Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Lilith at the Met


It was the sound of a distressed soprano, high and loud, with a note of terror attached. It was Lilith last evening, after she was rushed by a puppy pit bull (for the second time) and got caught up between the other dog person's legs and her own leash. She ran off to the side of the play area, where everyone and their dogs had gathered, tail thrust forlornly between her back legs. This evening, Lilith wanted to get a treat from her favorite person. She walked back to the area where she'd been terrorized. At first, she wouldn't even take a treat. "Please keep your dog on a leash," I said to the owner of a second pit bull, who plays with the offending hound. Not much response. Lilith ate her treat and we beat our retreat.
Earlier today, a friend and I collected lunch plates at the Poi Factory (I had the #16, mini laulau, and she the kalua pig). We drove to Kualoa Beach park to find a picnic bench. I was slow to pick up Lilith's leash as she got out of the back seat. And she ran! Red leash trailing, she bounded off after chickens. "Not as fast as he [sic] thinks he is," said a large man in a folding chair, looking out to sea with his wife. As Lilith ran toward the parking lot, I called out, "if you can, please catch my dog." (This feels like a mantra, after all these years.) No one did, but the leash got stuck under a car tire for just long enough for me to gather her in. My friend had just finished reading _Lilith Walks_, so I assured her she had now experienced a Lilith story first hand. We walked up the beach, past fishermen, small kids, and back toward the car. A line of tourists was doing a Greek folk dance in the park when we reached the car.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Annie Ernaux


"What really interests me about youth is that it’s always the time you remember later. But I won’t be able to remember my old age. So! I have to live it to the fullest.” (NYer)

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Thanksgiving prayer

 24 November 2022

Here is the gunman’s house, and here is his chimney. Open it up and see the bodies. Fingers falling, everywhere.

Feeling nostalgia for “lives of quiet desperation.”

The rain on the palms this morning makes a neutral sound, a plinking in front of the wind; a view of wet laundry, towels and underwear.

I laughed when my father wiggled his fingers that had been a stone church and now were people. The gunman laughed maniacally as he shot. We're told we look for motive, as if motive were not repetition. If we begin at the bullet’s endpoint and reverse engineer the shooting, follow bullet back through body (identified by Mom tattoo by mom) into the gun’s mouth as it spits from a trigger pulled back at the impulse to mow, not in Marvell’s sense, or that of any farmer. If we keep following back into the nerves of the man who shoots, back to the amygdala, we see less yet. Motive has fled. We won't be needing it.

Stoppage time still moves. If only we could remain inside it, at once after the game and still inside it. Our field of battle is a strip mall. In Ukraine, people work at night because that’s when electricity is on. At Walmart, the late shift ends early with gunfire. The faces of the dead appear as still zoom images; each in his or her box. A funny face, a smile, one size fits all life, now it’s gone.

Here is the church, and here is the steeple. To whom do you pray, I ask a friend. The ancestors, he answers. It doesn’t matter to whom you pray, Norman advised us. It’s the act. Of breathing, I believe.

--for Kai Gaspar

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Grief abiding

23 November 2022

Grief is not a rabbit. It can’t run this fast.

Grief holds out no carrots. Not today.

Grief becomes the expectation of more grief.

Grief is what the television makes in us.

Grief has no 12 step program, though it’s best to count your steps.

Grief is the foyer to a missing house.

Grief bids us to miss ourselves in advance, like rent-a-grief.

Grief is the red sheets hanging from the line, a corner torn.

Grief attracts symbols like a magnet. Iron shavings crazed.

Grief asks me not to remember the poet, but the poet’s effect on my students.

Grief demands my anger, but I’m too tired. Read my older work.

Grief hints at boundless joy, but the clues are hard to find.

Grief is good in moderation. The scales have broken.

Grief is what you discover in the morning on the news, and then at night.

Grief, double shots.

Grief fills my screens with sentences. Some readers love the sentences; others the sentiment.

Grief is at once affect and sentence. A sob is its ceasura.

Grief begins a list that ends only when someone else grieves us.

Grief comes in numbers. Three football players, three poets, five in a bar, six in a Walmart. A neighbor.

Grief calls back its debts. We need the hero, but he knows he failed.

Grief is a war zone. This was his fifth tour of duty. Nothing happens, then a moment of chaos.

Grief barks orders at us. Wield high heels as weapons. Weaponize your joy. 

--list in memory of Bernadette Mayer & so many others

Monday, November 21, 2022

Bound less joy

21 November 2022

The dead are too kind. At four, she told her mother she was a boy. He died as Danny, tender of bar and character. But we’re past humanizing the dead. There have been too many of them.

Only the dead collaborate with detectives. The living, with their prerogatives, their plots, disappear into the woods or into themselves. The living fail to make eye contact, for that might reveal something. Anti-maskers are most masked in this context. Leave masks to the old ladies at Safeway; they have nothing to hide.

Shave off a few syllables and the sentence will re-sound. There’s no meaning in word rhythms, but there’s none without them either. This is one way to write on a day like this, making a form of self-contradiction. Diction has its price. The poet speaks of a grid inside of which he hung his sonnets. He likes sonnets!

The teacher speaks of boundless joy on just the morning I can’t possibly find it. No corner of the house hides such a thing. The dog hasn’t sniffed it out, nor the one cat who sniffs, while the others sound like head colds wanting attention. The feel-by date long past, dust’s small joy sits at the bottom of the column of saltines. You have to borrow on the margin to get the bigger kind; some might call it gambling.

“We stay in touch.” A song inspires the lovers finally to kiss, but we know they can't be together, as the plot demands something else of more complexity. Simple love has no place in a noir detective show, even when it’s coming at you in German. Their kiss is an invitation to a monkey wrench. For 25 points, name the composer of that symphonic bit.

Touching: to be made to feel by an outside input. I am moved by your touching story. Your moving story touches a raw nerve in me. That nerve touches ligament or bone, lights up. B says the fireworks going off at night simply advertise the availability of fireworks for sale.

A neighbor’s truck lacks its license plate and NYY magnet. The NYY wreath that lay outside his fence yesterday is gone, though not the flowers, the best wishes from Young Brothers, the white ribbon’s golden scrawl, Ohana.

She concluded her talk on boundless joy with a poem by Anne Sexton.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Consumer behavior

17 November 2022

If I am It to her, how dissolve her into Thou? At the intersection of sidewalk and stairs, she stares, a blank, but not a kind one. From each hand hangs a white plastic trash bag; each balances out the other. In the aftermath of no balance, the scales askew, dangling, no weight to be recorded that is not feeling, unfettered. She is a mild teacher, truly, lacking weapons or voice. Stink eye doesn’t even smell.

The tender ribbon between this and barbarity is what scares me. Like the band of grass bent at the top of an orange cone, purple on the top, green below. The next day there’s less bend, less color, just the orange cone crush. The fragility of this bend amplifies the violence we sense in the trees, the trash cans, the well fed graves. Some dates tell us about history, others mark what we’ll never know. The face of the murdered man is blacked out and covered with brown cut grass.

The war diary doesn’t end. Her power cut, her driving lessons stalled, a cup of coffee on her table in a high rise in Kyiv. She’d avoided the war, except as a principle of someone else’s life, until now. Electricity cut, rockets falling, an avant-garde violence lacking art. Blood dripped from the first floor of the house in Idaho, red lace on pale blue paint. Not all clues point to resolution.

The quick wit squats. Synapse molasses. Spark stunned by rain or snow. The third eye shuts, apathetic, refusing to see in either direction. Introspection suits the wanderer. What he does with his anger is to make it act. I watched a Noh play when I first arrived, near the site of recent murders. The one hid feeling until it filled the stage; the other exploded, diminished into question.

The world is all before them, he quotes Milton. It is before and after us. Over there, a sign tells us what we cannot do in this place. There will be more of those, until we forget how to read them, pulling letters off the metal plates, leaving pencil shavings on the humid earth.

She said I should not use “hang over” in the same sentence as “shot” (covid, flu) but I said it was metaphor. An easy out, I know. Our politics is one of removal. Take out the words, take out the ideas, take out our desires, take out those memories that do not fit our boxes. The police will come later, to check on our remnants, bits of cloth and paper left in an alley as a goad to reassembly. We can take apart, but we cannot put back. Some of us get paid to curate others’ desire. Thou consumes us, until we're spent. Shantih.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

How I became part of the Iranian resistance


While in Tacoma recently, I put up a "reel" on instagram of a red autumn tree, shaken by wind, that by happenstance included church bells ringing at the end. Over the course of a couple weeks, the reel was liked and responded to by a lot of Iranians I don't know. The latest response, translated, reads as follows: "Let's be a seedling with unity and solidarity; full of love, kindness and goodness, and let's irrigate this seedling so that it can root for all the people and the source of good friendship, kindness, peace and comfort for our children and future generations 😢😢😢 O' God, you are also a witness and take this down the misery from the foundation. The root of everything in the cruel world Oppression of women is life, freedom of expression and equality of man of homeland". I google "red autumn tree and Iran" and get this: To the extent that I understand this response, I'm happy that my short video has been taken as an emblem of the Iranian resistance. And now I find this, which explains the significance of the redness of the tree:

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Metaphor slips

15 November 2022

A pigeon in the palms, alas. I take my metaphors mixed, even natural ones. Organic, no poisons, no likeness that is not approved by the metaphor police. From farm to barn, not table, though we sat at picnic benches while someone else was recorded on video. Stories of the train wreck varied. They were birds flying across the compartment. She sat under the table. He bled from the side of his face.

The authorities make trauma so you can’t remember your stories. It’s not a waltz from beginning to end, or tapestry from inside to out, but old asphalt crushed in place, remixed to fix the old road. I miss macadam, if only the word.

I ask him about the singing bridge, then find it’s been replaced with a monotone. Music gets cut first.

Metaphor as replacement word: pigeon for pigeon, palm for grass. A bridge for singing; an atonal bridge. We don’t replace one thing with another but one word. The word is portable, potable, can be taken as a carry-on, so long as you put it in the overhead compartment, which contents may shift during “rough air.” Not caring becomes a yellow submarine, its frail guitar the clink of glasses. Lennon becomes Starkey.

Revision as humor’s release. The organ note exceeds its best buy date, then keeps coming back, like a dog to her rawhide. We recognize the song, but not the ceaseless note. The soul, but less drizzly November.

Is boredom arrogance, or anger? Is boredom the step between tenor and vehicle? Does the singer stop half-way, dangle his feet in the river (before the drought returns). Blankness is not dull, the mind is. On an ordinary day, he wanted to leave the yellow room and take a bus home. Panic translated as boredom. Pain as boredom. I told the kids they were lucky to be bored.

Into what mirror did you look? What did you see? If personal and political don’t rhyme, what does? The walls are tethered to the ground by horizontal wood pieces. She can’t believe the walls are so thin. The man picking up garbage at the cemetery asks me what I did for a living. He didn’t make it through school, himself. Might move to Texas or Vegas. But this is his home.

We can afford to live where we don’t belong.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Choreographies of distance

I'm not playing, I say to myself as Lilith and I walk on the other side of the parking lot toward the turn to home. The neighbor who hasn't spoken to me in over two years, or even looked at me, stands across the lot with her dog, a dog named for a famous Yankee player we used to be able to like, her daughter and two more dogs. They're talking to each other, about to head down the lot parallel to us. Lilith and I keep going, and she graces me with a much desired poop. The countdown from five begins. When I look up again, mother and daughter and their dogs have turned on their heels; they walk away from any geometry that might bring us face to face. Lilith and I continue down the sidewalk, making the turn toward home. The trees are beautiful in this light. I take pictures.


Friday, November 11, 2022

Lilith and I talk about Richard Nixon

Lilith and I ran into our retired Air Force friend (he who worked on AF1 during the Reagan years) on our way out of the cemetery. He said he was now in good enough shape that he can eat what he wants. "Otherwise," he said, "I'd have more chins than a Chinese telephone book." He didn't seem certain that I'd understood, so I made it clear I got the pun. I asked if he had children. From his first marriage, he said. They came quickly. "No HBO or Netflix back then." I don't know how it happened (though it often does), but Richard Nixon's name came up. I said the best thing he did was Title IX. Our friend says he reads at least three hours a day now (and has two post-retirement MA's) and is currently reading a biography of Nixon. I said, Roy Cohn. He said, McCarthy era. He went straight; Lilith and I peeled off to the right. Sometimes the metaphorical field betrays us.


Wednesday, November 9, 2022

On the Seawall / review of Hank Lazer's PIECES

Ron Slate's November edition of On the Seawall is out. See here:

I wrote a review of Hank Lazer's book, PIECES, from BlazeVox Press. I had more fun than I had any right to have!

Here's one paragraph:

PIECES, then, is about what we leave when we die. Lots of holes, and some pieces. The poet’s uncle is gone, his mother is gone, and he is going (though no verb form seems to work there, since it’s an ongoingness that is, at best, the passing of a baton). “i write poems / that no one / reads / not my family — / you are an exception / & you / have my gratitude[.]” The reader is “you” but only you know who you are; he cannot. Pronoun You, meet It. Readers are a function of hope and belief, like God, and so merit his praise, as did God by his uncle in his bathrobe on the sundeck. Lazer’s most recent book — and he has many! — is an extended meditation on his mother’s death. Earlier in his life, he wrote a long farewell to his father. As poet, he knows that farewells are openings, but that those openings are played by other characters, not the ones who inspired the drama. When the Time Comes was the repository of mother memories; this one is less about memory than about being forgotten, productively, in words.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Imagine a word

Imagine an I and an It, where It is also Thou. The short word pierces sense. What I am to the word is what the word is to the thing it names. We are subjects to each other, which is not to say subjected to, but real in the way spirit is.

Imagine a word that means what it says. Beauty as direction, bluntness even. A stroke pierces mind, but takes only words away. Four hours later, the word returns, pretending nothing had happened, wagging its tail.

Imagine knowing the name of your neighbor at the next desk, asking her what she ate for breakfast, what kind of toothpaste she uses. Think of that as a key to incorporation, not in the sense of finance but of feeling.

What we thought was true is now imagined, though perhaps we imagine that. Depends on whose subject you were, which drinking fountain spouted for your mouth, on which train car you sat. When imagination is only another form of forgetting, let it go.

Imagine a mode of realism that does not involve black lung or mass shootings or melting glaciers. You’ll need to get close, so close the dead gecko dissolves into the bright greens and oranges of a gum trees broken skin. It feels like fiction, but it’s a clear view.

The pun on spirits breaks a rule. Right speech is not fascist. You can utter the same sentence and have it mean 1) the truth or 2) a lie. It’s more than tone shifts, more than punctuation that turns the lens’s dial. Hear with clarity; turn off auto-tune.

The week between my mother’s birthday and the day my father died must be accident, however inscribed on my inner calendar. My daughter reminds me to take my mother’s ashes to Virginia, to place them on the same shelf as my father’s. She thinks a lot about the ashes, which sit in our closet, apart from my sight.

Can ashes sing? Can something so impalpable as song emerge from something so inert? What is the material of song? The immaterial of the ashes, which resembles nothing but other ashes.

In the show, a young woman is tricked into assassinating the man who hates Nazis. This is an ethical problem with a bomb attached. She was shown a piece of paper that proved her victim had ordered her boyfriend shot. The flyer was passed to her by a Nazi pretending to be a Communist. At show's end, she can no longer pretend to be a young woman.

She had not thought Cabaret has so much to offer us. Men in masks, their arms raised in Nazi salutes, stand on an overpass in LA, their banners anti-semitic. The proudest white supremacist is a Black man. The words for this are?



Saturday, October 22, 2022

Lilith and the jokester


Lilith and I ran after Daniel, who walks in an emergency green vest and plugs himself into his ear buds. "I thought you were from California," I said when he said he had a Texas accent. He was a school principal in Texas for seven years, he explained. "Did you know that John Travolta has covid?" he asked. No. "They called him up and said John, you have covid. But no, it was just Saturday Night Fever."

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Der Verkehr


19 October 2022


Not narrative, but chronology. Not how, but as it happened. Not art, but accident.

Before effect, there is cause. It’s worth lingering. Conspiracies neglect cause for the erotic pleasures of the perfect web. They don’t entertain the pause. All noise and the blur of rain on a car window at dawn. Doppler untangled is mere siren.

Conspiracy is the gossip of events, always adding up.

The new V2 is a kamikaze drone. Disruption inside the war’s disruptions. Torture chambers buried deep inside buildings, drones knocking out the windows. A window without glass still refuses the eye’s trespass.

The history of war acquires its shape through broken forms. Precision missiles take out armored personnel carriers. Men run from them like ants without compasses. The scene in Dr. Zhivago of a man lying in a field, firing a machine gun. At 6, I’d already started weeping by then.

My son had a flat tire on 395 the day after Reggie came to mind, young, African American, killed on the New Jersey turnpike a couple years after he graduated. Should have gotten better grades, he said, heading off to law school in Michigan.

These faces rise from the throat into the mid-brain like curled hands, borne into memory. The question of meaning includes this: why do I remember this now? Or that.

The power lines between parts of the body light up like a street at the end of a power outage. I feel traffic between my heart and right knee, then the point between my eyebrows and the end of my nose. I make a map that’s already there, like a drawing that burrows inside the paper.

He says he wants to do only what he loves in his remaining time on this earth. Do people say these things over coffee?

She wonders if the story about the old woman who sits for hours at the bus stop needs more drama. We wonder if she’s had a stroke, can’t get up, feels sick. But she was just noticing things. The drama is all us. She’s the one who sees.

Lilith and the Libra

Lilith and I ran into the walker who worked on Air Force One during the Reagan years. As we were about to keep walking, I asked, "what was Ronald Reagan like?" "Oh he was a nice man. It was the people around him who were sinister--Donald Regan, Bud McFarlane--really bad. The good guy was Marlin Fitzwater, press secretary, Irish you know. [They were all Irish!] Nancy was kind of stand-offish at first, but kept asking our zodiac signs. I said 'Feces,' and she asked if I meant 'Pisces.' No, 'Feces.'" He's a Libra, like me, just turned 61.


Monday, October 17, 2022

On liking and being / liked

17 October 2022

Be the first to like this because liking is good, but no better than being first. The first is a form of being, but only in the future past, when I will have remembered clicking. Parse the difference between a red heart and a blue thumb’s up. Match your pay scale to your quantity of likes. Even dislikes (which don’t exist) will do, because they mean someone’s eyes paused, finger moved, synapse fired. We can see the first two, but not the third, as mind is as invisible to eye as it is to mind. To think is to spelunk, but there’s no time for it. The surface seems so much more reasonable, more “relatable,” more of a piece with our shards of hours and minutes, pre-destroyed by the judgment system. If I put up a selfie and you like it, are you liking me or my photograph or the fact that I’ve offered it to you without knowing who you are, unless you like it? And what of my cv, with all its enumerations . . .

One problem arises in liking tweets from the Ukraine. Kamikaze drones that kill garner as many likes as any day in the park. In which case “like” stands in for “I’ve noticed this and want you to know it’s so.” Shorthand of shorthand. He called her Shorty in the elevator. Short greetings pierce the shafts. One cave had a clothes rack across the back, hangers arrayed but lacking anything to hold onto. Not an allegory of detachment, but of not-having, though it might also be seen as photograph only. Composition over subject. Affect over fact. What we see and feel more than our history. This can go both ways: I can cherish the memory of a feeling without remembering its instance, or I can operate according to my gut, and my gut does not like you. My gut might send you to Delaware or Illinois with other migrants. I care only for those I know, not those I stand beside on the subway or those who are as abstract as the fear they engender in me. Caravans of abstractions come north, when needed to swing some votes. You don’t see it, because you’re too busy liking something else, like a flower because that is what photographs are for. That’s not a poem! She wrote to me, because the photograph was of ugliness. But a trapped green gecko on a rainbow eucalyptus, its head threaded to the tree by sap string, is beautiful. Deal with it.

Many have stopped liking; they resign, get off the platforms, develop private lives or whatever passes for private these days. When the boy dropped dead beetles on a couple making love below, they knew nothing of it. They had chosen a semi-private space for a semi-public act, and this was the thanks they got for it. Someone once rated my friendship with her by making two columns, one of what was worth keeping, the other what was not. I was astonished.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

A metaphor is for


16 October 2022

A large piece of palm is trapped in a neighbor’s yarn spiderweb. Leaves pirouette from the webs of Volcano; this yarn web signals stasis. Oh web without maker, what do you mean to tell us? Ben hates metaphor because it takes us away from what is tangibly here. I respond they also make real toads. Not that I have any proof, but I believe it’s so, and that’s enough in this climate. Nor do I think metaphor markets in religion, though webs have been so used, not to denote death traps, but as images of connection. If I were to dream a train whose tracks were iron only in the direction it traveled, as what it left behind melted like sap into the trellis’s cross hairs, I might have explained something. Then again, explanation’s over-rated. To explain is neither to praise nor defame, posit nor deposit. It’s a neutral space, like the old Walter Cronkite. One can believe in nets without knowing what they contain.

Russia pulls men off the streets to fight in the Ukraine, taking men from prison. They hunt men to hunt other men. The sidewalk might be a trap, or a rural road. The trap is violence front-dated, once their week of training is complete. Your debt is men who are still alive, then so quickly spent. In the poem, the bridegrooms are already dead. To marry a dead man is an act of back-dated faith. I loved the man so I must love his corpse. The beauty of our net gets shredded inside the thought of men falling into theirs. Pyramid scheme that collapses under the weight of the trap itself, if it were an idea. The man’s mother was sent to Siberia; her sister survived the death camps. The first woman left food on her plate; the second one couldn’t bear to see a single crumb.

To pull a shark from a net, or a turtle. To save a man from dying and then, handed an award by the police, to eviscerate them. To take your moment cold, knowing it’s there. The eucalyptus tree near the swimming pool has trapped a gecko in its goop. It’s a web that’s only a trap, perhaps. When I went back, ants had found the gecko, covered it with bodies and legs, dim against black sap, visible only where the tree was dry. Neither tree nor ants intended to catch the gecko and consume it. This was not design, but accident, netting similar result. The iPhone makes the real more real. If dementia is surrealism brought to earth, then this tree’s sap-covered roots appear demented. Tomorrow the gecko will have been forgotten, by tree and by ant and by me. To eat is to forget.

--for Ben F.

Friday, October 14, 2022

Time the illiterate


14 October 2022

Cat a cat a category. Dog a dogma. Pet the petard. Whole words as fragments, pieces as holes in a blanket. Dog puts nose through hole. All we see is black nose, blue blanket. Blue blanket thrashes when I finish granola bar, place green foil on the floor. It’s not the way sound generates meaning, but how meaning generates sound. Small words are best, like mosquitoes on the arm of a sentence, making it itch. Hairs stand there without standing. Hair looms: over or as machine? The fabric made therefrom might be scarf, if we wore them, or turtle neck if it were cold. Cat fur makes turtle neck soft. Shell games go on without. In listening to him read, I suddenly heard some tics, sound stitches across poem fabric. The era of flags flags. The noun verb thing continues apace. We pace to fit the vowels in their slots. Some call it meditation.

Shooter is category. Shooter is 15 years old. Shooter wandered a path by the creek; he went a-shooting. Jogger, guy going to work, his brother. Wore camo. Camus restated: the question not of suicide but of other-murder. She died not by her hand but by another’s. He awakened from a dream of wet concrete, his hands gray and stiff. If we dream of concrete, does our dream then set? Kids sign sidewalks. A kind of immortality, short-listed. Hard to bury you in a sidewalk, unless you’re DH Lawrence in a wheelbarrow. Fight over those ashes.

Ashes to ashes. Mine can’t get out the door, whether cat or mother ash. Mother is category. Mother loved dogs. Mother was dogmatic, something of a prude. But then shone her eyes (spelled e-yes!) about the plugs and sockets, male and female. What one to another does, she said. More expressive on our left sides, we favor our rights. Florida, its first lady claims, is a free state. Was its name ugly, or pristine? Piscines by the beach waste water. Waste water plants redeem it, except when it rains. All of us love the picayune. A White woman screamed the n-word at a Black woman and a White man reeled. It is just a word. No word is, on its own, just.

The real reels. Realism’s an eel, a lissome one. Snakes through cracks, code cracks. Knee and back. Crack. Crack reporter, at 23, breaks stories like raw noodles. Starchy, too. You are not your accent. You are not a spice. You are the dot that moves across the screen, marking the dmz between then and then. Now is too hard to find, not yet a hand in concrete. My face is young, but my hands are old. They are turning into mine.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Morning's minions


12 October 2022

Small blue balsa wood plane, lacking wings. Root knot resembling knitted face. Photographs to write of, not about. About face, about roots, about a shaggy gray dog behind a screen door, one shoe lying at an angle outside. Chair armrest resembles the circle a leaf makes, like weed whacker string. Dental floss for grass. Silence as luxury, as cell. Run down the hall screaming and others will hate you. The Sandy Hook father sobs quietly at “past and future damages.” Grief stacked on anger stacked on sadism stacked on a camera’s lens. Can you pull anger out from between grief and sadism, and so win the game? My twitter friend in Kyiv drinks her coffee, and I mine. It’s humid here, no immediate evil to lance. Just accumulated boils against which we pay our mortgage. She hated Job for having suffered so at the hands of God. I mean, she hated the book. That’s a different story, flung open like the basement of a mushroom, accordion without sound. One of my friends has no internal map, another a chronic neck. Mother-in-law needs second new knee. We don’t think of pain as allegory, but as its opposite number. Too immediate for allegory, like affect preceding emotion or pain suffering. Suffering turns like a soap circle into story, but there’s no redeeming it at the door. Tickets are cheap, but pull the family card and you get in free. A family crawls out of their destroyed home in the Ukraine; an announcer tells us they’re being pulled to safety. We balk at the substitution of heroism for stubbornness, of community for individual ordeal. She says she will vote, now that she knows the consequences to her. Men no longer go to college, and women don’t like them ill-equipped. The most dangerous man, he heard, is the white one who lives in his mother’s basement. He has a finger for porn and violence, but cannot talk to others. Yes, I am a robot, so don’t give me your puzzles. Formalism on demand requires an isbn of nine numbers and a price tag. These are interlocking forms: mother and missing dad; dark basement; screen glow; palimpsest of sex and murder. To crawl out of that rubble requires more than a degree. We’ve self-ruined, but only see it in the others. On our way to lunch we saw a man dressed in black, his hair black, his skin nearly so, twisted on a sidewalk in Kailua, the richest part of O`ahu. Everybody here is white, my white friend says from the back seat. Up Kahekili, on the path beside the pet cemetery, a man hops and skips and pushes his fists in the air. Imagined violence is better than none.

Monday, October 10, 2022

This is 64

10 October 2022

Is aesthetics always anxious? Must my walks be pedestrian? To be readable is to be ordinary; to be ordinary is all there is. It’s not just the extremities that hurt; the distinction between pain and suffering signifies a gap between ouch and ache. Missiles hit Kyiv last night, return on a destroyed bridge. Watch one truck come through, the next one lost in a ball of flame. Pull that driver like old tape from global politics. The stickiness stays as grief’s remainder. If a fly lands there, it’s an add-on. The fly that lands after I die will be witness to a clearing, both metaphorical and true (as if they could be distinguished). This morning I felt happy to know ambiguity had not done us in, me and the guys at the guard shack. The video complicates such ambiguity into a mouth full of dust. A hundred years since that shoring up against. Sixty four of these years have included me. Whose shanty shall I sing?

Neighbor P (as my phone calls him) rails against heaps of garbage at the curb, leaflets at the door. He’ll throw them all away. I try to distinguish between “solicitation” and “free speech,” but he says we agree to disagree before I can disagree again. He can’t believe anything. His mother listens to Christian radio. That’s propaganda, but so is everything else. That’s our disagreement, not on the facts but on how to find them. Whether they even matter, matter being a form of existence. In this hierarchy, fact is no pillar, but post-truth is nowhere near as fun as surrealism. Lacks a charge. The line about fuses is out-dated, Bryant says, after I opine that coming home at quarter to three is not true to age 64. Maybe in my dreams you’ll leave a crack in the imaginary door. Real toads live on the stairs outside.

That’s how it goes, the man at the guard shack says about baseball. I see his friend in the back of the valley, taking photos of the mountains, the cloud that sits on one like a birthday hat. Where’s the elastic band to hold it on, or hold us to our paper helmets? Head injuries are a dime a dozen. Concussion protocols sound like half-time bands warming up to entertain us. If I fly to you, it’s not diplomacy. If you fly back, it might be.

Anger writ large is a missile that hits a national university. We do that more slowly in this country. After a pregnant woman jumped in front of a bread truck, UPS told the others to keep working. This was in Louisville. Next time, put up a safety net. Where safety equals life, where life means we breathe, where breath denotes a body. As we get older, embodiment gets more deliberate. I am conscious because I decay.

Two Buddhist teachers sat in a garden. One to the other said, “imagine, they call that a tree!”

Sunday, October 2, 2022

My first dharma talk: on talking to strangers

 I was subbing for our teacher, Mary Grace Orr, this week in the Volcano meditation group. So I talked about walking Lilith, right speech, tyranny, attention, and talking.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Introduction for Jaimie Gusman, winner of the Loretta Petrie Award, 2022

Jaimie Gusman: Loretta Petrie Award, 1 October 2022

(after Joe Brainard’s I Remember)

Remembering my mentor and friend, Marie Hara, who introduced me at the Cades Awards, and hoping to pass on some of her mana to Jaimie.

I remember a young graduate student named Jaimie, arrived recently from Seattle, sitting in my office in the late aughts who told me that Honolulu needed a reading series and that she intended to start it.

I remember thinking “well, there’s a can of worms.” I remember not saying it.

I remember her strong and buoyant voice that day and from then on in classes, meetings, readings, over coffee, and at her beautiful wedding to Evan. My late colleague, Miriam Fuchs, who was pithy, once turned to me and said of Jaimie, “that voice!”

I remember offering what I thought was sound advice to Jaimie, and her not following it. As the poet, Tony Trigilio notes, stubbornness matters to an artist. You’re doomed without it (perhaps with it, too, but we won’t go there!)

I remember not knowing what MIA meant, except like anyone of my generation, “Missing in Action.”

I remember her MIA (Mixing Innovative Arts) at the Mercury Bar in Chinatown, where the bartender waited until a reading had started to loudly shake the ice. I remember the series moved to Fresh Cafe in Kakaako, where there was no barkeep that I remember.

I remember there was a window behind the performers in the Mercury bar. I remember Kaia Sand showing a flickery movie there about the Pacific Northwest.

I remember Jerrold Shiroma projecting doctored Shakespeare sonnets and beautiful bits of graffiti on the wall. He’s from San Diego, but I remember thinking, “very east coast.”

I remember a fabric artist, two or three times, who performed in huge outfits he’d made. I don’t remember what he did, just his imposing and comical and fabricated presence.

I remember the wide range of Jaimie’s selections for the series: local, international, continental, funny, sad, creepy, down to earth. Award winners and award losers.

I remember her engaging introductions, that she clearly loved bringing artists together.

I remember that Jaimie could not have done this had she not been such a fine poet herself; her book Anyjar is brilliant. Read and remember it. From Black Radish books.

I remember the book as a love song and an elegy stitched together. I remember there was a poem about cock slinging.

I remember when Jaimie gave MIA away, a great act of generosity. She was becoming my mentor. I will remember how truly she deserved this award for her brilliance and her ability to bring writers together.


Thursday, September 29, 2022

Misplaced names


Was she in a class I took over at UH? Was her granddaughter on a local soccer team? Clearly, we know each other. Her husband's from Michigan and had some MI friends over the other day. "Trump should have fired everyone--military, civilian--everybody," one had said. His mistake was he wasn't a politician. She had to leave the room. Her husband voted for Trump. What did he find appealing about him? She doesn't know. Her dog Sophie tried hard to play with Lilith, but Lilith's a bit skittish around puppies these days.
Sangha called. His work involves a lot of driving, and he likes to call while he's driving around the DC area. "Mom, have you ever been to Rock Creek Park?" he asked one day. He'd seen a deer from the car and knew he'd passed the zoo. He's reading a book about Virginia ghosts, many of whom lurk around old battlefields.
I saw my baseball fan friend coming, so Lilith and I crossed the street. He's the one who worked on Air Force 1 under Reagan. Turning 61 tomorrow, he said. He relayed some baseball information his son told him about the Dodgers and the Cardinals. I mentioned that I'd found out that Aaron Judge was adopted. "I was in 32 foster homes in California," he said, "after being born at Tripler." He'd worked on farms in central Cali, picking grapes and other fruit. They took the Hispanic kids out to work on farms to keep them out of trouble, he said. Ran away from his last foster home and lived in the Oakland Salvation Army for a while. Worked his way through school. Played football, baseball, ran track; really kept him focused. 22 years in the Air Force. Then he became a teacher on the Big Island (his wife's from Hawai`i; her family calls him a "coconut"), and a principal. "You must have been good with the kids," I said. "I worked with them, I did. It felt like my obligation to help." I told him about my attempts to give back to young people suffering depression.
I'd misplaced his name. It's Daniel.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Cubs for Christ


We walked across the parking lot to pick up a poop bag. A neighbor I seldom see was getting out of his car. He was wearing a blue cap with a C on it. "Cubs!" I said from beneath my red cap with STL on it. "Sometimes it's Christ," he said. "He'll get me to heaven." "Not the Cubs?" "Well, at least they won once in my lifetime."

Sunday, September 4, 2022

There's a lizard on the louvers

4 September 2022

Tragedy resides in sentences; comedy in words. Comity of meaning unspools like old tape, tangled in the rewind. Always change the gerund to the verb's active form, unless you’re in a desert where nothing seems to change. Changing seems abrupt, when the desert blooms a billion ants with nothing to eat. Nothing is not gerund, though it might be. The ongoing of nothing as nothing. Thing as the mother of all repetitions. If you want the words to come closer, I’d say my back has a dark cave between hip and lower spine, that in that cave numbers run 5-8 on the pain scale, that there are no fire shadows upon its walls. No forms, no memories, just the present ache. The present tense precludes ambition, which is why I like it here now. The I doesn’t bother me so much as its use as a comparative object or subject. I and thou can't compare. That’s the beauty of pronouns; they are not the comparisons so many sentences foist upon them. I more than thou cannot work; more is a wrench. My father was given a monkey wrench when he retired. We remember others as faces, though his hands told as many stories. The bent finger, the finger nearly torn off when his brother turned the washboard on. They ached, he’d say. The past re-presented as stiffness in the joints. Now mine jibe with his, but he’s beyond compare. Our conversations have the one-sidedness of tape, rather than occurring, they recur, which is occurrence on repeat, like a used-up technology for sound. We’d walk the canal at a good pace, when he was my age. There’s no content for our speech now, just a soft container. I tell my student to distinguish modernism by its nostalgia. Eliot wished his washing machine worked, and Pound fought the radio’s static. Later poets took photos of the dead machines, which rust had rendered beautiful, like an old cigarette on a hinge. If nothing exists out of context, then what is this but a context expanded outside itself, where the use value of cigarette evaporates in the humid air, replaced by found sculpture. “Why do that?” the men asked, when I told them I take photos of tools. How to say that they are tools beyond tools, assuming the role of grace notes to other constructions. No longer a level, the ruler with a window inside it becomes aquarium, mirror, wading pool. In a world that’s all projection, subjection almost sounds appealing. Let me be subject to the tool as object, to the sentence as pronoun, to this life as a dancing fly.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

The shooters


1 September 2022

The subconscious isn't armed, but the armed act theirs out. Hardly an instant between a door opening and a black man/woman dying. We see their smiling photos later. Time’s revision, micro-space between seeing and shooting by way of a trigger that takes its own time. Does the trigger have an imaginary life, like the fantasy life of boulders? Those boulders looked awfully sturdy, but the trigger’s another thing. It requires us to pull it, lest we get thrown into a nightmare of bad rugs and top secret documents. He wasn’t sloppy with his stolen documents, so don’t set him up like that. If you watch the rug’s patterns unfold, you’ll discover the hotel’s dream life, wanting to be punctured with high heels and watered with gin. It doesn’t lend as much to interpretation, perhaps, as his dream of a tent with holes in it; through the holes stormed an army of chickens, when the real problem was ants, millions of them in a desert. What does an ant eat in a desert besides our occasional toes? The chickens may have been there to eat the ants, but the dream was his, not the chickens’ or the ants’. Fine ants, fine art, the canvas with multi-legged paint dripped on it, still moving. Still moving is a paradox, no? Moving still is a movie. The surfaces are so busy it’s hard to imagine the depths, but they’re there, awaiting the critic with a Go Pro to find tears in steel sheets through which to shoot a blurry car. The car is your feeling, the hole is not. It takes off down the road, away from the chickens and the dogs and the kind young man who gave you a bottle of water. It’s inside of you, jostling your organs, chipping against your arteries and veins, spreading in invisible bruises throughout the infrastructure of you. If you feel pain, it can’t be seen. If you see another’s pain, it can’t be felt. This is a big problem, isn’t it? The crevice between the poem and the poem’s reader, who is not inclined to feel the poem unless the poem says “Feel!” then runs off the tracks of pain into more paint across the canvas. You’d get the bends, if you attended too much to the suffering of words like ants upon the page, even if they’re only agents of another’s feeling, having infiltrated the grand hotel with its horrible rugs, finding feeling as envelopes of top secret documents scattered amid the magazines. No, I can’t situate my allegory of feeling there, where there’s so little that doesn’t transact. I pay so little mind, a flower has emerged on the lanai, light red against the brown paint, faded black barbeque, green broom palms, white clouds and azure sky. I was told skies are plural. My daughter thought traffics were. To be trans- is to be plural, at least during the middle passage from one to the other gender. You might come out blind, but you’ve traveled through the middle way, the dark wood, and that was an epic.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Lilith and the Mustache


I'd taken a couple of photos of rakes that I liked, so Lilith and I headed toward the maintenance area of Valley of the Temples cemetery. We were met, not greeted, by a middle-aged Asian guy with a mustache, clearly the boss, holding clipboard, pen and phone, and a younger white guy, less distracted than his colleague. I asked the mustache if we could wander around the area, and he said no, closed to the public. "I take pictures of tools," I say. "Why do that?" asks the younger guy. I showed him my rake pictures, while mustache got busy on his phone and clipboard. Lilith and I turned around, took photos of an old cigarette seated on a rusty hinge.
It occurs to me that the central question of my existence is "why do that?"

Monday, August 29, 2022

Essay on Albert Saijo and Kaia Sand (published by Tinfish) by Knar Gavin

 Kaia Sand's Remember to Wave (2010) and Albert Saijo's Woodrat Flat (2015) were two books I was proud to have published as editor of Tinfish. And they have wonderful affinities, as Gavin shows.


In the reflections that follow, I briefly graze the work of Albert Saijo and Kaia Sand, two poets of place. I also offer a small glimpse into my own poetic practice in connection with environmental justice organizing and the profound necessity of breath. As an ecocritic, I am interested in the strategies poets employ to expand the terrain of environmental politics by doing away with unhelpful divisions, whether disciplinary, methodological, or based in genre. Expansive poetic practices can activate a collectivizing element—an uncommon sense—that opens into alliance-building and solidarity.

The earth is flat


29 August 2022

The problem with flat affect is, well, it’s flat. Not flat white, not flat tire, not flat line. Just flat. If you institute a sine curve, will that give your reader access to how you felt, drawing it across the flat sheet? Feeling flat today? To the contrary, the last story ended with a trigger, not a warning. Can there be flat triggers, or do they all explode? We might live in a flat without feeling flat. We might want our bellies more flat, but our spirits to be rotund. Inexact science, this measuring of emotion against effect, which comes out as affect. The feeling before the emotion governs what comes after. That’s called mood. She wants finished poems, I’m presuming flat ones, with no shredded borders or chipped teeth. That’s a work ethic I cannot muster, flustered by the fall of words, which aren’t really words but an environment inside of which ideas hatch. There are flat characters; that’s what we are to one another. But flat ideas? I guess only the bad ones, though I want to suggest that flat opposes bad, though it requires work on the part of an audience used to loud linguistic overtures. I felt flat after the incident, and even past the point of writing it down, but I didn’t fall flat until later on, when a series of minor annoyances turned into a melting glacier. That’s an inappropriate analogy, as real animals are dying due to climate change. One bear lay flat, as his paws had burned. I read a poem about that and, despite the fact I found the language flat, I felt something akin to grief. The poem is a flat screen, and yet it also projects. The word decompensation comes to mind when we read all the fake tweets coming from the former guy, his attempt to break our flat affects into a thousand points of gunfire. The threat is of rioting, by white people. In my later years, I flattened into an older white woman. You could pin a tale on me, or you could lash out, but I just sat there like a rock in a river, waiting for the next kayak to flutter by. If I took a picture, it would be flat. We act as if video has more depth, but it only reduces the suspense. When I failed to get the coffee I wanted in Tasmania, I learned the term flat white. Is coffee ever flat? It takes my cardboard heart and pokes holes in it. Like a topography map that traces feeling as mountain ranges and valleys and little railroads winding through. We have so diminished our earth, it might as well be flat. The professor’s hate mail called him fat, but the retweet was as flat as a pool of ice cream on an August day. Flat Albert retweeting as release. Spread the hate; it might flatten out. If he reads it, it hurts. If you read it, it bends, inane, turbulent and tired, like hate speech, which is always cliché. The ocean’s womb is empty. We mandate life, even as we hate it. Son of my heart, my only analogies for this feeling have great depth. I cannot see the bottom of any of them, though they’re probably flat.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Lilith self-promotes

He approached us with a big smile on his face, and a wave. Buff local guy, though he said he'd only been born at Tripler and his wife tells him that doesn't count. Said, "Kansas City Monarchs" for my cap. "You're only the second person ever to get that," I laughed. Cool Papa Bell. Buck O'Neil. The first time we crossed paths I had my Cards cap on. He said "Ozzie Smith" and I responded with "Willie McGee"; he said "Ken Oberkfell" and I said "Tommy Herr." The second time, he said "Jeff Clark" and my retort was "Keith Hernandez."
He wasn't with his companion worker-outer today, so we talked. I said my son was a huge Cards fan. He just moved to Virginia. "How's he like it?" The man had been stationed at Andrews Air Force base in the 80s. Worked for two years on Air Force One. Maybe that explained all the "yes ma'aming" he did. He's going to LA soon to see his grandchildren. His granddaughter is a huge baseball fan.
"What's your dog's name?" Lilith. I noted that Lilith and I have a book coming out about encounters we have on our walks. I told him he didn't really fit the bill. (Too normal, though I now confess I did write something about him on the Cardinals Hui.)
He gazed at Lilith and said, "Lilith has a hare lip." (I didn't catch the verb, to tell the truth.) "No," I said, "I'm the one with the hare [cleft] lip."


Saturday, August 27, 2022

Uncle John


"Where's Uncle John?" I asked at the first booth at the cemetery. (He calls me Aunty, so I call him uncle.) I'm told he's at the back booth where the temple is, so Lilith and I head in that direction. There are a lot of buses in the Temple parking lot; big blue ones, smaller white ones, Roberts buses. And there's Uncle John. "Haven't seen you in a long time," he says. Spending time on the big island, I respond. "That's the only island where I get lost; my inner compass doesn't work there," he says. "That island is Pearl City for me," I answer. His grandmother was from Hilo, one of the last full Hawaiians. Only spoke Hawaiian when she didn't want her kids to understand. (My father said his parents did that, in German.) He's also African American and native American (dad was a Marine from the South who met a lovely Hawaiian girl...) and German. You can see the German in some of the family eyes, he says, gorgeous. Me: "I'm half-German, half-Irish. Makes me stubborn."
Lilith and I have a book coming out, I tell him, and he's in it. Some of those arguments we had. He laughs, turns to his co-worker and says, "political stuff, all in good fun." Unable to resist, I remark that Trump doesn't look too good these days. "Neither does Biden!" I disagree with him. "That affidavit is all redacted; they need to release all of it," he tells me. Can't yet, I say.
A fresh line of tourists develops, so I leave him to his customers. Lilith and I pass a woman with a barefooted small child. It's already hot out. "I've got two pairs of shoes for her on the bus, but she refuses to wear them." We walk to the artificial falls in front of the Ko`olau. Back down near the Temple, Lilith pulls and pulls me toward the parking lot. That's when I see puddles of cat food in the gutter, and a woman in a dress approaching in a lei, scattering it from a plastic bag. Lilith had smelled cats on another woman near the start of the walk. What comes around smells around.

A broken pot repeats


27 August 2022

Not to make the war a decoration, as it fades from the front view, like men and boys leaping from a bridge in Hilo, framed by the bus’s windshield, its fare altar. All I see some days is suffering. The self-love of selfies, professional announcements, the pain of succeeding when you think yourself unworthy. But that’s hardly the loss of limb or nation, though it might start there. The Israeli psychologist teaches mindfulness to refugees. Just ten minutes of peace: vacation from exile, that horrible tourism. A small child sang us from Hilo to Honolulu yesterday, “Mommy” and “Daddy” to the tune of happy birthday, occasional shrieks. On the other side of the aisle, an Asian woman with white hair clutched a bunch of bright red anthuriums. The couple next to me were going to visit Pearl Harbor. The man hated Jim Jordan and people who push ahead and out of the plane. I like your shirt, I say to the man at Times, but I can’t remember what it said. I sat between a woman speaking Samoan into her phone, and another woman speaking the language of frail parent on hers.

From her window in Kyiv she sees large apartment buildings; each day she takes a short walk to work out, drinks her war coffee, and sends out tweets. The streets of Kyiv are nearly as lively as those of Paris, 1915. Giddy and dark with the knowledge of suffering nearby. If they don’t watch their televisions, and we do, we find ourselves closer to the conflict than they are. (Leave out the air raids.) Geography collapses like a shelf of fresh lava. Watch the sunrise over the caldera and up Mauna Loa, I tell the tourists. “We’re going to see the volcano now,” they say that mid-afternoon at Lava Rocks Cafe.

Lilith’s head rests in the crack of the couch, eyes closed, ears up. Yesterday, two young women, one in pink the other in white, got out of a white Chevy SUV and asked to pet “him.” They wore name-tags that marked them as “Sisters.” I declined to hear about our lord Jesus Christ, but wished them well. On our way back, we saw them with another woman, another dog.

Kintsugi unfractures the pot with gold. You can still see the break, but it’s more beautiful than the unbroken. They’ll switch out the wilting flowers soon, because there’s no fixing them. I prefer dead hydrangeas to the loud blue ones, the lace of brown leaves so delicately traced. These days I remember places by the photographs I took, or left. Photos as memorials for the memory obsessed. I want to remember what happened by playing it again, because otherwise it breaks.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Wings (not the band)


13 August 2022

A pause for the heat. A pause for being not sick or dying. A pause for others, who are. May my angel be quieter than these blue machines that slice the air like serrated knives. Imagine if they were attacking you, my father said during Gulf War 1, how terrifying that would be. May my angel be not of anger but of mercy. May I not see the shadow of a plane over me, but an ordinary bird of ordinary pitch looking for an ordinary worm, me.

Some days his skin is as sensitive as a top secret document; you could dust it for prints, but there would still be the mystery of how it got here, locked away in a basement out of the sunshine, put to bed in a leather box. I wish I could make a character to fit my ideas, but I’m reduced to finding them on the local sidewalks and roads winding through the cemetery. Often, they don’t fit, but that’s what makes them so interesting, reverse allegorical misfits who hold mirrors to our faces. The woman in a MAGA hat offering solace to an immigrant woman. The abuser who loves my dog. You cannot purify purity, but you can make hay out of approximation.

The store was closed for air raid in Kyiv. The highway was closed for terrorist in Ohio. The violent and the dead are inconveniences we’re obliged to live with. Destruction is either a crime or an art. We confuse them like rabbits and vases.

My favorite tree breaks out in a thick black sap that runs down its light brown trunk. Other spaces open where the bark folds back, revealing glyphs in the shape of a leaping animal or a stylized man. They’d mean something, if someone intended it. I could spend a day seated beneath this tree, but the mosquitoes are too thick. Besides, to sit is not to make. The tree’s material presence, quiet, stoic, art gallery in the round, resists the flow of information (always the same river twice) that earns us our livings. As it were. To earn a living is not to live it. And that’s precisely the point.

When my teacher asks me to see the images on my closed eye lids, I see darkness only. Last night I dreamed of bright yellow wings. Where they took me I can’t say, though like a small child I proclaimed the butterfly yellow. “I’ve been in kindergarten for six days!” a neighbor boy told me. Pride begins in sweetness.

We see the Russian tank through the sights of a javelin. The tank rampages down a narrow road between tall trees. Dragoning fire from its back, it spins around and stops dead. Men the color of the tank emerge from its hatch. They run.

A dragonfly’s wing resembles a stained glass window set on the earth. A drop of black sap turns green for the camera lens, which holds its viscous drop up to the internet. Each walk a sequence of pictures taken and not taken. An old woman sits in a chair beneath the mountain, leaning over to a grave, adjusting something gently. Her son walks toward her, phone before face, having brought her here in a car. I'll remember her as one not taken.

Friday, August 5, 2022

Bishop Tutu memory

 This came up in my enforced FB memories. I like it. From this day in 2012.

Bishop Tutu talked about how revolutionary is the notion that "we are made in God's image," reflecting on the real implications of that phrase. He spoke about clothing the naked, feeding the poor, noting that he'd never seen food and clothes fall from heaven. The Q&A session began with a man explaining who he was, where he lived. "I HATE people who talk about themselves," hissed a woman behind me. The next man thanked Tutu profusely for his life's work. When his list grew a tad long, another woman behind me said, "ENOUGH!" This has been a parable about parables.

Leave taking


5 August 2022

There’s paradise in trouble, more so after you leave the parking lot. It had gestured at permanence, the lines, the spaces they created, even the numbers that marked those spaces between lines. But even a new driver can negotiate an exit, barring engine failure. His voice soft, home sick, mine the same, but infused with maternal confidence. He sends a photo of the Washington monument from the plane. “I only call it National,” I said to him. “Reagan fired the air controllers.”

You sound sad, a friend messages me. To message is to write a note inside a confined space and send it inside a blue square container. I am sad, but happy that I’m sad. To love is to miss. Wouldn’t want to miss that.

Current events are a paddle, like gossip yet less intentional. In that current I remember going backwards in my canoe, watching the Potomac river run toward me as I flowed away from it. “Up down,” it says in Greek, though you wouldn’t translate it that way. “Knowledge is not wisdom” is my mis-translation for another fragment. To misread is to step in that river twice.

Paradise is also banality, the open garage doors, the rusty locks, the old newspapers, the cat on a trashcan owned by the city and county. No meditation on suburban life is complete without a flag.

Spit your breath out in a wheeze. You’ve been holding onto something. If you take away enough carbon dioxide, you can push it back in the air. As we do our churning in yoga, I notice my fixed leg shivering. The speed demon uses a walker. Elsewhere I see someone with one crutch, two crutches crunched in the back of my father-in-law’s old room. Religion is a crutch, my mother said. “I thank God for you and mom,” said my father. I was the odd number between their lines.

A night-blooming cereus appears on our lanai, bearing bulbs of wet light. Up the hill, others are dead, or dying, or brown with feathers of white. The shadow made by mine makes so sense from this angle; one cactusy arm turns down in relief. What appears to go up appears to go down. That’s a good graph for it all. Measure a curve as a right angle. Grammar matters less in poetry, our Greek instructor says.