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
(I don't yet know even how much the book costs!)

Some of the poems can be found here, with thanks to Jerrold Shiroma:

Equipage's website is here:

The cover art is by Tommy Hite:
If you open the book up to include the full cover, you get this: