Thursday, April 30, 2015


But this is small. Exhaustion multiplies. Street theater, an empty stadium. A player throws a baseball high in the stands where no one retrieves it. The old warehouse was where one vendor's father collected unemployment; today the vendors didn't bark. No drinks, no popcorn, no cracker jacks. Just absence of riot in absence of person. As if. I told my student not to use the word “just,” but it's just the word for what's missing. Freddy Gray dying in the back of a van stopping one time more than we knew. So much we don't know, the not peeling like lead paint from walls of apartment blocks. That was not spinal surgery: a not cinder block crushed his larynx. It's his not speaking we hear. He wrote about a fragile door. Ours to occupy this limen, or sidewalk whose cracks mark meaning that cannot matter. What is just surpasses it.

--30 April 2014

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


It was glorious while new: and is as new as it was glorious. Verb tense as manual gearshift, clutch. Sudden braking after texting. I remember Gerund Lake. Verb lacking any tense except ongoing. Start your revolution, oh White poets, on the backs of Black teens! It won't hurt a bit. They'll wear tire slippers and you en pointe shoes. Does it hurt? Radhika asks. Only at first, the dance store clerk responds. We can get used to anything, the rubble of ancient temples or the burning of police cars. It's the age of amygdala. When the towel rack fell, a syringe clattered to the bathroom floor. The War on Drugs damages my pedagogy. A moment before losing consciousness, I felt a rush of pure joy. The grief came after. It always does. Run this riot in reverse, this video of Freddie Grey dying, this massacre in the theater, this orgy of blood, this shot in the back, this cinder block in mid-air, this man's bruised eye and cheek, this mind a terrible thing to waste, this thank god the train didn't stop in Baltimore, this illusion of control at the end of your finger, this listing of items against their accretion. Grocery lists are cultural artifacts. See how they're composed.

--29 April 2015

Monday, April 27, 2015

Pre-publication sale on Jonathan Stalling's LOST WAX from Tinfish Press

Poetry in translation is a trust exercise; reader must rely on translator to turn words into other words, while preserving the larger meaning of the original. Jonathan Stalling’s book is for those readers less inclined to trust, and/or for those more fascinated by the playfulness of language(s). In Lost Wax, Stalling presents a sequence of poems about his wife’s work as a sculptor. Those poems are translated into Chinese and back into English by members of a “workshop” of eight fellow translators. Each poem is then presented in a) the original; b) the Chinese; c) the new English version. An additional workshop page illustrates choices made by translators on both sides of the English/Chinese divide. Lost Wax is a marvelous book of poems that also presents an argument for translation as process, as variation. This book, as well as Stalling’s fine introduction, will prove of interest to readers of contemporary American poetry, poetry in Chinese, as well as readers and practitioners of translation.

For more, see:

Please help us pay our bills by ordering directly from Tinfish Press. List price: $20. Until the books arrive, the price is $16.

Saturday, April 25, 2015


These bloody characters are too dim to let me read it. When in doubt, say settler colonialism. When in doubt, feel guilt. Blood is as much fiction as fiction is. Now that he's knows he's Spanish, he asks what this means. Those late nights dancing salsa in the bathroom, watching your teeth fall out. I am adopted to myself, my scattering impulses gathered like a clutch of birds: Ahuimanu. What would you do with a woman who had no papers, no relatives? How would you run your gas station in the States? Embassy as cage or fortress. The narratives were all myths of abandonment and finding, of ditches and roads and an orphanage that had been a palace. Rooms pulsed with infant cries. Children in school uniforms played soccer. Blood is thicker than blood. It runs in the city of your being found. The news shifts to Bruce Jenner. The body is fiction; soul is not. What we see cannot be defined, but what we are is.

--25 April 2015

Friday, April 24, 2015


O that I could taste it beneath the gall and vinegar! “Deux gaules,” in the secret language of resistance, whispered the fisher of men. He spoke so slowly I understood his French. When Mimi bore her litter of kittens, he drowned them in a bucket. Kittens wrestle at my feet, soft and sharp, like alternating currents. Cardboard on concrete makes a Chinatown bed. Her grandparents dealt in vegetables and porno. What to do with all those reels? Why am I surprised at their white hair? We're told too many penalties will render the laws void, so go easy on those who live in tents by the canal. The homeless are pure cost, lines heavy with gravity. One man sweeps the sidewalk beside his tent; I am leaving a Thai restaurant, where I talked to the author of “The Bodhissatvas of Thrown Away Things.” Mother and aunty carry a pole laden with old clothes and a bunch of bananas. My student asked me what I think “the the” means. A politics of person not idea, of love without absorption, of the simple word. Good night, men; good night, kittens.

--24 April 2015

Monday, April 20, 2015


All transient things are permanent in God. Whether or not this is good news, I cannot say. It gets harder to meditate on the secular value of love when Tom's every sentence includes a higher power. Find and replace. God's farm team eats corn, plays sandlot ball, rides the bus. Was his high slide dirty? Is “dirty” not a strange word in this context? High spikes bite ankles, as kittens do. Their original sin is joy, not harm. His mother called the cops, as he was clutching his Bible and a knife. The cops shot him dead. A row of black men's faces stares at us in the stairwell. We do not see their mothers there. This is the last mistake you're allowed. Turn-about is not fair play, is not play. Dead serious is not a dead metaphor.

--20 April 2015

Sunday, April 19, 2015


Here you learn all patience, love, and contempt of the world. Bryant said Santa comes to houses in Hawai`i through the toilet vents. The meditation box requires pipes; anger is a vortex the equator reverses. Men live in boxes under bridges. The bridge is a structure that connects, is also roof to rooms marked by tents or cardboard. A homeless man under the El noted my Cards cap. El is not God, but offers some measure of mercy. Humans refer to them as the “plague,” but not the steel and stone. Privatize his box, charge him rent, take his papers and his cigarettes. It's illegal to feed him, so slip a burger under his blanket. I take suffering to be counter-miracle, subtraction. Empathy crosses the police tape; the fines add up. Put Jesus in handcuffs, else he might love you.

--19 April 2015

Saturday, April 18, 2015

60 (take two)

A tree set on fire with invisible flame. The in- before visible is not the in- before flammable. In case of fire, break glass, also invisible in its way. Glass fronts the memory box. One laughed to hear the phrase “glass student.” As a child, I had a see-through plastic woman I opened up. She was like my wooden map of the states when I put each in its place, except they refused my eyes passage. Livermore labs and Heart Mountain were left for later on. He snapped at my “philosophizing,” said he couldn't bear one more minute of it. Meditations, like documents, come in boxes. I have records of emails, attempts at blackmail. You say you have a match, but I have fire retardant. The poem is glass; its edge can frame or it can cut a man.

--18 April 2015

Monday, April 13, 2015

59 (second take)

It is the most exalted of all objects. Her name was soul, without the e. She hated it, for it proposed abstraction in lieu of a street address. The philosophical lyric suffers from a lack of smarts embedded in what the little boy calls “road bacon.” Or from an inability to spell, in the sense of spelling a teammate when he cannot breathe. My notes are breaths, the musician says, an interval of air above the line. Upwards of seven teen suicides in Palo Alto, where men in orange vests stand guard. When you lie across parallel train tracks, you make crosses. Crass underbellies of affluence. What we want for them is not to be them. The climates—economic, actual—are in free fall. Where sacred comes out as scared, you can't see beyond the scrim of your adrenaline. Because he couldn't sleep, he read about the shroud of Turin. The coroner knew he'd been on the can just before he died. A beautiful head emerges from the dark pool like a flower. If only his selfie told us where to look for him. The mountains love to death sometimes.

--13 April 2015

Sunday, April 5, 2015


The Cross is an intersection of streets in Kaka`ako, is a line of tents in Kalihi, is He`eia stream beside the man on the bike's hutch. A bottle dipped in the stream was all I saw beneath his tarp, old white guitar laid on top. Intention is the mother of empathy, of which there was none. The man with the white guitar plays things we want not to see. He plays for an audience of egrets, of passing trucks pulling boats, of workmen on the bridge. He plays for taro farmers in the valley. He plays for the invasive mangroves, the mountains we cannot remember origins of, the point of land the dead leaped from. He's the still point a surveyer might use to mark the boundaries we've made of this land. He's the story for which there is no arc, no denouement. Ignore him: he's no threat to your commerce or your joy.

Easter Sunday
--5 April 2015

Saturday, April 4, 2015


They had less need to see the one, than we to see the other. “The smell of urine permeated the air, and blood from a visible foot wound had been washed into a pool on the ground with a discarded Band-Aid,” a real estate broker said. The Angel of Commodity came down to wrap her wings around the pavilion and sell us sunscreen. The Angel of Desire came next, offering unobstructed ocean views and the scent of tropical flowers. The homeless, we're told, are happy in their lifestyles; they take drugs, after all. Sell blinders to the tourists. Do not let them leave their armored hotels; they might see a man by Costco clutching a black book to his chest, or another whose sign reads: “Hungry Vet, God Bless.” Do not let them witness, lest they testify to Waikiki's “shame.” A row of tents lines the Kalihi stream, punctuated by red shopping carts caught in mud. A man stands on the bridge, blue fishing net in hand. It's Easter, so let them die; see if they rise. Let the green flash assign the holy ghost his next meal. Better yet: ship them all to the Big Island.

--4 April 2015

Friday, April 3, 2015


Where the carcase is thither will the eagle be gathered together. One is drawn to death, not with a crayon but a magnet. Magnanimous opening, mountain's loose rock crumbling. The soul comes after, whatever it is. He wanted to like it more than he did. My fingers on the keys attract a kitten's mouth, needles to skin. To write joy is a politics. We talked about the word “legislator,” turned “law” into “truth,” moved on to Audre Lorde. She hasn't found her identity yet, one student said. I wondered if there was one to be found. Is it hyphen, pontoon, the tie that unbinds us? Even those of us without hyphens feel them, small growths inside our chests, commuters parked outside the zip lane awaiting contra-flow. Ideas are lived experience, if you're depressed enough. A kitten in a box loves walls and peep holes, solid form and its point of running off. Reciprocity is an idea best abandoned. I remember the echo of his voice in the grain elevator. I remember when the word was “jump,” not “elevate.” Transcendental wise ass!

--3 April 20