Saturday, October 20, 2007


Even though it was a dream, she knew it was true.

Standing at the landing of the second floor staircase of Swift Hall, there he was, walking down the familiar gray slate steps; the leaded glass window casting his face in shadow. She knew by his lope, it was him.

The joy welled up in her, she thought she would whoop and holler. Instead, she smiled so hard her jaw started hurting. And she jumped in his arms. Always a few inches taller than she, he wrapped his long arms around her rib cage and swung her around, boisterously. With both surprise and reunion joy, he said her name over and over…

As they came to a stop from their swinging, she steadied herself by grabbing his forearms.

“I knew that you didn’t do it. I knew that you couldn’t do that to yourself. I knew you were still alive. You’re alive.” she practically panted, so many words spilling out her mouth, trying to capture her shock, disbelief and utter relief that all the pain could be wiped away.

“Of course, I’m alive,” he said, almost half joking, as if the torture and grief that she had known for so many months could not possibly have been started by him. “I’d never do that to you. You think I could just leave like that?!”

“I knew. I knew you were alive,” she whispered in awed wonder at his presence before her.

And then the scene changed.

She is lying in a hospital bed in a sterile, white room with two beds. She is in the bed by the window and the sheet divides her from the other side. She feels fine but she knows that he is in the other bed.

She stands and pulls the sheet back. Surrounded by tubes and lights, he is lying unearthly still. She knows that he is dead.

She is so angry. She crawls on top of him and starts pounding his chest.

“NO! NO! Come back! Come back! Don’t go!” she cries, her voice cracking with pain.

She can say no more, her mouth is full of tears. She shakes him and clings to his face, trying to yell him back from the dead.

He is gone.

And yet, they are still 17.

Although life still seemed up in the air-there sitting there on the scalded sidewalk, slouching up against the impending Performing Arts Center.

A pair of headphones broken so each could have an earful of music. A melancholy song of lost love and of wanting a reality that is more than words.

They each had other people taking their attention and bringing individual soap opera drama to their lives. And yet there was a level of comfort with each other like an old couch in a back room surrounded by others smoking and talking. A peace that appreciates what one moment has to offer and nothing more.

They would have to go soon. A light mist was falling. Her hair still in pink, sponge curlers for the night’s show, him still in work out clothes. They drew up their knees to avoid the rain, and she laid her cheek upon his shoulder.

They sat in silence under the weight of all they did not know. They did not know that they were both being betrayed by false loves. They did not know that show business was not in their futures. They did not know that in a few short years he would read Crime and Punishment and hang himself. She would never read Dostoevsky again and not imagine the book lying in his closet. The rope. How could he let his family find him? What changed? Where was her peaceful friend then?

So, she clings to her memories and makes them more than they are. It’s for sanity, for peace. She cries.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Love and Truth

"I'm not saying opera is a waste of time,
I just love you for all the things you couldn't change,
though you've tried." Ben Folds

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sweet unheard

Standing at the sink, a large, sticky handful of black seeds in my hand, I want to eat them all and think they will be sweet, like honey, I want you to help me put them into an envelope before I do, though, I want to save them, for next year, but you are in the pantry, looking for something I don't understand, and you don't hear me asking for your help, and small clumps begin to fall away.

Thursday, August 2, 2007


in the summer I lean over the balcony railing that rises fifteen feet above the stinking chicago alley where bins of trash stew in the late afternoon. flies gather, swirl and flap their wings frantically before they lay eggs in bananas, orange rinds and heels of bread. against the forrest green bins something catches my eye, a shining silver rectangle about three feet across and two feet tall. i move my head to the left and to the right to manipulate the reflection that glares only at very specific angles. it is a national geographic map of indonesia, torn out of the magazine, unfolded, flattened and framed behind thin plexiglass. the names of the many islands and the seas in between sound like expensive coffees, troublesome with complicated staggering vowel sounds. i pick it up and carry it back to my apartment where i hang it on my wall. the gem that has floated in from the streets.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Ballad of Pete Yorn and Tobey Keith (IN THE NIGHT) sung to the tune of 'the revolution' by David Byrne

Good Lightning Pie

When We Sleep

and when we wake

my periphery is stained red


Sounds of Records Breaking
Pins Being bowl'd Over

Good Lightning Pie

Thursday, July 19, 2007

To See What He Could See

Not the Elmo video again.

I relent.

"The bear went over the mountain,
the bear went over the mountain,
the bear went over the mountain,
to see what he could see.

To see what he could see,
to see what he could see,
to see what he could see,
the bear went over the mountain
to see what he could see.

He saw another mountain,
he saw another mountain..."

How to tell my son: this is life.

Monday, July 16, 2007

When a child finds his way into the world

"A Tale Begun"
by Wislawa Szymborska

The world is never ready
for the birth of a child.

Our ships are not yet back from Winnland.
We still have to get over the S. Gothard pass.
We've still got to outwit the sewers to Warsaw's center,
gain access to King Harald the Butterpat,
and wait until the downfall of Minister Fouche.
Only in Acapulco
can we begin anew.

We've run out of bandages,
matches, hydraulic presses, arguments, and water.
We haven't got the trucks, we haven't got the Minghs' support.
This skinny horse won't be enough to bribe the sheriff.
No news so far about the Tartars' captives.
We'll need a warmer cave for the winter
and someone who can speak Harari.

We don't know whom to trust in Nineveh,
what conditions the Prince-Cardinal will decree,
which names Beria has still got inside his files.
They say Karol the Hammer strikes tomorrow at dawn.
In this situation let's appease Cheops,
report ourselves of our own free will,
change faiths,
pretend to be friends with the Doge
and say that we've got nothing to do with the Kwabe tribe.

Time to light the fires.
Let's send a cable to grandma in Zabierzow.
Let's untie the knots in the yurt's leather straps.

May delivery be easy,
may our child grow and be well.
Let him be happy from time to time
and leap over abysses.
Let his heart have strength to endure
and his mind be awake and reach far.
But not so far

that it sees into the future.
Spare him
that one gift, o heavenly powers.

"After Making Love We Hear Footsteps"
by Galway Kinnell

For I can snore like a bullhorn
or play loud music
or sit up talking with any reasonably sober Irishman
and Fergus will only sink deeper
into his dreamless sleep, which goes by all in one flash,
but let there be that heavy breathing
or a stifled come-cry anywhere in the house
and he will wrench himself awake
and make for it on the run--as now, we lie together,
after making love, quiet, touching along the length of our bodies,
familiar touch of the long-married,
and he appears--in his baseball pajamas, it happens,
the neck opening so small he has to screw them on--
and flops down between us and hugs us and snuggles himself to sleep,
his face gleaming with satisfaction at being this very child.

In the half darkness we look at each other
and smile
and touch arms across this little, startlingly muscled body--
this one whom habit of memory propels to the ground of his making,
sleeper only the mortal sounds can sing awake,
this blessing love gives again into our arms.

"The Lanyard"
by Billy Collins

The other day as I was ricocheting slowly
off the pale blue walls of this room,
bouncing from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one more suddenly into the past --
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sickroom,
lifted teaspoons of medicine to my lips,
set cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift--not the archaic truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hands,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.


oreo oreo
give me a hug.
oreo oreo
go eat a bug.
oreo oreo
you are so fat.
oreo oreo
you are my favorite cat.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

25 going on 21

Phase 1: The light came in from the south and east. In the morning the light would fill the room slowly, gathering momentum to eventually stir me awake. The warmth was blousing, and it stayed with me throughout the day and throughout that long time of my life.

Phase 2: Sleeping in public. In small rooms, in libraries, in meeting halls, back stairwells, other people’s floors, couches, outside on the heating vent. The light came from elsewhere, sporadically, without premonition or anticipation.

Phase 3: I lived in the nighttime with coffee and strangers. A time to think of only when absolutely necessary, mostly, with the exception of the morning bicycle rides around the lake, sweat dripping down my back.

Phase 4: The window was westward facing. I lived many latitudes north of here. I was swallowed into shadows. I may as well have lived underground.

Phase 5: Back to the first room, with many changes. Raspberry walls, long tunnels, wistful thoughts, looking a lot and feeling more… anticipation, plans, sinking.

Phase 6: The windows were eastward. The light reflected off of billboards. Most mornings, I lay there, close to empty, in my bed. Dreams of family and Elizabeth Taylor. Death.

Phase 7: Same building as Phase 6, but windows now westward. Construction. Paintings of cats and the Burberry Plaid. Bathing with friends, bathing alone, lots of cigarettes on the fire escape. 4pm sun.

Phase 8: Bed to bed. Traveling. Blankness. Establishing camaraderie. Platonic love.

Phase 9: In-between homes and trains. Building ideas, possibilities, tenderness.

Phase 10: I moved in to hot pink walls and north window. The room smelled of cedar. Dreaming underwater, folk, homemade enchiladas, philosophy, building a business, administrative duties, a baby (Quinn), cut-off shorts, closing and opening.

Phase 11: Westward windows, waking up to sun on my face in a sea-green room. Making love in quicksand. Cats and books, failure and anonymity.

Phase 12: Northward windows on the northside, with brick walls and thick mortar. The wind blew the snow from sideways, upside down and from underneath. The lightning storms created chaos and fires. Smoking in the stairwell. Leveling.

Phase 13: Opportunity granted me luxury. Sunlight from all directions.

Phase 14: Back to the raspberry room.

Phase 15: The window was in a labyrinth in the lightwell in a courtyard, first floor. The light was in a vacuum. I read here incessantly. Nights spent on a bridge overlooking traffic below.

Phase 16: Raspberry room. Searching, planning, waiting. Responsibility.

Phase 17: I was allowed to stay in a spare apartment in return for cleaning it up. Location and view unlike another. Carpet and tiles littered with mice droppings. Dead mice, exploded cakes, decayed fruit, dramatic lighting.

Phase 18: Avoiding home and those upset with me. Small, cramped, dirty. Cheap.

Phase 19: The light came from the south. No roommates, cat. Filth and shouting outside. Lots of air and light. Loud space.

Phase 20: Western light. White blankets and wood floors. Neutrality. Immense, unsettling change. Sifting into place. My body moved into another.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Raspberries, blue skies

Clover crowns and necklaces,
sun-streaked heads of hair,
sun-dappled faces,

Sunday, July 8, 2007

The way things are hidden

An awful dream. My father drove away in his old red pick-up truck, the one I always hated, down a gravel road. You went with him, leaving me alone in this strange place. And I stood by the side of the road, in a slowly dissipating cloud of dust, watching you go, taillights glowing hazy red in the night.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Poem: About Poem about Get Off The Internet about Get Off The Internet

I once, tonight,
thought of an idea for a poem entitled:

when i realized that Phil Elverum
had written a song by the same name
with pretty much the same subject matter
that I would have included in my poem.

Needless to say:::
It was aaa Bummer.

Over and Out.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Moving Toward Back

I watched the clouds roll undulating onto one another. I watched the blades of grass flick their wrists at each other. I felt the wind swath its salty spit onto my cheeks. I felt my legs going, going strong, like oak hips and stone bones, my heart and stomach soupy and my head empty but searching…for something. I was leaving this land but I didn’t feel ready to yet.

The faraway sun skirted low on the horizon. I knew at 4 o clock that I was a goner, that I was pretty fucked if I didn’t figure something out. All this walking without thinking had displaced me further and further into nowhere. I looked at my map and tried to decipher the it in Deutsche. Yes, I should cross the island so I can catch the shortcut to the road that leads back to the train. Yes, here is the path right here. Perfect.

Across the sagey foothills I tread. The wind continue s to pet my cheeks, my boots continue to thud one after the next. My legs are strong. I stop often and look entirely around myself, drinking in the landscape to fill the void I felt in my chest. Now I see the sea no more. I see around me nothing but grey-green hills. I feel some sort of beat in my blood, as though I am dancing. I step livelier. The sun is late. Accustomed to the city lights, I note to myself how out of tune I am with the day in this season.

My legs climb a hill. I imagine it’s the hill, the one that leads to the other side with the sea waiting for me. I rise with the ground. The view tells another story: there are dunes, sand dunes, and lots of them. I pick a point directly across the way at the horizon in the exact opposite direction from which I came. I continue to look at the point as I descend into the valley of sand, suddenly so soft under my feet, the granules arguing against my push. They wish to keep me here, under the earth in this beautiful and foreign landscape. Part of me agrees with them.

I reach the picked -point , expecting to see the sea on the other side. To my increasing disdain, I find another valley even larger than the one I just crossed. More sand and another point picked, I continue, the lowering sun increasing my dancing heart beat.

The next point tells the story of the evening. It tells me that I will not be leaving this island, as there will not be enough light to navigate my way past this point. I am destined to rest under the granules of sand, defending myself against the increasing cold. I make like a carcass waiting to be devoured by island scavengers and nestle myself into the ground, lying against the wind-break of the dune. I curl up dead-like into the finest ball and completely shut off my mind, as this is no time to think.

I awake before dawn. The stars out-number my grave granules. They provide enough light for navigating. I raise my head and suddenly I am wide-wide awake. I gather my body together and continue walking into the horizon, the next point into the next point. It all begins to look so familiar, as it is all the same thing again and again, until I see the sea from the crest of one of the dunes. Finally.

After descending another valley I rise with the hill by the sea. It brings me to sage again. The sky is now orangey pink and the sun wishes to peek out from its nest underground. I welcome it but mourn the sleepy stars that brought me luck.

The sand is wet and I walk even quicker to keep from the coldness. The seaside is slow to reveal another secret: I have returned to the same place I came from. It is all too familiar, with the same bending curves and sage pathways winding around the frozen waves. I am completely unsure of all sense of personal navigation at this point. I was so sure….so sure I was on the right path.

The way things are revealed

A beautiful dream, standing beside me, one arm wrapped around my shoulder, your other hand moves through the air, showing me the space of a hallway, at the end of which I see an open door, a large bedroom window, an opening in the side of a house not yet built, framing a pink hibiscus plant in the garden just beyond.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Net (ten)

No part in a high-wire act,
after all,
this net.

Close to the ground,
the balance it maintains is of a different sort.
Rooted in a discovery, an awareness
of its own particular structure,
it is not in the business of catching
falling bodies.
Rather, it holds and lets pass through
all that it should,
in the proper proportions,
according to its wishes,

and in its being what it is,
gently works to correct
any assumption
that its proportions
might resemble those of some other net,
either real or imagined.

But it can never be sure how successful its efforts are
and is reminded,
again and again,
of all the ways that its language falls short.

It doesn't need anybody to understand it, though,
in order for it to be,
for it to do what it does.*

And it doesn't hold onto words.*

*These are lies.
*These are its desires.

Monday, June 25, 2007

I am in a land of strange aesthetics.

My bed, freshly covered in your scent, criss-crossed by our well-worn trails, one to the, in my craving for you, in my stillness with myself, a wide, clean horizon, an expansive geography. Instantly, Siberia.

A game that we played, the honeymoon's over.
That was our joke yesterday.

Laughing to myself at my lovelorn heart and the language it conjures in the night.

Glad to remember your breathing here, next to mine.
Glad for the quiet space to stretch my bones into, alone once again.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Let’s go away together.

X: There are places I want to go with you.

Y: Where do you want to go?

X: New places, old places, places we share, places we make.

Y: I would like that, too. Let’s begin. Let’s go.

X: We can’t. Not yet.

Y: Why?

X: Because before we go anywhere, we need to establish our footing here and understand where here is.

Y: But I don’t understand.

X: Exactly.

Y: No, I don’t understand why you think that is important. Or even possible.

X: We can't move forward until we know where we stand.

Y: Nonsense! We can’t do that, we can never know that. So, let’s just go and trust the ground beneath our feet not to give way and the sun and the stars to guide us on our way.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

i wrote many poems and picked this one: poem: I LOVE THAT LINE

i love that line i love that line
i made it with my hand

the line was red
and i winked at myself
and i patted myself on the back

i said, "i swear to God
thats my favorite part."
God heard me
and we both knew it, too.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

first kiss

we got out of my west facing room, which always gets too much sun and holds on to heat long after the start of evening. we sat together on my porch, and he told me about fire-flies, bioluminescence, and other phenomenon alien to the cold climates i come from. minutes pass, and we fall quiet. i listen to the breath pass in and out of his nose, and i can almost feel the changes in air pressure on the hair of my arms. and then he leans over, and our mouths press against each other, those cavities of speech, silent still, but now quiet with intention.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

this version is way from creation...

sometimes i think my family places magazines in specific places so that they might test me. They want to see if i'll read their magazines. They must know by now all about my reading habits. I have been reading other people's magazines for (probably) seventeen years. ohhhhhh...snapp app appa appa.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A Stitch in Time

"Your absence has gone through me like a thread through a needle.

Everything I do is stitched with its color." WSM

Monday, May 28, 2007

Call and response

The simple warm bed with me
is where it always has been, still with me.
But there is no "with."
You are not here, with me.
There is a bed, and there is me.

What is is not all there is.
What is new is open before us,
if we dare to endeavor
each day
in the fearful enterprise
of opening ourselves to it.

Quell the rumors
and carry their sleeping bodies
far away,
and tuck them into another bed,
to sleep forever
and dream their poison dreams alone.

When your hands are emptied
and you have fluffed the last pillow and turned out the light,
go outside and breathe the air deeply,
down into your navel,
down into your toes.
Reach into the gray western sky,
and there you will find my warmth,
on the wings of a bird,
no longer hiding,
simply waiting for you.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

the city, as i remember it.

there is no building there; there are no buildings anywhere. though we ride down familiar roads, each with names and street signs we swear to recall, block after block of the city is gone. then we see our friends, the former occupants of the city, the one we've lost somehow. they are waiting for mail sent to addresses that designate an empty lot of land, an acre of tall grasses. they wave to us as we drive by and they say, "oh we're just waiting for the mail today!" and they laugh somewhat uncomfortably. i think it is because they are waiting for something a little more exciting than that. i see my family next, waiting with little babies in their arms, sitting on the curb side drinking tall bottles of water. they are so happy to see me again, and the make room so i can sit with them beside the dusty road that winds up the side of a green hill. we try and remember the city, our city, rebuild it with hand gestures in the air, stories of rides into town, directions to parties. I remember the city as a coastal city, and my brother agrees. we remember the tides of the city, it's AM swell, it's evening decline. we remember walking along sidewalks with shells embedded in the concrete, the smell of salt and pine and the occasional sweetening of taffy. our parents say how wonderful that is, and each of us remember our own city, our own construction with vague edges. people gather, our neighbors come, we talk about casino cities, circus cities, farm towns, sky cities, shanty towns, the dense metropolis. and between our voices, the moving of the air to make sound, the dust moves, realigns because of our breath. and then it happens.

we stop. feel our foundations. we wait restlessly (anxiously, quietly, lovingly, desperately) as the city begins.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

For OMT (On May's new moon)

Wide awake

(Can you feel the earth spinning?)

I am many specks of dust.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Desire may guide our returns, but I still don’t understand distance.

The truth of the matter is this: good-byes have always been hard for me.

(And when I write here “good-byes,” I don’t mean endings, but partings.)

When I was a little girl, I’d cry for hours after leaving my grandparents’ house. I adored my grandparents, and of course, I knew I’d see them again, but the time between always seemed so long…and more than that, it was the space between: it seemed so strange that there should be—even that there could be—so much distance between us, so suddenly.

I’ve carried something of that childhood feeling of strangeness with me into my adult relationships. And the fact is, even now, when life puts distance between me and someone I love, I still don’t quite understand it; my heart won’t quite accept it. It’s not just that I resist it (although, sometimes, I do)—it’s simply that I don’t know how to make sense of it. Some part of me still can’t make that leap. Our bodies move in ways that our hearts do not.

And it’s not just that I miss you (although I do.) That is something different: the time after good-bye, the time of missing, the time of being either here or there, where you are not. What I'm writing of here is the time leading up to good-bye, and the moment of…the knowledge of a coming absence, our coming absence from one another, from the space that we share. The terrifying conundrum of fort and da…

Where are we? Where do we go? Why aren’t we where we were?

There’s an absurdity to these questions, to be sure—we are dynamic bodies, after all—but it seems to me, there’s an absurdity also to such radical shifts in relative proximity: one moment, you’re lying so close to me, your face is a blur, my eyes can’t focus, I feel your hand pressed flat against my back, and all I can smell is you; another moment, and there are a million miles and an ocean between us. How does that happen? I mean, really, it seems so strange. And what does it mean to say good-bye at the moment that shift occurs, between near and far, here and there? We use language to mark that moment, that moment we don’t understand. And although we might trust in our returns, our departures bewilder.

Good-byes are still hard…and the strangeness of space perplexes me still, always one of us moving away from another. I’ve reconciled myself to strangeness, though. I embrace my experience of it, in fact, and this is what I want, moving through space, accepting that life moves us, and we move with life. When it comes now, I rest, comfortably, into the strange, familiar discomfort of good-bye.

But I am still confounded by the space between.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

A day for a song of hope

She sang to us today:

We are here because our grandmothers prayed.
We are here because our aunties prayed.
We are here because our mothers prayed.

What the old women knew was that the dawn was coming.

Remember the old stories that come from our mothers.
Remember the prayers that come from our mothers.

We are here, carried on their faith.

Monday, May 7, 2007

A feeling in her bones

She returns to the scene again and again.

The yellow tape is gone but the white outline of the relationship is etched in her mind.

She asks the same questions. She hears the same answers.

The way forward is not found in the words, though. She can feel it in her bones.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

encountering buddha, i will:

sing my voice, clear and true...allow my voice to sing me.

when encountering buddha.

my mentor says to me that when encountering buddha _________________.

i'm asking you: space poets.

(Me? i would dance like mad).

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Quiet comes when it will


The self-perpetuating prophecy
rings low like the sound of
still-life music. And I ask:
how do I produce quiet?


The heat rises from my skin
small hairs damp against my neck

And sleep slips beneath my eyelids
as I dream of starry prophets.

(w/ ksd)

Monday, April 30, 2007

GCD vs. the Glitter

Dear Garrett Clifford Durant,

Bugs are much worse than glitter which is much worse than a freshly cleaned sock wrapping a foot which has just stepped in a puddle of water.

Lumpia Latte

Friday, April 27, 2007

Sound unbound

In a perfectly rectangular room whose dimensions are infinite, resonant frequency equals zero. That is to say, there is no sound. In that room, the songs we sing to one another will never be heard.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Lacking resonance

We say strange things to one another.

This morning, for instance:
there are some words I said to you then
I'd like now
to suck back into my mouth and bury beneath my tongue.

But I can't, and so
I suppose
what I'm doing instead is
just letting you know
that I don't like the tinny feel
those words left in the air between us.

Little Sleep's-Head Sprouting Hair In The Moonlight

by Galway Kinnell:


You scream, waking from a nightmare.

When I sleepwalk
into your room, and pick you up,
and hold you up in the moonlight, you cling to me
as if clinging could save us. I think
you think
I will never die, I think I exude
to you the permanence of smoke or stars,
even as
my broken arms heal themselves around you.


I have heard you tell
the sun, don't go down, I have stood by
as you told the flower, don't grow old,
don't die. Little Maud,

I would blow the flame out of your silver cup,
I would suck the rot from your fingernail,
I would brush your sprouting hair of the dying light,
I would scrape the rust off your ivory bones,
I would help death escape through the little ribs of your body,
I would alchemize the ashes of your cradle back into wood,
I would let nothing of you go, ever,

until washerwomen
feel the clothes fall asleep in their hands,
and hens scratch their spell across hatchet blades,
and rats walk away from the cultures of the plague,
and iron twists weapons toward the true north,
and grease refuses to slide in the machinery of progress,
and men feel as free on earth as fleas on the bodies of men,
and lovers no longer whisper to the presence beside them in the
dark, O corpse-to-be ...

And yet perhaps this is the reason you cry,
this the nightmare you wake screaming from:
being forever
in the pre-trembling of a house that falls.


In a restaurant once, everyone
quietly eating, you clambered up
on my lap: to all
the mouthfuls rising toward
all the mouths, at the top of your voice
you cried
your one word, caca! caca! caca!
and each spoonful
stopped, a moment, in midair, in its withering

you cling because
I, like you, only sooner
than you, will go down
the path of vanished alphabets,
the roadlessness
to the other side of the darkness,

your arms
like the shoes left behind,
like the adjectives in the halting speech
of old men,
which once could call up the lost nouns.


And you yourself,
some impossible Tuesday
in the year Two Thousand and Nine, will walk out
among the black stones
of the field, in the rain,

and the stones saying
over their one word, ci-gît, ci-gît, ci-gît,

and the raindrops
hitting you on the fontanel
over and over, and you standing there
unable to let them in.


If one day it happens
you find yourself with someone you love
in a café at one end
of the Pont Mirabeau, at the zinc bar
where white wine stands in upward opening glasses,

and if you commit then, as we did, the error
of thinking,
one day all this will only be memory,

as you stand
at this end of the bridge which arcs,
from love, you think, into enduring love,
learn to reach deeper
into the sorrows
to come – to touch
the almost imaginary bones
under the face, to hear under the laughter
the wind crying across the black stones. Kiss
the mouth
which tells you, here,
here is the world. This mouth. This laughter. These temple bones.

The still undanced cadence of vanishing.


In the light the moon
sends back, I can see in your eyes

the hand that waved once
in my father's eyes, a tiny kite
wobbling far up in the twilight of his last look:

and the angel
of all mortal things lets go the string.


Back you go, into your crib.

The last blackbird lights up his gold wings: farewell.
Your eyes close inside your head,
in sleep. Already
in your dreams the hours begin to sing.

Little sleep's-head sprouting hair in the moonlight,
when I come back
we will go out together,
we will walk out together among
the ten thousand things,
each scratched too late with such knowledge, the wages
of dying is love.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Where love goes in death

I love when two poets speak to each other across space and time. I love finding these concurrences, hearing the infinite echoes, the way our memory and our imagination set up a perpetual motion ping-pong match of minds.

Let me show you what I mean:

John Berger - from And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos

What reconciles me to my own death more than anything else is the image of a place: a place where your bones and mine are buried, thrown, uncovered, together. They are strewn there pell-mell. One of your ribs leans against my skull. A metacarpal of my left hand lies inside your pelvis. (Against my broken ribs your breast like a flower.) The hundred bones of our feet are scattered like gravel. It is strange that this image of our proximity, concerning as it does mere phosphate of calcium, should bestow a sense of peace. Yet it does. With you I can imagine a place where to be phosphate of calcium is enough.

Jeffrey McDaniel - "The Archipelago of Kisses"

We live in a modern society. Husbands and wives don't
grow on trees, like in the old days. So where
does one find love? When you're sixteen it's easy,
like being unleashed with a credit card
in a department store of kisses. There's the first kiss.
The sloppy kiss. The peck.
The sympathy kiss. The backseat smooch. The we
shouldn't be doing this kiss. The but your lips
taste so good kiss. The bury me in an avalanche of tingles kiss.
The I wish you'd quit smoking kiss.
The I accept your apology, but you make me really mad
sometimes kiss. The I know
your tongue like the back of my hand kiss. As you get
older, kisses become scarce. You'll be driving
home and see a damaged kiss on the side of the road,
with its purple thumb out. If you
were younger, you'd pull over, slide open the mouth's
red door just to see how it fits. Oh where
does one find love? If you rub two glances, you get a smile.
Rub two smiles, you get a warm feeling.
Rub two warm feelings and presto-you have a kiss.
Now what? Don't invite the kiss over
and answer the door in your underwear. It'll get suspicious
and stare at your toes. Don't water the kiss with whisky.
It'll turn bright pink and explode into a thousand luscious splinters,
but in the morning it'll be ashamed and sneak out of
your body without saying good-bye,
and you'll remember that kiss forever by all the little cuts it left
on the inside of your mouth. You must
nurture the kiss. Turn out the lights. Notice how it
illuminates the room. Hold it to your chest
and wonder if the sand inside hourglasses comes from a
special beach. Place it on the tongue's pillow,
then look up the first recorded kiss in an encyclopedia: beneath
a Babylonian olive tree in 1200 B.C.
But one kiss levitates above all the others. The
intersection of function and desire. The I do kiss.
The I'll love you through a brick wall kiss.
Even when I'm dead, I'll swim through the Earth,
like a mermaid of the soil, just to be next to your bones.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

I don't know what to call this.

It healed unevenly, my broken bone I forget to remember. A hard, bony bump near the top of my wrist, on the back of my left hand, it is a scar that is its own only memory. When I am older, the arthritis that quietly waits for me will settle there, a prescient ancestral shadow already casting its form into the years still to come. It will find its way there, and I wonder, will I be reminded more often then of how that bone broke? Will I remember that night more clearly?

I am here, now.

And these are the nights, now, I want to remember, nights that follow days of fins and masts and lying in the grass. Blue eyes. Without words, we are becoming our own language.

We wade into the water so cold it hurts, and I listen for your song.

Friday, April 20, 2007

the women and children first

At first we pretend that this is a game. But really, I know it isn’t, and that my mother is just trying to trick me into learning to wash dishes.

She lends me her arms. Sinking into the basin, we both watch. They are far beyond rescue, dry and crackly from the dehydrating scour of the yellow and blue soap. I stand there with my own arms behind my back, so they leave an open space between my elbows and my sides. My mother pushes her own arms through that space, like in a comdey act, and cringes as she searches for the dishes at the floor of the sink. I have always struggled with humor. She is behind me the entire time, telling me that I should remember the way this is done. I can only look down and think about her words, her advice. I wonder why I should know how to do this, if my father does not.

“this is how grandma taught me.” And I picture my grandmother behind my mother, my grandmother’s mother, all the women before them with their arms extending from behind the arms of their children, a great succession with each new generation wondering why, why us, why have we been chosen for this duty to go first.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Every day, there's washing to be done.

And so, the children's clothes and dishes and faces and hands and warm little bodies, baked by the sun, all these she washes, sometimes with a mindful devotion, and other times with an exhausted, almost angry neglect, but each day and each night, she does these things for them until the time comes when, she knows, they will learn and they will know how to do these things for themselves.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Incentive to wash...

"The Lord spoke to Moses: "You shall make a bronze basin with a bronze stand for washing. You shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it; with the water Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and feet and all the altar utensils. When they go into the tent of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to make an offering by fire to the Lord, they shall wash with water, so that they may not die. They shall wash their hands and their feet, and their utensils, so that hey may not die: it shall be a perpetual ordinance for them, for him and for his descendants throughout their generations." Exodus 30:17-21

God doesn't mess around with chores.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

do the dishes...don't be lazy...don't be shy.

before you eat

do the dishes

after you eat

do the dishes


do the dishes


it doens't bother you

to do the dishes


Sunday, April 8, 2007

inspiration, influence, easter sunday.

my cousin and i are both artists. but we have very different ideas about how things work.

we are eight. my cousin describes to me a devotional figure of the Madonna, pasted to a ceiling fan blade in the house he grew up in. I never visited the house in manila, but in a way, the superstitions he whispered to me after sunday school revealed a house of his invention, one impossible to visit without his stuttered, meandering voice.

sitting indian-style on the blue carpet of the First Anglican Church, he begins by twirling his pointed index finger around in circles, gazing up to the ceiling.

he says she blesses the room with each turn, each successive gust of wind, strong or weak, full of her wisdom, forgiveness and compassion. I am amazed, and i laugh. it isn't funny he says. but i don't think it's funny either, i think it's special, and i ask if i can go see the blessed virgin-of-the-fan sometime, when i visit him. he says no, that they're moving, and that no one knows he put her up there.

one day when my uncle was painting the ceiling of my cousins house, he left the ladder out, amidst a canvas tarp and assorted shades of beige that turned to fatty colored mud on the walls. when his father left, my cousin moved the ladder over the ruffled terrain of canvas, avoiding the pints of sweet smelling paint, until it was under the five-winged ceiling fan. climbing up to the fan, he carried the tiny statue in his mouth, biting onto the figurine's head. a necessary act, one that had to be decided upon in an improvisational manner.

i am full of questions for him. how he secured her to the blade, how it could be that no one found him out over the years. he just smiles though, raises his hand to tell me that these are things that i do not need to worry about.

there are still times, today even, when i look up at the ceilings in my own house. each home having its own particular kind of ceiling. some very smooth, others with rough specks of plaster in which i can see animals, nation-states, faces, a man with a beard. but i ignore the images. i focus on the tints of the white, the shadows coming and going, into and out of each other. the space becomes vast in that blankness, and I see the light fixtures, the places where the walls and ceiling meet, the corners, the cob-webs; all the time waiting for something spectacular to hit me in the face.

New terrain, or the word I said and what I didn't say

What is this thing called love?

“Unsettling” is not quite the right word. Or it is…just not in the way we’re used to hearing it.

Un-settling…things are shifting. I am shifting. I am moving, and I am moved…by you.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Bone-breaking breath, and the memory that supersedes it

I have fractured my left rib 6 twice, both times from coughing too hard. It is because of my asthma. Miasma. My terrible friend who's been with me always, who renders shame upon me, unable to speak, to breathe, to be comfortably in the company of others. It is because of my asthma that I have any direct knowledge or experience of a broken bone in my body. It was a bone that I did not feel break, however; was not even certain the first time that that was what explained the stabbing pain in my left side each time I breathed my already painful breaths. The second time, of course, I remembered and I knew.

But it was not a gnashing, splintering, snapping break, a false memory of which I carry deep within myself, much like my memories of riding in an open helicopter and walking on wooden stilts, memories that are not my own, in this case a bone breaking and crumbling into a thousand tiny, powdery pieces, puncturing tender sinews and skin, painful to my ears somehow, like wet bricks.

And there is something of myself there, in that perception of a memory, in that bone that did not break, those bones that do not break, but I don't know what it is.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

missing children

When my legs fall asleep I panic. I always have, and though I’ve known what this feels like my entire life, it is never familiar—I never know what to do.

And I can recall my father telling me that poor circulation is in my blood. Curious—my blood circulates poorly, because there is something poor inside its design. I think of those genes, those schematics compressed and reiterated, slowing down in my feet and condensing into pins and needles, weighing down my extremities. It’s numb, but I feel it so much more strongly now: its weight is new, alien, like it has grown suddenly into a giant’s foot. I can’t move, and I can’t articulate the deep sensation that stirs from the center, almost from the bone.

That blood isn’t moving. I wonder about the other things that live in it. The likelihood of heart disease, cancer, the slow and resilient deadliness that started somewhere in the unperceivable past, inched forward, a different kind of relative of mine waiting inside tender tissues my entire life.

My granduncle died of “ghost itch,” so they say. My dad has a photo of him inside his wallet, sitting in a wheelchair, missing his right leg because of advanced diabetes that in the Philippines went untreated for decades. He was a shoemaker, like my father’s father, his mother, his aunts and uncles and their mothers and fathers. He used to sit under a Banyan tree with a tiny hammer and tacks with heads the size of ladybugs. In the photo, the tree looks familiarly exotic, only there is a spot on its trunk worn from the backsides of my ancestors.

On the way home from the hospital, after his amputation, he said that he could so clearly hear the sounds of the cars, dragging their exhaust pipes, the skipping wheels of bicycles, especially the ones that had baseball cards fixed between the spokes of the back wheel. He said he could feel the wind on his missing leg through the open side window of the ambulance, later, through his bedroom window. The strange feeling of goose-pimples, the tiny hairs raising, the numbness we share, the terrible itch that’d kill him. He would describe many lingering senses in that long gone leg, even the cramps he would get in the knee just before stormy weather.

The feeling passes eventually, the pressure on my nerves subsides and the blood seems to flow normally, back on its course. I try and imagine a greater course, one outside of me. The one my brother has, the one my sisters would have had, their arteries and veins stretching beyond the body and forming children, filling them with our shoddy blood, circulating poorly. I can feel the itchy skin of children absent in the future, my future, but others’ also. The unrealized, infinite possibilities of sense—I feel the lack of the visual pleasures they might know, the taste for sweets, the sound of the radiator coming on, and the feeling of that numbness as well; pervasive, deep, given for all of us to bear.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Layer Cake

I am trying to be as honest as I can.


How are we always changing and yet never seem to change?

Some of the greatest violence is done with great subtlety.

We spend our lives trying to control what can never be controlled.

Wholeness is not the same thing as healing.

We want to know God but we don't want to know each other.

Let those with ears hear and those with eyes see.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

as thin as thread

"you hold the needle between your thumb and forefinger, not too tight, or you'll get tired, not too loose, or your stich'll be bad."

as frail as she was, my grandmother had trouble sleeping during the twilight of her life. it's a strange switch, or contrast, when i'd come home at 4AM a little drunk and she'd be sitting on the floor beside her bed sewing the lord's prayer, the last supper, other bible verses onto tan fabric.

and i can't explain my interest in the things she can't do, shouldn't do, is too weak to do. she can barely smile these days, and her sewing coat hangs from her thin shoulders in a way that hugs her like a dense cloud. but she sews and sews, follows patterns, rips stitches. she never complains about the her sore knuckles, the deep bone-pain that gives her chills and moves up straining her tendons.

"i did these things years ago, before i was married... what was it... 1920? it's something i don't even have to think about doing, i just sew, like it's built in my hands"

built in the hands. rooted in the bones.

she sits at the dining room table as a pot of water boils, smells like lemon grass and pepper, rose, milk and chicken fat. she waits with her hands crossed, waits for us to join her.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Secret Space

I hid under the dining room table long before the dinner party started.

I counted the legs, both wooden and human. The worn shoes, scuff marks, panty house, hems.

What if the table collapsed and I was crushed.

Wait, have to adjust to avoid getting kicked.

I hear the muffled sound of voices, laughter, munching.

My heart beats in my ears and somehow I am surrounded by life and yet utterly alone.

From a star distance we see how life goes on and the little girl breathes from her own secret space. Waiting for God to pass by--a whirwind? a fire? an earthquake? a hurricane? a chicken leg? a deviled egg?

A whisper.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Bone growth

Breathing deeply into myself
(it is time),
I draw in the slack.

I close my eyes, and I return
to the cool, still space
that is mine.
And I listen for the slow formation
of dense matter.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

as you go, as i go.

"...but how much does it matter to you? the things you lost, the art, the clothes and all that? has it been a zen/cleansing experience? what do you miss the most?"

"there are various parts of me that are battling over what i, as a whole, will miss most above all that was lost. there is my head, which says i must yearn for the costly things, my heart, which tends to remember many things that were only important, only remembered in passing: the meals cooling in the freezer, the old socks and the first quilt i made. There are things my eyes miss, patches on walls, things my ears strain to hear again. my hands and my feet-- my back even, misses the carpet i laid on as i called you on the phone that morning. the truth is, i miss all of it, a little bit, and that is where the whole emotion comes from, the entire experience that, even as i write to you, sulks back to the black and abandoned house, away from me and back to where it wants to be. i try to hold on to it, but i feel a vacuum left wide and precarious in front of me when it goes at last, as things do. as you do. as i do."

Monday, March 12, 2007

The candles burn, our ages change, and the shadows shrink and expand.

Sometimes, I don’t say what I mean. My brain gets muddled, my words obscure. When I spoke to you of birthdays and change, I was trying to speak of becoming, not aging per se…to give language to an observation that we seem, somehow, to become more fully ourselves, that (to use some of the language floating in the space between us) our resonant frequencies continue to grow clearer, stronger. A strange and absurd thing for me to say…because, of course, we are always fully ourselves, at every moment along the way. But still, one that strikes me as true.

You say you’re in a better place, and maybe that’s what I mean I see.
We don’t, after all, live inside Plato’s cave.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

I am dazzled by the hazy brilliance of the flames.

Animals don’t speak.

Laughing together, we cast shadows in the lamplight. Our arms and legs, our hands and feet, I wonder what happens to the animals we make on my bedroom wall...the animals whose forms we imagine, the animals whose forms we become?

Tongue-tied, searching for language, my mouth doesn't say what my heart knows, and my words continue to miss the mark. Still, I speak. I am learning to trust my foolishness.

I want to learn not to speak, like the animals do.

In the lamplight, in the starlight, in the light of our flickering desire, we laugh and see the animals still, and I am not afraid.

Long ago, he wrote to me, “Everything became absurd and luminous in that laughter. The world was turned inside out...."

how hard is it to see fire, anyway.

we joke, "wouldn't it be funny if one day you reached an age when you couldn't see animals anymore!"

and we laughed at that idea, the blatant obsurdity.

it's not so funny though.

and i cringe at the thought that it's happened, but we haven't noticed.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Burning Bush

Moses worked everyday. Hard work. Hiking through the hot desert, herding obstinate sheep from one place of famine to the next. His mind running form the past to the present, from the past to present. No future, not yet.

How many times did he pass that bush that burned but was not consumed? God did NOT speak until Moses turned aside and took notice.

What a jerk, that God. Doesn't God know how busy I am? I don't have time to be looking for burning bushes.

Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

Burn, baby, burn.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Tuesday, March 6, 2007


And now I wonder, where did all the ashes go? How did they keep singing before they burned? And what were the words they sang?

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Burning bones

I was covered in your ashes, and beautiful. The sky was wide open with your sun shining down upon me.

Cranes fly overhead. It is a calm, cool day, with autumn in the air. A fire burns, and we are safe.

I’ve been rowing every day we’ve been here, except for Monday. I go out alone. On Sunday, our first day here, how I enjoyed looking back towards the water’s edge and seeing your form lit by the sun along the sandy banks. Later, returning to the shoreline, I brushed your hair.

I stayed until both switches were turned. I watched your smoke rise into the sky, moving swiftly with the clouds above, on your way. I smelled your smoke. At the end of the day, I returned and saw your bones, so strong and white. It was hard to see your bones, and I cried at the thought before I did. I howled at the thought, driving along the quiet highway. I howled and keened for your dry, quiet bones waiting for me.

The cool cloudy sky opened up, and the golden evening sun poured itself down over me.

Monday, February 26, 2007

drawing room etude 2

"...happy only in moments of pure idleness when I was comfortable.

how purely material was everything that I desired in life, and how easily I could dispense with the intellect."

in the drawing room we had sherry with silver spoons. drew the curtains, up to sea, down for a cool dampness, oh what a mistake, it is we that should see the waves and yello sky. it's quite charming, Soon Liszt will play, you know him-? very topps. a mesh of dresses and teas and invitations, and oh look here a delivery of orchids from meseur (he payed for them with Aunt Leoni'es silvers. t'adores that Mme. O so so much that he'll barely have any renumerations about it later. he'll have scant dreams. any case, all are wellcomed and sitting pretty and gussying and gusshing. Here, its plodding and prissing onward when that Liszt stops for a sec of a second and i'm all in arms, that's the finish?!? just the next movement honey, dont get so troubled. Liszt begins again and bliss restored for the chitter of gulag gossip (all dusted in scents and shmmying pearls).... no no no that is all behind this couch i suppose a secret written on male's lapels that woman must be taken to dinner this night

leisure time:.

At Dinner: ladies collected, senses getting propt. eyes aface.. food fawns in on butterfly wings, alightng pm everything anything. first positions open and marked. wallpaper, a decoaretd thing, clings. first course lands as a loaf bear, on his back, legsup. viviseced and laid bare the mushy insides of his sugar wheat flour insides. Nice with jam or butter. They are tthe latest these days. Magir speaks: TO CHEEZ BUttONS for her gracious hostesness please thank you. open now, theDuke du sluffs off the niceties and huffs Is It About God? A roomfull of em they prick up! no doubt an easy opportunity for scandal, the good questions thus remians. such would never be a problem if arrtists dined alone or with thier kynd; or if nobility maintained its own bylaw. {and oh so rare that noble artist. still, always pleasure from idleness}

lunch party

there's much ticking in my ear i have to wonder if it's safe to go about finding ticking's end. an itching to move or a licking to get out. cat's always licking and caught the lines, the ways out. bless him for it. he runs. so we'll see(maybe disagree). bet it would have been a party. i find myself saying that so often now;

i'm slow, the exits are many, i'm slow to say this or that and follow, or else it's the cave, the leaves, which we wanted anyway but which must be innacessible. out of here! thats what they say. in other words, i like it, but hey it's an escape like any other, so can we live in it? what are the options? bring me options, that's what i repeat to my sef all through my laze. yeah bring it to me .

i'm the one wanting openness, branches to walk on, white clothing, you get the idea, and then it's just bad lighting (which they say helps for the hallucinations and that's quite alright) although..dirt..big leaves. that would be luff

Sunday, February 25, 2007

more ashes: the vase is a preparation, an example of patience.


To say that nothing has changed is wrong, or at least, it misses the mark.

Shell-shocked and trembling, I lose my bearings, and this is what I want.
True north remains, but I don't know what this place is, this place where I find myself alone with you.
I am patient.

We’re in an abandoned skyscraper in Kuala Lumpur.
130 floors up, we can see a garden below, from this space that is ours but not ours.
Kuala Lumpur is the only city in the world to have a million-year-old primary forest within the heart of the city.

And you're right, I'm not leading a caravan through the desert, where ashes hide among the grains of sand and water flows beneath.

Receiving and transmitting, I am following the current that flows between us, traveling along its coil, electrically charged, invisible.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

indefinite maps; a burning bush.

and further more, there's the house on 181st street, the one willfully burnt down. the one abandoned at first, only later to be demolished by its owners with fire. why they did this i don't know, but there they were, standing in front of the smoldering cinders with a cardboard sign that read, "please help--god bless." we could smell the stale pepper scent of the burnt wood down the block. then later, the ash stirred up by gusts of wind. aren't those clouds of ash still the house, the same one as before, now transformed, its material diffused into the air? the house opened, its walls loosened, spread out by the wind, as ash. where are the maps for these places, these homes blurred and cloudy. and god sees, i suppose, blesses through such flames. if we are ash, as you say, then god burns the bush, is behind it at the beginning, sees to it that there is light in the end.

Ash Wednesday

A smudge of ash across my forehead, crumbling down onto the bridge of my nose: "May God have mercy on you and guide you on your way." My son cried, terrified, his head buried against me, "But I don't want ashes, Mama, I don't want ashes, don't make me get ashes!" And of course, I didn't and never would. His seemed a strangely prescient objection, a poignant and wordless fear of death, his own demise when he will become ashes again. We are all but ashes, even our children, even our mothers; that is what we are reminded of now. Not of the abundant gift of grace, but of our own finiteness, our end. And we wear and bear this sign as we leave from this dark place, just as our knees bear the weight of our bodies as we bow low on the altar: "I come, I come."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A Curious Smudge

There lay a curious smudge on the atlas right on the point of my destination. Days earlier I had marked the spot precisely with my pen, and now, as I am looking back on the spot and wondering the logistics of getting there, the exact point has indeed vanished and, instead, a watery blur of inks lays stained.

In order to get there I wonder if I could locate the exact perimeter, encircle the area, and lasso it in. It is in there, I know, somewhere within that watery smudge, and perhaps I can still find it.

An enduring languagelessness and the sound of water

After the dream of the tidal pools:

In the water, with you, what I whispered was, "This is almost unbearably contrast to so much else." And I’m thinking now of your skin on mine, underwater, so warm, where there are no words.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

speaking to the deaf

my deaf uncle though, he speaks in tangles of flesh: kind of. hands that are naked and used for the purpose of speaking-- this just complicates things though. he had my aunt try and translate literally from the american sign language into english and twisted from her tongue came this and that, confounded strings of sentences: inelegant. he laughed at me, because he could see in my eyes a confusion that only his hands could unknot. once, while he was fixing a butane barbecue grill, his right arm caught fire in a freak accident and he had to be rushed to the hospital. his arms and shoulders were covered in second and third degree burns, and he was red with both arms elevated, like in the first moves of the YMCA dance.

and when i looked at him, into his eyes, i felt him say to me, "to know true silence, to live wordlessly we must endure pain not unlike this."

and his arms remind me of my baptism. if the water rises up, if the banks of the river recede, my uncle will notice. he squats beside the river, spits into the sand, and we both remember the day i came to know christ.

carried on the shoudlers of church men, their strange hands against my elbows and the back of my neck, the women clapping their hands, my brother, my friend in the white linen suit. there is the frail, breaking light, the blank undersides of leaves, the river rushing ahead, babbling. and there is the song, the singing voices loud under me, to the side, leading the way.

and my uncle in silence, a deep kind of languagelessness that years later, now even, i wish to endure with him.

Text burlesque

For words are clothes; they are not flesh, not even skin. They are adornment, protection. Each a performative utterance, a costume worn in consideration of others, either for or against. What is naked is something else, something which I cannot name for you; I cannot wear for you. The more I seek to reveal, the more I obscure. Yet it is precisely within those acts of obscuring, each a repeated act of pointing towards, that disclosure might begin to occur.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

"my first love, taller than me"

"what are you looking forward to?"
"not a lot. the summer. maybe."
"what about it?"
"getting out of oregon. heading east. seeing you."

you say this, and i cringe (but you didn't see, i think). i read to you over the phone that she says her words are all borrowed, ill fitted, like baggy suits. you ask me "what about nakedness," and i'm worried now, because i could borrow those words from you and share them, or i could just keep them to myself.

i like to hear you move around your apartment over the phone, because it is the same as when i knock on your door and i hear you move around in there, your bare feet, your tennis shoes, your socks.

"there's more to look forward to than me, don't you think?"

no answer.

because you still crave santa anna winds; the rain-river through your front yard.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A suit of words

And all of my words are borrowed; like a poorly fitting suit, they sag and hang and never quite fit the way I wish they would. Nevertheless, I wear them repeatedly on my outings into the world of others. Again and again I clothe my body with their forms, and they begin to show mine. After repeated wearings, they grow thin, hems unravel, buttons pop off, and zippers give way, in the places where they endure the most friction, the most stress, and in the places where they are worn most closely. In the end, however, even if I tailor my suit of words to fit my form perfectly, all I’m really left with is a ready-made form, altered.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Pressed Against the Pain, Part 4

Until that spring of 1985, life had been quiet and relatively uneventful. The birth of three healthy children, a simple home, and a life of making ends meet.

And then the phone call from his mother. Heart attack. Harlon gone. Services the following Tuesday. His mother’s voice hadn’t changed much in 30 thirty years.

Jack couldn’t bring himself to go to the services. The man who could not remember him in life would not be remembered in death, he thought.

But Jack had been remembered.

The check arrived unceremoniously in a brown envelope from a generic-sounding law firm. 500,000 dollars. An amount Jack not only never imagined seeing in one place but also never thought could be attributed to him. The letter accompanying the check was terse and to the point: “Your inheritance, my son.” Only a few words, but “my son” was all Jack needed to hear. The disowned son was owned and claimed. The warm tears ran down his cheeks as his hands trembled, re-reading the four words.

Then, what to do with the money? Mary wanted to invest it. “Be sensible,” she advised. But Jack wanted a gift. An extravagant gift for Mary. Something to say thank you for claiming him every year he’d been disowned by his father.

Stepping out of Hannigan’s that fresh spring day sporting a freshly tailored tweed blazer, Jack’s eyes caught the “For Sale” sign in the back entrance window of the closed bistro. He and Mary had been there a few times. French-y, he thought, but good wine. It was a quaint and inviting space. Taupe adobe throughout with dark burnished hard wood floors. A small bar area with an impressive silver-tinted cappuccino machine as the focal point. The bar faced a small cozy fireplace in the corner near the front door entrance. The place was usually bathed in warm light due to the front wall being a sliding glass garage door. He could already imagine the twinkly lights that could adorn the dark ceiling.

A place for conversation and connection, he thought, where everyone is welcome. No one will be disowned from here; everyone will be family.

Mary loved the idea and instead of yet another restaurant on the Brookside strip she suggested a coffee shop. “Gold Coast” she called it, after the coffee-producing area in Africa. But Gold Coast reminded Jack that that anyone can wash up here and find untold treasure.

And so Gold Coast Coffee Shop was born. They decided that since they wanted to seem like mere parishioners of the place, they would keep their ownership a secret, hiring a financial manager who hired the store manager who in turned hired the rest of the staff. And so every day at 2pm, they arrived to preside over the doings of Gold Coast. In their eyes, the godparents of everyone who walked through the door. In everyone else's eyes, table 9.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

The City I Crave

The city I crave resides in a fantasy of pressed together flesh. Space is not scarce, nor is identity stable. Where one oversleeps is called home. Restaurants are made up of a myriad of rooms where one can be alone or with company, eat or sleep. Space is unsigned and unmarked and no one space is marketed for a single functional purpose. Lips press against ears, language is spoken for the pleasure of oral compulsion, communication attained by gesture and gaze. Belonging is temporary, shifting with backdrop and desire, and no expectation of its permanence is understood. Activity is not regulated by time. Borders and nationality are fictions to be answered to by all with the theatrics of multiple identification cards and contradictory allegiances. Policing is impossible yet life is respected. Flags exist only to add colour, their designs and imputed meanings replaced every week on a Tuesday. Cities change name with the flags, their citizens dropping pieces of paper with scrawled phonetic renderings of alternatives into a hat the day before to be picked at random. Buildings are covered in digital skins, changing architectural features at the touch of a button, their height variable at once through the projection wrapping their upper floors in the shifting colours of the sky above.

(Peter H's Funeral) A Time To Render

I just went to pray, nothing on the doorstep, the theatre chairs
empty, the performance cancelled...annulled...I search for my name, I
google, I seek. I ask for direction. I as for a structure, belief,
system, blot.

I sneeze, my glands swell.

I am detached, like his eyes that peer at me. I cannot win what.

My shoulder blades cool. My chest stiffens. I am a shell. The sound
of the sea omits from my orifices. The smell of a pungent rotting
welcomes night.

Lady Salsa

That's the best time of her life
No matter how down you are
How many days did you swim with'em
Hello darling
White light was amazing
Its very kind of
I was with a group and they said
Stay together
I was doing some flips and then they showed me and if I'm
No you've got
They've the same money as me
And where the hell were they
One of the dolphins went to say like
To say goodbye it was incredible
Very wow
Amazing amazing
If you live there you get on a bus
You can go into the centre and
There's a door that they leave open just down the road
He actually knows two dolphins and
Whenever he goes in the sea he makes a noise and they come to
So what did you do with your flat in London
Really that noisy
You don't know what a headache is even if I move my head like
Even that didn't get me
I would get to work and I was thrown off balance
Where did you get these black eyes from
And your starting on about conscience
Didn't you tell the council about that
Myself there's no way
Is that on the Abbey Road
I don't mind
To come back next week
You can't even walk
You're a floosy if you don't cover yourself up
But prostitution's unbelievable
Every other woman you see
Its so religious
In London there's an idyllic spot where all the dancers hang out
Did you have a relationship with'em
We talked about it over two or three days
I didn't want to be responsible for'em
He'd done it to someone else.
He wants to bring her over
How many thousand pounds a month
I said no
I'm going but what I decided
You haven't wasted it
Only wanted the lightning unless your an American
They're not looking at my work and I find that hugely
I hate it
The fact is I can come over here and get a job tomorrow
I'm reading a lot
Decided to give it a couple of months and then I'm coming back
London's such a right place
If you've been taught how to get on with people you should be fine
All kinds of walks of life and in the end that's what I need
In two years they might
Maybe not
That was the thing I didn't like about London
I should've picked that up really quickly
I'm not worried about here
How are you
I know its lovely
Its difficult I know
If ever you're back in London you give me a ring
Have you got a business card
What about colours
You got a permanent headache
What are we doing then
Couldn't sit for five minutes
Went to the Park
Walking through the Park
It wasn't their fault
Even that any noise
Amplified like four million times
I was like
When I went in there
On top of the world
Went to speak to my dad and he doesn't understand why
I want to speak to him my real dad
My real dad he's in Australia
I started screaming and all you can hear is me screaming
And all you can hear is me screaming
Once it started like looney
Scary wow
Like its a great big theatre
Lady Salsa
I'll teach you how to do it

Thursday, February 1, 2007

she said he said

he said

"what are we doing here, anyway. why do i even bother?"

she said

"if I am going to be here anyway, if i am going to be taking up time and space, then i must first know about light."

(bc & jym)

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Pressed Against the Pane, Part 3

Jack could not remember having ever felt so sad, ashamed and disappointed.

Mary gently caressed his arm, saying, “Not to worry, not to worry, I love you, I love you…”

Jack tried to smile strongly down at his beautiful, trusting wife, but his disappointment was hard to hide.

Jack’s performance that night was lifeless. His heart and mind were far away, and so when his knee twisted in the landing of a grand tour jete, he barely noticed the audience gasp or the pain shoot through his left leg.

Lying in the hospital for the following two weeks as the tendons in his knee attempted to mend, Jack kept imagining his father walking into the room, telling him he was sorry for leaving, that he was proud of him, and asking him to please come home. He stared at the door a lot.

But only Mary came to his room, and more truthfully, Mary rarely left the room in order to enter it.

The only other visitor was the director of the tour. After speaking with the doctor and hearing the negative prognosis concerning Jack’s ability to ever dance again, the director informed the couple that the tour would have to move on without them. They were devastated. Mary tried to hide her grief but her chest had sunk several inches. To have lost both biological family and adopted family in the span of a few short days was almost too much for Jack to bear. He fell into a deep depression and probably would have never walked again if not for the persistent presence of Mary at his side. As she silently moved his body to stand or to take one more step, her muscles spoke to his, infusing him with a hope that could not be contained by words. Their bodies kept them alive.

As he began to take longer and longer jaunts, the sight of Mary’s joy at his accomplishment almost erased the loss and disappointment clinging to his being. But not quite.

Leaving the hospital a few weeks later to begin their new life together, Jack made Mary promise never to mention his past in dancing again.

Mary began teaching in the small ballet school in Kansas City begun by Madame Najinska where she had been a student herself. Jack retreated to stocking shelves at a small, family-owned bookstore. The silence of printed words was a much needed respite from the limelight and applause of the dance world.

A few years later Mary had an opportunity to transfer to the Najinska School in Tulsa, and she convinced Jack that proximity to his family might one day lead to an actual reunion. Jack remained doubtful, but he wanted Mary to be happy.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Two borrowed sound-images

High heels on wet pavement
When you cover your ears, the low sound that's still there

Sunday, January 28, 2007


People die of exposure. Nevertheless, we continue to speak.

Friday, January 26, 2007

3 childhood fears

As a child, I had thorough fear of God. I feared him everywhere I went. I feared being seen by him, being heard by him. I feared he would notice my movements, chastise me for placing a foot out of step.
I feared him most the day a very sweaty pastor told me the Lord lived inside my heart. I grabbed my chest, petrified with fear. “My…heart?” I asked weakly. “How did he get in there?” The pastor would look at me impatiently from his pulpit and tell me not to blaspheme. I had never heard such an awful word. I knew then I was a sinner of exceptional note.
At church I would not dare take the Holy Communion. I refused to drink the blood of Christ, let alone eat his body. I thought, how much more divine sacrament can I take into myself? How much more will the Lord tolerate me?
My heart would race as my family approached the altar, preparing to partake in the bread and wine. I knew the pounding of my heart was Jesus warning me. I thought, Christ wouldn't want to dwell in a body as unclean as mine. I thought, one day he'll burst from my chest, breaking through my body leaving me bleeding to death on the ground. As I lay there dying, I would watch in complete awe the amazing spectacle of God shooting up to the sky, back into heaven like a rocket.
I cried when the pastor placed the wafer on the tip of my tongue; cried when I sipped from the chalice of grape juice--cried when later, I wet myself in front of the congregation.
Perhaps I was better off though, discharging the contents of my bladder rather than that of my heart.

I am terrified of my mother. When her quiet broke, when she screamed at my brother and me--when we would hide behind piles of clothes. She became huge standing over me, her hands moving wildly, like a storm, like veins of lighting, scolding me for eating too much or leaving the milk out or dragging mud into the house. Mostly I was amazed at how much more alive she seemed then, moments before she slapped my open palms with a dinner spoon. She would do it again, again, again till she was short of breath and red in the face.
I'd cry and scream, but she didn't hear me, because already, she was holding me, telling me she was sorry. As she kneeled to hold me, her white apron would fill with air and rise like a gigantic, glistening swell of water, enveloping me in the scent of linen and dried fruits. And then she would cry.
I would tell her to stop crying, that if she wanted she could send me to bed early, take away my dinner, give me more chores--punish me in some additional way. She would only shake her head and apologize over and over.
So I would stand there silently as she cried on the ground, both hands turned up towards the ceiling. Looking at her, I felt as though I was back in the womb, kicking her but having no memory of it.

there is an urn in my parents house, an asian fantasy vase with blue chrysanthemums and white grasshoppers. it rests in a box under my mother's bed: she's hiding it from her mother, my grandmother. one day, that's where we will keep her ashes, and when she is dead and gone we will move the urn to a place of greater honor. the vase is a preparation, an example of patience.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


The cicada killed trees line the highway,
their brown tips ready to fall to the earth
and plant the eggs of these ancient bugs,
where they wait out a generation
of sorrow, war, love, ambivalence
and then emerge in droves
madly mating and dying quickly.

I’m lost on the way to your house
and I should dig my phone
out of my purse, call you, and find out
where I went wrong. But I wait it out,
hope to find my way.

We build paths to one another, coat them with tar and rock
and follow them endlessly. I’m embarrassed
in front of the cicadas. They don’t even have mouths,
but every cycle of 17 years they know
to rise from the earth to seek and to find.

I pull into a gas station and browse the aisle
hoping that the route will appear somewhere
among the red and blue packages
of beef jerky and cheese puffs.

Without an answer I fill up the tank,
get back in the car, and drive.
My phone rings and its you. I let it ring.
The sun is going down, the stars start breaking through.
The bugs keep breathing, the hours move along,
and I keep searching the long stretches of pavement.

Pressed Against the Pane

After Jack’s younger sisters began taking classes with the world-renowned ballerina Bronislava Najinska, Jack told his parents that he would meet his sisters after class to escort them home, for safety’s sake. He failed to mention that he arrived to meet them early enough to take class himself.

Madame Najinska perceived his potential as a dancer almost immediately. His lyricism came natuarally, and he was stronger than the other boys due to his father forcing him to labor on the oil rigs.

His secret life continued for several years until age seventeen when Madame Najinska recommended him for the touring company, Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe. Faced with the opportunity of dancing all over the world, Jack could not say no. Imagining his father’s reaction, he realized that he could not share his plans with his family. He merely told his mother that he would be leaving, not to worry, and that he would be in touch. Despite her begging him to stay, he packed his trunk and boarded the train to Kansas City.

As the tour began, he quickly scaled the hierarchy of the company. He smiled to see himself featured on playbills and his name printed in bold letters in the program notes. It was on this first tour that he changed his name from Jack Duffer to Jacques Dupre. Jacques Dupre seemed a worthy name for a world class danseur partnering the likes of Alexandra Danilova.

But it was also during this first tour that entertaining became his second love. Mary Drake entered the stage early in the tour. She had been a student of Madame Najinska’s satellite school in Kansas City, and having shared a dance mentor, they immediately felt a connection. To Jack, Mary sparkled on stage and her intellect and humor sparkled off stage.

When the company returned to Kansas City in 1955, Jack decided that it was time to wed Mary and to be honest with his family. Jack and Mary were headlining that night in Blue Danube. Jack called his family a week prior and invited them to come meet his new wife. His mother was delighted to hear from him but confused as to why they had to meet them at a theater. Jack insisted that they go there, though he lacked the courage to tell them why.

Jack wanted to believe that once his father saw what a smash hit he was, what a name he had made for himself, and that he was as hard-working and successful as his father, Harlon would be proud. Finally, he and Mary could be a part of the family.

Jack never knew if they stayed for the show to see him or not. His mother came around to the stage door during intermission to hug him, meet Mary and apologize. “You know he can’t handle this, Jackie.” She said.

“No I didn’t,” he thought.

She fussed with the sequins on his bodice and tried to smile at him, but she couldn’t look him in the face. “Be in touch, dear,” she said as she turned to go.

“Aren’t you going to stay to see our big number? We’re starring together!” Jack asked in disbelief.

“I’m sorry Jackie, it’s just too much…it’s just too much…” her voiced trailed off as she quickly walked away.

situation with one and many values

a is greater than b

b is greater than c

c is greater than d

d is greater than a


Fire and respect, ch. 1

...words, which are made for singing and enchanting, rarely make contact with thought.

Sherpas unite!

I am a Sherpa. I walk the line between carrying and hauling. I am a human masquerading as donkey via Sherpa. I make my way along the city streets of my neighborhood. I carry boxes, bags, odd shaped items along the paths of concrete en masse to my abode. My seasonal trek depends on need, location and connection to the places I navigate.

Sometimes I see other Sherpas making their way through the canyons of my city. I see them in the distance, colorful silhouettes, schlepping backpacks, odd shaped cases, packages and bags. Most often, I see them with odd black bags on small wheels that they pull along, walking fast, eyes darting about. Typically, taxi cabs as yellow ego mobiles honk at us as we parade along our daily routes, their honks portraying their lack of understanding of the Sherpas' urban pedestrian ways.

Most Sherpas have tugged cardboard boxes, two or more suitcases, large packs of toilet paper shrink-wrapped and white bags with groceries weighing us down. An experienced Sherpa will know that it is best to carry the carton of milk with double plastic bags. Periodically, I will see a Sherpa wrestling with a chair, or large bags of what appears to be laundry. Most Sherpas are polite to others along the high-streets, we know how to carry the items without bumping others, we know that we are practicing an inner code of silence when sharing the city streets.

As a good Sherpa I travel to and fro along the train lines that connect my urban village to others. A good Sherpa knows his or her way around and understands the intrinsic value of the map. As visitor to other villages within the confines of my city, I am identified as "other." I carry items with me that denote I am from another place. The local is "other" confined within the locale.

In my treks outside of the transit free-zones, I realize that the way of the Sherpa is that which is a shared experience. I see a Sherpa approaching with a perambulator with a baby tucked inside, the Sherpa is carrying items in brown bags, as well as the four-wheeled device which is loaded down with items. I try to catch her eye, as if—"We are the same, I too merge my life as a Sherpa"—she glances away and pushes off into the distance behind me. I make the humble realization that our group has not unified as of yet, as there are too many of us navigating the city at any given time.

Monday, January 22, 2007


How honest do we allow ourselves to become?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Memory, Mercy, and The All-Seeing Sun

A friend told me she believed that a memory was an agreement between two people and the space in which the event occurred. I told her though I’d never thought of it that way, I agreed completely. She used a word other than ‘agreement’, maybe it was a ‘contract’… should I just stop writing here?

The things we see are of course not the things we see but light reflected off of them, perceived by our eyes and put together by our brains and then associated with some language we have stored away up there. Two people can see the same object or event, but the light waves that mediate this event are different, coming from different angles, and, according to Einstein’s special theory of relativity, even at different times to the observer. So we find the same rock sending each observer similar, but unique observations. Here I would like to cite Mr. John Cage saying, “Everyone has the best seat in the house.”

To speak of the same event then, even if perfectly recorded in our memories – every detail crisp, every book in order, every shade perfection; and this for both parties – is impossible as there is a fundamental discrepancy in our recording of the event. Perhaps the word ‘compromise’ would serve us better than ‘contract’. Or maybe not. Enter mercy.

Between two observers, a memory has to be a compromise. We are separate beings with separate experiences. The following diagram is one my roommate showed me. He is much smarter than I and I think it had something to do with a man whose name sounds as though it would be spelled “Flousser” but that looks French and I believe the ‘er’ is pronounced as in ‘her’, but it deals with phenomena and projects and I don’t want to say, “The way I understood it is…” but rather I’d just like to take the symbol and use it as it crystallized something in my own thinking. Besides, I don’t think my interpretation is too off…


The horizontal lines are experiences, events, or projects, the vertical lines are individuals, observers, phenomena. That may be completely wrong, but the idea is clear either way. Where an event and an individual cross, there is an experience, and even if two individuals cross the same event, the experiences are located in different places and thus not the same experience.

Without common experience, perfect communication is lost because sometimes I mean this and say that and you hear what and you think who. This is why we need compromise. Even more, this is why we need mercy. To know that we’re always speaking in approximations, we’re never getting it right, we’re never fully understanding one another can make interacting fairly discouraging. We are often misquoted, mistaken, downright wrong, and with this fact in place, we are in need of grace for those unfortunate individuals on the receiving end of our blunderous attempts at social interaction.

But the space knows. The sun, the source of all light knows. Something happened in this room, and though there is no possible way to record this happening, the past is past and any record is a mere representation, a biased angle of specific and unique information, not the totality of the event, but the fact is that it happened. A short story for the end:

I close my eyes and see a flock of birds. The vision lasts a second or perhaps less; I am not sure how many birds I saw. Was the number of birds definite or indefinite? The problem involves the existence of God. If God exists, the number is definite, because God knows how many birds I saw. If God does not exist, the number is indefinite, because no one can have counted. In this case I saw fewer than ten birds (let us say) and more than one, but did not see nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three or two birds. I saw a number between ten and one, which was not nine , eight, seven, six, five, etc. That integer - not-nine, not-eight, not-seven, not-six, not-five, etc. - is inconceivable. Ergo, God exists.
-“Argumentum Ornithologicum” by Jorge Luis Borges

Milwaukee Ave.

Shortly after B and I met each other, moved to Connecticut, and decided to become cleansed brothers, we made a trip to the great windy city. Our trip lasted for a strange two years. These were a strange two years that we did not count on. Our stay became one of miracles.

The first thing we encountered was a large white man. His skin was blue and had a big fluffy white hat. His skin was made of small balls of a hard something that I could not put my finger on. He was homeless.

I said, “Hey, man, how goes it?” and handed him a quarter.
“Fixin’ to git me a bottle of wighn…”
“Right on man,” we concluded.

Shortly after, walking down the same street, we ran into a band consisting of 3 organists, a trumpeter, two drummers, a beat machine, a screaming transvestite, and another homeless man. They were right outside of a bright, small grocery advertising healthy cigarettes.

We jumped in with the band instantly becoming expert clappers as if some great reggae spirit of love gave it to us. The man running the show and playing the bottom and loudest organ clapped and yelled with his pants pulled up on his waist way too high. He said, “lets do that dub song, now.” and they did. We walked away and stepped over a sleeping student.

Pressed Against the Pane, Part 1

She smiled as she approached Jack and Mary, sitting regally at table 9. She always admired how gentile they were; Jack holding open doors, his hand protectively at the small of Mary’s back. Although he always respectively deferred to her opinion or plan, Jack always seemed to be a few steps ahead of her. Preparing for the unforeseen setback or opportunity before they even glimmered the horizon. Mary’s bravado hid her deep dependence on Jack’s loyalty and stability. Part of his charm was that he didn’t need her to care for him but he let her care for him anyway.

It was Jack who had fallen in love with Gold Coast first. He bought all of his wardrobe at the men’s boutique, Hannigan’s, housed across the courtyard. Jack detested wasting time in stores, and once he had found a suitable tweed blazer, year-round wool slacks, and a tailor he liked, he was set. Hannigan’s loved his loyalty and stablility almost as much as his wife did.

He first saw what would become Gold Coast in the Spring of 1985. Jack had received an unexpected windfall of cash as an inheritance from his long estranged father. He hadn’t spoken to him for over thirty years, even though they both lived in Tulsa. That they never crossed paths in all that time was both a testament to his father’s good planning and stubbornness as to Jack’s.

Although a realist in many ways, Jack’s romantic sensibilities always won out concerning his father. He had been convinced that one day he would come to his senses and reconcile with him. Jack felt too much shame and disappointment to make the first step in forgiveness himself. He’s the father, Jack thought, he should be the grown-up.

The last time he’d seen his father was also the final night of his dancing career. Ironic that his father would cut off communication the very night he ceased doing the very activity that spurred the disownment.

Jack had been keeping his career a secret from his father for years. Male dancers in America, and especially in Oklahoma, were a rare and ostracized breed. Jack knew that the last thing his father, the oil prospector, wanted was a dancing son.

Jack’s father, Harlon, had started with nothing, moving from the plains of Kansas to the plains of Oklahoma in the late 30’s. He came to try his luck in the oil business, and he drug with him Jack’s mother, who in blind love followed him to the desolate former Indian Territory. She couldn’t have imagined how different life would be from Kansas. Flat is flat, she thought. But the red clay soil ate up produce instead of producing it as expected, which quickly left her, Harlon, and their newborn son, Jack, in dire straights.

Harlon though remained optimistic that their future lay not above the ground but underneath it. His brother soon moved down, and they partnered up to drill for oil. Their first big vein hit set the family smiling for nearly a decade. Despite a short setback when Harlon and his brother were sent overseas to serve in the army during the 40’s, with only Harlon returning alive, the oil business continued to pump along quite well.

Harlon fancied himself an “every man.” He was courageous, risky, hard-working and successful, and his oldest son was supposed to follow in his footsteps. But Jack was never awed by or even interested in oil and the tough Oklahoma terrain that was home to it as Harlon was. Jack was a mystery to his father, and instead of getting to know him for who he was, Harlon assumed that Jack was merely rebelling against him and his unspoken expectations. How does a son not know what’s expected of him? he wondered.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Space vs place

Before birth and after death, we’re in space.
After birth and before death, we occupy place.

I read these words, and I wondered what you meant.
No, more than that, I wondered how you felt about what you meant.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

regressing through meta-analyzing

say it dirty but put it in the third person, he said, and it's poetry.
say it dirty but blame the second party and you're just transferring blame.
say it dirty with authority and get it right.
not saying anything dirty but only talking about dirt and you're a scholar of poetry.

advanced lesson in French

je mange et jeu au soleil le jour brillant
vous piaulez et dites, "obtenez-de ma manière"
il viande et touche mon oracle
elle coupe et donne un coup de poing mon strudle
nous écrou et pompenons leurs caresses
elles complètent et basetent nos nouilles

i eat and play in the sun shiny day
you peep and say, "get in my way"
he meat and touch my oracle
she cut and punch my strudle
we nut and pump their cuddles
they top and bottom our noodles

Monday, January 15, 2007

for dearest sara (on the occasion of her death)

The women are alone again tonight. I wonder where their husbands are off to. She lights a cigarette, someone complains. I sit in front of his door, and she looks at me, you had better stay out of trouble, she says. Yes I agree. Yes, I know. But I know nothing, I admit to her. She laughs, Why not find yourself a nice girl and settle down? Yes, but I don’t know. She smiles and asks the girls where their husbands are off to. They don’t know if they’re coming or going! But whatever it is, they’re gone, I say. We don’t talk like that, they say and they fold their hands on the table. She feels the pattern of the lace, the low relief, the familiar lines.

In prayer I hear her digging up the sand on the beach, in front of her house, in front of her view. Of the few things she owns, there is this view—soon to be in limbo and orphaned. This is the first time I've watched the sunrise in maybe 60 years, you know. I didn’t know that, and I’m interested in why. But there is no answer, of course—she’s looking away.

Now she is quiet and I strain myself to hear her. I turn on the bench, look through the floral print wallpaper and see her, leaning beside a window, open five or so inches, legs crossed, looking outside, over the seagulls. What is so interesting about those birds? Whatever answer they can give, whatever mystical advice will always be opaque. That’s right darling, she’ll say to me.

Yes, I answer. I do not knock on the door. I will not see her or hear her again. Outside, it is beautiful winter on the Oregon Coast. I hear a car passing, I hear Yiddish—nothing particular, nothing to speak of.