Saturday, February 28, 2015


Rest in peace, sweet cat.

Tor (1994-2015). He was a member of our family for the last ten of those years.


For all Eternity is at once in Him, both the empty durations before the World was made, and the full ones after. Between before and after is this last day. There's a round stain on my meditation cushion where the cat peed. It forms a perfect circle, a knot of black thread precisely at its center. A tuft of his orange fur shows at 9 o'clock, a wisp of dead grass just past noon. There is no calendar for poems, I write, only artifice. But this day will end when the vet comes with her needle. These will be your traces, body elements, the odd fruits of your dying. In Lawrence, an admirer preserved William Burroughs' turd and put it on display. Matter matters, but not in that way. Om mane padme hung.

For Tortilla, with love
--28 February 2015
 [Thank you to James McCorkle for telling me that Burroughs was himself a cat lover.]

Friday, February 27, 2015


Desire imports something absent: and a need of what is absent. The cat's eyes fill with mucus; what he sees he sees through film. Small children can't tell need from want, necessity from desire. The cat's desire is all necessity: his dish, the spot by the window when there's sun. Touch and taste were hands and lips; the class exercise turned to expressions of love. My son wears a bracelet with his girlfriend's name on it. I wear a ring on my left hand. Ruth held a long dry leaf, ran it along the railing like a prayer wheel. What we hold sacred is at hand. I wipe out my cat's eyes with a Kleenex; he turns away, orange cheeks stained brown. We consider the ethics of feeding, the stain of wiping the cat's anus. There is no prince of this prom; we are equal citizens in the end-of-life.

--27 February 2015

Monday, February 23, 2015


This is very strange that God should want. Merriam-Webster pronounces the word “strange” for me, so I won't be. It's stranger, non-native; if there is God, he cannot be, except in not being strange. Shift pronouns—he, she—to pull down infinity but a tad. “For Gad, for country, and for Yale,” his campaign sign read. I don't remember if he won, but why should it matter? Someone sang Alice Cooper in response to her talk, but I read “sign,” as if gesture could convey such sound. Silence is many things. Is cat on his blanket this Monday morning, eyes wet, still wanting water, food. He needs to know you'll let him go, the vet says; her animals respond to English and make their own mistakes. My son's eyes are dark with refusal, but this morning he scratched the cat's head before school. Nothing's simple, it's all lease-hold. Leases come due, and we let them go.

--23 February 2015

Sunday, February 22, 2015


It is very strange; want itself is a treasure. The cat still wants: water, food, a wobbly walk on the lanai. I don't want so much as I lack. “I can't eat for you,” I said, before he began again to eat. Lack precedes want, but want contains little except lack. Bryant caregives, taking reduction for a new essence, abiding with it. My mother on her deathbed was past want or lack; all she did was breathe until she did not. The cat on his blanket has more volition than that. It's his volition that hurts, the quiet bend of his front leg and the slow collapse of his back. The man who'd had a stroke walked beautifully. It was not his walk, but his want of walking that made it so, the odd circular motion of his one leg as it moved toward the floor, set itself down, began. Attention obliges us to love. I want his next step taken.

--22 February 2015

Friday, February 20, 2015


Socrates: “who would have thought there were so many things in the world which I do not want!” Our cat lurches a zigzag jig from maroon blanket to kitchen to carpet. Restlessness is a sign, I read. He propels himself toward the door, as if momentum were a kind of direction. It's raining, so he cannot find his sun spot. He peers out the louvered window beside our shoes. I do not want him to die. I do not want him to live. I do not want for not wanting.

--20 February 2015

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Your enjoyment is never right, till you esteem every Soul. Our cat begs, though he cannot eat. He walks on rubbery legs to his litter box, then misses it. Tiles grow slick with his urine. The carpet hides his spots, the blanket stinks with food Bryant squirted in his mouth. He sits at the kitchen entrance and meows softly; I hear his breath across the room. I think of Saijo's bush bunny, the perfection of his body in death. And of his cat who left, then returned to die at home. This is the year of letting go, my friend suggests. Not renunciation, but something quieter. To give is to be generous; to give in is to enter without sound. My cat hears none of our cluckings. He wobbles onto the lanai, seeking his sun spot, or a taste of rain. He exits my sight, stage left. He hasn't given up yet, Bryant says. To give up is to go away.

for Tortilla
18 February 2015

Monday, February 16, 2015


(Everyone hath in him a Spirit, with which he may be angry.) Write a poem in prepositions. Massage this “with” as “through” or “against.” Meaning withheld, magnifies. The message was for you alone, my friend writes, in all its bitterness. If I want to keep things quiet, I will. The thrush, this crisp Monday morning, doesn't answer to demands. Nor the honking egret, close cousin to regret. Regret postulates recollection, recollection the church basket in which you throw your change. Altar, alters. Where none finds. And what of the parentheses: are they sidelines or the field whose artificial dust rises when a player's foot lands on it? The stadium is parenthetical. We hold us to our containers, snuggle inside like the sick cat on Bryant's lap. His organs fail, but still he totters to the kitchen. We watch him constantly for a good sign. Await the years that grow inside parentheses. The hyphen is a flash drive that holds our photos in hock.

--16 February 2015

Saturday, February 14, 2015


We need nothing but open eyes, to be ravished like the Cherubims. “Was da kooks-wit-wings,” returning home. Red-combed roosters clutched in a tree beside the track. In college, one guy wrote, “the chipmunk squirreled up the tree.” Why I remember that and not Blake. Tony wrote a poem about the Inside Out. He sat with me when I read the New York Times on the stairs outside my dorm. We had a night together that went nowhere, even in the moment. Later, the mutual friend he'd envied described his long love affair with the bottle, his two beautiful sons. A tall woman came up to me at AWP and said she was his love. I think I sent him my book through her. He died in Vermont this week. “Tony?” someone asked: the stubble on his face, the thrown back thin hair, his heavy lidded eyes. The week we read Bishop's “At the Fishhouses” he came to class carrying a pack of Lucky Strikes. His last call to her arrived on a Radio Shack cellphone. Corporations die like people. Some say they are. He was. I am.

RIP Tony Sanders
14 February 2015

Friday, February 13, 2015


All the foundations of the World are out of course. If asked to watch a basketball passed from player to player, you're likely to miss the man in the gorilla suit. Paul Valéry: “to see is to forget the name of what one sees.” Practice tonglen, a friend says; don't stick a name on your enemy, breathe his pain in. I cough as if I'd inhaled a tablespoon of Saigon cinnamon. My students had a hard time with the no-name tree outside our window (the one only I could see). To abstract the tree from its school bus yellow is to lose it. One student said she always gives leaves high fives. Another touches the serrated wall each time back to the kitchen. Don't look in your heart and write; see the stain on the wall and start there. Necessity without attachment, a flock of Brazilian cardinals skittering on the lanai.

--12 February 2015

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


The works of contentment and pleasure are of the Day. Here are some of the textures a rat might touch: dimpled plastic, the rutted floor of a cast iron pan, a flaw in the carpet. The rat needs to touch what he runs beside. There's a word for it that begins with a T. At some point in the middle of the journey of our lives, the dark wood fills with letters unattached to words. Sounds sway like bamboo, clattering to no obvious meaning except that they touch. It's like the instant noise becomes sound becomes pillow talk between newly wed Christians through a thin interior wall. She gains comfort when she prays that she can forgive them who hurt her. To be able to is not to forgive, but to find the off-ramp that sickles its way toward F. Her lines lacked syllables, but began as a perfect acrostic. I advised her not to tell.

--11 February 2015

Monday, February 9, 2015


Nor shall the air itself be counted anything even in wind you hear before it touches. Our sick cat sits on a maroon pillow; he can't hear the wind, though he feels us when we come home. Yesterday he tottered in from his sunny spot on skinny legs. We've started talking to him about the end, which is an end for him, but not for us. What does a cat know of mortality? Of the speeches we make before and after? Of the poems devoted to dying? “My brother should never have had a gun!” a woman yelled. More dead in one place than the sheriff had ever seen. Death is rarely non-violent; the cat knew that. Done slowly enough, it lingers like perfume in the carpet. We know us better as he dies. Take the brush and comb out his unkempt fur. Scratch his chin. He still likes it, so let him live.

--9 February 2015

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Lynn Young's _Where's My Rispick?_ is out from Tinfish Press

This beautiful, and beautifully hand-made, chapbook comes in a limited edition of 100 copies. "Ritspick" is Alzheimer's English for "lipstick." Please see here for more details, and a button to push to purchase the book for the very low price of $16:


The riches of darkness are those which men have made. Kaka`ako condo towers have not been built, nor need they be, a full-page ad reads. Crystal needles, safer investments than meth. To have power is to see the ocean clearly from a great height. Homeless live on the ground; their ocean has less horizon and its waves are taller, like glass buildings shattering. Surfers are needles in its rubbling. He climbed some stairs and knocked. Inside he found a bank of illegal game machines, men perched on stools, gambling. Shell corporations own units for a mafioso, a girl who lives in a dorm, a war criminal. We are hostages to capital, not daring to call its bully out. The word “affordable” is a shell, and so are “human services.” Nut cracked, there's nothing inside except a cave. If a lion lives outside yours, what is there for it to eat? Your daily meditations?

--8 February 2015

Saturday, February 7, 2015


They walk on in darkness, and will not understand. An old woman grasps a steel railing, her hand a berm. I'm surrounded by attachments, like the leash on a dog they're persuaded will run away. But I want to run away, smell the secret spots beside the trees, hump a bench or two, sequester myself on a long beach. The poet quoted Paul Tillich, said he felt love most when he was alone. The mind runs until its wheels enter the belly, air gathering between earth and torso. We're only permitted flight when we attend. Be there, where there's nothing more than frond, ellipsis, air. You sewed the binding, punched the holes yourself. There are those we cannot fill, except over-. Asphalt eyes.

--8 February 2015

Friday, February 6, 2015


There is so much blindness and ingratitude and damned folly in it. Your life will be difficult for a while, a friend says; enjoy it. When I say the Alzheimer's was a gift, faces bunch up. A student obsessed with tornadoes refers to the “rain shadow” over the mountains. It begins in the forehead, settling down to the chin, filling gaps with its gravity. At half-time Katy Perry sang about feeling like a plastic bag. In such wind we flutter like artificial leaves, see the foot of a wall-eyed man walking in the road, kicking at the bag's imagined weight. Negative capability is flour sifted, drizzling the parking lot; as music blares, a cop sits on a pole looking down. What he sees is pattern: metallic blues and reds on a black surface. Pattern is comfort and thief, warm blanket around a stolen book.

--6 February 2015

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


Till you more feel it than your private estate, and are more present in the hemisphere... than in your own house. I know how to grieve a person, but a book? I see its face in dumpsters, fires, left beside the road amid broken stoves and strollers. The chess master sees his pieces in the same part of his brain as he does faces. They are that to him. At the chess pavilion in Chicago, a black man yelled at me about the best minds of my generation. I'd forgotten I wore my Howl shirt that day. The poem is a face, one with shades and birthmarks. Put it in a situation, like a floatie in the ocean, and watch how it responds. If salt eats it, go for sweet.

--4 February 2015

Monday, February 2, 2015


Till you can sing and rejoice and delight . . . as misers do in gold, and Kings in sceptres, you never enjoy the world. The problem, she said, was not who has the power, but power itself. They put dog shit in front of his door and, when he fell sick, they took everything. He saw rifle sights in raindrops, which is not to say he saw raindrops, or that he deflected his gaze from the world. Did you see them, he asked a friend. Raindrop metamorphosis did not draw them closer. Gold does not bring the miser nearer to his twin. They took his books, his computer, his kitchen cabinets. Something about him had been unclean. To expel means to breathe out; it is your own breath you lose.

--2 February 2015

Sunday, February 1, 2015

A Review Including _Memory Cards: Dogen Series_ (Vagabond Press, 2014)

Ali Alizadeh reviews the decibels series from the amazing Vagabond Press. During the skype launch, I said that as the editor of Tinfish Press, I envy Vagabond. I meant that in a good way; they're doing amazing trans-Pacific work. This is just part of their catalogue. See their website here:

The Decibels series was curated by Pam Brown.

And the review, here:


Your enjoyment of the world is never right, till every morning you awake in Heaven. I don't feel constant joy, I say to my friend, who laughs. She prepares for death, as we all ought. Only on the other side, she says, the other side. To take sides is to take them where, like logs in a truck bed, or the mirror to the world that's never fixed. My students didn't know the word “bark” in “wandering bark,” thought Shakespeare might be referring to a stray dog. That does change things, the ever-fixèd mark a bone, the dying poet having writ on Kibbles. A boy stands on Lanikai beach in Sunday best for his annual photo. Radhika calls it his “birthday suit.” When I say what that means, she laughs. Is it Mormons who stand on the corner asking for money? Sangha wonders. No, they're the men in narrow black ties. Bias is natural, Michael says, but it's how we process it that matters. To condescend is not to set a cross on fire. Remember that.

--1 February 2015