Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"The Edge of the World"

by Jack Gilbert

I light the lamp and look at my watch.
Four-thirty. Tap out my shoes
because of the scorpions, and go out
into the field. Such a sweet night.
No moon, but urgent stars. Go back inside
and make hot chocolate on my butane burner.
I search around with the radio through
the skirl of the Levant. "Tea for Two"
in German. Finally, Cleveland playing
the Rams in the rain. It makes me feel
acutely here and everybody somewhere else.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Work of Snow

Maybe it's the snow. Maybe it is because the snow, more than any recollection, reminds me of the solitude of my childhood. When school and home were too overwhelming for my delicate sensibilities, I would retreat into the woods behind our house, and I would sit on a hill beside the stream. I imagined myself a monk, I suppose, communing with nature. It was calming to be in the presence of something that did not want. As if this cloister were not peaceful enough, there was winter. The snow did there what it does up here. It mutes the insect buzz of the world. It forces you not to listen, but to watch. Watch the water flow beneath the ice ten feet below. Watch the bird alight on a branch, shaking free a puff of snow. Once you get seeing down, only then can you start to listen. Align yourself with the stillness and you will hear what is not to be heard. That secret water sounds like whispering. That snow likes to mimic the wind through hollow oak. All of this built in me a foundation of stillness that helped me through it all. It sharpened the senses we don't think much about. However, sensitivity has its cons. I haven't harmonized with that environment for over twenty five years, and yet I still often find myself overwhelmed by even the most simple of urban life. It is unsettling to think I trained myself out of being functional in the world.

So the snow is here, and there's more on the way. It knows its work. It stands for an elusive stillness. It recalls troubled times. It is the nagging reminder that I have always felt ill-prepared for what I entered the day I left it all behind.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


We have everything we need, she says
in a voice that verges on truth.

But I know Angels
are not meant to live so low

So I kiss her long, for this we do not ration,
and swear to make her an honest woman

And as I close the door behind me
I can hear her soft singing, searching the cupboards,
dividing even the dust by two

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Knowledge of Bombs

Once in a while creators of art, those who attempt to bring the thoughts and images to the light of day, stop. They look at themselves and their processes. They see the whole of it like an exploded diagram of the atomic bomb. They can see the arming mechanism, the casing, Fig. 3: the vital pin. If they are truly fortunate, they are able to see, as well, the context in which it all tries to exist. The culture. The composition of the air through which said bomb will plummet toward its target. Sometimes this knowledge stops the creator in her tracks. Sometimes it lights a fuse otherwise never seen.

For me, it has taken me years to realize the value of two important things:

1. trusting myself
2. caring less

These two notions have only recently shown themselves, their evil twins having postponed many a bomb waiting to create life.

Next up: The Nature of the Bomb and How Let It Go

Friday, November 6, 2009

New Writing Contest on Facebook Keeps Michael Writing!

Paper Darts Magazine is featuring a monthly micro flash fiction contest on Facebook. Up to 1000 characters on a given prompt, entrants can win around 100 bucks if they get enough votes (in the form of "likes"). It is brillian marketing really. If a Facebook group wants a high member count, you host a contest where all entrants (and voters!) must become members of the group, then you can rest assured that your entrants will be recruiting new members just to vote for them. Brilliant.

Anyway, the latest contest ended at midnight last night, and I was fortunate enough to receive 13 votes. I liked the piece myself and had fun writing it. My thanks to Flannery O'Connor for her wonderful prose which inspired the dark foliage of my submission. "The Dark Foliage of My Submission." The title of an imaginary book by George Bataille and Gary Snyder.

I'll be entering this contest monthly as writing practice. If you are on Facebook, I invite you to "friend" me and check out my submissions to the contest. If you like them, leave a like, won't you?

Best as winter comes,

Thursday, October 15, 2009

2 Polaroids of the South, 2009

The sun hunches itself elderly over a line of oak trees behind the old storefront, while a man watches shadows grow sleepy and yawn themselves into the dirt. Neon stutters, abetting the twilight. Bats, like the dead of summer, dart above cricket drones from the darkening wild wood.

He stares at the Coke machine, at the cloud of insects around the bulb overhead. Not even they, in their heated electron swarm, can make movement on an evening like this. Resolute in its stillness, the air is a statue in the park, parting words you can't take back.

But in his head there are explosions in the sky, soundless and unseen and worlds beyond it with no idea what they have coming.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Double Complaint (Laforgue Remix)


"What comes, when all else fails?"

I thought it would be me you would come for. Instead, you tempted. Sure, Death. Ahead of your grainy caravan you sent your damaged angels in reconaissance. But you never asked them what they wanted. Seems they had grown tired of brittle hues, longed to embrace the defiance they sold. They found me waiting. I, so full of wet life. Of course they stayed.

In truth I never knew
Death needed needed so many.

So now you arrive, but you've wasted your time.
Your data is corrupt. I'm not fit.
Keep banging.
Hammer out your first complaint.


"The dead are discreet. They sleep in a cool a place."

You had too much to do. I understand. Sure, Life. Before the heated angels' mutiny, I was also too cold. Perhaps I was too still for you to notice. I must have been nesting. Huddled beneath the racing level of the world, digging a little deeper for gold, I found sharp stone. I bled myself into a divine recepticle.

Sure, Life
I hated.
Unnamed objects and sections of time
reached for me. I felt my first friendship
with the nothing that lies beneath the lie
of the world.
We played elaborate games.
We both lost.

But that's old news.
One learns.
I heat it up.
I wrestle the sweaty bodies you abandoned, which now
abandon death. Now this is no cool place.
You are present only in the refraction of laughter.

Death has come for me.
Everyone here laughs,
moves closer. I tell him I'm coming
and we depart.

He complains I've no right to do this.
We just laugh louder as we sneak out the back.

We, his Angels, never told him.

The dead?
They travel.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Source

He wiped his brow with the back of his greasy hand before continuing his
walk up the hill. His feet throbbed inside his dress shoes, but the music coming from behind the wall of trees ahead pulled him. Slow and warped it sounded like melting glass. A redding sunset on the tide. A snake decided against him and slid toward a nearby tree stump.

When he exited the thicket he saw the house, a shack really, complete with rocking chair yokel on the porch. The music which had drawn him here was emanating from beneath a pair of glassy eyes staring ahead. A teen, by the look. There were no instruments he was surprised to discover, just a voice which stretched and shook and trebeled as if it came from an old '78 through bad speakers. The man stopped just to hear him better.

A large woman emerged from behind the slapping screen door.

"And what can I do for you?" She asked, half hospitable and half in warning.

"Afternoon. My car broke down on the road down below. I heard someone singing and headed this way."

"Well, we ain't no garage, but you can use the phone if you like."

Continuing to allow the boy's hypnosis to affect him, he had almost forgotten the reason for his trek.

"I gotta' tell you, ma'am. That boy has got a set of pipes on him. I ain't heard nothin' that sweet in years. You should get him into the city and cut a record or something."

While the boy continued to sing, staring off into the tops of the trees behind the man, the woman replied.

"Bobbie? Lawd, he ain't no musician. He's just singin' th' blues."


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Toward the River

What is it that we can become
Allowing ourselves the long hours
Of the years?...

How small and sweet I was. At 10, a true maple leaf with feet and a tousle of blonde curls. Going to school was just a stayover. I would soon begin to shake my head at the madness of the world, but for now things made sense, and everything you needed to know could be found in a long walk in the woods toward the river.

My imagination could not have been legally separated from the fantastic, simple universe of nature. In private I always wondered why such a big deal was made out of leaving one to enter the other. To me each was merely an extension into a complimentary realm. Inside my most shadowed scenarios and personal fairy tales lay a dimension green with gold, where trees were to be felled or climbed, and bodies of water were sensual without being sexy. That was enough for the man inside waiting to be born. In turn -- a trek down familiar paths, past charmed stones initialed with secrets and following a small brook that emptied its fill daily into the mighty Mississippi. This pilgrimage was a regular one, but by no means common. It was an active meditation of movement within the cloister of the wood. With a grin I would navigate my thoughts, my distant and strange dreams, with a respect the forest deserved, a joy-filled reverence for the infrastructure of Eden. Looking back I realize that here the young heart was as it is modeled in Heaven. Love here is the kind that does not fade. Hope is made of something for which we have not yet created a word. This place is a takeoff ramp. It is a wondrous world in which to mold the things that sustain you for the rest of your life. It is unnatural anywhere to remain in the womb. If we are fortunate, we receive here the vitamins needed, absorbing the deep, invisible love of the mother, vital to our emergence into the harsher air as man and woman.

At 41 I have come so far from that dreamtime, only to feel the road begin to wend and the air start to arc back while still emptying out in the future. The path of life is not circular, as the adage goes, but spiral, placing us regularly on the same axis but on another plane. I have come to believe this is so we may repeatedly regard the pivotal moments in our lives from multiple perspectives.

Should we succeed in this, we may just piece together enough to understand the whole of our journeys and laugh as we each make our own way toward the river.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Flesh Out

Her hips navigated the crowded formica deftly, banking high at the turn and counter-balanced by three or more bowls of the vicious-looking stew they served. Rare brisket floating face down in the deep end of something eternally referred to as "the special." The rest he could handle, double-barreled egg rolls steaming atop rice noodles, green onions and cilantro.

His eyes held her a little longer than usual in his sleepy gaze, giving anyone watching a hint as to his next pleasant dream. A regular who ate everything on the menu with a fork, he'd awkwardly strike up conversation with Gina whenever possible. She'd learned his preference for S151 over S150 and why. She'd heard bits of his life story between the holy basil and the fortune cookie. The fact was she felt she had probably gleaned more about him in the last six months than his own mother knew about her boy now. She feels him watching her even when she is preparing the Cafe Sua Da behind the counter, her ego waffling between flattered and disturbed.

He'd spend countless meals downing Asian Fusion and working out why her lower back hides behind what will eventually turn out to be a Rohrschak dragon. At $7.25 a pop he gleans everything he can about her. He'll use up all the rules he ever learned in bars from Frogtown to Uptown, from the failed parties that never stood a chance; and not once will he see that here a whole different set were in play. It's like war. Each side throwing down not the best card, but the next one, either to be taken prisoner or to prove that the value of what you have is wrapped up somewhere between chance and timing.

With her it wasn't so linear. With Gina it was a complex network of connections, visible and opaque, which branch out and double over like the family tree hand-drawn in her uncle's room. Rules of clan and color-schemed bloodlines. Infinite walls to keep the in in and deviations of body logic outside, out in the world better left to its own.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Great Experience and the Next

The Summer Fiction Contest reading event at the Brave New Workshop in Uptown on July 29 was a great experience. I met Christian, the host along with other local figures in the local lit scene. The cafe area was teeming with small cliques, darting eyes taking mental notes. I half expected to see Capote in a corner holding a group of fans hostage with his effortless tales of the scene.

The top ten finalists read their pieces throughout the evening, and they were all enjoyable in their diversity: from dour and earnest to laugh-out-loud funny. I was in extremely good company.

Yesterday the new issue of was published. I was the 2nd runner up, and my story was published along with four others. You can read them here.

The whole experience, a rare one for me, has been heartening. I feel I have the confidence to put my work out there the way I should have been doing all along.

What's next? Walrus Magazine's "Guilty Pleasures" writing contest. Participants are encouraged to write a gripping/titillating/action-packed first paragraph of a novel in one of a list of genres. I submitted something last night. The genre? Western! More here.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

VI. Cirrus

On the side street to my left, Locust Avenue, I see passing thoughts gather in corners to be swept away by street cleaners and the violent storms Autumn has coming.

A group of teenagers approach with the scowl typical to those who know how much life hates them. They look cirrus, stopping when they reach me, and their communal angst recedes into comical interest. A small victory is needed and making a stranger uncomfortable is as good a win as any. I do not fault them for this. It is a trait I can almost remember.

"What's your deal, dude?"

"You. All of you. The street you're walking down."

A look of confusion crosses them, except the speaker - the apparent alpha - who tries another tack.

"Reading books, huh? Let's see one."

I can see it in his eyes. Rumors that smell of arson. Dogs kicked in face of defiance.

"I can't." I reply ruefully. "It is not the way."

He pauses, silently finding his way between my clear refusal and the notion it might be for good reason.

"These are the words you may read, but this is not how you are to encounter them. This is the short cut in the woods best left untaken. You are the future, the whole future, and you have to come upon these things at the right time or not at all. We can't fast forward the natural progression. Us meeting, right now, is the clue you have to make due with. It may be three, seve, or even ten years before you discover the connection. But if there is any hope for us at all, you have to be the ones to figure them out. It is a slow riddle told over the course of time and only as a result of your own actions. I just figured out one meant for me, just now, before you walked up. I discovered the last part here on page 73. Let me show you..."

With that I read them the passage aloud, ensuring they understood all the words and the meaning of the word 'coda' before closing the book.

"I first discovered this notion when I was 8, while on the playground. It stood, as it were, on the other side of the street, and I could barely make out the colors of its clothes. It wasn't my time to understand, just start the process. Only today, today, do I make the connection meant for me. You look at me now the same way. You see my suspenders, my linen pants. I look like I'm from another time. It bothers you, ever so lightly. But now the connection has been made. Now your fuse has been lit. Now you are to walk to the end of the street, take a left or a right and continue to countless more years before the circuit completes itself. Only then will the light catch and shine for what you have been waiting to see. Thank you, and good luck."

With my monologue finally over, the lanky leader laughed a single breath before ushering his platoon further down the strip. With bravado and headshaking I watch as they catch themselves in each storefront window they pass, checking for biceps warped in the hope of glass, a carriage rooted in backbone, wondering perhaps if in the next or the next they might grow older or at least a find themselves little closer to becoming.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pome for Liam

hot saturday
oblique lemonade laughter

smiles in place of words as water hoses
feed insect tributaries, cities
whose future is up for grabs
in the afternoon sun

mud pie appetizer
picnic reveries

deep breath my boy
summer begins

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Good Week

I am in the top 10.

More information here:

Friday, July 10, 2009

V. Nimbostratus

Motorcycles blast by an older
Norwegian couple, who squint
their eyes at 2009

Red clay and stone
a husband can manage, he is built
of hard things, but here
How can a man gather the harvest
in the face of madness?

He trots across the street at the sight
of another bad dream on its way

The Ducati growls as it passes
hoping to see the past show its fear

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

IV. Altocumulus

not necessarily a pleasant one. An entire town made up of Laura Ashley
virgins and their more fortunate counterparts.

Heat waves rise from the roofs
of parked cars turning them
and passing bored faces
into active mirage

The whole place is hungry
like the summer that stifles it.
The heat and bodies and faces
suffer it with a pleasure rooted in
the pain of old men.

Motorcycles roar past small children
growing accustomed to the sounds
to which they will contribute as fully
licensed voters, fists and all.

Their faces contain the mix of innocence
and toughened flesh needed for their future here.
Somewhere secret plans are already being made
to join its ranks.

What must be purchased and paraded aloud
begins to take up the space left vacant by lilacs
and fading wishes. It is too much.
As it has always been.

Blood itself is maturing here.
The asphalt sees to that -
its reason for being.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

III. Altostratus

I BELIEVE MY FAVORITE SIGHTS are those which take place around The Tree of Life store- "gifts for those who are about something." It pulls on the women here. In groups they each tug on the arms of their friends to go in, explore, care about something. The look on their faces are a mix of excitement -- there is scarce else to do in this town they haven't done a thousand times here or in their own private Hudson's -- and self-righteous action right with the Lord. And in the most enjoyable way. A small breeze stops and a group bursts forth from the Tree with bags and trinkets and proof they have parted with their copper for a bit of fashionable social responsibility. Off to drinks to celebrate their proven piety their husbands allow out of good judgement. Should their husbands have the great fortune to be in tow, the advantage is often theirs. An eye roll and a tog of the arm, at once, acknowledges the wife's desire to save the planet and enforces their position of perceived power in the relationship. Unless they have apologies to make, submitting time and patience here is not likely. The wife, in response, is disappointed but comforted too, down deep, at the simple hierarchy a forceful husband provides with a selfishness she understands. It is a curious dynamic, with more layers than I mention here, and one better left to sociologists with better funding than mine.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

II. Stratus

OLDER WOMEN ENTER AND EXIT dressed for a night on the town, despite the noonday hour. Their animal print motifs and put upon hair speak of things they prefer to ignore, like using a vibrator regularly does not constitute being sexually active. In this climate the urge is to focus on whatever can bring some semblance of life, of activity, into one's world. The pull otherwise, if only because of its stealth, is a dangerous tide. The arms of men erupt in this vacuum, the same way as women's breasts. From nothing, suddenly screams menacing ink flexing from shirtsleeves. Venomous biceps like a rattler gorging on a junkyard rat. Trimmed patches of what its all looking for. A roar, then silence that weights us down. An ass saunters by that, like a dense crag of rock in space, bends the gravity around it. No one is immune to this juicy fact, this heart-shaped proof that, come night, life is something only the strongest enjoy.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Clouds of Hudson

IV'E BEEN SPENDING SOME TIME IN HUDSON LATELY. For those who aren't from around here, Hudson is just across the border. It's downtown is on a body of water littered with boats and fake bikini lines. The accent is the same as ours, just about, but you can buy beer on Sundays. For those of you who are local, you know exactly what Hudson is.

I. Cumulus

I think it's somehow fitting that the main drag in Hudson is on Second Street, not first. The air is thick and wet the way summer ought to be, yet one can depend on Hudson to fulfill every sad little wish. It's starting to drizzle again, which stops the wind from blowing. On days like this the main corridor becomes a vacuum, giving any movement or sound which erupts from within it a seemingly great significance, as if the Dalai Lama is about to ask you for a light. The roar of overhead cams down Second turns the heads of even the deaf, who feel the vibrations through the poorly constructed street. The women - and one can witness this easily - all take note and try not to smile. Young and old, married or free, all cock an ear at this age-old blast of virility. In the otherwise pointless air a part of them, the women here, latches onto that sound and rides it down the torso. An instinctual recognition of power translates it without effort for the sexual organs who don't need it spelled out, and from there into questions about what they themselves do not have and why.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Up and somehow in
on steps of one's own carving

The echo
a hollow soundtrack to becoming

Find again
the quiet left behind

Fearing it meant you were not
for this world

Four Crossroads in Hudson, WI

An aging athlete, well into his hundredth race, begins
to slow his pace from a pained gallop to a trot. His smile
broadens to satisfaction as the stampede thunders by.
He makes his way to the sidelines, through the crowd
looking past him. He eyes the hills. Realizes it's time
for a new track.

2.3 miles toward downtown a vigorous pimp disappears
from a one bedroom apartment, awakens in a quaint
and charming European village circa 1951. It takes
him a whole year to decide how to behave.

As this happens a woman rises from her chair
and walks down three flights of stairs to the cafeteria.
She chooses the chicken, a small salad, and jello.
Seating herself by the vending machine against
the wall, she tastes the chicken looking out the
large window. A bird leaves a branch and dives
straight into the glass before her. She rises to
look out and down at the fragile feathers and feet,
almost invisible in the grass and butts and candy
wrappers. She feels nothing just before feeling the
wind in her veins, climbing out the window, and
losing her 401(k).

A poet, in a room once occupied by a pimp, looks up
to see a woman wandering up the hill behind the factory.
He slowly removes his shirt, pants, and the rest.
Decides to up his game and start submitting poems
to his favorite phases of the moon.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Goin' On

"I got things goin' on, see?"

Here any loud remark would have broken the fragile bond between me and my reading matter. Some days you can blaze through scores of pages, literally feasting on invisible rhyme and metre, while others you're a moron incablable of tasing even the barest morsel of a line. Today I am such a moron. It is not an altogether negative state, but I am unable to sail through tunnels of words and actions and their formidible web connections. I am, however, capable of something on another level. Today I am able to look beyond the deep buzz of all those bonds forming and breaking to see the outline, the silhouette, of something larger. It is like being still in the forest and consciously toggling your attention between noises in the fore- and backgrounds. Except today there is no conscious control. Today you just take it. You take it and try.

"'Cause I got things goin' on, see?"

That's what I hear today. That's all I hear. I look up to see him standing at the counter, unable to stop shifting his weight from foot to foot and fumbling with the large rings on his chubby fingers. Now the person on the other end of his cell phone knows what we know. He has things goin' on. Bobbing left to right and back again he was a tiny, one-man amusement park. Blue neon from his cell, golden fingers moving up and down at his side to some inaudible tune, and the dizzying splat of colors that made up his running suit. It was hard too look at, harder to look away.

The short Latina behind the counter was more patient than I would have been. Which special and what drink, that's all. She'd asked it fifteen times already, and it wasn't even noon. Fact is, she didn't speak much more English than that. Thanks to her uncle who got her the job and a cheap apartment in a Spanish-speaking neighborhood, she really didn't need to. She had plans, though, to learn this strange tongue. If she ever wanted to do something else, she would have to stretch herself, contort her mind in a new way around this language built more, it seemed on slang and exception than to any rules you could hold onto. Like trying to figure out some rhythm or cadance of a busy convention center. But she would try, she would work at training her mind to be an acróbata. She was was unaware of her jealousy of the clown in front of her. Ridiculous to see and hear, he could still bob and weave his way through the language. You could almost see it in her eyes, the way she held her anger back with both arms, kissing its head, saying it's okay, it's okay.

So she would wait. She would let him flirt and stall and make sure all four people scarfing down bugers knew he was something special because of his clothes, those rings, and the countless unseen things he clearly had "goin' on."

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Remembrance Published

A spot of remembrance in the latest Carte Blanche. Nonfiction.

Issue 9 is now online at

Thanks for listening.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Color of Spring

photo by Shaddam IV

Forcing the edge
is a silly thing to do

Fear of slowing down
of tumors in the cadance...

We need but stop
and see the voices here
have always rung out
in countless starry halls

And on clear summer nights
we add to them
our own left-handed

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

for the Warrior

"Battles you win....wars, less so."

This line is for a warrior who may never see it. She is a silhouette on the hill, lightning flashing behind her in a Frazetta painting forced to life. She is a bona fide, sword-wielding fighter of the tide. Again and again she has proven herself in battles you have never seen, nor will ever read about. They are not the sort that are recorded for study or reflection. Our recorders of history do not believe there are things to learn from them. They are wrong.

I know what you are thinking. But do not for a moment think these are figurative, bloodless battles. There is blood and on both sides. She has killed and died many times over in the name of what matters. At the time of this writing she is down for the count, her vitals - negligible - and no one is betting on a comeback.

But they are wrong. She's got a backup plan, an auxiliary system kicking in as the crowd starts to disperse. Some call is a failsafe, as if failing were the endgame. No, she's failed before, but knows its all Nietzschian process through and through.

I'm kind of a fan. Win or lose, the battle is fought, and its very undertaking is the thing. Each brave stance against the All is no fools chance, but an empirical proof of life.

I will not hold her up as Hero. I refuse to do that to her. I have no need to commit her to that binary. Each time she wins, she is not elevated to some higher order, but rather is placed - like a suddenly more precious stone - deeper in the setting of the ring.

We've all had our Waterloos. We've lost innocences we can't keep track of. Entire species inside us have fallen or mutated, as needed. But in each of these trials there is a moment that defines not us, but the moment itself.

"Behind nothing, before nothing, worship it the zero."

It is an instant within which intersects victory, loss, and the dare. It is in this vital moment that life - its conscious enactment - is the thing. It is the difference between lying down your arms and the impossible leap forward that constitutes true courage.

I write this now not to spur her on, not to slap her back into consciousness. She does not need that. Though I have never spent a day in her shoes, I know the places over which she has tread. I write this to record a fraction, in infinitesimal cross-section our history books would otherwise leave fade in the horizon.

Do not pity her or worry. That will do no good. She will rise again or die a warrior's death. Either is acceptable to her. Better to put your energy into your own moments and move your own forward. This, this is what will help the whole of us. This is the moment which , in the end, is the difference between an honorable conclusion to our days and a forfeit truly worth lamenting.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

National Poetry Month

Did you know April is National Poetry Month? That time of year when we stop for a moment and think about poetry, something most of us don't do. We think "Huh. Poetry. Yeah, I've read some." or "Poetry...yeesh. No thanks." or even "Pretentious poets. I'll go listen to Radio K instead."

I have been called a poet; sometimes I think I am, and I can be heard mumbling any of these on any given day.

The truth is, I find better poetry in the songs I hear on college radio than in the books of so-called popular poetry. Popular poetry seems so desparate in its attempt to be considered important or Poetic (in Zapf Chancery script) that it loses the balance needed to be...well, needed. It's like a friend who actually does pretty cool things, but is overshadowed by his incessant need to tell everyone that he does cool things, that he thinks deeply...a LOT.

This is what usually comes to mind when April rolls around. 


But this year I'm trying something different. While I refuse to ignore the less palatable parts, I'm going to look on the sunny side. I'm going to look for what's good about poetry. I'm going to pitch in and try to do my part.

I was tapped at my place of employ, The Minnesota Humanities Center, to post on their blog on poetry for the month of April. Once a week I'll post something on some aspect of poetry, giving proper nods to the locals, in hopes of helping others get past the stereotypes (which are, indeed, rooted in reality) and find something about poetry that connects with them. The first post went up last week: I encourage you to read it and leave a comment about what poetry means to you, about how you plan to celebrate National Poetry Month, or just about how you think its cool that your local humanities organization is featuring poetry on its blog. The second post should go up before week's end. Feel free to comment on all posts. If there is enough reaction, I may just get to keep doing it.

As the weather warms, let's take off our coats and do some stretches. Let's make things happen we've talked about forever. Let's do things we can raise a glass to this winter, when we're huddled around fires cursing the weather through chattering teeth. 

Let's at least be smiling through them.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

for Spring

If late autumn
pulls his eyes across sun rusted hills,
spring always returns him to the color of women.

Like now.
In the café a stranger's gaze moves slowly
above him to something he suddenly
wishes he were.

But turning he sees it is only the hills reborn,
so he smiles,
allows himself to begin,

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Lucidity and Desire

"A.'s lucidity depends on a lack of desire. Mine is the result of an excess-undoubtedly it is also the only true lucidity. If it is only the negation of delerium, lucidity is not completely lucid, is still a bitt of the fear of going all the way-transposed into boredom, that is, into contempt for the object of an excessive desire. We reason with ourselves and we tell ourselves: this object doesn't have in itself the value that desire gives it. We don't see that mere lucidity, which we also attain, is still blind. We must see at the same time the delusion and the truth of the object. No doubt we have to know that we are deluding ourselves, that the object is first of all what is perceived by a desireless being, but it is also what a desire perceives in it. B. is also what is only attained by the extremity of delirium an dmy lucidity would not exist if my delirium were not so great. Just as it would not exist if the other, ridiculous sides of B. escaped me."

Georges Bataille
from The Impossible

Monday, March 2, 2009

On What Makes a Writer

In all the questioning about what makes a writer, and especially perhaps the personal essayist, I have seen little of reference to this fact; namely, that the brain has become a kind of unseen artist’s loft. There are pictures that hang askew, pictures with outlines barely chalked in, pictures torn, pictures, the artist has striven unsuccessfully to erase, pictures that only emerge and glow in a certain light. They have all been teleported, stolen, as it were, out of time. They represent no longer the sequential flow of ordinary memory. They can be pulled about on easels, examined within the mind itself. The act is not one of total recall like that of the professional mnemonist. Rather it is the use of the things extracted from their context in such a way that they have become the unique possession of a single life. The writer sees back to these transports alone, bare, perhaps few in number, but endowed with a symbolic life. He cannot obliterate them. He can only drag them about, magnify or reduce them as his artistic sense dictates, or juxtapose them in order to enhance a pattern. One thing he cannot do. He cannot destroy what will not be destroyed; he cannot determine in advance what will enter his mind.

Loren Eiseley
from All The Strange Hours

Saturday, February 28, 2009

This Morning I Feel Like The Love Child of Stars of the Lid and Leon-Paul Fargue

..and now you can, too.

Listen to this:

and read this poem by Fargue. I have yet to meet someone who has not had a night like this one.

by Leon-Paul Fargue (1876-1947)
translated from the French by Louis Simpson

We certainly loved you,
Marie. You knew,
Didn't you? Do you remember?

One evening
We set off at night,
Artheme and I, going quietly to see you
Beneath the apse of the summer sky, as at church.

There was a light and you were reading.

We kept the drawings
With three crayons, and the birds in blue ink
That you make.

Ah, Marie, you sang so well!
It was during the time
When you were happy, at the Sisters' school,
When the procession of pale flowers
Sang in the desert of Sunday.
I was near you, who were all in white.

The organ spoke of shadows...
On the altar the blue day hung.
Through wounds in stained glass, the call of the breeze
Fused with a loud hum of onyx, drove the fire
Of the candles toward you, tipsy
With light and sacred songs.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Barrel Roller

The Barrel Roller*
for Buford Counts

The young ones try
it with numbers,

count revolutions across
yards of old and lofted planks until

the room is done
and the cork faces out.

But the old ones just laugh at the science,
know that there are no equations
for art.

You just get by doing,
the way knives are sharpened to put
chickens out of your misery.

But their time'll come.
We forget we used
to count the rings, too,
wasted good time looking for short cuts
to the future.

*Buford Counts was a barrel roller at Jack Daniel's Distillery for over 30 years. His ability to get filled barrels of whiskey from one end of the floor to the other without machinery is well documented by his few living peers. He was also my grandfather.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Dishevel'd Salon is on Facebook

...just like the sign says...

Working on getting back to a regular posting here. Expect something new by next week.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Things You Carry Over

At the end of every year, I've found there is often one or two things that sum up those twelve months in retrospect. Sometimes the event is a little beyond my present state, giving me a glimpse into what is on the way. This past year was no different. In 2008 it wasn't my fun ride employment saga or my parent's health or even the reconnection with people I haven't seen for decades. No, for me it was an exhale long overdue, a recognition of something I have overlooked for decades, on purpose.

It was laid out before me like a tattered, black and white photograph, the sections unfolding with the chapters of a novel, Provinces of Night, by William Gay from Hohenwald, TN. The setting was not that unlike the rural south I left behind in 1995. In Gay's words I heard the melting drawl of a vernacular left behind, felt the wind on wild nights of my own that might have changed everything. It was all right there like a bloodline I was trying to deny. It was right there, making me admit my makeup, and it was in a written in a town considered hick even by hick standards. A moving novel from a place I had all but written off as, well, illiterate. Point made, south. Point made.

Page 248 and the young Fleming Bloodworth was still being offered the bottle by the weathered and dying, to make some tiny ammends to the fragile, or - almost forgiven - to get a rope around a bit of beauty and pull it down with them. A rabbit's foot for crossing over.

Page 248, that's about the time I caught myself starting to sink back into some relaxed, southern earth I figured left me a long time ago. Lord knows I did my best to strangle it. By all rights such a return ought to have happened after some survivable tragedy--a lost love, real destitution, busted locks or lips on the way back from some night out amongst 'em. I'm sure it happens that way to others, but when you're as sensitive as I am, it doesn't take that much. The Lord God whoever knows this and has seen fit to dole out my epiphanies in right and proper proportion.

So what is it that has come back? In short, the South. The southern earth welling up inside. It's a language, a tempo, a way of moving through the days very different from the way it happens up here in the north. I've discounted it all my life. But there's something there for me, for everyone I'd guess. It's a perspective that rests in valleys content to cradle the wind and rain, not brave it for old Scottish ballads and shitty landscape paintings over bad living room sofas. It's a language that can drink like my father did for a time, like I've heard his dad did before him, breaking jawbones just by looking at them. It's the sound of attics and spider basements, a crackle of energy that never seemed to wane, crack we can no longer afford. It's also a quiet desperation, like pulling a butt from the fire time and time again for one last taste of what's been bought and paid for.

On a summer night in 2008 this old piece of me tracked me down through the pages of a book and asked to come in. We started talking. We understood one another. I dare say we reached an agreement.

So at the start of this new year stop and think about what the last one has given you and what it has taken. Me? I found a little peace with my past.And I'm bringing it with me.