Saturday, April 27, 2024

Pak and Schultz redux!


I--we--hope to see you there!

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Lilith in Waianae

My friends and I stopped at Starbucks in Waianae. While they went inside, I got Lilith out of the car to pee and sniff on a grassy area. At the end of the parking lot, on the other side of an old car packed with stuff, a homeless man sat shirtless (though he held a piece of cardboard to his side) in a wheelchair. He was gazing across Farrington Highway at the ocean. "Hi Aunty," he said, "could you give me some money?" I had no cash, but asked if he'd like a drink from Starbucks. "Yes, raspberry!" There was no raspberry--not until next month--so I ordered a dragon fruit drink, saying it was for the man outside, commenting on the sobering level of homeless outside. (There were tents, tarps and temporary constructions nearly all the way up the coast fronting the beaches). I took the drink to him and told him they had no raspberry, just dragon fruit. "Oh aunty, same color," he said with a glint in his eye.

Monday, April 22, 2024

Lilith doesn't meet a pro-Israeli Palestinian. Lilith was not there.


As I clutched my Cease Fire Now sign across from Waikiki Beach amid the streams of tourists, he came rushing toward us, dressing his unhappiness up with a smile. His light dreads sprouted from a bandana wrapped around his forehead. He said he was Palestinian Christian (and spoke Arabic to someone in the small crowd). "October 7th was the genocide!" He suspected we were Democrats; "Biden that vile piece of shit, what has he done about the border and the drugs?" He paraded in front of the front line of protesters, yelling that we all just needed Jesus. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Protesters started yelling that Jesus was a Palestinian. He raised his arms to the sky, pointed down at those gathered, seemed to utter a prayer. The speaker yelled SHUT THE FUCK UP at him. Three bicycle cops across the street startled out of their sun-drenched haze, so he crossed the street. They seemed to talk (or listen) him down a bit. And I'm standing there thinking what Jesus would want is a ceasefire. Jesus. A ceasefire.

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Lilith and the "red wave"

One can grow very fond of a backboard. I loved to play tennis against board or wall. There was something about the predictability of it that soothed me, the act of communication that was not one, but seemed to promise one. Lilith and I ran into our favorite Uncle in the cemetery today. He said he was "maintaining," but occasionally looked at twitter to see how crazy the world is. "I guess Don's going to sleep through his trial, eh?" said I. Then I decided to try the issues route: I can't vote for Trump because I'm pro-choice, pro-diversity, want a sane supreme court, am for gun control. 
"Trump speaks for 80% of America!" he added. People don't like him because he's brash., Uncle said. "I got a text from a friend who's at the trial! Guy running for senate as a Republican here." Clearly, this was good news. "Trump speaks for 80% of America!" he added. People don't like him because he's brash" I asked for the guy's name, the better never to vote for him. Then Uncle starts bashing Biden's family. Can you imagine? The son, the daughter? "Have you read the daughter's diary?" he asked. Oh, the stolen one. "Her father did awful things to her in the shower," he said. By this time, cemetery business was getting busier and Lilith and I needed a walk to get over our walk, so off we went. 
I think the wall's been built.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

18 April 2024


The central project is done. Double done, like double dutch, difficult. Consider the word “liquidate.” To make a solid flow is to throw it out. To wear a sandwich board advertising your own demise or that of the business paying you. It’s a brief gig. You're the meat in a sandwich board; advertising's the bread. They’re out of lettuce and tomato, so all you get is watery delirium.

The central project returns to concept, having run its course of material. What I threw out my back on is now vision’s after-taste. Looking back, I saw the Sodus sign not as a welcoming, but as a marker of what was being gone. You can take a bus out of state, the legislator said, to get your abortion, or you can stand in front of a mirror, with yourself for company, while you take a pill. To be a woman is to be an illegal.

To grieve the material stands in for a less solid state of mourning. What's fleeting dances off-screen, performs a jig of farewell, invites post-mourning excess. She eases the trauma of others, but its contagion reaches its octopus hands back for her. You have to create firm boundaries, a friend says, but where boundary itself was what was broken, the portal’s a jagged hole in a chain link fence. Aunty Portal’s responsible for your safe passage in both directions, but she can’t choose for you. She leans on her pink bike with tassels on the handlebars, holding out her oil-smudged arms, midwife.

Forget books; complete the digital transfer. Words no longer disintegrate on paper left in a forest to measure rates of decay, artistry. The loss of pixels feels lighter, almost as if your words blinked back at you, wanting something. Lilith, when I leave, stands on the arm of a couch and turns her brown eyes on me. What does she know of guilt, except how to compose it in another?

Aunty Portal is not responsible for postage, especially between countries. Her wealth comes not in payment but in the promise of another state. On this side of the fence, a beaten dirt path; on the other, a tangle of mangroves, punctuated by tents and pallets. The homeless are not permitted pleasure, though we suspect they find it beneath their tarps. As difficult to imagine as sex between one’s parents. Abandoned by capital, we follow, afraid to make eye contact. I-contact with you makes a contract, or so we fear. Feeling contracts. We sign the dotted line, then crumple the paper up, or hit delete. Those are not the same act, are they?

The drone operator suffers for what she imagines she’s done. Even when she hears the news of his death, she can only imagine herself as its instigation. She’s cut off from act, from image, from everything but the thought of what she’s done. The pilot who’d survived a bombing run on the ground couldn’t drop his bombs so easily after. A small girl had run into a large pipe for cover. To earn one’s keep as a psychopath for the state means you act as one. Acting precedes becoming. It is not becoming to kill, even if it’s currently in fashion.

Criminals and models walk the runway. The former president spits on every precedent. He’s not on a bus or in a plane. He’s not riding a bicycle or catching an uber. He bears no cross that he doesn't invent at the moment of his self-proclaimed crucifixion. Sabotage the change of state, throw a wrench in metamorphosis. Even the literal cannot be imagined.

Monday, April 15, 2024

15 April 2024


To accept what is bitter. To perform a double italic, like a swan dive and its shadow off the high board. To mark what you would avoid, had you the fortitude to turn away. A boy resembles sculpture, covered in a dust mask. He worried that his bicycle belonged to someone else. Feet between concrete shelves, a mother off camera. A man in a room’s tight white corner, seated with one of his five dead children. Another hallucinating his pain. You shoot me and I shoot you and that’s how we talk over the picket fence these days. Or wall between the children and Auschwitz, bleeding sound.

Spirit exists without words, but so does hatred. A non-verbal space still absorbs sound. She understood what he screamed, without the ability to say so. That made him scream all the more, the man with the psychopath eyes. Aunty Portal come to drink one dirty martini with us. These gaps cannot testify to what went through them, sonic affect slacking syllables, if not sound. Regard the marks: comma, semi-colon, colon, exclamation, period, and come dressed as your favorite punctuation. If I am not comma, why do I hesitate? So much fun to cavort without words and their trailing grammar, like blank kites making holes in the air. Kite flies, but its string does not. Our hands are anchors to this seascape above the ground. The other day, the sky was a pallid blue, clouds mammalian. There are names for mist and for dry rain.

What is bitter might be wine. That it was water beforehand lends it mystery. That it’s bitter after makes sense. If I grow bark and leaves, or if you low like a cow, we fear the end of change. We had no hand in it, though our hand turns to stone. Metamorphosis goes down, or up? What is the value you put on yourself as bear that you didn’t as woman? Does honey taste more sweet? Tiresias in drag performs which gender? Intention begins from power, but ends with a solitary deer grazing. After an initial burst toward space, it falls like a balloon. But what is the it that is the engine? I’d rather not come before or after, but in the midst, where time does its squats and bicep curls. The power of it is in the doing. What mark is that—a dash?

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Cri de coeur about Tinfish Press


Warning: cri de coeur. Tinfish editor, Jaimie Nagle, sent me the inventory from pssc warehouse this morning. They are in possession of hundreds of Tinfish books, two of which were published by Jaimie and Donovan Kūhiō Colleps, the rest by me from 1995-2018 or so. I'd be happy to share the list with anyone who wants to see it.
I founded Tinfish to argue that there are, in the Pacific, writing practices that are similar to those found in experimental poetry on the North American coasts, but that these practices are used to very different effect. I founded Tinfish to publish the kinds of books I wanted to teach to a student body that was mostly not white. If a Language poet deliberately plays with language to show how to undermine it, then a Tinfish poet often wrote out of language that had already been broken (by colonialism, for example). Eric Chock teased me once that he thought I was trying to change the literary culture of Hawai`i. Out of my profoundest naivete, perhaps that was true. If it was, it failed in the larger sense, but added an alternative to the mix in this very mixed place. 
With the volunteer, or near volunteer, participation over the years of Gaye Chan and her stable of design colleagues and students, Allison Hanabusa, and Jeff Sanner, Tinfish created an archive that opened the field considerably. There were a few significant superstar texts: Lisa Linn Kanae's _Sistah Tongue_; Barbara Jane Reyes's _Poeta en San Francisco_; a book by an author who later threatened to sue us and moved his work to another publisher (an ugly chapter in the narrative); Kaia Sand's _Remember to Wave_. All these books sold enough to keep us afloat so that we could publish books we believed in just as much, but had a smaller audience. Between the 20 issue journal, chapbooks and books, Tinfish published hundreds of authors, many of whom hadn't heard of each other. Two of them, Pam Brown and Maged Nabil, even wrote a chapbook together.
In my experience, most books, if they sell, sell early, and then languish unless their authors keep pushing them, or unless they fill a hole that may not have been recognized before. The SPD warehouse was flush with our books and those of many other presses. Even the aforementioned superstar books remained in the dozens of copies at the warehouse. 
Jaimie Nagle and the current Tinfish folks opted to go exclusively with spd. I had sold through our website; Bryant had become a world expert in the USPS by doing our shipping for us (more free labor). Jaimie doesn't have the room for these old books, nor do I. I grieve for the amazing poems, designs, hopes and fears that each of these books brought forth into the material world. I grieve for the trees that were sacrificed for art. I grieve, in no small sense, for my own career, which made sense to me in large part because of these books and what they represented. My office also contained boxes and boxes of old inventory (especially from the days before POD options). 
There are so many more important, life and death, events in this world now. There's world history to witness and worry about. But this takes a chunk out of me. Buy books. I'd like to think they matter. (They are matter, after all.)
My profound thanks to every Tinfish author, reader, and worker. 

Friday, April 12, 2024

12 April 2024: Notes toward a central point

12 April 2024

The central point is not drain, but pivot. A hole in the rusted barrel makes islands out of ash. What burned in it was money, but nothing you could spend across the highway at McDonald’s or Times. Another hole forms a window on grass, offering a green backing for orange rust. So many portals require disintegration first, holes in the fence that can’t be plugged for long. The unanchored move through, whether dog or person without a home. The woman with the pink bike made her own in the small shade on a sidewalk beside a coherent chain link fence. She was the hole in the world for a day.

The central point is empty and sturdy both. I need it to pour my words in, like today’s rain after a night of thunderstorms. If stars can blink, then clouds can talk through their conflict with air. When she snored, I thought my mother was talking to a man in the ceiling. I tied my shoes ten times (wrong as it turned out) before leaving her bedroom to go outside. What they said to one another I never knew, though I recognized it as speech.

The central point pulls in and pushes out, like an anus. I watch Lilith’s in the rain as she prepares to poop. I think it teases me with its anxious smile.

The central point will be my subject. I am subject to falling under the influence of trees and rust. How to hold my straight-edge up and measure my distances. The other Eucalyptus sheds brown bark into the shapes of hands in gloves. The gloves fit, but we don’t know the perpetrator. I came eye to eye with a gray mantis who carried a droplet of water on its back. The bead was another eye to see its arms in prayer. “Is it a religious thing?” a neighbor asks. I opt for “prey.”

The central point will change my subject: mantis to manta ray, ray of sun into my son. What I see comes of sound; the backs of my eyelids blank except when I started Amitryptilene and a little green man met me at the edge of a soccer field. Foretold my daughter, my life on a sideline marking time as love and fear. There’s a hole the man’s son fell into and there’s no filling it. Anniversaries as earth-moving machines. I told a worker I love big machines like the one we stood next to; his eyes lit up. “They’re also fun to operate,” he said.

The central point threatens to have no bottom. Small children gather in a Gaza graveyard to watch over their mothers; a man wearing a PRESS sign on his back tries to console one of them. Nothing works. Grief gets passed on as contagion, where empathy and suffering become conjoined, like twins.

I look for the central point like another poet his circus animals, those that deserted him. I can’t find the exact absence, or the precise portal through which to send my words on a transom of sound. The woman who saw numbers everywhere lost them when she quit. Work becomes distraction, the absence of it some relief. “Have you had stress lately?” the common question. I make it myself, thank you, on an installment plan, pulling brick from brick. Use the old steel from the bridge, someone opined. So it can fall again, the children sing.

I look for an anchor for my meanderings. They require a lot of water. The woman at Kaaawa Park was screaming the other day, Bryant said; she was naked to the waist, accusing another woman of stealing her things. Someone called the cops. She’d told me her mythology one day a year ago; it made a complete and painful sense. A B-52 requires hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of fuel just to do a practice run. An analogy overflows its madness.

A walk is a portal, when it forms sense. Some days the narrative is near perfect, in a literary sense. Other days, it frays. When I asked my neighbor if she felt better treating me as if I don’t exist, she said I told her not to talk. That was years ago. No meaning is too small to excavate, or fill in. I want him to feel better, though I fear I make things worse.

The central point can’t say if it needs words or deeds, some of them an undoing into silence. Into, unto. One goes in, the other undoes it. The flickering stars warn us without our knowing how to read them. A woman threw her children out the window during the total eclipse. To read is to flirt with horror. Line your holes with feathers. Make lines of paper carrots beside the tiny white fence around the grave. Record the white lines left by the earth mover in the pavement. Take it all down. One day it might prove useless.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Hawai`i binary


Patrick and his stiff-forelegged dog, Keala, lurched toward us, steaming. "I almost got run into AGAIN at the f-ing intersection," Patrick said. "I know," I said. "We called the police in 2006 when we walked the kids to school and someone almost hit us there."
I stopped to talk to a policeman at the entrance to the cemetery; he was waiting to escort the contraflow guys picking up orange cones. "My son's in the police academy in Virginia," I said. Yes, he grew up here, but I grew up in Virginia. I told the cop my father's name was Frederick William, and now my son (whose middle name is Frederick) lives in Fredericksburg and works in Prince William. "My daughter wanted to go into the police," he said; "I told her go in the fire department. It gets dangerous now." I told him he looked pretty safe sitting in his SUV and he said yes, "unless there's something about you I don't know."
As we entered the parking lot to the right of the guard shack, I saw a man leaving a white car. He was tall and rotund, his head bald. Fluent old style Pidgin. "Good license plate!" I told him. I'd noticed this "Eh, cuz" plate for a long time. "Yeah, I got it 20 years ago, and people in town, everywhere, honk at me," he said, flashing a shaka. "We're all family here, cousins, aunties, uncles." He called me "friend" as we parted ways.
A homeless woman with a fancy pink road bike, adorned with artificial flowers, stood near the intersection of Kahekili and Hui Iwa. She seemed to be trying to push the bicycle, but stopped, leaned it against the chain link, pulled out a white cloth sat on it and the sidewalk. She had dancing shoes on, it appeared, and smiled when I asked if she needed anything. "Something to eat?" I said I'd be back and called Bryant. By the time I got home, he'd made up a paper plate with potato, avocado, green bar, and a piece of chocolate.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

9 April 2024 (with a small announcement)

A meditation arrived this morning, after a Lilith Walk, but first this: the earlier meditations of this year didn't work well on their own, so I printed them out, took scissors to them, arranged the pieces of paper, read that version, didn't like it, and so arranged the pieces backwards. The result, "Or, if writing is what needs to be done," with photographs, will be published by David Need in his journal, MiddleLost, later this year. Anyone who labored through three or so months of my nattering will be relieved to read the shorter version. And here is today's meditation:

9 April 2024

It is especially desirable to be careful with the words IN and UP. Contained and not, it helps to visualize them. The old Mason jar has trouble in it. No one speaks of mobility any more, as that direction closed to traffic. A book on my dresser is titled Stepping Up. To, not in, the plate. To hit an RBI now is to “plate” a run. The runs come in; the catcher no longer stands up on the plate. Prepositions have caused injuries in the past, so we’ve made rules to shift “on” to “beside.” Block the plate’s neighborhood, but not it. A runner scored standing up, which meant he arrived in time. Out of mind or out of your mind don’t resemble each other. A pronoun steps to the plate to cause good trouble. He hits, she hits, they hit. It’s a hit means it’s popular, as any triple must be. The Triplets of Belleville is a great sports film; we showed it to our guest with large calves and an affection for bikes, if not frogs. Is digression up or in? Dickens was the best poet of the 19th century, James Wright wrote, but only in his digressions. Is that my digression, or his? The advantage of meditation is that it’s all extramural, a three body problem that can’t end, though it orbits the spot between the eyebrows. Look at the black screen of your eyelids, the yoga teacher says, and I see nothing, being aphantasic. Fantastic blank, though when last she told us to see emerald, I saw a spot of blue like a cloth hanging behind the window of Chinese Restaurant across the street. That cloth was the color of dirty cream. Mind doesn’t see, but it edits. It helps in taking photographs, as there’s nothing between me and what I shoot no interfering image, no plot, no novel spinning out of well furnished rooms. Because I don’t see in, I can see out. Out of mind, out of body. Ask me to see a well that leads to a cave, and I can remember it. Images not generated, but regurgitated. The ruminant in her room is neither goat nor cow, though if her mind is considered stomach, hers is busy with its grasses. Metamorphosis pushes up, as does enjambment. I gave it up as now I try to give up coffee through the headache’s screen/scream. My brain has rooms I’ve never seen within the skull’s walls. Build a fence, and they will come. Build a wall, and your purity’s certain, or so you think.

Note: first sentence is from The Cloud of Unknowing.

Lilith meets a neighborhood misogynist

Everybody's mother loved Gary Cooper in the late 1940s. Our block had three Gary's on it, though now there are only two. That they are/were all Yankees fans makes the symmetry well nigh unbearable. Gary One, for purposes of this Lilith Walk, is fond of my buttons. When I asked him about his Yankees a year ago, he responded with disdain, and more than once, "They play like girls!"
Today, as Lilith and I neared home, I saw Gary One and asked him if he'd seen the women's basketball finals. He smiled. "Yes, they're better than the men!'

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Lilith and the man with hard consonants

The man with the hard consonants drove his rented convertible white Mustang up the hill at the back of the cemetery, exclaimed at the beauty of the place. I congratulated him for finding the part of the cemetery I never see tourists in. He stopped his car at the top, got out to take photos of the bay, the mountains, the graveyard. Lilith and I asked where he was from. The Baltic, he said, "Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, near Hungaria." He had no reaction when I said I'd been to Belgrade when it was part of Yugoslavia; he was more interested in this vista, and in finding what he should see. He asked after the Stairway to Heaven and I told him you weren't supposed to go there. "What, my stomach?" he asked, pointing to the paunch under his white shirt. No, I told him, but you'll know you're nearby when you see the NO HIKING signs.
Near the bottom of the hill, I remembered Laie Point. I stopped him on the way down; he was talking to someone on his phone. He googled Laie Point and found a map, said he'd go there after he visited the temple. It's good to get advice from a local, he told me, peering over the empty seat beside him to make sure he wasn't about to drive into Lilith. "God bless you," he said as he sailed off, having shrugged off my warning about the sun that roasts you like a chicken.
Later, we ran into walker Daniel (former military, former educator, purveyor of bad jokes) and I told him my friend Renee on the Big Island remembered working with him. He'd run a school there that started with 17 students, grew to 400 under his care, and then closed (only to pop up at different sites). He'd driven a van to pick up kids in the jungle, despite the angry dogs that surrounded their off-grid houses.
After walking for a ways with him, he indicated he was going to go back to his music. "Rocking with the Carpenters," he said. As Lilith and I crossed the street, I said I'd been listening to Stevie Winwood lately. "Youngest performer at Woodstock," he yelled. "Traffic, Spencer Davis Band, Blind Faith!!"
Sometimes moments make seas of joy, you know.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Review of Meditations by Christopher Sawyer-Laucanno

Susan Schultz, a long-time Zen practitioner, has tuned into the universe, as her Meditations clearly demonstrates. These prose poems, or as the publisher calls them “lyrical prose,” are arranged as a series of introspective diary-like entries over one year from the end of 2019 until December 2020. While a companion piece to her earlier Lilith Walks [reviewed in Cable Street, Issue 3], with Lilith, our favorite literary canine still leading Schultz around her Hawaiian haunts, Meditations is darker, enveloped in the disturbing realities of the onslaught of Covid, death and dying, fractured personal interactions and Trump-induced political divisiveness.