic and synchronic cross-sections...ouch. Abort.

The term poetry. What it admits to carrying in its marrow. The very justification for its skeletal structure. Eloquence. Now we're getting somewhere. Is the very attempt an admission of something seen as lofty and out of touch? Choice of words and sentence structure. Subject matter. Tone and voice. Every creative writer feels the pull of the reigns while constructing pieces for the body. Will an arm too long or muscular draw attention away from the beauty of subtle movements? Will a countenance too piercing disrupt the function and motivation? Does even the use of a metaphor turn a face sour, too far from the suface, constituting a breach of contract with what is empirical by the simplest of equations?

But then that has always been the case, no? Context and timing left to carry a thing from its opaque realm and into a part of us waiting to be touched? And that part, growing smaller through age into an ever more informal future? Smaller, but maybe more intense. A diminishing in the face of the growing complexity of everyday life, does it need to be satiated by an inverse proportion? Poetry as amino acid for the aged. Literature as vitamin-infused sustenance for the emotional and pituitary self?

But do not think - or feel - for a second that I am overlooking the issue of what constitutes eloquence. It is quite topical, coming up recently in my context (and those much greater and more numerous). Discussions of new formalism, freedom of expression, quality, anachronism, the anxiety of influence and more. Eloquence. The successful expression of a thought beyond the level of everyday speech? A new twist on that speech? As our culture embraces, with increasing passion, a more populist paradigm (a term, of course, which sprials out to other discussions, and rightfully so) how strange it appears when a more concerted tongue is used to express our ideas in older sense of direct, but more symbolic, certainty.

from Dots and Lines
(a book that does not exist)

Thursday, January 17, 2008


It was, when allowing himself to think from this perspective, the most responsible thing to do. Vets in the old country were no stranger to it, nor were medieval charlatans posing as holy men of medicine. How something so old brings with it, into the present, a very natural aura of propriety, of old testament rightness rooted in ancient, simple sense.

A leech, perhaps, strategically placed

A cut along a tainted path of vein

Interception of the problem at the dangerous source, as if to remove a poisoned dermis from the face of a child. But no one time treatment for some. No. For some it is a chronic addition to purity. Daily, had he his way. Bleed himself of the rue of life deemed spoiled somehow in its passing from anticipation to forgetting. Itching behind eyes and scalp, he would self-impose treatment wherever, whenever. Get it out, pin it down to anything that would soak up the black desire.

Some volunteer for pain and sweat for the sake of a better physique.

Others prefer to keep a ripped soul, abs be damned.