Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Board games


29 June 2022

The president with a pitchfork in the House. The president’s chief with a phone on a couch in the West Wing. The president’s fan with an AR-15 in a tree on the Mall. The president’s lawyer with shoe polish running down his cheek. The president’s daughter with an immobile face. The witness, seen from above, at a table surrounded by penitents, photographers. There is a line she will not cross, spry cordage of her conscience sitting, in shock, at the end. Where did she find that fine line? Did it trip her one day as she crossed her living room, as if she were a goat, and the wire live? Did it reach around to grab her clavicles, depriving her of air’s ideologies? Did she wash it off the wall, the line of ketchup left by the president?

I with some pixels, turning my digital soil. The word for circumstance in Greek is also the word for misfortune. In such circumstances, the president might have appeared before congress as a shaman, furs slung over his bare chest and belly, chanting to rid the place of the history we used to tell of it. “They had spears at the ends of their flag poles,” he told her. Brass knucks, bear spray. When things get weird, just say they remind you of a movie.

Not a poem. Not another poem, Speaker Pelosi. The other side has no poems; they know how weak they are. Forget inner strength and courage. Let them through the mags, with their illegal magazines and their MAGA hats. How to assimilate such knowledge without poems? The flagpole is a line. You use it either to hang a piece of cloth or to beat up a cop. In both instances, you call yourself patriot.

Among her revelations, her boss twice closed the door on her while on the phone. That is only invitation to revelation. Premonitions of the recent past, the lawyer’s happy question: are you excited about the sixth? When asked if you support a peaceful transfer of power, the general said, “Fifth.” The purveyor of the whiskey bar disappeared after that election. He knew.

She asked me if I was a visitor, meaning tourist. Where are you getting off the bus, I asked the man, and he said he’d know when he got there. My student thought the bus a church, complete with nave and altar, if lacking shocks. Absorb everything; it will get wrung out of you. My memory shall be an aid to my forgetting.

Monday, June 27, 2022

The wrought urn


27 June 2022

She drank her tears. Mine sit on the edge of the cliff, feet dangling, breath in the throat, but they won't fall. I can only dream my thirst.

She drank her tears, feared a final break, her frail spine turned toward gravity, face set hard. I left mine at an Ash Wednesday service in Charlottesville. A friend left hers at a cafe after a movie. He left his in our kitchen. My son left his with one cat. To cry is to take leave. To fail to cry is to stay home; home is an elastic that sobs around you. It tries to breathe for you, like ribs apart from lungs.

I am suffocated by the news. We are. It’s not news, but reversion to a mean world.

Never have sentences seemed so literal. Sentence as chain, as length of punishment. Ancient Greek accents are like “goats chained to a post,” my teacher said. Sentences tug toward, are thrown back on this rotten field.

A shopping mall was bombed in the Ukraine. A shopping mall was the site of a mass shooting in the USA. Violence rhymes, though we think of rhyme as ease, not peril. We are rhyming us to death.

Dickinson’s failure to rhyme is like an IED. The track of her poem breaks like Highway 11 during the eruption. She hadn’t seen volcanoes, but I have, and heard them rumble and crack. A parking lot fell in the pit, almost flat enough for pickle ball, but the air is poison.

Her daily photo from the Ukraine remains the same: tall apartment blocks taken from one similar. She writes that she hasn’t slept much. Explosions in the distance. But she’ll be all right. She needs some likes. Give her one.

What poetic form works in a formless time? Or one now broken to pieces. An abandoned house that looks like a home but isn’t. A rusted car body, still as an urn. The ill wrought urn is it. Its ashes mildew and trash, an old blender in the driver’s seat. A photograph makes it mean something, though perhaps only its own failure.

If a word means, it consoles. That’s what I used to think. Kipukas live on lava fields; they’re framed. Life like a surprise. When I watched McCartney (in bits) at Glastonbury, I remembered what joy resembles. Assembled like legos, logos.

Take a soft shield to battle. Let it give, in and back. Don't get angry; respond only with love.

