Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Simone Weil 34

The state of conformity is an imitation of grace. If wind comes from “uneven heating of the earth,” it doesn't conform to this morning's rain, palms' slight movement more an ache than an action. Nothing is more difficult than doing the same. It takes a cordon to raise an ethical village. They take the must off of must, the hood out of should. There's no fan above the stove, just the sweet vog of knowing right. Let speech fall trippingly from your tongue, but make certain it doesn't trip on words oozing like over-ripe guava. Such a slight shift from we-speak-for to we-speak-as, from your hurt to our malaise. It's liberation oligarchy, this imposition of standards on the rest of us, our feet in the mud. In the story, a man who worked in a windowed basement fell in love with two feet that walked at his eyes' level. He could tell these feet by the arc of bone on one big toe. When he grew rich and found the walker of these feet, she proved to be a prostitute. Oh good reader, he married her!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Simone Weil 33

Belief in the existence of other human beings as such is love. The sentence is tyrannical, though its content is not. Once upon a time, we moved eagerly toward the goodness of the full stop, believing in its fiction, content to rest there like a family on vacation. It's our happy place, he writes; the photos of sand and beach umbrellas testify to his confidence. “She's in her happy place,” a caregiver said of my mother, long past clauses nested between commas. The sentence stays with us, like a mother at the side of her sick child in a bathtub, bringing her a pail. But what happens when we leave it is mystery. We must love what is not there, Weil tells us. The voiceless person flickers between here and not-here like a sentence whose tenses suddenly shift. Present-past, Alzheimer's grammatical form. It's ok if you let go, I said once on leaving her, as if she or we had volition. Five years ago her body had begun to close down. When I got there, the caregivers said talk to her, but there was nothing left to say.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Simone Weil 32

Just back from Vietnam in 1971, he drove down the narrow road to Miloli'i. The sea's deep there, so they fish in the old Hawaiian way. From one hut he heard the most beautiful music. Points toward the stage: it was that guy, Led Kaapana. Saved his life. He remembers this song—must be getting old. Scots-Irish-Chinese-Hawaiian. Hawaiians used to welcome everyone in, he says, his arms stretched out in a circle. His family sold his land. Money, he says, rubbing his fingers together. Money. Bought land in Waiahole and grew papaya. But then the Agent Orange; he points to his chest, up and down. Sounds so good, eh? A-GENT O-RANGE. The jungle was a comfort to him, but then they walked out into the bright light. We killed three million of them, and they killed 58 thousand of us. The Chinese fed their hungry. (He's Chinese you know.) His great-grandfather was Scottish but spoke Hawaiian, fished the windward coast. That small church at the Marine Corps; he founded it. They all died of disease, no matter who they were. His unit came after the B-52s laid down their carpets. They killed the ones who were terribly wounded, had to. One guy tried to enlist for a fourth time, but they didn't let him. He remembers this song—must be getting old. He forgets things now. Puts down his coffee cup and walks out the golf course side of Honey's Bar and Grill. It's owned by the Presbyterian Church.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Simone Weil 31

From the past alone, if we love it. A pretend eternity, like the Saigon theme park full of giant concrete Buddhas, where the rides were mostly broken. If movement is fun, then this was monotony. The tea was sweet, though, and we ran into each other on the wooden bridges. If this was a theme park, then our theme was dysfunction in the shadows of a curiously permanent impermanence. A tall ferris wheel jerked slowly over the abandoned roller-coaster, like admin over a humanities department, or athletics over pure science. The Galapagos has a thriving tourist industry; if you wait long enough, you evolve into the person of your dreams. But that's too long to wait, so stop time, before you speed it up. Your flower will bloom as quickly as one Rothko gifs into another. Crystal meth metonomy. He saw young men with the hearts of 80 year olds. Our kids squealed their joy from inside the tunnels of Cu Chi.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Simone Weil 30

We have to try to cure our faults by attention, and not by will. I looked down at the First Folio's open page and read, “to fleep perchance to dream.” When a dyslexic businessman looks at street signs, he sees letters but not where they belong. His only order, memorized. My student's sentences flit from hurt to hurt like hummingbirds. I ask him to look at what he's leaving, but that's for a later age, after the slowing down of synapses (and their attendant asps). The dream included snakes, but they were shedding skin rather than flashing it. Earth is covered with our molting: shell casings, bird shit, flat tires, a pile of wood where a single-wall house fell in on itself. To attend to this is not to reverse animation, turn tragedy into farce. It's to rest in the particular moment of our dying. The envelope arrived from Thailand with hardly any address on it: my name and place of work. Ithi's memory book; flip it either way and he smiles. Dead “by his own hand” at 33 on this Good Friday. I fucking hate symbolism.

--i.m Ithi S.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Simone Weil 29

Every separation is a link. A tall unshaven white man in ankle wading pants carries a metal pail from Times to the crackseed store and down toward Subway. I'm buying banana bread outside the plate lunch place from a small shy kid who plays lineman on his football team. His mother doesn't know if that's offense or defense, but she knows he has six cousins and a brother who also play. Before she came out with change, the man with the pail walked by and asked how much. $5 I said and he said “not this time, not this time.” It crosses my mind to buy him a loaf, but I don't. I watch him walk past with his pail. As I open my car door I remember the bag of toiletries in the back seat. I gather together shampoo, toothbrush, moisturizing cream, and set out to find him. I circle the parking lot three times. He's gone.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Simone Weil 28

The temporal was only a bridge. Radhika asks what apostrophe means and I say “O bridge!”: that doesn't refer to hours the governor closed a bridge out of spite. Power is a means, yes, but it's also mean--the way lack of commitment masks itself as indecision. She fears the cruelty of breaking a non-commitment, asks the newspaper ethicist what she needs to say. A world-renowned ethics professor sexually harasses his foreign students. The question we pose is so obvious we hardly need ask it. She wonders what is more cruel, the saying or the not-saying. If the bridge had an end, we could never get off it, gulls arcing beneath us, as we worried over concrete spalling, angled for repairs. The man whose shrill shirt balloons never lands, hangs in the air between roadway and the river. We have stopped him cold with a single syllable, calling into being what never ceases to die.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Simone Weil 27

It is better to say 'I am suffering' than 'this landscape is ugly.'” The Chinese poet said he suffered and I envied him for that, not for his suffering but for the word itself. The gap between suffering and our words for it is like a vertical trough in the Ko'olau; even the rain can't fill it with enough light. Early morning wind and birds conspire an ambient sound. Brssss, Sangha would say. Was he ever sick, his aunt asked, and I said no more than most kids. The cousin who shared his rounded face had orange hair and carried a cell phone. I caught a ride on her motorcycle, zigzagging down a thin road between densely packed thatched houses. The village stood on a point of land; up the rutted road people kept thousands of ducks in pens. What's ugly is not land but what it hosts: genocide, HIV, a brother gone to Thailand and not heard from since, another whose face closed like blinds on our gaze. We nursed our clouded glasses of tea; in front, Sangha held a framed photo of his dead mother; his grandmother quietly placed her hand on his leg then pulled it back. We know there's been a wedding and a funeral since. When asked if he'll return, Sangha says he got to leave.

--Takeo province, 2013

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Simone Weil 26

To see each human being (an image of oneself) as a prison in which a prisoner dwells, surrounded by the whole universe. A Republican senator claims we are an “under-incarcerated society,” by which he no doubt means there aren't enough private prisons. My student is a private person who wears a mask. I was astonished when others finally saw distress in me. The prison-house of language is no place for such conversation; it's what we can't know that's true. But in its absence, sit down on your cot and bask in the glow of sunlight as it strays across a bare sink. Eyes are the locks of the soul. A crow bar would blind you, so pour honey on them. No guard can open that slick sweet lock; he meets your helpless gaze with his.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Simone Weil 25

Beauty: a fruit we look at without trying to seize it. It's my argument against a certain kind of poem, one that charts conflict, then steps outside as if to say “I quit.” A man was beating his son in the bathroom of a pancake house in Williamsburg. As they walked out, my friend stared at the father. “You didn't like what you heard?” the man yelled. No, and no, and no. What counter-balance can memory make, a man listening back to hear my friend say no. No doesn't leave the restaurant, stays still-in-movement like a Vine. Kindness, like trauma, repeats itself. But it needs to pierce the skin. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Simone Weil 24

One does not play a scale for the sake of the scale. One cat bats at a band of light on the tiles; another sleeps on the red chair, eyes tucked under her left front leg. Doves murmur in back, birds of a higher register in front; the wind participates in it all. Doing nothing themselves, my sentences lay down track without presuming to know direction. The hardest assignment of all was to do nothing each day. Guilt, like a thin layer of plastic, adheres to your self-license. You have no right to sit and stare when there are teas and perfumes to sell at the mall. Condos for the rich rise like toadstools from the Ala Moana parking lot. The park between mall and the sea has filled with a tide of tents and tarps. Toadstool is to fungus as penis is to man. The beauty of function so outstripped by this wall of unblinking glass. What you see from it cannot possibly be yourself.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Simone Weil 23

The object of our search should be . . . the world. A crow nips at the tail of a small dog and, because it's a Vine, he never stops. Vines are wanna be trees, but they lack spines. Trump says Ferguson is as dangerous as Iraq; my Cards cap carries a terrible history. Don't touch Cambodians on the tops of their heads, I remembered as I touched a child's soft hair. Her friend kept his cut hair in the hole of a tree beside a reservoir; they visited at least once a week. I went to see purple flowers in the woods near our house because I wanted them to be mine. Someone said they were weeds, but that hardly mattered. Sometimes an aesthetics is not about beauty, but about being. The earthworm's wisdom is involved in soil. Saijo spent his last years simply noting the weather's passing. If we're lucky, what's sacred shifts from metaphor to fact.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Simone Weil 22

You could sell your soul for friendship. So many souls are priced not to sell. The market on souls is small, in any case, but to charge a Jackson (soon a Tubman) proves prohibitive. Check the inventory: souls up to the rafters, gathering dust and cockroaches. So many of us valorize its obscurity. The allure of depth is strong, but a shallow soul would have a bigger audience. We've pulled soul into academia, we don't want it in our free time. Time—not soul—is free. We giggle in the corner about soul, because it's so damn earnest. Soul's an evasion of the important work of economics. Soul mansplains. (This conversation is way too full of dudes.) Soul says “you're fired!” then retreats to an inner sanctum outside the range of your GPS. They'll say they tried everything and still they can't sell souls. A self-fulfilling prophecy! He did buy souls once in the 1970s, when he was first starting out. The mimeo machine sounded like a train. Our rail project has too many over-runs. Only soul still thinks it can.

[based on a fb conversation on Don Share's wall about small-press publishing]

Tinfish Press interview at Entropy Magazine

Entropy has a series of interviews with editors that's a real resource. We're now part of it. Please read here: http://entropymag.org/tinfish-press/

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Economics of Small Press Publishing

For now, I'm leaving my Facebook status here. At some point, I need to write at length on this issue of how much poetry books cost, and why they only seem to cost too much.

Don Share writes that poetry books cost too much. They seem to. But here are details on Tinfish Press's next book. Granted, the production values are high. To make the books, ship from MN to HI, and put in specially designed and silk-screened envelopes costs $5.40 per book; the designer gets a very minimal fee; we then ship some to SPD, which will take 50% of cover price to distribute the books; 30 copies to the author (international postage); copies sent out for review (with postage) and to blurbers. For the first time ever, I bought a $20 facebook ad, which netted no sales. What we don't need is to rent space to store books. I work hard at this project, and pay myself nothing, though I often fund my travels to AWP to sit behind a table for three days and sell fewer books than the table costs. The pre-publication price is $16. Go buy one, Mr. Share! 

Our designer is Jeff Sanner.

Simone Weil 21

The union of contradictories involves a wrenching apart. I felt sadness at the loss of sadness. You have inherited this. In some origins we nearly find our end. Strange ambition, this, to see the world as is. To hear Manoa's escaped parrots as treetop chatterers, “fathers of all speech.” I remember long walks and robins and stray cats and the small wooden house I lived in later and failure to sleep and above all I remember adrenaline. You will sleep for several days after you start this medication. They didn't say I'd watch students on the bus lean to tie their shoes and think “they are tying their shoes.” My student reads Tender Buttons as the story of her dying father and the hand her grandmother extended then took away. There is no outside to sadness. It doesn't send postcards from foreign capitols, but brings them into your bed. I took out a TRO and left the state. The divorce came later.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Simone Weil 20

Attention . . . is the same thing as prayer. We pay attention, but this is our counter-economy of care. A name is a noun, but it's more fictitious than that: google my father's and you find a criminal antiquities dealer. Leo has had three names: one by birth, one by orphanage, and one by adoption. Attention is not origin. I cannot attend to the past inside of it. If it comes to me it runs again like film through the clamps and clatters onto a second reel. My daughter speeds up video of hip hop dance until it sounds Cambodian. Culture is speed, a form of attention that is only passively shared, like verbs you can't set straight on your tongue. They spill like a cat off a chair. One foreign film was so obscure we couldn't tell the first from the second reel. I rewound the one by hand in the dark.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Simone Weil 19

The fall of the petals from fruit trees in blossom. A girl has hurt herself in the school bathroom. This is the time of year for self-hurt, for the blossoming of blood. We have children by another and then they are hurt by their own hand. Those were the days I walked, thinking overpasses. The man I see walking the shoulder of Kahekili one day asked me for a cup of coffee. I saw him yesterday on a side street, carrying a plastic bag. Moving is existing. We exist insofar as we walk. My Chinese student asked what I meant by “knock your socks off.” When asked to tell a lie I said I saw holes in the older poet's socks. How could that not be true? The man by the road wears broken slippers. We cannot walk ourselves whole. Time is poison and preservative. There are holes in the old film. Someone was walking, but she stepped off.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Simone Weil 18

I cannot climb to heaven through the air. Do bodies fly upward, I wondered, and do cows really sit in our coffee? We're gathered together today to witness the divorce of metaphor and fact; our children wear their finest clothes and only later weep in front of their mirrors.Bodies cannot so easily break as minds, but they shatter like that same glass. The child carries her image like a doll down long corridors lined with lockers. Someone kept breaking into mine; I found the boy who used the marbled black binder with my father's signature scrawled inside. He said it was his, and at that moment it was. Fact is a thief we pull back from. Fact is Freddy Kreuger, or Frederick Schultz, denying us the truth of our inventions. I wondered how patients in surgery didn't wake up. The doctors keep an eye on them, my mother said. It seems funny now.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

_Of Beings Alone_, by Lissa Wolsak: pre-publication sale from Tinfish Press

See here for details. Each book will come in a specially designed envelope, making the $16 pre-publication price even more alluring--your order will help us to keep publishing more terrific books this year and beyond--


Simone Weil 17

A lever. We lower when we want to lift. She grieves on social media, posting photos we may or may not see. To see is to stop. Droplets of water hang from a brown railing. I use the phrase “corrugated tin” as much as I can, my friend says, because I love the sound of it so much. Rain on a tin roof turns light into sound. The man who died sits behind drums we cannot hear. We keep memories more as image than as sound; there is no ear book. Sound cannot stop us; to pluck out a note would make rain of a single drop. My three-year old daughter in the back seat yelled “traffics” on H1. I took care to repeat the word without s. It made less sense that way.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Simone Weil 16

Error as an incentive: a letter sent to the wrong address reaches its intended receiver, because who's to say who that was. My student lacks incentive to do her Gertrude Stein exam. I am not William James nor was meant to be, I should say. My paragraphs are emotional; they contain sentences that run on like cash register tape. So many coupons, so little time. Longs is now CVS, but at least it's not Walgreens. We value our dignity, you know, holding as we do to the local stores, the ones with shadow names. Those of us who work in memory, she said, know that both events happened. They met at a party and they met on the back stairs. The rest was beautiful friendship. The Comedy of Errors in Hawaiian has less to do with comedy than with mistakes. Some genres don't take. A name is a noun, but it's harder to remember.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Simone Weil 15

It is necessary to have had a revelation of reality through joy in order to find reality through suffering. Turn that equation around: because his eyes radiate love, he reads us poems about cruelty, a broomstick up the ass. He reads softly, so only we can hear. I ask a man at the register to tone down. Poetry is a necessary fiction, when it is not fact. Change is in the air, our cousin says. He was a young woman, about to be married, and then he was an older man. He was an abused girl who spoke in tongues whose sentences now rest flat. I don't like flat poetry, a colleague says. Nor do I like sentiment. Yet there's poetry in trauma's rehearsal. Suffering holds us close, but joy gives us leave.

                                                              --for TC Tolbert

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Simone Weil 14

Time does us violence; it is the only violence. Near Disney World, her father screamed they were going to die if they didn't get the exit right. It's not time that confuses us, but place. Baghdad descends on Orlando like a section of gray matter. There's no telling the squares apart, the one where you visit Mickey Mouse or the other where your soldier gets blown up by an IED. Mickey lives in a safe house on the perimeter. Children rush to him as if he were the Pope in velvet slippers, gently touching the hems of his costume. But her father walks the Kingdom's streets knowing that each house hides a man with a gun. Memory is a protectorate he left long ago. When she says she wants to write about this, he asks why. To save our family, she says. It's a small world after all.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Simone Weil 13

Gratitude is first of all the business of him who helps. How much I agree with you, Simone, yet wish you'd sometimes relent. There's a merchant of being on my street who sells iteration at a discount. It's all insistence, this rain clattering through gutters onto the fronds of our messy palm. The palm at the end of my mind is out the sliding glass door and past the green plastic watering can. When we speak of revision we assume we know what the word means. It took him 17 years to finish his poem, but was that the same one? The body revises itself downward, cells edited like flakes of skin on a red chair. There's loss in all this recasting of the past, for what we move too quickly by is the orchestra of weather, Saijo staring at the clouds as they passed his cottage, noting down their shapes, the climate's temper. I sit beside the rain. I cannot revise it, ever.

                                                                                 --for Tim

Friday, May 6, 2016

Simone Weil 12

Belief in the existence of other human beings as such is love. Yellow tape runs between poles at the Kāne'ohe bus stop where a homeless woman has set up beside her shopping cart. (In future, shopping carts shall come with locks to prevent their wandering.) A man lives in the front seat of a pickup truck on Lulani Drive; his bumper sticker reads “Hawaiian: Nuff Said.” He poked holes in the black plastic curtains to let air in. A white man with a white beard sits on the ledge beside Macy's in Kailua, and while I see his eyes, I can project nothing into them. Existence is a narrow space, one so easily fallen from. It's cot, or stretcher, safety's barest minimum. A cell comes with bars, as does a crib.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Simone Weil 11

It is necessary to uproot oneself. In the language of direction up is toward the air, which cannot sustain us. She uprooted her daughter, found on the steps of a municipal building. This daughter screamed each night for juice. A cry is not a wall, but fear is. She learned to feel her daughter's cries as drops of water on her cheeks. To mend a cry is to break it. Break it like bread, letting birds scatter for the crumbs. Pigeons in the grass, alas. Doves fugue with thrush and finch. Sound is not random, but where it falls is. Like wisdom, lacking plot. Once upon a time the story ended. We had to turn it over, the young woman's torn feet placed gently back in the garden, her stepmother's words muffled by the moss. Our earth is in the air.
                                                    --for Maya

Monday, May 2, 2016

Simone Weil 10

To love a stranger as oneself implies the reverse: to love oneself as a stranger. One day she wondered who looked back at her from the bathroom mirror. The fragile yarn of knowing, how it enters the cat's mouth. She sits inside the window at once behind and before me, doubly framed. Now wanders into the kitchen to eat. To be abject is to consume oneself. But to lose yourself in the mirror is stranger yet. In photos of herself, my mother saw only her mother. We own what we use, but when usefulness drops like a shift to the carpet, we exit our chrysalis scathed. “It was as if, without even trying, she'd become a Buddhist.” There's no irony in the newspaper, only revision, where to re-consider seems more crucial than consideration. Compassion knows no drafts.