Monday, January 24, 2022

Spirits of the Dead


I was taking a photo of the green velvety material that shields a grave and echoes the mountains, when a white man with white hair and white beard gets out of his car and approaches. "I'm here to do what you're doing," he says. He was about to take a photo of the sign "reserve your space now," nailed onto a palm; he said he was going to send it to his friends on the mainland. I told him about the black marble plaque I'd found at the back of the cemetery with the names of two living people on it, and an epitaph even. That plaque had disappeared (divorce erases more than death?). He started scrolling at his phone, clearly wanting to show me something. It was a photo of a mausoleum up the hill; you could see a cross, and then you could also see a green square blob in the right corner of the photo. "It keeps moving," he says. "Are these the spirits of the dead?" he asks, with a smile.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Memory influencers


20 January 2022

Memory loves company. I told the man in the bus about the memory police, enforcing forgetting. Something worse than forgetting; no haze around the space where the object sat to remind us that it—whatever it was—no longer exists. A yellow box sits in your body, alongside a blue triangle. You remember them like twins on a park bench, looking out. The bench is a company influencer, short as a tweet, sturdy as a plank. Too much company becomes a corporation, its structure devolving into a man, all eyes. A student talks about the English teacher we’ve all had, the one who took a simple sentence and found so many things in it, as if to find treasure were to squander it. The white arm reaching toward a sleeping calf is beautiful as image, more complicated as memory. We’re invited to spin narratives from our memory of stories, moving out like spokes, forward and back, folded up into tiny napkins at a grand buffet. That the cow may end up there is one story, past as prospect. That the calf was born is another, more certain and more kind. The photograph may or may not gesture at God creating Adam; it resides on the page as in its stall. You (child or slaughterer) reach down to make sure it’s there. So much is not: a friend leaves, as on a trip, but there are no photos, no cards, no emails. Just a keen sense of obstacle, where the present was.

Note: this owes details to Robert Adams’s short essay on Nicholas Nixon’s photograph, “West Springfield, Massachusetts, 1978.”

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Poems in Wet Cement Press #1

 Please find here:

It's a fine issue all around--



19 January 2022

Light assumes morning

Morning assumes the light, with

Or without a you

The man on the bus

Has been grieving twenty years

Grief generating

Grief as he wanders

Accumulating debts of

Anger--a kind of

Wonderment--he hates

Vegas, hates grifters, voices

Embarrassment for

Us; the masks are now

Real, unmetaphored: Cover

Nose and mouth, driver

Says, drifting back to

See young man with a neck brace

Hospital bracelet


As one row in front

A bearded man says something

To me with his eyes.

The man so burdened

By his sanity hands me

Auden’s dive bar poem

“There’s no affirming

Flame now,” he says, no one looks

At you behind those

Things (artifice for

Flame), Achilles shield a smart

Phone, with payment apps

It starts to rain near

Volcano, where I get off,

Knees pink in cold rain

“If you have a place

To stay,” and I do, today’s

Ferns backlit with flame.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Bus to Volcano


I asked him where he was getting off the bus, and he said he didn't know, he would when he felt like it. He'd been traveling since 9/11, when he lived two blocks from the trade towers. I saw him first at the Hilo bus terminal, seated one green wooden row behind me. His clear plastic rimmed glasses looked slightly academic; he was wearing a black cloth mask on top of a blue paper one. His tousled hair was flaxen, his arms and calves brown from the sun. He had a backpack and a bag in which I saw a large book about Mayan archeology. Later on my ride to Volcano, he pulled out Auden's poem that starts with the dive on 52nd street and ends with "affirming flame," as well as a review of Joan Didion. "Memories are what we don't want to remember," is what I remember of that, and I do want to. He wanted to know if I'd thought about the hypocrisy of people in the Pac NW who were environmentalists. He wanted to know what I thought of Title IX and people stealing each other's work. He'd traveled all over the world, seen people wearing masks, cultural masks, and more recently people who knew they were wearing masks and put them on deliberately. Then he pointed to his two masks, as if with regret for us all. He asked me a lot of questions, about my students, about what I'd taught. But he said he no longer talked to people much (he noted a couple of times that I was an exception) because they were so nosy about his life. They over-shared, and he didn't want to. He kept talking about projects, those that had been ripped off; was so mad at people in Hilo he refused to go to the library there any more. He had gone to an exhibition in Hilo by an artist who grew up in Brooklyn about grieving. I read the flyer he handed me. He'd lost a lot of people during AIDS, and lamented the loss of mentors for gay and trans youth today because so many had died young. He took down the name of my colleague who had died of AIDS, said he'd look for him (but not on tech, clearly!). "Some people, you know, think they're really open to gay people, but you begin to wonder." He didn't know which were most difficult, his cousins on Kauai or his mother in Kona. (He'd grown up in Santa Barbara.) He really didn't like what had happened to the country during his 20 salary-less years of travel. As I got up to leave the bus, I wished him well in his wandering. "Oh, I'm not wandering," he said, "it's the country that's wandering." It's a different kind of wandering, I agreed.

Thursday, January 6, 2022



6 January 2022

Was a suicide

Takes away a syllable

Makes fact a question

Which it always is

Except in retrospect when

A body appears

Where it was not then

When we bathed in denial

Of fact, mandating

Doubt, insurrection's

Theater, death a gambit

Gallows on the mall

Just a joke on Pence

Gallows humor ripe as trash

After-Christmas bin

Where an iphone pinged

And the bad guys were under

Cover cops in hats

From the wrong cities

And we couldn't tell the diff

All remainders doubts

Doubt's authority’s

Barbells: look at those big pecs!

Tell me you don’t want

The boot in your face

Just a ballet shoe en pointe

Stalin danced the reel

Real films on fake news

Persuade us otherwise like

Fictions making fact

At Kahana Beach

I took photos of surf spray

Through pine needles, sun

In rolling surf, brown

Closer in as it always

Is, micro-plastics

Scattered, beauty

That won’t die as truth can do

Blue shard, bubblegum


Styrofoam chips from

Crushed coffee vases

Time’s remnant step-child

Still lives inside a poem

Re-use, re-cycle.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

New Year, New iPhone

Ambiguous light

This first of January

Mountain eye, absence

Of pervasive cloud

Claude outside hides behind plant

It fails to hide him

From Maeve, who growls, rain

Recommences nattering

On green and brown fronds

My unpoetic

Palm, neither metaphor nor

Face plant on this day

We devote to mean-

ing, action not result,

Always the same thing:

History’s erasure

Necessary, too simple

Not to run the wheel

Again: I love them

“To the moon and back” though no

Moon shows in portal

So I have faith in

Moon, memory reassures me

It’s there like the star

I can't imagine

In the space between the eyes

So I remember

Looking at the real

Sky, its pixel of light shifts

To the inner-verse

That counters facebook’s

Claim to multitudes of verse

Or algorithms

Where was the lyric

Crash when we needed it, mass

Media broken like

Instruments of Christ-

mas on tile floors slick as ice

Stark as burned grasslands

Our houses are grass

No flag of dispositions

Just American

Fascist pole dancers

Clank of rope against metal

Post, same word as post-

War, post-pandemic,

All the posts you shall salute

As flags come down, half-

Staff is par for course

When everyone’s sick, cannot

Fly the plane, drive car

Friend’s daughter attacked

In elevator by mask

Denying woman

Friend’s daughter wrestled

In high school, sex assumptions

Presage the coming

Uncivil conflict

I sit in my closed room while

Claude washes right paw

Outside the glass door

Nothing’s broken yet this day

Post-firework, post-tra-