The bench on Alakea Street, Sunday morning

"Are you a visitor?" asked the woman next to me at a bus stop on Alakea Street. She was an old woman, bent-shouldered, who wore a straw hat with a lavender lei around the brim. Her dress was blue, or lavender, and white, and her calves gave evidence she walks. I said no. She pointed up at a tree, said "fairy terns." I looked and saw flashes of white feathers on a lower branch. "They don't build nests," she told me, "just lay their eggs on the branches." She had very clear eyes. "The bird's eyes are blue," she said, "with what resembles eye-liner around them." Look, she added, they're about to fly away, and they did. But down the street--she pointed--more will fly this way. She was going to Kailua, and then to a family reunion at the North Shore. Her sister lives in Volcano, and she did, too.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Forgive us our trespasses

25 June 2022

On the armrest of a couch, just above the old golf trophy, I found a Ronald Reagan photo book. He wears a cowboy hat and smiles at the ceiling.

On a broken windshield on a broken car, I found a gnome whose hands spread wide: “This is how much I love you,” it read. One ornamental eye was missing.

On the wall of an abandoned house I found a calendar from July, 2016 that recorded the weeks of a pregnancy (32, 33, 34, 35); from another wall, two stuffed animals looked out. They were nailed on, like art.

On yet another wall, I found family photos, a graduation, a smiling couple, an elementary school class, an envelope that read “Memories,” but kept them inside its plastic window.

In the kitchen, I found two DVDs of “Hot Jailhouse Sluts,” the photo of which was censored by Zuckerberg, who buys up land on Kauai. No one can afford to live there.

On the filthy bathroom sink, a bottle of blue mouthwash.

Next to another old house, a ruined piano, keys and strings bent, lying on the ground amid the weeds.

The inventory of abandonment includes our and our mothers’ wars. It’s a lineage, violence. It frames our biographies, the opening diagrams of Russian novels, the day after Roe v. Wade was overturned. Turn over the loam, seed it with tears. We walk toward the explosion, knowing it will happen. “But they said it was settled law.”

My mother said she wept at military cemeteries in Europe, but she drank her tears. Rust ate away at the scaffolding of her grief. Rust grew between feeling and expression, until they lost track, like long-ago roommates. No phone call brought them back together. Only the arbitrary remained. A feeling. An expression. Nonsense.

We compare the numbers of our D&Cs, laugh nervously at their criminality, as of yesterday. “Take your dogma off my daughter.” Mine writes to say what a terrible day, something about Texas. Stay in a blue state, I advise her. Red is for anger; blue is for grief.

To make an inventory is to organize, to take account, to learn the history of your things. An inventory exists in the present; there is none for what I had ten years ago, or will have ten years hence. It's the math we do around our feelings when they attach to things. When I count my losses, I see stuffed animal, rusted car, a scattering of ashes. No longer objects, they are now fake news.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Five or Six Perfections


20 June 2022

Each of us has only five or six ideas. My perfection is time. The present is a glowing drop I keep sliding from. I try to read the forest floor as if it were an alphabet consisting of frying pans.


Each of us has only five or six ideas. Throw them in a field like bones and see what creatures come to smell them as they rot. The boneyard is not idea, but burial site. Perfection of place.

Each of us has only five or six ideas. They wiggle like a magician’s plates, defying physics until he sweeps across the stage. Today, mine hide from me, like my dog beneath a blanket. Five or six times she howled in her sleep.

Each of us has only five or six ideas. Either we husband them or we do not. Either we’re frugal or profligate. Our early work might have been enough. But in this lateness, light.

Each of us has only five or six ideas. He begins every poem with the weather. The weather is bad today, so wait five or six more. Take notes on each day’s conditions, as they shift. The weather is visible idea, unless it’s just the weather.

Each of us has only five or six ideas. We breathe them in and out, out and in, wondering at repetition as a state of being, then being again. You cannot breathe the past, one says, though I filter it through this tense, counting toward the future past.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Lilith and the Unseen Voices

Yes, Lilith and I _had_ gone around a No Trespassing sign; the rusty equipment was too luscious to miss. I'd started taking close-ups of the rusted grill and some rusty bolts on an earth mover when I heard a tinny voice say, "Hello. Can I help you?" It took a second hello before I realized that the voice was coming from trees above me. The voice inquired what I was doing. "Taking pictures of the equipment," I said. I was asked if there were a reason for my taking photos. No, I said. 
Lilith and I returned to the dirt and gravel road and headed back from where we came. We took the first left on a paved road and headed toward Wright Road. Two women were weeding a lawn, mother and daughter. They were visiting from Honolulu, the mother said. "It's cold here," the daughter said. They'd seen two cows fighting at the corner last night at 8 p.m. I looked up through a window in the house and saw someone in Buddhist robes. Two women came outside in brown robes. One leaned over to pet Lilith; the other spoke on her cell phone. She was an Abbess of a temple upstairs from Water Drop Restaurant at the corner of Alakea and Bishop. 
As we came up a road close to the cottage, I spotted the woman who'd told me about the Comte de St. Germain, who is channeled by members of an email group she's in. She was washing her car. I asked what the Comte thought of Trump. "He's a disrupter," she said, expressing incomprehension that she knows people who support him.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

The Joy Box


16 June 2022

I keep my joy in a small terrarium in the corner by the window. Its glass keeps all suffering outside. I trade knowledge of my joy for the inability to enter into the box. My shadow digresses between it and what lies outside.

My joy feels itself set apart from the complicated ethics of this moment, the testimonies from such a complicated source. Clear water, a sign that warns of lepto from cattle upstream. Inside the box, the water is pure. There’s no equation for it there.

I have to remember to look at the box, to imagine its roof raised, the smell of its loam a balm, the shape of joy a seedling leaning into light. Even in the dark, the shape holds firm. No words pass between my joy and me. 

The box’s humid roof melts paper, but only after headlines have outlived their usefulness. It turns to art inside the box, as if I were Cornell and my trinkets were better arranged.

As a child, he wrote a world history from A to E. The archives were known to hide seeds and dusty butterfly wings. Something fertile between files detailing criminal acts. His archive a box, the box he carried across the room, papers spilling off like one-winged doves.

I started a novel one summer, only later seeing how object became symbol, how my fictions failed. It made me blush, though only I had the key. That wasn't a form of joy, but of ambivalence. I remember telling my friend that that was my central emotion. We talked again yesterday, decades folded between our fingers like dog hair stuck to a cushion. The dog knows about my joy; yesterday she nestled against a friend riven by grief. Friend smiled.

Neither is that joy, that slight updraft from grieving, the stairway a prop for heart and back. But I look at her now through the window. When we touch eyes, we make seratonin between us. Eat the rainbow, a shopping bag hanging from a nail in an abandoned house reads. Its colors dissolve on contact, or what we take to be the touch of eye to horizon.

First, they told lies to themselves and to us. Now truth, punctuated with laughter or irony’s other sounds. I turn from the television to my terrarium, releasing a conspiracy into its box of warm air. The murmuration of the mob fades into clock tick and faint hammering. We look at one another like child and fish, or like sun and wooden floor through window. Remember to take pain in with your breath, then let it out again as joy.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Dictionaries as a Means to Punish

14 June 2022

Crickets and the horn of a truck moving backwards. Water drop and bird spill. Dog bark, harmonica break. How do you define art?

Mildew drawings on truck window. Impermanent petroglyphs. Filthy rag tucked beneath windshield wiper. An old blender in the front seat. How do you define technological innovation?

Woman apologizing for her Russian accent. Two years ago, she hated Ukrainians. Another explaining Putin to me at Bird Park. How do you define history?

I mix accordion with harmonica, hang nail with raw hide. Tip of the tongue syndrome run amok. I cannot say sentences by rote. How do you define language?

New piece of furniture is a piece of shit. The former AG says his boss spouted bullshit. Lilith’s stomach hurt after she ate cat shit. How do you define shit?

Puddles in the road, filled in with gravel. Gravel taken out; she likes to slow the traffic down. Narcissus’s face had stones in it. How do you define psychology?

Hilo’s homeless line up for food. Across the street, we drink coffee and tea with healers and tourists. An actual fake lei hangs from the building across the street. How do you define authenticity?

Neat piles of wires and dry wall the next block over. Red paint on a white board. How do you define context?

Why are old friendships more permanent than newer ones? How do you define the question, is this true?

To define is to point. The black pointer, Doxy, doesn’t walk so much as weave. What he smells when he points we can't know. How do you define pedagogy?

Patriot Front member, pistol on his teeshirt, yells obscenities at a camera. He sees what we don’t, spews syllables at it, threatens it, performs for it. I learn the term “sap glove." How do you define sap?

Wassup? Howzit? We begin in the middle, always. We like to leave the mysteries at the start and at the end. How do you define between?

Do we live with or around the dead? Why do we keep speaking to them, as if they were all ear and we all mouth? In my sleep he heard me say, “I have no further questions.”

Saturday, June 11, 2022

The Woods for the Trees

11 June 2022

Recognition scenes are slower now. I know her face, her white hair, her smile. We walk, together with Lilith, until the dog and I reach home. Then I remember her as the woman who understands the world as it's explained to her by an 18th century French count. She says she didn’t know people fed dogs until she left the family farm for college. “People feed dogs!” she’d reported. Theirs took care of themselves.

Bumpersticker on a new neighbor’s truck: something about the 2nd amendment. A large, new American flag hangs outside her small green cottage this morning. The more you connect the dots, the less anyone will believe them, because they are dots and not crosses or planets or soccer balls. The movie actor who spoke out against guns uses them in movies. Democrats read off a teleprompter. They refuse to talk about inflation, gas prices, crime. Such hypocrisy!

Inside the old house I found a calendar from 2016 with weeks in July marked “36th, 37th, 38th.” Two stuffed animals hang on one wall, an orange “I Love Daddy” book lies on the floor beside plastic water bottles, an artificial lei, and other stuff. On the next wall, family photos: husband and wife and baby; two young children. An envelope that reads “memories,” must have a child’s elementary school photos tucked inside. Framed photograph, knocked over, of a baby. Elementary school class photo. One plastic page of an album full of old sporty cars. A Phillies towel and a uniform that hangs outside the closet. “Eat the Rainbow,” a bag announces. The refrigerator was toxic. On a counter beside it, two dvds of hot jailhouse babes. Instagram censors me when I post my photo of them.

A famous actor lives across the street, the gray-haired woman wearing a “Why Be Normal” teeshirt tells us. This used to be a beautiful farm. Someone got sick, and then someone else took advantage. Our rain forest Pompeii grows cobwebs and dead cars. One senses there are layers to this story, but it's flattened. We wander inside the end of one plot whose beginning and middle we don’t know. Nor can we know what happened next. “Usually, people take their family photos.” “So utterly sad,” a friend responds.

Half the residents are seekers, the other half (it sometimes seems) are violent. White men trying to survive themselves. But there are still people to be angry at, those who get TROs out on them. The man who raped an old woman. The man who was thrown out of town, twice. The man who was attacked twice, though in once instance he attacked first. We weren't supposed to know about that one. Watch out for him; he patrols this street, our why-be-normal friend tells us. When they ask what I’m doing, I usually tell them it’s for a photography class.

The Russian army is being starved, just as the developing world will be starved by Putin for lack of grain from Ukraine. Hunger wars. Putin says he’s Peter the Great, come back to claim the empire. (Parse fiction from non-fiction in that sentence.) The woman I’d already met told me Putin’s mother believed him to be the saint of Kyiv. No story sounds far-fetched, or they all are. So linger, please, at “I love daddy.”

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Pi Review pieces

 Out of Canada!

and the rest is here:

This Old House

8 June 2022

Happy Death Day box. No inside or outside: the door was open. Ford a stream of kids’ clothes, shoes, toys, boxes where presents were, two small four-wheeled vehicles embraced by vines, spider webs. We enter the living room and get no farther. A kind of reverence fills me when I trespass. Past this room a kitchen, from which light streams, then fades. Lilith perches on an old mattress by the front door. She’s a bit skittish, too. Outside (truly outside) is the car cemetery, each a museum. On the driver’s seat in one, an Oysterizer blender, or at least its base. From the mirror hangs an old air freshener, which reads “leather.” Windshield leathery with mildew or moss. The plastic gargoyle that holds a sign “How Much I Love You” had a twin inside the house by the far window, beneath a fly’s eye chandelier. We’re past story, inside of consequence but lacking awareness of cause. A family lived here, and they left. As Lilith and I begin our walk back, I spot a child’s jacket twisted in a bush, arms akimbo, old zipper undone.

A concept like “emptiness” doesn’t work. The house is empty of people, but full of what is now called “junk.” The clutter inside of emptiness reduces its charm. It’s a mind on meditation that swims against a current of plastic gnomes and broken forks, break-ups and break-downs. The show poses the question of what to do once you’ve abandoned family for career. Your only permanence, the hours you work. They prop you up like a two by four a fern trunk. You’re post-personal life, but not yet post-ambition. “What’s the use of this?” my aunt said of the lava fields. They put us in our place, then take that place away.

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Constrain Yourself


4 June 2022

Invent constraints. The dog is one, the phone's lens another. Begin to smile, but don’t complete the arc. Make of it a concept divorced from happiness or St. Louis. It must be more difficult than that, like bent trees denoting Alzheimer’s. Or dandelions so fragile that they’re grand (“this is life,” the photographer notes). His is an inverted constraint, concept infecting object with meaning. Does dandelion know it means, or does it simply allow the wind to take it, like pieces of a mother octopus that drift apart when she dies? The myth of Dandelion and Octopus has yet to be written, but calls out to be framed as Dispersal. They both follow a medieval actors’ wagon over the rutted roads of an old century. I think I heard vowels shifting from that wagon, as I hear consonants come and go now. Often. When oft we saw the number ten. Or off in, double preposition like a wall switch waiting.

Comic relief in Tolstoy shares transience with humor, though not its cadence. Alexei, on his back and in pain, sees the clouds and knows them beautiful. Pierre sees an old and a young man shot, a city in flames, a fearful toddler, blood on his shirt, and knows the human vocation is happiness. He sees Natasha dancing (flashback) and a bloody field (flashback). They merge into a single image, with a single floor. Something needs to change, we say after the latest massacre. Our forgetting is hardly balm.

If the word doesn’t fit, take another and wrap it around the pole like a snake, its meaning rippling like water, fixed and then unfixed again. Stillness lasts too short a time to merit its name, a “still yet moving bridge” constructed of stone and light, cables and church towers. Leave the citations to me; phrases drift like dancers in the ballroom I live inside of, or it inside of me. If forgetting doesn’t work, try forgiveness, which still remembers. If that doesn’t work, refer back to the recipe from today’s newspaper. You may have neglected to breathe.

Theater of war: theater of dance. Both choreographed, both dissolving at the moment of action. A stopwatch captures an instant when they cross. Take your favorite poem and make of it a dance. You will leap at the sound of a preposition, bow before a noun, stand tall for verbs. Soviet soldiers acted the parts of 19th century Russians. The dogs had to be swapped out, because they couldn’t seem to hunt. A wolf’s eyes tracked from side to side, a stick in its mouth. Perhaps it knew earth’s beauty at that moment, on the other side of a crowd of men and dogs, a cue ball smacked from the top, spinning away and then back toward its mark.

A man yells into his phone on I`iwi Street. “Don’t give me that shit!” Then, as Lilith and I walk by, “it’s such a beautiful day here.”

Friday, June 3, 2022

War & Peace & War

3 June 2022

A small pink Skecher for the left foot, illustrated with peace signs and hello kitties sits on a piece of dull blue wood beside a thick bit of chalk. Hearts and an 888 encircle it. Did a little girl lose the shoe when she lost her life, or did someone bring the shoe, as if in memory of someone that small? So many toys, still behind plastic in their boxes, awaiting a child’s hand: dolls, a Power Ranger, a small blue and red motorcycle up on a stone pedestal. A third grade teacher writes to her former student on a football. He liked to throw it. “I’m sorry you went threw this,” another note reads.

We watch the borrowed Red Army run naked into a lake. I guess horses were hurt in the making of this film, Bryant says, as they tumble across the screen. Long columns of soldiers march across, but there are no feet hitting earth, or men chanting time. It's a quiet march. As he lies mortally wounded, he keeps seeing one valley in his head. There’s nothing to distinguish it from other valleys, except in its repetition for him. A cannon ball spits flame, he thinks he wants to live. We see it in the captions. Film is superficial, but we see into and through it. They didn’t edit it, he says, but war's the cruelest edit. The general sits at his chair and eats his lunch. Bodies are draped on trenches, spilling off their little cliffs. The ballrooms of Moscow are not so well tended.

Lilith and I walk down Laukapu Street. We hear a singer through the trees. I turn on my iphone, not to film the stop sign, or the intersection with Haunani, but to record a woman singing. And then she walks by in sweatpants, jacket folded around her waist. “I don’t like Wallace Stevens,” Henry said. There's no making the world we walk in; it’s out of our hands. “Ah mio cor,” she sings, and in singing stops us in our tracks. It is Handel, she responds. Find it on iTunes.

Light is sweet as rock candy. It bathes water drops, at once clarifying and extenuating them. Where I thought there were more drops, I found plastic beads hanging from a gate. I don’t mind when beauty makes a fool of me.

--Details from the following: