Tuesday, December 01, 2020

They Say All Cats Are Grey

They say there’s no time like the present, and a stitch in time saves nine. Nine lives, perhaps, a cat’s nine lives. They say all cats are grey.

Except for that cat with the black cat bone. You drink that cherry red wine, the blues’ll get ya for sure. It’s blue sky thinking that’ll get you through the hard times, but when the blind lead the blind you need a seeing-eye dog. I’m only age eight, in dog years.

Speaking of age, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. A gift is a present, and the best present is presence. There’s no time like the present for the early bird to get the worm, but watch out when the worm turns.
One good turn deserves another, and there’s no burn like a slow burn. There’s no business like show business. There’s no time like the present.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Monday, November 30, 2020

Waterfron Blues Week

Scorch, night; hurl flowers of flame
above the river; rattle and roast
sticky-pavement streets.
Seethe, simmer discontented evenings,
sun fall searing into scarlet clouds.
Blaze relentless in burning dark.
Smoke, roll over the city,
hide hell-bright explosions.
Shake drums and wail trumpet,
blister hands and lip, boil kettles
witches’ brew of blue souls.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Sunday, November 29, 2020

And another thing

So Todd put me on to this site: Talk to Transformer

You type or paste in text, and "it" (a neural network, apparently) "completes" the text. Usually it gets cut off at a certain number of characters. Occasionally, it'll come to an apparent end.

It's crazy how good it is. It's actually a little scary.

It seems to recognize the difference between prose and poetry. Interestingly, it interpreted the first verse of a sonnet of mine as being part of a song. The content is... sometimes horrifyingly appropriate.

I fed it the first siz lines of this poem and here is what it came up with...


I step out into a rain-washed morning
cloth mask tucked in my pocket.

At quarter to seven the neighborhood is quiet.
First buds of the year on my rosebush.

Next door’s Dalmatian maybe died—
haven’t seen her in months, poor old thing.

We’re meeting at the pond where we once fished.

A line is runnin’ across its top.

Down below, the Feds are out.

Cops are everywhere.

Cars are being towed.

It’s funny that I can’t see them from my window.

The storm drains are clogged with muck and leaves and twigs.

The bodies have been picked up, and those of the kids have been loaded into vans.

I feel suddenly uneasy.

I’m shivering, my hands begin to shake, as if there were icy, frozen raindrops on them.

Can’t stop shaking.

The way I’


Sounds like a perfect summary of 2020, doesn't it? I suppose I could call this a found poem.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Derecho

It thunders like continental drift.
Before the Columbia cut through the Cascades,
before the Cascades themselves pushed up out of the sea,
two plates collided, shoving like punch-drunk giants
staggering before collapse, holding each other up.
It thunders like a whole kennel of boarhounds
scenting feeding time, or game, or a wolf among the flocks,
rattling at the bars and giving tongue.
It thunders like lead cannonballs rolling about the deck
of a sinking ship; like a track full of Indy 500 drivers
screaming into pit stops; like a Saturn V lifting off.
It thunders like Fat Man falling from the sky.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

diagonally parked in a parallel universe

Lately I’m trying to re-arrange my finances
and I’m dreading it because I’ve been
diagonally parked in a parallel universe
that’s composed of T-shirt slogans
and distressed leather in unlimited geometric shapes,
snapped together and torn apart
for years.

The course is so structured, organized
by body systems that flare to your construction.
Everything’s situations that you should know
how to respond to. Every twist cap has its carabiner.
Leather dressing is toxic if inhaled
in large quantities.

In this universe, there are no mountains or craters on the Moon.
If you’re not careful, your finger goes right through it.
Here, they’ve captured the last twelve digits of pi
but there are still more stars than can be seen
with the naked eye.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Sambal Oelek

Sambal is hot sauce
from Indonesia. In India,
sambal is a double-sided drum.
Oelek means mortar and pestle, rough as Komodo hide
to grind your spices to a sensuous paste.
Chiles. Turmeric. Garlic and galanga.
Into the pan over smoldering embers.
Add tamarind, as brown as your lover’s eyes,
fish sauce, sweet chewy palm sugar.
More spices. More heat.
Your heart pounds like the two-headed drum.
Lick sweat from someone’s lip
while the sambal turns fragrant as your lover’s skin.
A dash of lime, green jealous eyes.
A last flourish of lemongrass powder from the oelek.
A hot sambal kiss.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Friday, November 27, 2020

Virga

Sometimes the rain reaches the earth. Sometimes it doesn’t.

When it does, it washes houses clean and muddies shoes; raises exuberant mushrooms and drives hapless earthworms to the surface to be eaten. It’s just called rain.

When it doesn’t, it’s called virga.

Virga is barren rain, a black niqaab, a nun’s habit
sweeping the atmosphere but never touching the earth
chilling the air with heat of vaporization.
It can cause micro-downbursts, wet and dry.

Since we went into lockdown
I have not cut my hair.
But it will never reach the ground.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

After Sherman Alexie’s “The Powwow at the End of the World”

Talk to me about forgiveness
while bones rattle under the waters of the Middle Passage

Talk to me about forgiveness
while my brother dies under your gun, under your knee, at the end of your rope

Talk to me about forgiveness
while the prosperity gospel church burns slave sweat for incense
and I choose whether to live in poverty or die in prison

Talk to me about forgiveness
while Manifest Destiny grinds us all under its iron heel

Talk to me about forgiveness
while you lecture my sisters that a woman’s true crowning glory is whiteness

Talk to me about forgiveness
while you poison my children with factory effluent, freeway exhaust, and lead paint

Talk to me about forgiveness
while skeletons stalk my neighborhood and the hospitals turn us away from full wards

Talk to me about forgiveness
while the monster you created and named capitalism writhes and bites and devours you, its children, and us, its victims, indifferently and alike

Oh, I will forgive, I will forgive, when the monster has eaten its own tail and swallows itself and spits up a better world – I will forgive, if only you can find the grace to stay behind in the bowels of the beast when the meek and the wretched go forth hand in hand.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Double Double You

You blow, wind. You flow, water.
You end snow; winter, you begin.
You’re a slow walk in a new wig. You gnaw wood like a rat.
You’ve been the hero of a fast-draw Western. You slew wicked witches
everywhere you went.
Your legend grew, waxed fat as a glowworm.
When you come to my town
like an egg, you appear in yellow / white.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

What I did on my Thanksgiving staycation

Of course we're not going anywhere.

So, I am taking myself on a writing retreat of sorts. I have Diane Lockward's book, The Practicing Poet. I'm supposed to be reviewing it, but... I haven't actually been able to read all the way through it, because I keep wanting to stop and do the writing exercises!

My goal for Thanksgiving is to get through a couple of prompts per day. I'm not sure if it's going to work: I could get depleted. I have plenty of time, but there may not be enough duration in a long weekend. (For the difference between time and duration, see my other blog.

Two today so far. One of the poems, I'll post shortly. The other, maybe not.
Update: I've written eight poems in four days. It's been extremely fun, and at least of a couple of the poems are sound stuff. I'm prepared to declare this phase of the experiment a resounding success.

One of the issues I'm having to overcome is thinking "I already did that in a poem." That doesn't mean I can't use the same trick again, in a different poem. It's a bad old reflex from student days: I already did the exercise, and learned everything I need to from it. The point is not just about the learning, it's about the creating.

Having four days off to do nothing except write (Not that that's actually what happened! I went for a long wa;l, did yardwork, cleaned up around the house, etc.) is a luxury I won't often get. I don't expect to keep this pace. I'm going to try to work through one prompt per day during the work week: I think that's reasonable.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Haiku for the Bone Man

I'm dipping my pen
in shining black ink that fills
Bone Man's eyesockets.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

There’s Good News of Vaccines

Bone Man’s on my porch this morning with a handful of turkey feathers.
See? This one’s for Grandma. This one, Aunt Mo. Uncle Ree.
You want them? Come get them.

Bone Man, you’re a sore loser! You chased all the fake skeletons indoors
because you can’t stand competition. Hung around the polling places
but you couldn’t scare people off voting.
Take your poisoned feathers away.

No worries. I’ll be back next month. I’ll bring you a set of tiny snowmen,
one for each person you love. You can breathe on them
and melt them away.


You do that. I’ll be waiting with a sledgehammer.
I’ll shatter your bones and carve them into piano keys.
Then I’ll set up in the middle of the street and play while all my neighbors
lean out of their windows and sing the “Ode to Joy.”

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Monday, November 16, 2020

Beach Time

You step onto the sand and time slows right down.
It’s the sound. The whispered boom of surf.
It surrounds you, goes for miles up and down the shore,
fills your head with boundless echoes.

It’s not the same when you heard it from the parking lot, the boardwalk, with flat concrete and traffic clamor at your back. Echoes crowded into canyons. Tension tracked your body-clock.

But here, with every sinew-string unwound
the ocean drowns you, swallows you.
You are lost.
You are found.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Pandemic Configurations

Today I remade my workspace again.
Optimized the height of the keyboard—
made enough space to write notes on the pad—
without crowding the mouse too much—
brought the laptop within reach—

Please, no references
to deckchairs on the Titanic,
waltzing with Matilda,
fiddle music in burning Rome.
This is where I work. This is where I live.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Saturday, November 07, 2020

God be praised

Just sit there for a minute...


God be praised.


I want to put in a word here for the unsung heroes who spent thankless hours counting ballots, and for the postal workers who delivered so many of them. And for the election officials in many states who kept saying "no, we're not done, we will keep counting until we're done." In an age that expects instant gratification, and under huge political pressure to produce a result - any result - they stayed the course and did their jobs diligently, thoroughly, and patiently. So what if it cost the rest of us a few more hours of heartburn. It's all worth it in the end, to know the job got done right.

There is a lot to celebrate today. There's also a lot to worry about. But I'm going to wait one more day before I start that list.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Election day soundtrack

Who am I kidding? I'm not getting any more work done today. It's okay: I stayed up late last night working out a knotty programming problem. Really, it was using work to anesthetize me against anxiety, which is a tendency I have kept massively under control since the pandemic started. But it was also useful work, and makes me feel OK to take some of today off.

So I'm dancing to the following...

Buddy's Baddest: The Best of Buddy Guy
Eagles Greatest Hits vol. 2
Lifted: Songs of the Spirit
Rolling Stones, Flashpoint
Shemekia Copeland, Talking to Strangers
Blind Boys of Alabama, Higher Ground
Bob Marley and the Wailers, Legend

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Catastrophe Fandango

One of the under-discussed aspects of the catastrophic, fucked-up, sheer hozedness of 2020 is the fact that we've run out of language to even describe it.

"Unprecedented" wore out its welcome around the first week of the Trump presidency in early 2017. "Uncharted territory" and "off the map/chart" get thrown around a lot. Pundits keep saying variations on "I've never seen anything like this." I've lost count of how many times I've had to say "We're making this up as we go along."

"Dumpster fire" and "2020 disaster bingo" have been popular, of course, and variations on "train wreck." Even "apocalyptic" got its share of outings. The only one I'm not hearing much is "up shit creek without a paddle" - not strictly work appropriate, of course.

As a professional, I should be able to do better than this.

"We've experienced a collective sanity collapse"
"There was an explosion at the disaster factory"
"Not even abnormal"
"It's so far out of hand, it can't see the elbow"
"We're having a catastrophe fandango"
"Climataclysm"
"The 2020 train is stuck at Calamity Junction"

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Monday, November 02, 2020

Last day before election day

Although millions of people have already cast their ballots. We were in the first wave of ballots mailed, and we filled them and ran them to the dropbox that same day.

Obvious first: I'd have voted for Vlad the Impaler if he was running against Trump.

Second obvious: Biden/Harris is not exactly my dream ticket. I am sick to death of centrist Democarats. I'm willing to concede that Harris may be more progressive that the demands of her political career - on a woman of color, particularly - have allowed her to appear. But it's a big "maybe."

Still and all. She's a Black/Asian woman of about my age. No matter my reservations about her politics, it means something to me.

Books Available
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Monday, October 26, 2020

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Top of the Heap

We climb to the tops of trees and call ourselves
kings of the world
while overhead continents of vapor shift

We stand on high peaks and claim everything
we see below
forgetting unscaled mountains of cloud above

Every swimming minnow leaves a trail of mud
a contrail streak
seen by bottom-feeders in an ocean of blue air.

Books Available
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside