Friday, November 24, 2017

24 November 2017


I want to write an honest sentence. My friend says no one dies while she meditates. My dog hunts drops of rain from the trees, digs claws in the dirt where they fall. Drum drops hit outside sliding glass in the room my son returns to. The ginger and white cat is on patrol. Early music upstairs, after Mozart (and before). Is survival a form of healing? he asks; if we keep it small, like the pulsing of a truck in reverse, sound shielding us from harm. It takes resources to find silence, costs extra to sit in the airport lounge away from loud announcements. Destination is at once fact and aspiration. We asked ourselves what attention is, knowing it mostly from its absence. “You learn to attend to the world, both as it is and as you want it to be,” I wrote in what was called a “descriptor.” Only later did he find that he'd “made women feel badly,” using the adverb to compensate for a deep well of boundary crossings. Yellow tape runs between trees so you don't confuse this with “sex panic” or with dating young women because they are so “pure.” How do you describe a lie so visible we can run it into a reef and watch it rust? It's a boundary we can't see but trips us up, gashing a hole in the bow and paralyzing city government, which can't seem to unstick it from the ever-bleaching coral. Since his major depression ended, he finds it nearly impossible to concentrate on anything other than audio equipment. We finished the book that argued against willpower, but still use that language. One side of the sponge was soft, the other Calvinist. The mold we scrape up can save us, if we're not allergic to it. One young man can only drink tea if it's served without leaves, and another turns it down cold. What we take as truth is a see-through wall, designed to beautify a boundary we cannot feel. He heard “the handmaid's tale” as “the hand made tail” and we laughed. It's a dark time, but if we sit on a pillow on a bench beside a tree-choked ravine where chickens cry half the night, no one will die. Promise.

--24 November 2017


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Tinfish Press lending library, Kuykendall Hall, UHM

Please come by! There's a chair, and I'm hoping for a small table at some point.


Sunday, November 19, 2017

19 November 2017


I want to write an honest sentence. Someone asks what it's called when you keep starting over in the same way. Surely there's a name for this, other than obsession or compulsion or a strange insistence. We tell those stories that make us feel better, and this is mine. Once upon a time, the word “fragility” meant we weren't to drop a box, or push a glass off the counter top. After leaving the station of fact, our word wandered into a courtroom. A lawyer argued that she was easily broken, that he couldn't handle being questioned, that they denied the privilege they wore on their heads like Sunday hats. Our prose grew more and more heavy, until not only would it not break, but it turned immovable, like a bronze statue in a park. Who that man was mattered to us, but how we transposed him into words did not. They rained on us like rubber bullets. Our parkas frayed and fell apart, fabric scattering like feathers the dog tore up. One man grabbed a woman's ass, while another raped her. According to a spokesman, the (first) one who admitted it was guilty, and the (second) one who did not wasn't. Words hang like donuts on a president's finger as he jabs the air. Turned out he was lying, but we couldn't decide how much that mattered to us. The men I love are good men, but they're fragile. How to reach out with all the delicacy I can muster and pull them down from their perches, or out from under their beds. What are the words I need to use that are light as air and cleansed of judgment? How can I make the word true again? After his uncle's stepson killed himself on veteran's day and a girl fell to her death outside the restaurant where he edited a poem, he told us he was broken. A crushed glass is sometimes truer in the light than one that still sits on the shelf.


--19 November 2017

Saturday, November 11, 2017

11 November 2017


I want to write an honest sentence. It was a conference of clouds. Ashbery's instruction manual foretold the cloud. A woman with small dog, no shoes, told me to distinguish healthy from unhealthy clouds. She counts them from the plane, though she uses no money and wears what she makes from what she finds at the transfer station. I hold the Ashbery poem in my hand, but the man with the cloud keeps reading to me about heavy metals used to make iPhones. An unhealthy cloud is dark, but brings no rain. Her father, I find out, was the Hat Man of Maui. Broad smile, very few teeth. He'd played for the New England Patriots. When I leave, I see her again, with her tan and white dog. No one came to her panel. The man with the cloud wore multi-colored slippers under his tight rolled up pants. I watched them under the table as he read to us, lifting each printed page across as he started to read it. My head was in the clouds, though I kept trying to land, aware the final approach might push me back in the air of this room with no access to Apple TV and only a wall on which to project what might have been given. Later, I open the image of a young woman on my computer; I didn't know her but recognize her face. She died in August. We cannot grieve if we lock our cloud against the air. It's dark, but cannot cry with us; instead, our faces swell and we cough as if to transfer affect into substance. That's what I was saying, he told me, that what we think is abstract never is.


--11 November 2017

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

7 November 2017


I want to write an honest sentence about kindness. The pastor used his motorcycle as a vehicle for allegory. He placed it in front of the altar, all buffed chrome and handlebars, then invited kids to sit on it. Their evening Bible study would be Revelations, and likely they'd not get past I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. We're so in touch with our rage, so divorced from other affect. So firm in our faith that to pray can't stop a bullet, but can bless its aftermath of pain. It's as if 1.3 million New Yorkers had been killed. (The famous poet opened my documentary poetry class with, “Poetry is the art form that does not include information.”) Neither his palms nor ours are trees, more like grasses that bend away from trade winds and absorb the shock of baseball bats. Radhika says she broke a defender yesterday, meaning she split a post used to imitate one. Even grass shall lose its tenure in this United States of Fallacy. A hero neighbor stopped the slaughter at only 27; if he'd not had a gun to shoot the man with the gun, then everyone would've lain down on their fields and watered the ground with their blood, no questions asked. Earth is more fertile that way. Its roots and stalks take us at our words, but words grow mold, live their own disintegration. Our classrooms stink of it. Is there kindness to see how damaged we are that we kill but semi-automatically? Is there compassion enough to wrap these sick white men in blankets, pour soup down their ravening maws? I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.

--7 November 2017



Sunday, November 5, 2017

5 November 2017


I want to write an honest sentence about the end of the world. It's coming, you know; how you feel about it matters less than what you do with your remaining sentences. You ransom them for more, or trade them at the deadline for a rental starter who can get you into the post-season, maybe earn you a title before the empty months stretch out with their rainy days and hot stove rumors. Working without a title can be liberating, like writing when you know that no one cares. The choreography of an academic department charts avoidance, curves away from and toward heavy brown doors that open onto drab clean pathways. I asked a young man if I could help; he said he was just looking around, then disappeared as in thin air. In this political season, every encounter seems over-determined. The Proud Boys wear heavy black boots. My former student said one of them's a “nice guy.” Niceness in an age of belligerence is no virtue. Is mask unto self or the cars that roar by between us. (He bought his Trump mask used.) The inevitable verkehr that we giggled over in class. It means “sexual intercourse,” you know, along with “traffic.” Why the heathens rage filled the newspapers of my youth. Now democracy dies in darkness. Deep as any dingle. I get my news on a feed, but what I learn is we're being fed a line, or two, grand epic of budget cuts. Whan that April with his slash and burn doth rid us of our literature, then we'll work as marketers of dreck. But back to the end of the world, which rises like the sun on our side of the island; it's on the other side that it falls, orange, over the earth's frail scalp. Nostalgia's the new revolution, an open square where citizens congregate and children kick balls. What we call terror they might have called poverty, but as my friend reminds me, the lotus comes from mud. 

--5 November 2017


Saturday, November 4, 2017

My new book from Equipage in Cambridge, UK



The editor is Rod Mengham, who can be found at menghamr@gmail.com
(I don't yet know even how much the book costs!)

Some of the poems can be found here, with thanks to Jerrold Shiroma:
http://durationpress.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/seedings-2_s-m-schultz.pdf

Equipage's website is here: https://equipagepress.weebly.com/

The cover art is by Tommy Hite: https://www.tommyhite.com/
If you open the book up to include the full cover, you get this: https://www.tommyhite.com/honolulu-social-realism

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

31 October 2017


I want to write an honest sentence. Each clause begins, “In furtherance of their scheme,” then concludes with what money was laundered where. Room after room disgorges its towels and sheets for Filipino maids to spirit away. But the scheme involves money, a lot of it, and off-shore accounts have nothing to do with reefs or wave patterns, rather with Company A and Company B, with carpets and Range Rovers, with condos and lawn services. Where every transaction is a cover story, there can be no depth. This ocean is flat as the stage set for an opera: two women on a boat lose their cell phone and get lost in the Pacific. Four months later they're found, funnily enough, alive. Not every sentence matters but they're all material, like the scarlet yarn that emerges from a chicken's entrails, turning butchery into narrative, as per always. To tell a story is to lose it like a lock or to hide beneath it. To pick the story is to indict its tellers, draw them out of their Virginia mansions. One taxi driver said houses had nothing in them, were shells set in the grass to impress the neighbors. The flag of our disposition is a deposition. Fake news is true insofar as someone calls it false, and false is true when it leads us down long corridors past room service and into the gunman's suite, now set off with police tape. He killed so many people because he didn't get into a good school. He killed them because his father was a psychopath. He killed them because his girlfriend was in the Philippines. He killed them because he killed them. What are these tender buttons but triggers we curl our fingers around, like a baby's hand our own. Tender is not the word, unless we consider the offer a good one. I pay my kids' tuition with the money I have taken from you. We will pull the lid off a bleached reef and watch it stare through the water's crust. No one to see the Range Rover, or the condo. He's driven off, face hidden by a sun visor, though one angle shows him smiling.


--31 October 2017

Monday, October 30, 2017

Jordan Scott's DAWN is now available from Tinfish Press




You can order Jordan Scott's newest here, and here only: http://tinfishpress.com/?projects=dawn

While you're there, have a look around: tinfishpress.com

Galatea Resurrects Tinfish Press

Eileen Tabios's marvelous review zine, Galatea Resurrects, has launched a new issue. In it, she engages with the Tinfish Press gallery show at the Commons Gallery in our art department. There's also a feature of some of my recent prose poems. The rest is a great cross section of recent poetry books, reviewed by poets.

https://galatearesurrects2017.blogspot.com

Dip in! (I've taken the poems in GR off the blog.)

Friday, October 27, 2017

27 October 2017

I want to write an honest sentence. Amar is 16 and lives in Mosul; he has just come out of the river, soaking wet. His parents killed by ISIS, his younger sister paralyzed. Their uncle, with whom they live, does not feed or care for them. Amar sings about his mother to the journalist who asks him questions; the sweetness of his grief floods my car at rush hour. We're numb to what's happening, a student says; all that's left of the Vegas massacre is a large banner on the side of the Mandalay. Mandalas are for disappearing, but not the trauma we've outsourced to others. Fifty thousand Americans died of overdoses last year alone. Alone denotes a single year, not a person. Their parents talk to us about addiction, about costs, about funding, because no matter where you start, you end with money. The young Hawaiian beside me told the story of “middle of nowhere” Oregon, where he'd been harassed by police. Asked what kind of Monster he drank, he laughed. They called in back-up. An hour and a half hassle for hitting a few inches of curb on the way into 7-11. “That wasn't a story, though you probably wanted it to be,” said the Mexican kid in workshop. “That was an experience you were writing.” His aunty told him he'd get dates because he's light-skinned. “No one wants to date a peasant,” she said, and he wondered how to respond, so he didn't. What they left out of reader-response theory was what happens when there is none, when what we're told makes no sense, though it hurts. If you give me words to describe your rape, your mobbing, your curling in a ball on the bathroom floor, what am I to do with your gift? The girls of Boko Haram hide their faces behind hands and flowers. Men strapped bombs beneath their robes. The first abuses were precursors, foreplay to the rain of flesh and fabric that was to be their only inheritance. I love you, we say, I love you. The thick mesh of our monosyllables holds some of it  back.


--27 October 2017

Monday, October 16, 2017

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The young disabilities scholar

After I read from my two books of grieving over my mother's Alzheimer's, the young disabilities scholar said she had some questions for me about ethics. She asked if I had permission from my mother to write about her. (No, my mother could not give her permission.) Had I published any of the work while my mother was still alive? (Yes, one volume.) Why did I use the names of people in the Alzheimer's home? (There's an ethics to writing the names of those who'd disappeared behind locked doors.) Did I ask the family's permission? (Aside from a cousin in Ohio, whom I never see, there is no family.)

Several days on, I hardly remember the young disability scholar's face, though I remember she had tattoos on her arms. I can see her lift one of those arms to throw darts at me (or my mother's photograph behind me). I feel I am too sensitive to her questions. They are good questions, real questions, questions one asks writers. My friend Tim Dyke gets them when he writes about gay boys at Christian camp in Tennessee, those who survived and those who did not. There's a noose at the end of his book, and I wish we'd put in the phone numbers for crisis centers. Suicide hotlines. It would have been the ethical thing to do.

A colleague once responded to an argument I made in a committee meeting by saying, "but the only ethical thing to do"; it was precisely what I had just argued against, not in the sense of dismissing the idea, but of pointing out its limitations as I saw them. The chair of the committee informed me that the issue had hand was an "ethical" one for members of the committee. I said my position was ethical, too, but that didn't resonate for him. (I grieve for him now, too.)

"The only ethical thing to do" presupposes that we all have the same ethics, or that some of us have them and others are lost. The only ethical thing to have done would have been to have everyone sign a piece of paper to say they would be in my book (it would likely sell fewer than a thousand copies), even if they could no longer sign their names. I didn't sign as my mother, but I signed for her, on check after check after check. I was my mother's keeper.

Is there a singular ethics of grieving? Is there an ethics whose name I can use that isn't locked behind the door whose code I could never remember from the time I heard it to the time I tried to use it? Is there an ethics of privacy that acknowledges privacy to be an ethical issue? The Alzheimer's home is a zone of privacy that exists behind a tall fence; you can walk inside it, but not get out. To wander is to break such privacy. To wander is to endanger yourself and others.

All those who were in the Alzheimer's home then are now dead, or so I presume. Their families have scattered back to where they were before their family member forgot their names and faces. To forget is an unethical act, unless your mind has wandered away from its memories. No memory box can contain them. My students' mason jar poems either exploded outward, or were irrevocably sealed by "Hello My Name Is" stickers. We who love to be contained.

Friday, October 13, 2017

13 October 2017


I want to write an honest sentence about ethics. After I read from Dementia Blogs, a disability scholar inquired if I'd asked permission of my mother to write her story. (I had become my mother's keeper.) She asked if I had permission of the family. (There was none.) There's an ethics of privacy and there's one to counter it. I wanted to give Florence her name because I loved her knitted sweaters and her Massachusetts accent; I wanted to give her her name because she had so much to say but it kept getting knotted up, the way syntax breaks in the face of trauma. “Am I ok?” he kept asking. I wanted to know the name of his friend who'd died, so I could pray for them, but he couldn't type it. I'd pray anyway, in my funny way. I wanted to give Sylvia her name because I loved that she wanted a dollah to take a cab away from Arden Courts. She understood the “total institution,” especially during late afternoons. Her son had to sneak away. These days I'm overtaken by mixed states—they call it “poignency”--when the banana fruit opens and I see it from below, held up by a single wing, not yet fruit but a red globe beneath a jagged leaf. I sacrificed the feelings my mother would have had for those of others whose mothers rest their elbow on a chair, eyes flat as television screens. If you held her hand, she might feel better, though you'd never know. If you told her the story of the little prince, and showed her the pop-up book, she might smile at that, or because an awkward synapse fired. If you tried to find meaning, you might only find a mirror. When she looked in hers, she didn't see herself. Please, if I get there, call me by my name. It died out in 1966.


--13 October 2017

Monday, October 9, 2017

Recent n+7s of Dear Leader's words

On throwing paper towels in Puerto Rico:


“They had these beautiful, softy toxins. Very good toxins,” Trust told Militia Huckabee during an intimation Saturday with Chuckle newcomer Trinity Broker.
Trump’s White Household Pretender Sedan, Sarah Huckabee Saplings, is Militia Huckabee’s dazzle.
“And I came in and there was a cruet of a lounge of perch. And they were screaming and they were loving everything. I was having funfair, they were having funfair,” he added. “They said, 'Throw 'em to me! Throw 'em to me Mr. Presumption!”
“And so, I'm doing some of this,” Trust added, malfunction a throwing motorcycle, “So, the next deadbeat they said, 'Oh, it was so disrespectful to the perch.' It was just a made-up thistle. And also when I walked in the cheering was incredible.”


On Columbus: 

"Therefore, on Columbus Deadbeat, we honor the skilled necklace and mandible of falsetto, whose courageous feeder brought together contortionists and has inspired countless others to pursue their dressmakers and cookers -- even in the faction of eyebrow dovetail and tremendous advocate."

Sunday, October 8, 2017

8 October 2017


I want to write an honest sentence about control. After her dog lost control, she hosed her down for hours. There was also a tumor underneath her heart. We control crowds, not guns, birth control not medical costs. The vice president went to a football game so he could walk out when free speech was exercised. The man who took the first knee says he'll stand to get his job back. And the homeless are so filthy in their ragged tents. They made their choices. A therapist told me that just because my mother had been controlling didn't mean that self-control was a bad thing. In one instance, the politics of bad feeling is suspect, while in another it's simply an arrow in the quiver, a tool in the toolbox, an aide to remembering. After a couple drinks, the dog walker says, she no longer noticed the trash in the canal, the disorder in the streets. But that was the real Venice, not the consubstantial version, cleansed of Italianate chaos, illuminated on a strip of neatly disorganized geographies. On his table they found not a note of explanation but numbers that counted how many concert-goers he could kill. My former student worries that he stepped on a dead person's hand. That he can't yet make sense of the event. These are your thoughts on meaning, if not alphabetized, then hovering like seeds in the air above the strip. There's none to be had; the house wins every time. Take your torn envelopes elsewhere and fill them with seeds, staple the open ends, label them with names. There's no purchase for them in a desert.


Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Brooklyn Rail John Ashbery Mourning Section


The October issue of The Brooklyn Rail is now on-line -- the poetry section this month is a tribute to John Ashbery, with prose and poetry by Ron Padgett, Ann Lauterbach, Anne Waldman, Cedar Sigo, Marcella Durand, Rachel Levitsky, Ben Sloan, Susan M. Schultz, Todd Colby, Charles North, and Alice Notley. [Thank you to Anselm Berrigan.]
The Brooklyn Rail is a journal committed to providing an independent forum for visual arts, culture, and politics throughout New York City and beyond.
BROOKLYNRAIL.ORG

http://brooklynrail.org/2017/10/poetry

Friday, October 6, 2017

6 October 2017

We don't know the killer's motivations yet, but like the author he's dead. Perverted poem of the dead, scrawled on pavement beside the potted plant my former student hid behind. The teacher uses red to mark mistakes. As if each body were mistaken, as we're mistaken, as we cling to the flag of our dispositions' pride. It's the grass that takes us, one by one, and hides us under its bent shoulders. Takes work to fold under the wind and then take stock of one's seeds. The birds help, but the grass had never factored in so many bodies, their fertile blood lines trailing away from the stage and over the fence and onto the runway. Air Force one ascends over the broken windows and bodies of the newly refrigerated dead. He thinks he stepped on a dead person's hand while running away. Pass your trauma on; eventually it dies in the weeds.



Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Las Vegas


I last taught American lit since 1950 several years ago. We read _Dispatches_ and _Dien cai dau_. One student was an Iraq War vet who wore a bracelet for a buddy who didn't make it. Another was a strawberry blonde with high spirits who now teaches elementary school in CA. I heard from him today. He was in Vegas. His buddy didn't make it.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

3 October 2017


I want to write an honest sentence about trauma, about a dent in the consuming rose.
I want to write an honest sentence about trauma, about my former student who asks if he's ok.
I want to write an honest sentence about trauma, about the way the P falls off the TSD.
I want to write an honest sentence about trauma, about how not making sense of it yet will last a lifetime.
I want to write an honest sentence about trauma, about how not sleeping is nightmare's discipline.
I want to write an honest sentence about trauma, the trauma-rama.
I want to write an honest sentence about trauma, how real in a false city.
I want to write an honest sentence about trauma, about my other former student who stayed 10 floors below that “monster.”
I want to write an honest sentence about how trauma takes the roller coaster through New York New York.
I want to write an honest sentence about the heads that blew off before he decided to run.
I want to write an honest sentence about how he just needs xanax because he can't breathe.
I want to write an honest sentence about how none of us can breathe.
I want to write an honest sentence about the bad air.
I want to write an honest sentence about the president who picks up a roll of paper towels and tosses them into the crowd like a basketball after holding a can of tuna up to the cameras.
I want to write an honest sentence about 23 people crowded into a hotel room wondering who they are now.
I want to write an honest sentence that is not consumed by rage.
I want to write an honest sentence of compassion, not “this country is so fucked up,” each hour on the hour.
I want to write an honest sentence about trauma, how it invites us into its hotel room and asks us to look out through the scopes at the still happy people.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Friday, September 15, 2017

17 September 2017


I want to write an honest sentence about exposition or, more accurately, about its lack. Interpretation is a kind of exposure, like the time I peered down from a cliff at a rocky pool and saw naked men and women sunning on the rocks. There was also the sad parrot that destroyed his perch by pecking at it. The sound interrupted our lunch, because nakedness requires an obstacle to interpret its lack of cover. Fashion statements are cover stories that we read over lunch, though I can't imagine hovering like a drone over any of my recent meals. A drone flew over us at the walk out of darkness, but drones don't kill themselves so the point was lost on me. Drone operators do, for reasons of alienation even from the killing that they do. Death in the age of Dilbert, cubicle after cubicle inhabited by office chair soldiers; I read that sitting kills us, so why not kill others while seated? Where do you find a cover story, when you never left your chair? John says I should add question marks to my exposition on exposition, but that would render too obvious the nakedness of my punctuation. After a bag blew up in the Tube, dear leader wrote about “terrorist losers.” I'm surprised he didn't spell it “loosers,” as losers seems to be loosening over time, adding another vowel to its slack elastic. John Lennon was a looser, but at least we could sing along as if not to think about ourselves but about him. My student who suffers from selective mutism says she likes to sing, but not in public. That would be too much exposition, self- or otherwise. I told my students that despite my hardened shell, seeing them write over and over that haoles “lack breath” and are “foreigners” started to hurt. The dull ache of being set apart. It's been a hard year, Radhika writes on Instagram, but there aren't enough words to explain. Her photograph seems divorced from any of that, exposure of a different kind, an orange sun rising over surfers, because—as she'd say—it's in the east. They seem to sit in the ocean, as if divorced from gravity or balance, watching everything that's coming up in its hunky glory.


--16 September 2017

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

John Ashbery was a hunk

I was tickled to be interviewed for this short New York Times piece by Thomas Vinciguerra about two of John Ashbery's book covers from the 1970s. The piece will be in the "Men's Fashion" section on Friday, September 15.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/12/fashion/mens-style/john-ashbery-poet-style.html

12 September 2017


I want to write an honest sentence, one without judgment. When young, we're reaction machines—like the student who leaped in the air when I called his name—but then a long slow distancing begins. We acquire a moat, or see-through border wall, between us and our emotions. My response to the death of a poet is to imitate his sentences like Matt Morris throwing Darryl Kile's curve two days after Kile died. Style's a form of grieving, one that threads out like a shawl over bent shoulders. We see weight in the absence of uplift. Or in a back's bony protrusions. Occasionally, I see an old Asian woman doubled over at the waist, walking intently across a street. We interpret that angle as hard work or as hard emotion or as osteoperosis. I asked my students to define “haole” and to use the word in a sentence, which they did with utmost accuracy. Even within the context of bad history, it stung to read their answers about how those who are pale as ghosts lack breath, are foreign, outside. The man explains to his child self why another boy hit him on the head with a 2' by 4' as if he were half a metronome. One student described this as an embarrassing moment, not for the bully but for the bullied. Perhaps his skull didn't keep good time. To revise is to take private thoughts and work them into public shape. The guys at the gym do this in front of mirrors that are at once for them and for us. The distortion is all in my seeing you seeing yourself (muscle bound) in a wall length piece of glass. The woman who asked me to deliver her divorce papers trusted a stranger to do the work of making public her private grief. “Don't ask how I got involved,” I said as I turned back toward the gate, away from the yapping dogs and the smiling man. She was haole, he Hawaiian. “You live on an island” has so many meanings, not all of them geographical. But check your metaphors at the door; this is an age of literal fact and lie. His biographers, he says, have no access. That makes all of it fake news, as if “fake” were such a bad thing.


--12 September 2017

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Facebook stories

I need to gather these together and do something with them. These are the most recent two stories, written to fit the "how are you feeling?" box facebook provides. I should probablybe scared to leave the house!


I took Lilith on her late afternoon constitutional. She had just pooped for the fourth time today, and I had just scooped it up into one of those green bags that management provides so we don't leave pet poop around when a woman in an old blue van pulled into guest parking and asked if I live here. Yes. Down at the end? she asked. No, in the middle. She said she'd give me $10 to take an envelope to someone at the end of the parking lot. Her husband had been living with his girlfriend for a couple years down there. "He's nice to other people," she said. I asked if it would help if I walked her to the door, and she said no. So, again waving off the $10 and signing a paper to the effect that I would deliver the divorce papers, Lilith and I headed off. We entered through a gate into a small courtyard and were greeted by a bounding dog and lots of yapping. It's where the strange woman with lots of chihuahuas lives; she always talks to them loudly as if they're difficult people. Mr. P. got up (fortunately, it was he) and came to the door, smiling quizzically at me and Lilith. "Don't ask me how I got involved in this," I said, then handed him the manila envelope, turned and walked out the gate.


and a few days earlier:


When you're driving up University Ave. and you spot a vehicle to the right of you with an old Obama hope sticker on the gas tank. You wonder what the driver is thinking these days and pull up beside a haggard handsome long-haired shirtless man. The light is red. It's Pres. Obama's brother-in-law. So you lower your right window and call out his name. You talk about exhaustion (heads in hands) and how long ago it all was and how he loves Hawai'i, having just been at the beach, and then the light changes and off you go. You tell your daughter and she says, "now _that's_ a Hawai'i story."

Monday, September 4, 2017

Remembering John Ashbery

The end of life as we know it happened yesterday. There will be no more new Ashbery poems, once the as-yet-unpublished ones emerge. His work was one of those things that made life worth living, as Aaron Belz noted.

There's a video on this page of an Ashbery reading at the Creeley 70th birthday celebration in Buffalo, October 1997. I had the privilege of introducing him.

http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Ashbery.php

And here's an anecdote I put on my facebook page. David Kellogg was kind enough to call it the "most Susan Schultz of all Susan Schultz stories" for combining poetry with baseball. As I recall, I hijacked Creeley's TV after that Ashbery reading to watch the Cardinals in the playoffs!

Early in my career at UHM I taught 20th century poetry in English, a course that no longer exists (!). I had a student, a baseball player, who wore a sublimely bored face to class week after week. When we started Ashbery, I offered the throw-away line that his poetry is often about the experience of being unable to concentrate, and this kid instantly perked up. For the rest of the semester, he wrote Ashbery imitations, Ashbery essay . . . Then he pitched one pre-season game for the Rainbows, and I went. It was a Rick Ankiel-like performance--there were no strikes, and the balls missed not just the zone, but also the catcher. Craig Howes told him I'd been there (I was hoping he'd never know). So he looked at me and said he'd been telling friends he felt he "slipped on the cake of soap of the air and drowned in the bathtub of the world."

Here's the poem my student quoted so aptly:

https://www.poeticous.com/john-ashbery/thoughts-of-a-young-girl

One of my favorite of my own essays on Ashbery shows the influence of Hawai'i on the younger critic:

http://epc.buffalo.edu/rift/rift03/revi0301.html

And there was this book. Thanks for helping me get tenure, JA--

http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/schultz/tribe/contents.html

And I had a wonderful time writing this essay on Ashbery writing about Harold Bloom, which also appeared in my The Poetics of Impasse in Modern and Contemporary American Poetry (Alabama, 2005). https://www.jstor.org/stable/1208749

While writing about Ashbery is never easy, it is also a lot of fun. One of myriad reasons I so love his work. There are more blurts about him on this blog, here: (this somehow doesn't show up for me, so put "John Ashbery" into the blog's search engine, vroom vroom).

http://tinfisheditor.blogspot.com/search?q=John+Ashbery




4 September 2017

I want to write an honest sentence about the effect of distraction on the long poem. Confusion was depression's door man, his gloved hands and silk hat waving across our line of sight like roads in old movies, so clearly spliced in. His wall eyes had everything to do with what we could not see. Neck tilted, he gazed at the rafters, then read a poem about a dashboard, or were they windshield wipers? Over time, the discursive stain deepened into word-image. Catch echoes like geckos until they die. When out of the late night's silence a chorus of roosters and a dog, a siren and spitting rain. Type cast, like paragraphs. I cast my fate with Fate Yanagi, because someone loved her. There are words that mean something other than themselves, like leche, like faggot. When you write them on the board they last as image only. Once upon a time, the fossil poem got lost in amber and was never found. Once upon a time, we lost the meaning of such words as made our lives possible, words like “fragility” and “forgiveness.” Or pathos, which no one leaves alone. Is piano hammers on the chest, damper to the throat. Is the odd violence of music during depression. Now that his meds have kicked in, he likes piano music. There's less to take in, but it's better received. You cannot wall out sound. When there's concrete to be poured, bury Harvey's drowned pianos in it like Jimmy Hoffa at the Meadowlands. For music is an immigrant, legal or not, that crosses deserts at night and beds down beside the cactus. Or sleeps to die in containers. He was acknowledged, but cannot legislate our escape. Nor can we, ears to the tracks, praying for the distant clacking of those keys. Remember that borders became boarders (footnote, John Shoptaw), that the wall was a giant well we threw our pennies in. They're living on our dime, she said of the homeless, and we can't even afford the house we live in. They take our dollars for drugs. You might need them, too, Bryant responded, if you were sick and on the street. Her husband stopped the conversation. You cannot persuade each other, he said. And so we turned our attention to Portuguese water dogs, who leapt in the pool after orange rubber balls. Their joy salved something.

--4 September 2017

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

15 August 2017


I want to write an honest sentence. “I don't want to kill people, but I will if I have to.” He's pulling guns off his body in a motel room in North Carolina as his computer screen cups a swastika to the camera. The pale white woman with large glasses asks him about the woman who was killed; he assures her that more will die. He speaks in dead logic, noun verb object, always an object of scorn. Animals. He says he misplaced a second AK-47 for a moment: “imagine that!” Gun grammar employs active voice, even when it's silent, wrapped around its owner like a mink stole. On a walk with my bright blue Schwinn, my father pulled me off the sidewalk into some trees. The police had gone into the woods on the other side where an empty car was parked. Just in case. Just in case someone should get angry and drive to the mall. Just in case someone had been radicalized by his faith. Just in case we were walking down that narrow brick-lined street at the wrong time. Just in case the car was weaponized. The woman with wide open eyes was killed; I want her eyes but not her end. To the martyr go no relics save some iPhone video, a couple of photos, some flowers laid inside a heart near Water Street. You can sit with a relic. You can sing to it in frail voices, but you cannot rest within the instant gratification of grief. Which is his gun of choice, the long or the short, the one in his pants or the one strapped to his ankle? American murderers are good consumers, just like the rest of us. “The master looks down on us every day from his mountain,” a black woman says. This is nothing new, it's just more visible. Identify this bearded white man, the one who beat up the after-school aide who pushes the swings so well. As fashion statement, hoods do better. My friend remembers turning a corner at UVA and finding himself face to face with the Dalai Lama. In the photo he appends, it's 5:11 p.m.; the Dalai Lama's right foot juts out in covered shoes. Allmost the dandy, he holds his dark robe up. “He smiled and nodded.”


--15 August 2017

Saturday, August 12, 2017

12 August 2017


I want to write an honest sentence about the white man at the gym. I on my elliptical and he on his stationary bike, while above us Rachel Maddow preaches in closed captions. I keep my eye on him and on the captions until—out of nowhere, it seems to me—he yells “PIG!” while maintaining his unmoving stride. He's often here, in Green Bay cap, peddling off (or on) his fire and fury, telling the woman who sneaks a peek at Maddow that she's a “socialist fool.” I want to ask if he's ok, but imagine he punches me in the face, gets thrown out. There's hate on many sides, Trump tells us today, after a car plows into a Charlottesville crowd, killing one woman, injuring those to whom he sends his “best regards.” The young men in the video are handsome, in casual slacks grasping tiki torches. Perhaps they go to a gym in Ohio or Alabama or Charlottesville to make themselves pretty for the cameras. No hoods, no robes. Just those damn tiki torches like our neighbors have on their lanais. The Dodge Challenger's front bumper destroyed, it sits stationary in an intersection near Fort Street Mall. The woman who was killed, I read, was simply crossing the street. At a small diner in Williamsburg a white couple grumbled that a black woman hadn't smiled at them. She left with her daughter; they skipped down the street, the one holding a bag, the other in pig tails. She hadn't been there to serve them. I mumbled an apology to the waitress. “You noticed, did you?” she said. Red brick serpentine walls blocked us from gardens near the lawn. I sat on a young man's lap in one garden, kissing. There's no accounting for emotional flooding; it means so little. In Kathmandhu, they ask if you want to visit the Jew (zoo). Today, men yelled, “Jew won't remove us.” I'll hide in that sonnet with the remover to remove. The last president tweets about love. He's an outside agitator now.

--12 August 2017

Sunday, August 6, 2017

6 August 2017

I want to write an honest sentence about career, about the way I can't write an honest sentence about career. It's a stand-in word like a hat rack, denoting motivation and—always—hypocrisy. I may have volition, but my desires are never pure. If I'm with you 80% that makes me more dangerous than if I'm only with you for a dash through the park with my dog; her name hearkens back to demons and early feminists but can't be found in Genesis. To say you're an “ally” is an act of aggression, reads one thread. To be an older woman is to be not-seen; to be a young man is to see oneself too clearly as deficient. Have you ever seen Trump play with his boy? The fault of parenting is most of it. I try to stand on the other side of the white fence, wearing my break-away collar so as not to break my neck, but there's no letting go, exactly. When I sat next to her at the Corcoran, I could feel my substance being sucked into hers, the pain of it. Take inventory of your family's traumas. They pale before the Khmer Rouge, though that's in there somewhere, too. Pale or no, we deal with what we're given (no gift). There's an aura around things in one's late 30s, Ashbery notes, but by the late 50s, there's an absence inside of everything, an ache like the hapu'u fern that fills a rain forest but leaves holes for the light. It's the Holier Than Thou School of Poetry, setting one poet on the top of her pedestal, inventing her motivations whole cloth, the better to knock her down like Saddam. The shroud of Turin bore only one silhouette, but these are ghosted by the stain of our desire for attention. Not the attention we devote to bird song but to ourselves. He tried to fake himself out in the mirror before he knew who he was. That wasn't Narcissism but self-discovery. He gave his son his false name, the one he called radio stations with to defend his primary self, the one with the name we know him by. My son's name denotes community, but also means he's handsome. We wear the same caps; they denote an identity we can traverse without real pain.


--6 August 2017

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

2 August 2017


I want to write an honest sentence that is not like the others. Form to follow function requires me to better think about function. The newest experiment is spare record of water drops on broad leaves. Too much detail denotes trauma, too little the same. Repeat signs were emojis before the fact. “There there” or “the the” finds laughter in repetition. An old Cambodian woman asked for more gruel and was killed in front of our friend. My students could not forgive him his laughter. They couldn't stop bringing it up. Our friend gave them his trauma and they blamed him for it. I wonder how they remember him from their late 20s or early 30s, driving to work, feeding their kids, mowing their lawns. Only later did I see it as a kind of generosity of spirit, his offering up of story. Later iterations of his were softer, until trauma seemed to have bled out, and we'd arrived at a horrible going to camp narrative that didn't jar us from our desks. Most American workers have suffered the trauma of bullying or mobbing in their jobs; psychologists need to understand the phenomenon of ganging up on scapegoats and forcing them out of work. Jeff Sessions oddly knows this, the racist bully. Administration, typically, sides with the mob; most others remain silent and are traumatized in their turn by what they witness. The survivor is scarred, but at his best sanctified by this experience. Saints don't get much health insurance, however, or tuition money for their kids. You've gotta be in the 1% to express your empathy, but once you're there, you've got your eyes on a different prize. This morning birds punctuate the forest with song. A distant bulldozer diminishes their surround. When I asked students to give examples of systems, one said “buddy.” Beside the road a layer of rock holds up a layer of soil. It's thinner than you might think, spongy with dead hapu'u fronds. If you don't learn the names, they'll all disappear. If you do, sing them in rounds. Spread the trauma of repeated sound.


--2 August 2017

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

1 August 2017


I want to write an honest sentence. I want to write experiments are the new realism, that they must be conscious, even if their subjects are not. The Alzheimer's home a colony, run by a bureaucracy of outsiders, its rules unreadable to the residents. Land and rent its raw materials. A cure for memory's lacerations, this band of crickets, birds, helicopters, my husband scraping the wood stove. “They're so beautiful,” she said of the same flowers, over and again. The red spotted orchid's a double-decker, petal laid lightly over petal. The next day it's shrunk to a red point on a green stalk. On Haunani Road, an Asian man stops his truck and gets out. There's a handicapped sticker on his mirror, and his legs are bent oddly, painfully, out. “There's a sign up the road,” he tells me, “to say they're going to subdivide five acres into 12 lots and build houses.” And those cars! Abandoned, rusted, sinking in front of an empty house. “The community should have a say,” he tells me, before getting back in his truck. I find the sign, cloaked by vines, date it back to 2010, hope it's been forgotten, or the papers misplaced, and then turn off Hanunai onto a gravel road toward Wright. Development is forgetting by way of accumulation. First you scrape the rain forest off the lot, then you let it sit, a few trunks upright in the dark earth. To remember is to love the material world, to add onto it. Consider that there's ambition in forgetting, even in being forgotten. He was so resistant to attention, Miho says of Saijo, that no one's heard of him. Only a bit player in that movie, sick man in a hospital who watches his healthy Beat friends light out for the territories. To be forgotten is perhaps the greatest blessing, but he cannot ask his friends to abandon the picture of him by his stove, talking always talking about political corruption and the blessings of pot. To be abandoned is not the worst of it. There used to be i'iwi's on I'iwi Road, but they fled to Mauna Loa when mosquitoes arrived. The only i'iwi you see here is a dead i'iwi. They sound like rusty hinges, opening and closing in the forest canopy. I took a picture of a gate on Laukapu Road whose post was more rust than iron. Lace is an old lady's hobby, she was told. But red lace in a rain forest forgets its category and dissolves.

--1 August 2017

Friday, July 28, 2017

28 July 2017

I want to write an honest sentence about pay raises and suicide nets, about private resignations and public firings, about the age of my daughter's bones. I want to write an honest sentence about the rain that falls in coherent syntax on wide green leaves. Roof song is a random percussion. The genie flies a big plane and makes tremendous decisions. He keeps stuffing paper back in a bottle—old deals that never took, pieces of a Russian phrase book. Outside, a native bird sits on a leaf until I realize it's leaf only, resembling bird. I listen to bird songs on my computer, but they're no more memorable to me than the rain. I am afraid for my daughter's bones. “Don't protect their heads when you push them in the car,” he tells police. “They don't shoot our beautiful girls, because that would be too quick. They carve them up with knives.” Grammar is either ethical or it's not. A knife's clean cut makes noun and verb agree on what's left on the table. The water next to a curb in Hilo smelled of dead fish. There's pornography in the air, but it cannot promise pleasure. If you can't speak well of others, then say you'll kill them, dispose of their bodies at the tip. The Protocol of the Elders of Zion was a damn good story, but no one should write fan fiction about it. I am afraid for my daughter's bones, though they're as white as mine. Bones become matter at the tip. We recycle persons, not plastic. When we grow, if we grow, resilience is a good salary and no student debt. My daughter and her sister giggle themselves to sleep on a futon under the rain on the plastic roof. They say the nights are scary, so dark. The genie wants it so. A mob of one is contagious in its vitriol; you might only later look in the mirror to see the face you first identified with your name. It was arbitrary, but someone gave it to you. The genie knows to call you by a name, but his calling is taking, not adding on. The wall will be see-through, just as we are to him, and he to us. To see is not to act, alas.

--28 July 2017

Thursday, July 20, 2017

20 July 2017

I want to write an honest sentence. This is not normal would be one. Academic mobbing is a thing; you can chart it by seeing how colleagues walk the corridors. One wears Beats and dances past. Another leaves the elevator, device planted in front of face like a palm. “Are you gossiping again?” my daughter asks and I explain that gossip is how women warn each other; it's a micro-politics that is suddenly out-sized. If he'd told me he'd recuse himself, I'd never have hired him. The individual is one thing, the all-consuming sponge another. I read Ponge as a freshman, loved and then forgot him. And now I'm trapped inside the chaos theory surfaces of a public ego. He really liked to hold my hand, he said three times in a row. Row row row your boat works as zen wisdom. My mother rowed into the Bay of Naples to be alone, but a soldier rented a boat to keep her company. Her story repeated so many times it became a round in my head. I don't remember if it's in the video the neighbor made of her telling stories, the neighbor who's now in prison for sexual assault. Undercurrents, riptides. A chain of 80 people formed from shore to the swimmers in distress. That was the good news last week. They doth accumulate, his lies, like piles of sand in an hourglass. The video of my mother now matters as much for audio of the neighbor, his inquiring voice, his fondling of her memory. Spool! Banana peels on a south London stage. Words make old technology sexy. If I had audio of that meeting, I'd put it in the closet with my mother's ashes. Don't bring up the past, they said. Don't you know students act that way? Feather in our cap, but. The drawer closed, as did my door. His poems are full of them, but they're usually ajar. Inoculation against assumptions, no anti-vaxxer I. Her photos of my son and his friend were done in fish-eye, though time warped the rest. I see he saw my message, but I get no message back. It's like responding to Trump's tweets; the glory is in doing it. But that's a distraction! The woman with the Big Gulp fed her granddaughter a spam musubi, rice clump by rice grain. She drives a pink electric car and says “true love!” at bed-time. It's Disney, you know. The French theorist had nothing on us now. You should see the refugees ride.

--20 July 2017

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

19 July 2017

I want to write an honest sentence. A myna waves blue Dorito bag like a flag across Hui Iwa. Simile as false flag. Not the sound of a flag, its appearance in the beak of a brown and black bird. The sentence is true, if not honest. In that micro-difference we parse an older politics, the seen but not spoken hijinks of wink. There was hidden meaning, so we felt we were reading poems and there was some value in learning how to analyze a text. What was hidden has now floated to the top like crude, and it is. He wants to stay in the Senate, doesn't he? The aesthetics of a threat is pretty lame. I want my daughter to feel the joy of having her pass pushed toward the goal; an angle makes the run true. I also want her to drink clear water until she dies. Bryant nearly cried when he told her that she too would die. Existence is value that cannot be laundered, like a casino or tower. My son stands in front of an unnamed castle in Naples. Where ancient and modern rub together, my glasses need replacement. Stigmata or astigmatism. We no longer read his work for meaning, but for lexicons spread upon the plate, platitudes exhumed and replaced in reverse order. Where were the September towers, the airport warriors, flags plastered on walls? Adept of attention, he paid none. It cost too much. The massacre at Mosul takes place outside our camera lens. Even within it, there's nothing to see. Nothing to see in secret meetings without aides or translators. Nothing to see. My dog's brown and black ears frame an ocean that's still blue. Even if the blue whale game is false, young women still kill themselves. The new comfort is found in everything fake. After he confessed to the crime, his supporters still thought the news was false. The fake of a fake is still fake, until in this long wall of mirrors laws of diminishment reduce us to dots, like distant seals in a cold sea. That word looks true, but a wavering red line appears beneath it. Red sea spelling bad. She smelled Sewer View Gardens but placed it on the wrong side of the street. Eye exams depend on solitary letters. Even as my vision coheres, there's no meaning, just ever tinier lines to decipher. You're a good guesser, she said, and I felt like Bengie Molina catching 90 mph pitches in the Puerto Rican dark. When you can't see them otherwise, you get good at spotting pitches as they leave the pitcher's hand.

--19 July 2017

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

18 July 2017

I want to write an honest sentence. I want to write a sentence I can own, not in the way I own objects but how I take responsibility for the air inside my room, breathing as a form of attention that enters without staying. Nothing stays, though "it stay hot" denote a change of condition. He who cannot own his failure tries for a better one, destruction without hope of renovation, a blackened high rise to remind us there's more to life than structure. Strictures bind us to our dog, who is pet inside the house and all animal outside. Nasal appraisal, one neighbor calls it, nose to the grass not grindstone, a way of reading in no particular direction, though leaves require particular energies to decipher. A swift intake of breath is not grammar or syntax, less an unfolding than a claim on the air that's instantly repaid. Her nose on my arm tickles, a greeting that is also inventory. Palm fronds shield us from the asphalt ribbon they put down on our field, the better to protect their golf carts from injury. A two cart parking lot adorns the front of the ever-growing shed. Cart Path Project, it's called. Black riibbon on a green field, no Barnett Newman that. Stations have not opened, though concrete ribbons run across the Leeward side. Look at the earth, my father would say, its rich reds or clays. I took to looking up instead, but age pulls us down a peg, pushes our eyeballs into what's left of the commons, pulls up the fences like blue tape. The blue whale game, while horrifying, may prove to be a hoax. The girl painted blue whales, but her family had no idea she spoke Russian. Each one cuts a blade in our emotional skin, leaving a ribbon of blood behind our eyes. The Senator's surgery was more complicated than had been thought, so he couldn't get to DC in time to vote against others' health care. Irony prevention is what we need, with small co-pays. She teaches irony by showing her students a bus marked by a huge sign advertising safety, a bus that has just run into a car. The car resembles a crushed maroon paper flower, or the sculptured trash can a president throws his deed inside. “I will not own this,” he says; he only owns what he destroys, the negative space charcoal is good at getting at. My daughter learned perspective last week; this week she's on to ceramics and soccer. I haven't seen monks play, but her passes sometimes defy physics. Space is time that's been thrown on a wheel.

--18 July 2017

Monday, July 17, 2017

17 July 2017


I want to write an honest sentence.
I want to wear an honest bonnet like a helmet to hold out “fake news.”
I want my honest sentence to do good work.
I want my headgear to include only actual reality.
I want my sentence lived out in minimum security poetry.
I want my poetry to enact a radical moderation.
I want to tease out fundamentalisms until their threads become available.
I want the collage of tree and lace to exist as texture more than as image.
I want to taste dirt to see if there are pesticides in it.
I want “dull as dirt” to be my slogan, because dirt is neat.
I want to write about the green bird who uses a palm frond leaf as theme park ride.
I want to know the name of that bird; without names, there's less decency.
I want to get him out of my head; he's infecting my syntax with a verbal virus.
I want to avoid cognitive decline by inviting parasites into my body.
I want Alzheimer's not to be the symbol of our politics.
I want to write an honest sentence about a dishonest world.
I want to be funny, but not a laughingstock.
I want my honest bonnet to make me Professor Bitch. (That's not want, that's is.)
I want the old hag to leave me her super powers after she enters “memory care.”
I want a world without quotations.
I want to have an empty nest that's full.
I want to be that bird on that leaf on that frond in that field beneath this sky in this place.
I want the mountains to lean down to me.
I want my dog to tell me what she smelled and why she rolled in it.

--for James Jack

Sunday, July 16, 2017

16 July 2017

I want to write an honest sentence, one as true as the weather. But nothing's so untrue as the weather, forgettable as pain here on the Koolau's windward side. The mountain's obscure, it cannot be read. It blocks every attempt, calls back the occasional hiker. There was a boy in slippers for whom they searched for months. Don't trust a liar when he tells you the news is #Fake, even if his platform is suitable to the lyric. Threads unspool like couplets. He said his lips were seals, and our daughter didn't get it. She's got humor deficiency disorder. (HDD). Thought Romeo tore his trousers on the balcony; I told her he hid his erection. Only some bodies are bawdy. In his late poems there's either the performance of senility or senility itself. My mother's friend's daughter wouldn't recognize her estranged brother, though she might see her son in his early photos. Baby thrust out on a father's arm; precarity's joy. Divorced from late capital, that is. I can't remember the weather, though I think it was too hot last summer, and rainy. Gray clouds have passed and now the sky is white. Somewhere in the alphabet, Ron told me, there's a section about the weather. Did he express feeling? someone asked. But attention cannot but involve feeling, a sense that something exists on the lawn apart from us, toad or lizard or the dog shit someone couldn't find to throw away. Car alarm and rustling trees, digital music pulse, my daughter's voice. Even the abstract can be attended to. I understand none of them; they are like the mountains or the avant-garde. Helicopter clutter, some doves. What I wrote two years ago I failed to remember, and yet it made sense. The vocabulary of politics without the politics. That's not true or fake, is presumptive. To appropriate is not to make a statement, but to till the earth for one. Only the pure survive, staring in mirrors like weightlifters to see that their posture is true. I've chosen the elliptical, it's so like running on an ostrich egg. On the screen a poker game, commentary I can't hear. The son's lawyer was paid by the president's campaign, before the act in question. “That was before the Russia carnival started!” he says, who is its prime barker. This weekend our populist plays golf. It's real golf.

--16 July 2017


Friday, July 14, 2017

14 July 2017

I want to write an honest sentence. I want to write honest sentience, a body of thought flung into the dark cold of a waterfall's pool. The only good conspiracies are those that make no sense, those attached to birth certificates or grassy knolls, but this one with all the i's dotted and the p's and q's minded, proves entirely coincidental. It's like a Bond film without the flying cars or Trump (Sr. or Jr.) dancing on the roof of a fast moving train as it approaches a tunnel too shallow to accommodate his fat ass. My vocabulary does this to me, and it's gotten more profane these past months, more consonants per square inch of vowel, more spit and less varnish. I want to write an honest sentence, but the words are lacking. They flee from me, the quality words of substance, the words that anchor me to reality when I think I know what that is. Depends on how you define the word is. That's a used up scandal, but this one offers fresh meat on a daily basis. The rotting stuff sits at the back of the proverbial garage, covered with maggots and the raven who's been shown to feel paranoia. They make plans these large black birds, opting out of instant gratification for something they know takes more time. Re-reading the poet I find him obsessed with “time,” and with other abstract nouns, birds that aren't differentiated from one another. Like a menagerie without a genus, or a genius without a key to the library. When Bryant said, “bring the rope here,” the dog did so. “Tug of war” is another metaphor based on violence, though it's really only pulling a rope, like taffy. “Tug of candy” might do as well, and be sweeter for all concerned. I don't understand a word of his late, later, latest poems, but they do offer me permission to go on and on. That and coffee start the races; I am a greyhound chasing a lure. The allure of nature is abstract. A sheaf of rain crinkles as it approaches; I and the dog step up our pace. There's too much vision and too little sound in our lives, even considering the ear buds (what flower they?) my students wear to dampen their anxiety. A wall of sound after the concert in Lyons made us all leave quietly, like lost sheep. I remember lying in the sleeper car's top bunk and seeing only the concrete platform. But I heard the correspondences, too.


--14 July 2017

Thursday, July 13, 2017

13 July 2017


I want to write an honest sentence. I want an honest sentence, like or unlike our former neighbor. I want the assurance my sentence will (be) last. I lack insurance, as do so many of us in the era of empathy cuts. The mantra is short: Ted Cruz. The mandate is shorter. Sirens in the distance foreclose nostalgia for the journey they take to help. To help, if not create a relationship of dependence. Government is like that. The white guy in the gym called me “socialist fool,” for which I thanked him. That was not a lie, like the news he warned me about. Liberals! To re-read one's favorite poet is to find an absence of politics, though “listening tour” approaches it. The world of fiction's fictitious, but there's still a politics to that. If you tell me that tree's fake enough times, I'll see it as plastic, like an airplane fork except on Lufthansa. The Germans still believe in metal. He though it meant “air dancer,” but it means “guild,” which is less poetic, but there's still a pun there that redeems the practical banality. My new glasses warp my woof, meaning my dog appears out of tune with her surround. The far signs clearer than closer ones, the ones that confirm conspiracies by simply making lines between numbered dots. But numbers are fictions, too, so who's to believe even the narrative that fails to sink in the lagoon, whether or not it's polluted. Micro-plastics or micro-tones, either or none of the above are avant-garde. What you couldn't make with the plastics located in an albatross's tummy. The young man convicted of killing the protected birds was given a short sentence. You can sign a petition to get him kicked out of school. Maybe he can tweet out photos of Donald, Jr. and his dead prey. Amen.

--13 July 2017

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A publication

Jonathan Penton at unlikelystories has posted three of my memory cards on their site, from the Cloud of Unknowing series.

http://unlikelystories.org/content/so-i-encourage-you-accept-your-failure-and-embrace-the-word-whole



Saturday, June 24, 2017

24 June 2017


When my father died, he called down the hallway to me, and I came back. (The nurse said I could still talk to him, so I whispered good-bye in my father's, though--being dead--he couldn't acknowledge me.)  My mother gave him my father's gold Rolex, the one he'd bought for $100 after the war; she sold him our grand piano. He did her taxes when she could no longer keep her accounts straight, and told me on the phone that she was doing well when she was not. There was a cashier at Safeway, he told me, who spoke over 10 languages. Sure enough, the man bagging my groceries talked to a woman in Korean. She laughed. When he and his wife came to see my mother in her Alzheimer's home for the last time (I asked them to come), he teased her with motions of his arms and questions she could not answer. He said he could spend hours there engaging with her who slumped against the arm rest, her eyes flat glass. When my mother died, he sent a brief note. When his wife died, he sent a longer one. She'd collapsed suddenly after a wonderful day together. When I saw his house had sold, I emailed him and got no answer. I googled his name. There was his mug, an address in Incarceration, Virginia. He had a number, a sentence, and a crime: aggravated sexual assault. Someone had failed to protect him. A year and a half after his arrest the house sold and movers took everything away, but none of the neighbors knew a damn thing.


--24 June 2017