private investigator

When I added the dimension of time to the landscape of the world, I saw how freedom grew the beauties and horrors from the same live branch. — Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Blind swimmers (Effect of a touch), 1934, Max Ernst

Planets square, conjunct, and align according to ancient calculations. A replicable physics of perpetual routine and abstract distance. The wise have correlated collective visceral feelings to this constant celestial movement and, of course, gravity’s determinate pull. There is grace in this kind of emotional profiteering, an abundance that forces us to confront unknown questions inside a mapped-out-for-you future.

I’m days away from another year around the sun. Three hundred sixty-five unbroken days of editing mistakes and expanding my realm of intuition.

These accumulating memories are a landscape bound to cycle back around to vanishing points. Gathered as collages and smelling like warm marigolds, all those shades of consciousness tend to the task of a well-paced axiom eventually becoming their own runaway speculative fictions. Nostalgia clutches just as much as it cascades.

The sky is always moving. I intend to continue investigating the figurative dancing light from that motion. Etching inventions into my own shameless shadow.

still life

Rivane Neuenschwander. The Silence of the Sirens. 2013.

The sky is mute.
My palms soft.

The future broke.
Your hands found me wanting.

Shared recognition creates intimacy
when the public body is an impulse.

Wild as blessings, and just as sacred,
I come wide, spread open.

Living a literal life
is an obedient life.

My feed is deepfake informative
so I reduce truth to metaphor.

Wandering ribs is a radical referent.
We’ve been promised what does not exist.

Birds bob and sway
above the frothy noise.

landscape analysis

you’re getting too caught up in things that don’t matter (artist: unknown)

dreams of meat
fractured rendering
time wasted
a scarce luxury

this kind of clarity
born from salvation
a knowing how petty
being a victim can be

in classic tactile evasion
you beg for cruelty before comfort
caught in a familiar discordant loop
arrested in rustic sanctuary

passive as a twinned body
swallowing your present tense
to breast the wave
then shred your fears of impotence

these kinds of clearings
a place where light abandons control
are at the edges of regeneration
the poetics of follow through

blue noise

artist: unknown

Maybe if I loved her enough, my mother would heal. – Chana Wilson, Riding Fury Home

My mom officially disappeared from our family when I was thirteen. To be fair, she did not know she’d be leaving her four daughters that day either. When she left the house, she had packed nothing but her purse. Dispossessed, my memories are inscribed into a tight buzzing chest, rushed breathing, and anxious as self-doubt. These memories are my limbic system, the circuits of my mood board. I learned decades later my father took her purse as the only door out of the mental institution shut in her face.

The memories I have exist because I was there but that is as far as my truth can extend, the rest are now privatized myths. To be honest, my mom had been disappearing long before that fateful day. The silence in between seeing her was seasonless and evokes the dreamy concept of eternity for me.

It is true some winters the prairie grass reached taller than the snow drifts. To be obnoxious, you can read snow drifts as a noun or a verb. In that way, my teenage years were a righteous alchemy of oblivion and riot. I remember watching my mom’s need to earn her perfection and how she absorbed all his taking. I deducted a respect for witness and learned early that quiet violence swells. Infinite in its exhaustion, my realities are at best uncertain, which means I have the capacity to refine and revise.

I learned the art and practice of possibility from my mom. To be obvious, I owe my mom my life even if she wasn’t there for most of it. I let go of contempt for she also holds dreams of the horizon inside her.

reputable entry

We want what a god wants: to own it, all. — Beth Bachmann, from “Oasis”

artist: unknown

Muses come and go. Some take root. Some show all their promise up front. With almost no context, I understood what he meant by “reputable entry.” 

Dropping into a new line can feel like that.

We are bodies of evidence, revised. Show me, again, how to leave and return tender inside all this fragmentation. Generate reality out of hoarded information. Find traction at the edges and distill purpose in application as integration.

… :this page is confronting
you. Come on out. Be ready
inside your voice. People have read
too many names. Now, addressing
what was here before, remind them:
in the hollow after you have spoken
a whole world is trying to be right.

They’ll see, those people, how chaotic
a place this is, without us to hold off a reckoning.
Once this poem is over, all the unmanaged
begins to flood in. …

— excerpt from an edited copy of “You’ll See” by William Stafford

x + y =

AN ARMY OF LOVERS SHALL NOT FAIL – title on cover of The Lesbian Tide, Apr. 1973

Road to the Ranch, 1964, Georgia O’Keeffe

this feeling of war is different from other war feelings I’ve had.
it is a conscious scan of knowing where the exits are located.
it is a wanting of quiet and stillness
inside all this (up)loaded aggression.
it is a particular kind of collaborated knowing.

bodies bend closer in fantasies without violence.
a genre of collected mundane details:
dishes in the sink
airport air thick with fancy perfume
the memory of water.

I study nothing, obviously.
I like that space
in between.
crowded spaces. public spaces.
being ignored in isolation.

strictly speaking, we think we know
what is happening
because we study history.
if we believe we are more manipulated today,
do we fulfill our own prophesies?

block the exits

You better just enjoy the luxury of sympathy / If that’s a luxury you have — Built to Spill

A Matter of Life and Death (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1946)

there is writing on the wall
but I don’t yet know what language of seizure —
of belief, suspension finds a soft corner

confidence is its own risk and reward
these longer days hinge on construction of narratives
a clever distraction from observing the narrator

listening is an appearance of doing nothing

when you are poor you learn how to end things
which is better than getting carried away
or in too deep, you must reserve your trust

even trees get tired of being predictable
show me extraordinary in this real-life panic scenario
then, intimately connect the sky to water like an exquisite corpse

anger and fear make us feel full

the ad said I needed magnesium harvested from the ocean
I want that kind of specificity right now
to notice more than anonymous eroticism

and recognizing yourself in that loop
in memorandum of understanding
a future tense — the feel of fist in mouth

this may be the only place I feel alive

Paul Schutzer, birds on barbed wire strung atop the Berlin Wall, January 1962

 

This may be the exact amount of now that I can continuously absorb.

deposits of memories make a body
or a pulpit

Despondence, according to plan, is a fevered imagination.

should I revise, again
or stay as is

After all, even light has its own form of pollution.

 

due north

“I love you, I hate you” (digital drawing collage) Elissaveta Zerdeva

I walked in the direction the bus takes to get me home.
A non-direct route through neighborhoods where curtains hold space
for sleeping cats. Each intersection an opportunity to wait within
a landscape of past lovers reminding how time renews.
Objects in such a mirror are closer than they appear.
Curved to reflect light outward, these old selves diverged.

I am learning to trust and when to leave
a refrain from speculation
and a practice of conscientious objection.
Just past the corners of trees, a distance
due west, urban sounds echo infinite.
Curated to reflect disappearance, I find home.

memory hole

We used to ask what might come after the orgy — mourning or melancholia?
Jean Baudrillard, The Illusion of the End

Martin Puryear, Woodcut for edition of Cane, by Jean Toomer (1923)

I’m trying to remember if spring always starts out this slow. Cherry blossom photos start popping up online. Winter’s scandals begin to blend into sales for sandals. Days stretch beyond blue twilight.

We desire soft power, wash out our ghosts, and pleasure places we neglected.

Us dandy men and hard women eventually repent the same—on our knees. Quietly, let us break down to the softness of desecration. Vandalize public anticipation, then escape into too much artificial light.

 

two or three things I know for sure

In three years and just shy of three months I intentionally curated one hundred hours of aesthetic meditation. For six thousand minutes, I listened and watched the ocean perform. Thirty-nine months of my darkest fears and saddest days were added to the epic drama before me. The consistency of each unique breaking wave reminding me that this, too, is living. That doing the same thing over and over for no purpose other than pleasure is the goddamn point. Time worth its exchange in salty kisses. I’ve written how empty landscapes are familiar, safe. Home. Blank page, empty horizon. Now, neither scare me.

31 August 2018

I respect the crash and appreciate the ability to pull back into myself. It is energy in motion. To swell. To release. To be seen. To be heard. To be so elegantly agitated. To retreat. To join. To rise. To start again. Already good enough.

Home is here—and out there. I wish to never lose my quiet roar.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

title is Dorothy Allison’s Two or Three Things I Know for Sure (1995)

elaborate form

Here is what we have to offer you in its most elaborate form — confusion guided by a clear sense of purpose.  –Gordon Matta-Clark c. 1973

From the daily writings of William Stafford, 1976. (William Stafford Archives, Estate of William Stafford)

eyes
food, religion
to the sky, to the land –
bowed in turn
that precious treasure
fire, fire
expired
or a thought, maybe, too strange for us

This found poem was created from fragments of William Stafford’s daily writings (1975-1976).

 

I woke early to catch a bus into a city so rich it begs. Finding traces of the first quarter rising moon, I watched a skyline break blue. As ocean waves disappeared into infinite replication, news of another massacre weights the expansive and empty horizon before me.

15 March 2019, Ocean Beach 

In “How the Mind Works,” Patti Smith asks Can we truly separate the how and the why? This logic is why Midwestern letters from home are factual and often lack ornate descriptions. The news relayed is a list—bills overdue, doctor visit Tuesday, crops flooded—to extrapolate and to elaborate reason would only waste paper and time. The weight of how to get where I do not yet know forms my most elaborate creative patterns, and those lines buried between what is said are code switches. I want you to imagine what that would feel like. I assume you are real on the other side of this virtual divide.

disenthrallment

she performs lived experiences
in educated rooms
swollen to appear more
divine release
giving to wait generously

soothsayer paced
liberates only certain truths
her furious heart unrestrained
as oranges rot in the winter sun
the sound of light folds
into warm submission

long division

“Success is someone else’s failure. Success is the American Dream we can keep dreaming because most people in most places, including thirty million of ourselves, live wide awake in the terrible reality of poverty. No, I do not wish you success. I don’t even want to talk about it. I want to talk about failure.” — Ursula K. Le Guin, excerpt from her 1983 Mills College commencement address “A Left-Handed Commencement Address”

Shujiro Shimomura, Poster Design, 1929

Mental maps are flashbacks of intertwined stories not to be confused with flash-forward dreams like visible clouds in the night sky backlit by 24-7 traffic lights, or knowing you are looking directly at an invisible full moon. I am sorry if this specificity of darkness is dense and complicated. I have historically avoided anchors of place in my writing because it feels safer to drift unmoored. It is entirely possible I do not want you to find me.

My past has too many inconsistent waypoints to map accurately—my mother is an unreliable narrator and my father’s sense of direction was absorbed as gospel, narrow and aggressive. Gathered, these scattered memories take shape as a specific form of isolation. The truth is, wrapping myself in distance feels like home.

This dark and expansive landscape I pull from is as familiar as counting landmarks on long drives back home, de facto mile markers such as wind-sculpted trees, mirage plateaus, and the occasional 4-way stop sign scarred with casual bullet holes. My expertise in understanding subtle changes as a sense of direction was earned honestly.

As an identical twin, separation is a practice of abundance.  Do you recognize that gift in yourself?

Stars are born when clouds of gas called nebulae infinitely collapse. The center of this collapse, a result of carefully balanced external gravitational forces and internal rising temperatures, fuses into light brilliant enough to witness from Earth’s distance. In this nearly empty darkness, collapsing coordinates are not fixed either. All these simple steps broken into a discovery of self, in excellence and always in evolution.

a decade of clouds

1 September 2014, Berlin

the tail end of consequences is probably not the best way to start off but proportionally speaking, I suppose I am ok. it’s exchange rates I always have trouble with—their constant change and their false equivalencies derived from broken treaties. I learned last week remorse is an uncertain form of knowledge. I have to be ok with with this too. wanting can get costly.

that same day I learned a new approach to remorse, I saw a man deliver, under weighted wraps, a bunch of floating silver alphabet balloons. the balloons were claimed by a group who had walked in earlier and said oh good, the ropes are here. I’m wondering if I may have been over-influenced.

I have a junkie mentality when my class triggers flair. last night my dreams were so strong I woke up to the smell of wood fire heat. a connection to childhood when we’d spend Saturdays in the dead of winter trespassing and gathering wood pieces near frozen creeks, a wild and rare oasis on the Northern Plains landscape. my heart holds space for what could let this go.

it’s in these moments, between the waves, where future memories rise.

under center

Loie Hollowell (American, b. 1983), Incoming Tide, 2016. oil, acrylic, sawdust, and high-density foam on linen on panel

the lecture ended at cooperation
endless constellations looping
associations and reified traces

he said it was better
before
nostalgia produces
utopia

all this mutual (re)production
that feel of shared experience
remorse, traffic jams, expectations

reckless as rhetoric
faith (as in not control)
pull and then release

apologia

Joni Mitchell, skating on Lake Mendota, Madison, WI, Joel Bernstein, 1976, gelatin silver print

I’ve realized I have seen more Passion Plays than I knew. I come back, here, again. Today is another dispossessed day. News forms around emotions. I stopped believing in Saviors a long time ago. The ending is predictable. From above and from below, inside and out, this internalized desire for external validation starts feeling like an intentional defense. In 1971, James Baldwin said something will rest something will remain. Retraction survives in all this chatter. Context protecting accusers are familiar to me. I learned that language at home and in school. Resale is always at a premium. Redo. Undo. Redo again. Coffee and tiger’s eye stone, water, land and sky meet angled. This, now, is the everything I’ve ever wanted.

weak futures / sell high

“A horror so deep only ritual can contain it.” — Sarah Kane, “Crave”

All that exuberant, collective hope of a new year dissipated
into silhouettes whose interiors frame a groomed rage.
Such glamour is visceral in the light of a knowledge apocalypse.

Our inherited rage learned.
Daily lessons worn so deep to appear smooth,
ordinary. Even today, algorithms reveal their shadows.

Yes, it really has always been like this:
raw, broken, cruel, and transferred.
How we participate is birthright.

Such process generates the futures we believe we can change.
In all this fractured isolation, soft bodies spread sparse.

a very, very loud extended silence

Open. 22 December 2018, Oakland, CA

I find peace inside California’s winter weather changes. They remind me I was never in control. During the eclipse, I dreamt girls were fist fighting under street lights. I woke up centered and kept all that scattered energy lodged between the spaces of my teeth.

Shock. Then awe. This is what they warned us about. Civic intimacies have been breeched. Residents clutch their pearl-handled pistols. Our movies show us acting surprised while winter mouths stay covered. Sighs are lodged inaudible.

Bound by the length of light, time arouses. I take these sacred fascinations and wrap myself soft and deep as the high tides. I search for conscience affect in its rawest and wildest form. This is a new year of stimulated objections. We have been warned.

_________________________________________________________________________________

title reference to: ‘The grave of the Russian composer Alfred Schnittke in Novodevichye Cemetery in Moscow is surmounted by a stone on which is engraved a rest beneath a fermata with a triple forte noted at the bottom: A very, very loud extended silence.’ —John Biguenet, Silence (London: Bloomsbury, 2015), p.49.

music from the balcony

new wave vengeance frames this reflection. we are now, again.
2018: masses react and subjectively perform aggression.
yes, I do think differently. epistemic relevance matters.

THE MUSIC FROM THE BALCONIES NEARBY WAS OVERLAID BY THE NOISE OF SPORADIC ACTS OF VIOLENCE, Edward Ruscha, oil paint on canvas, 1984.

What a savage year. Calendar time and actual time disassociated. Let go or be dragged. I got dragged and then I let go. In this protracted state, I mended critical boundaries and broke open new patterns. I made the days useful to me. I wrote about cowboys while breathing in fire. I listened and was seduced. I transmuted silence, my way. Drowning in manufactured violence and drama, we held each other longer and tighter. I saw urgency extract exquisite ideas and leave behind ghosts still in motion. Recognizing that glitch, I give myself infinite permission to fail, to risk, to revive. I still believe revolutions are frenetic desires and armor myself contextually. Curiosity is my ideal pace. I follow cats and poets. I came into this world greedy. I need reminders when my body grips fear: be awake for soft pink sunrises and orange suns floating into fading darkness. It is my responsibility to source these personal validations and ritualize inspiration. Reflex grace. Find balance in distractions and create sacred ceremonies with your hands on my hips.

rejoice

“Know that you are prior to the first day you witnessed.” —Nisargadatta Maharaj

WE LIKE IT WILD (artist unknown)

Audre Lorde was light years ahead when she said our visions begin with our desires. These fragments glitter. I integrate language queerly. This seriousness is earned as the contemporary moves at the speed of drones.

Some still apply ancient alien theories to the present.

I want off this boring ride.

cache culture is a collection of intimacy and a consecration of infinite justifications. My Sunday best. I source symbolic actions because they structure the silences I see between each chosen word. I am an active witness.

Finding the shape of darkness, I rejoice. That means light is at the edges.

(en)titled

“To pursue beauty to its lair.” — Arundhati Roy

5 June 2018, Pacific Grove, CA

She folds her hands together
as if in prayer
onlookers believe
the end of the world is near

Sour west coast coffee
dreamed memories decay
into sensitive masculinities
you may think: her POV lacks pleasure

Or maybe this cumulative longing
binds her sense of class to an economics
that has made her an experienced voyeur
an orgy of grace

Disciplined dangerous
her body expresses need
she commits to infinite integration
in entry & in sanctuary

wish list

maybe I do want you to feel intimidated by me

Rochester, New York, Nathan Lyons, 1978, gelatin silver print

I want a revolution as reckless as cowboys with broken backs.
Throwing restraint to the western winds, a favorable direction,
& towards that edge where darkness is shaped into possibility,
I wait familiar      in shy quiet      impatient.

I want a revolution as prolific as chants for collective safety.
Born from burn scars so large you can see it from a distant
universe, a reminder we will never be in control so long as
money motivates our hustle for pretentious liberation.

I want a revolution as tender as loving in present tense.
An immediacy that respects our inherited kinetic energies.
Until then, I’ll gather productive & discover curious tensions
sensual as thunder replying to lightening’s transfiguring danger.

In protest and in wealth, I want a revolution that gives as much as it takes.

difficult knowledge

Below Zero (Fahrenheit), Lake Erie, Pennsylvania, Josef Hoflehner, 2015

as perennial pipelines heat prairie homes
I dream of drifting oceans & waves of snow

effluence      affluence

I have been told so many times & so many ways
this  world   is  ending

omen        amen

I’ve taken to stealing lines on borrowed time

censor       center

somewhere in this self-immolation is discipline
the denomination of need

fractals

I. Writing; an act of stroking paper.

4 October 2018, Oakland, CA

II. The aggressiveness of buying and selling resistance, as seen on TV, makes me wanna disassociate.

self-portrait in Wave by Pirkle Jones, 1952, gelatin silver print [Oakland Museum of California]

III. Competitions of sadness are trauma tiers.

PUBLIC NOTICE, 14 September 2018, Oakland, CA

IV. It’s ok that I don’t fit in she says.

27 April 2018, San Francisco, CA

V. If I write a word today, just one, that must be enough.

call & response

Muir Beach Overlook, 17 November 2018

In all this drama, we repeat it’s ok. The edges of this suffocating generalization mostly true. Tops of hills beg to be seen. These words written by fire, from light reflected.

Where are our dreams going? Break into your savings and share.

Do not forget: breath is movement.

 

vintage fascination

Gregor Beltiz, ss-titre #2, série Les boîtes des sentiments, 2012

Last year’s fire season wasn’t the first time
I took my breath for granted.
I had been choked before,
by father and daddy alike.

My body memorizes such feelings with appreciation.
This way of knowing a matrix, a structural ethic.
As fire’s light establishes rapidly diminishing distances,
tradition finds strength in time passing.

Our days are paced aggressive, a seasonal norm.
History is recorded furiously as language reflects
fractured frontlines. Be worried.
These western fires will reach you, soon.

paradox of desire

October 2018, Brooklyn

I almost never buy in bulk, although I appreciate the expression of commitment. My lack of bulk desire is rooted in one of those childhoods funneled through scarcity politics, of all kinds: spirit, body, voice, resources, access, stimulation. My earliest taste of cultural politics were synthetic extractions grounded in epic narratives of fatherly protection. A practice endured through sacrifice.

There was a seduction to all that nurturing, an attention and encouragement to focus on one’s most intimate self—the soul. If followed correctly, there would be saving.

In all that repetitive redemption, there was a sense of safety—false as it was. I ache for those early feelings of learning about abundance. When the simple was profound, like the sound of snow falling.

These days are starting to feel retrograde, astrologically speaking an illusion. My dreams are looping, again. I’m taking all these memories, the bulk of them, and feeling nothing but an offering to grieve for what was taken, withheld, starved. An invitation of acceptance, a different kind of suffering.

 

anticipatory grief is poiesis

Danny Lyon, From 89 Beekman Street Looking South in Fulton Street, c. 1967, from The Destruction of Lower Manhattan

“Are we witnesses or actors?” – Carolyn Kizer from “Twelve O’Clock”

From a tender age, we learn to anticipate expansive boundaries. This is how we survived.

Our inheritances can be found folded into cornered spaces where silence occupies itself. A similar appreciation to realizing how much our eyes have adjusted to darkness. We trade today’s exhaustion for speculative futures. Assassinations happen daily.

Diversions become elegant beginnings when you realize resistance has immortal roots. That’s why performing for an absent savior is a dishonest practice and violence is a loop of fractured sounds. Do you hear that echo abdicating its own existence?

The sun feels yellow today. Birds still relay their news through song. Incantations woven over and through the roar of their own destruction. A natural and honest alchemy. Such revision signals there is enough, a gathering of effort.

When they ask how you survived this century, what will your answer be?

listen

I could have spent my whole life in that quiet.

From the daily writings of William Stafford, 19 July 1993. (William Stafford Archives, Estate of William Stafford)

I have to start somewhere and this is a good place to begin. I want this early reflection of my time spent at the William Stafford Archives to be a conscious wandering.

I knew I couldn’t finish. There was too much. I needed a respectable and intuitive pace. I had to make quick and deliberate decisions on what to capture and what to let go — a practiced, indulgent impulse.

From the daily writings of William Stafford, 15 June 1993. (William Stafford Archives, Estate of William Stafford)

“I would like to be known as an action philosopher.”
– Banana Yoshimoto, from the novel Kitchen 

I wrote what came to my attention and catalogued patterns — wind, mountains, snow, trees, rocks, and secrets to name the most prominent. It felt the best, and most honest, way to honor Stafford’s daily writing practice. It was what I had learned to do from You Must Revise Your Life and Writing the Australian Crawl: Views on the Writer’s Vocation.

On August 17, 1993, eleven days before he died, he asked:

“What can butterflies do if they get mad at each other? Should they express their anger? Stop and get even? Are these questions about a butterfly trivial? And about you?”

And on May 13, 1951, at the age of 37, Stafford wrote:

“How do we know our perceptions have the same feel as others’?” (emphasis in original)

Graceful inquiries such as these found their way into Stafford’s daily writings, which also included his dreams remembered in the darkest shadows of morning light. Intimate and rooted in place, Stafford recorded the present in all its creative movements.

I learned how deeply mountains listen when trees and rocks tell their ancient stories.

Stafford’s lifetime dedication to following and listening — carefully — to what wasn’t being said, or said loudly, was powerful to witness. His repetition was seductive. A rhythm visualized into meditative language that demonstrated “…all living things are afraid (20 June 1975)” and a steady truth that “your hope keeps you awake (20 May 1975).”

What comes next is unknown and that’s exactly how it is supposed to be.

a thread to follow

Blue Earth, MN [date unknown](digital photo of 35mm photo by edwardatlee)
All those years and I still remember the exquisite details. This specific memory does not have a year attached without much difficulty nor can I remember the time of day it occurred. Yet I can summon the sweet smell of ozone and hold onto the thought of how my own breath, in concert with yours, folded into one timeless moment.

We had pulled off a mostly deserted I-90W to wait out a thunderstorm witnessed hours earlier, which we assumed was fleeting from a distance reserved only for endless and empty horizons.

We found temporary refuge in Blue Earth, Minnesota. Waiting in a potholed parking lot, bordered by a 55-ft Jolly Green Giant statue and a gas station that sold cheap pizza and cold beer, you read A Ritual to Read to Each Other by William Stafford as rain poured hard and thick from a dark sky.

There was so much we didn’t know about each other – or the world – and a sublime anchoring in such fearless truth.

a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break

This moment, which probably lasted no longer than an hour before we got back on the road, forms the shadowed edges of how I’ve been preparing myself for this upcoming poetics inquiry of William Stafford. I want to be witness to his early morning and honest daily writing practice — his golden thread. I hope to explore how he taught poetry that centered curiosity as a method of facilitating an effective learning experience, his own and his students.

I feel a pull to reference an intention I outlined before I went to the Audre Lorde Archive in Berlin, my first poetics inquiry. This poetics inquiry is also an artistic project, which will explore how lived experiences of the “boundaries of one’s imaginative sympathy line up, again and again, with the lines drawn by power.” I use this quote by Claudia Rankine to bring attention to the phrase: lines drawn by power. This expansion of reference feels necessary in context to what I know about Stafford’s personal history and the now.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

At the age of 27, Stafford chose to be a conscientious objector when he was drafted into WWII — a few years older than I was during that thunderstorm. He chose not to participate in a war that was framed as moral, just, and unquestionably popular. He served four years in various prison camps for his decision. I want to learn what it means to live a life grounded in a commitment to practice non-competitive creative integrity. A life, like mine, lived when the United States was never not involved in wars and conflicts.

I am reminded that I know only what brought me to today: a poem, a ritual, that has not broken the line.

the cumulative impact of reaction

“As if a tenderness awoke, a tenderness that did not tire, something healing.”
— Sylvia Plath, from The Collected Poems; “Three Women,” (1962)

I was born into an isolated, literal Evangelical culture. A place where time was on always on trial and faith was righteous as pride. Our promised future had already been written. We were urgent. The rapture was past due.

All of us who knew even a fraction of the story internalized why Jesus hadn’t returned. Acts of a vengeful god are common and welcomed in this scenario. It was also true when you knew the ending tipped in your favor, knowledge became seductive. A blessing disguised.

To have learned about the world this way feels like a subtle theft. Trauma works that way too. False recognitions bound to real sounds, smells, touch, twists of phrases, and, if lucky, fading re-creations. A true con.

Decades later, I am still carving an existence that is receptive to invitation. There are no answers inside all these non-moments of relentless judgement. That clarity is its own rushed reality. Adapting gracefully to change is an ancient sermon. This is a map to all this undoing.

reconciliation

“everyone is a conscientious objector to something” — William Stafford (from Every War Has Two Losers)

artist unknown

The sun was warm. Flowers pop and stretch.
I sang softly into the deepest darkness.
I was not afraid.

Even here, I struggle what to say.
Bending under the weight of unwritten letters,
I want to succeed
differently.

Morning news push violent denials.
I wake softly into fading darkness.
I am not afraid.

graceful omens

America in time of war (September 11, 2018, Mission District, San Francisco)

if attention is the beginning of devotion
then acknowledgement of witness is where I will begin

from street level view, I am an island

a butterfly, hummingbird, & a dragonfly
float through smells of rotting oranges

jump cuts of urban landscapes

in complimentary opposition
the people bartered & exchanged energy

an elegant observation of intimacy

cleaving to an aesthetics of division
loyal to self & other

in chorus, our mutual true horizons were laid visible

_______

quote is Mary Oliver from Upstream: Selected Essays

no lightning, no danger

ocean : prairie (photo by edwardatlee)

a series of lines / unbroken
as promises they hold their value

remind me, again, what constitutes forgiveness
fairness                               faith
where hypocrisy fits in context to perfectionism
in a universe of endlessly revised incarnations

most mornings I stare out the kitchen window
wishing I was moving at the speed of a morning commute

horizon note

Huseyin Sami, Cut Painting (Light Yellow), 2018. Acrylic on canvas. 183 x 152 cm.

I’ve never had the same address for long. My current streak is seven years. I’ve far exceeded all prior knowledge of living in one place. I am as far west as I’ve ever been, which means my reverence for home has changed. Somewhere between this nostalgia and the truth is the hard edge of acceptance.

In all this stillness, I forgot how to let go.

So I start over.
Again.

As a habit, writing is its own method of reckoning. An ecstatic attention to spirit. A positive deviance. Specifically, I want to create a feeling of communion. I want this feeling in spite of its dominant religious significations.

The concept and practice of being “reborn” was an early fascination. I’d watch my father make his way to the front of the church and confess his weaknesses. Our sins were made public. We wanted to believe, as much as he did, that each confession was his last. His liberation bound so tightly to our survival.

I choose to keep these collective epiphanies to remember how far from home I am.
_________

*horizon note = the beat or pulse underlying the whole of the poem (Denise Levertov)

processions

“…I believe our survival demands revolution, both cultural and political. If we are to survive the disasters that threaten, and survive our own struggle to make it new—a struggle I believe we have no choice but to commit ourselves to—we need tremendous transfusions of imaginative energy.”

—Denise Levertov, from her essay “Great Possessions,” January 1970

Angela Pulido Zorro, The ordinance of a history that arranges itself in a loop, or how to spell a scream, 2014.

It is February. I think about ruts carved into thawing prairie soil—how violence echoes. I pull your sleeves right side out every time I do the laundry. Shapes of familiar ceremony.

In March, rusted satellites fall to the ground. I find the ocean, again. A litany of land and shoreline.

Then May repeats to the present day. Silver glints from in-flight airplanes catch the attention of wandering minds. Our elegies no longer unconscious prayers.

The frontlines have finally reached us.

periphery of justice

“Most of the time, I think we’re embodied because we are supposed to be. I don’t think the goal is to leave our bodies behind, despite what many major religions tell us.” — Dana Levin

Santiago Moix, Rippling #34, silkscreen monotype, 2012

Economists believe
things that are abundant
have less value,
example: love.
A cheap cadence
mutated and wound
around a swelling chorus.
Shut tight. Loud as bodies.
Imagine if we answered
all those blushed curious inquiries
and followed constellations
to rewrite retrogrades.
Speaking softly enough to
understand its sacred feedback.

__________

title is William Stafford’s reference to “that feeling you have when you go along accepting what occurs to you and finding your way out somewhere to the rim where you are ready to abandon that sequence and come back and start all over again” (Writing the Australian Crawl)

sounds between notes

I don’t swim away from
the greedy snapping of breath,
but my throat…well,
terror owns each kiss.

stanza from “Here” by Amber Flora Thomas

 

N Ocean Beach, July 20, 2018

As waves of morning light
survive extravagant centuries
I follow a thread of words
primary   gravity   safety
broken just enough to fit in

august is a glitch

my jaw has been clenched shut for three days
in a trance, I wait

Nathaniel Evans, 2015, A Message [oil on canvas]
sounds of skateboards grinding concrete float
common as the sun rising above distant freeways
this is a scene framed by palm tree ascensions

bus stops concentrate waiting strangers
wanting lives that respond versus react
a wish more violent than fading starlight

fear-riddled dreams are an intuitive compass
the future is bigger than we can ever pretend
metaphors swell as waves of silent witnesses scroll

in transit, temporary, I thrash

field notes

We used to think that if we knew one, we knew two, because one and one are two. We are finding that we must learn a great deal more about “and.” — Sir Arthur Eddington

“you found the clit,” april 2018, san francisco

I. virtual systems

we have learned to covet reflective virtual objects
on occasion, we can still recall vibrations of analog sounds
in a digital world fueled by fossils & compounded fabrications
I wrap my arms around you as car alarms blare songs of protection

II. echo as residue

our preferences fill shapes generated by algorithms gone wild
authenticated searches find radical stability
a looped sacred ceremony

III. curation

corn, cowboys, & cattle
broken buttons
violent light
[classed units of measurement or why it matters I want the horizon to never end]

a 21st century dream

I am at war with the obvious. —William Eggleston

artist: Todd Norsten

I get nervous when people start talking about wanting to own things:
land, houses, ideas.
This present moment feels like freedom,
a highly volatile state.
In my dream, I walked US-Highway 12.
I passed community banks flush with bartered dreams
and gas stations promising consistently low prices when paying with cash.
The ghosts all drove cars and didn’t bother me.
Lucid, I believed I was back in Berlin. I was brave.
I woke to trees taller than houses.

conscientious imposter

‘I see’ ‘with my voice’ — Alice Notley, from The Decent of Alette

Note by Anne Truitt, April 1965

our learning is from the news
a nurtured condition

⁄ it is eclipse season
shadows are light  ⁄

our call is to imagine, to conceive
defend against performance-enhancing speculations

visionary blight
= fragmentations

our hands worn from self-caress
please see management

it takes a lot of energy to kill a god
Δ long division

we live promised lives

June 2018

And then will come my turn toward considering the poem as a set of strategies.
— William Stafford, You Must Revise Your Life

My aesthetic genealogy is borrowed from a working poetics. A magpie practice of creative slanted interruptions. One of my favorite writing habits is to post on Sundays. Years ago I discovered this practice as a way to reclaim time lost to benign neglect and take back a day formerly dedicated to church services that framed ideal bodies as those willing to give up their souls.

Forgive this brief editorializing break. I’ve wandered to the edge of today’s subject.

It is safe to assume the forensics of great writers are investments in process.

For the last twelve and a half years, I have traced the shapes of memory — collective and personal — in this wide open space. I have anchored active examination into subtitled weekly posts. I curated evidence of expansion through parallel interpretations and feel for traction inside line breaks weighted by punctuation’s invitation to pause. I am aligned when tone reflects visual structure.

This time last year I was organizing myself to study Audre Lorde’s time in Berlin. Today I want to capture my emerging intention to study William Stafford this fall. The boundaries of this poetics inquiry are a promise to continue to carve out curious time. It is an extension of how conscious practice cleaves to the promise of honoring spirit. I aim to explore and investigate Stafford’s pacifist approaches — specifically conscientious objector — to writing poetry, his teaching methods of writing poetry, and his graceful rejection of competition.

Our days are urgent as parents wait for children to find them. Climate and change are conjoined into violent denials. Stafford practiced creative resistance strategies during WWII and the Vietnam War.

What might we borrow to alter our endangered lives?

tautology, as a fault of style

“with the evolution of awareness came the possibility that existence could be more than survival, or that survival could be more than a response to fear, and could include the encompassing of joy” — Jeremy Wolff, excerpt from the essay Thots on Pot

April 2018

Northern Plains’ cottonwoods spread their seeds this time of year
thick as snow their white progeny coat lawns and 4×4 pickup trucks
a soft blizzard similar to the way Saharan dust reached Texas this week

both are dramatic
all that settling
          (it’s probably nothing)

this feeling of apocalypse came on swift
like gaslighting
    like wildfire
        like bad news

when adoration and permissions share the same open mouth of devotion
it is recommended that you consult your prophesies to justify blanket explanations

transpose unknowing into thoughts and prayers
a crash disrupts into eventual silence

prominence

“writing…is a process of relying on immediate pervasive feelings, not an escape from them…”   — William Stafford, Writing the Australian Crawl. pg. 88

I’M HERE FOR LUCK. Louis Wain (1926)

I haven’t found a way to say I love you that isn’t complicated, so I practice loving you every day. Sounds of terrorized children broke through all those hours of visual noise. Hope is a map. A place to begin.

The distance of decades doesn’t always make things quieter. Calendars are more form than function. I learned early and repeatedly that love must be earned, and value is measured by others. An intimacy of detachment.

Addicted to seeking approval is one way of saying yes unconditionally. Instead, imagine a private collection of silent hymns. These days, I take care to mend memories as a way to create acceptance. A public chorus swelled.

Broken into speculative practices, writing things down reinforces pleasure and importance in tandem. Together, through famine and fortune, what stands out is love.  An oxygen where sacrifice is not born from competition.

delayed gratification

“There’s always a lot to do before you get to go to heaven.”
— Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower

Lee Kun-Yong : Logic of place, 1975

when the sun sets pink, orange, and red
broken moving clouds spread
like velvet like compulsion
action stretches idle       smooth

reading read is different from hearing read spoken
or why I adore hiding words in my throat

formerly private as guilt
what came first
  sky
   or water

altered
like states of being with
   or without you

regenerative loops: believing in a tomorrow

repeat after me

cai guo-qiang; sky ladder, 2015

a prompt     significance of scale
all days pull forward, if you are lucky
connecting fascination to scarcity

generic worries     an organic undoing
we burn fuel to buy: eggs, cheese, & bread
overwhelmed, we fear waste

what does it mean to be loved more when you are gone
absent    swallowing
learning shame is light years from guilt

replicating comfort into a feeling       deserve
repeat after me: only the best pickles are made with fresh dill
remember there is so much to hope for & even more to want

the birds sang our gossip

“When someone tells us something, we don’t know how many versions they have tried out inside before the one we hear.” — William Stafford, You Must Revise Your Life

Paul Jenkins (American, 1923-2012), Phenomena Winds Meet West, 1976-78. Acrylic on canvas, 70.5 x 127 cm

It was nothing but ordinary how the day started. The sun crept above the horizon like any weekday likes to unfold. Yesterday a seismic shift happened — two degrees right to the center. Trees noticed the ambient vibrations immediately, then the birds. No one noticed the subtle ways computer grids had wiped clean negative balances and dropped zeros while spinning out complex equations for how to love beyond reflex.

It took seventeen years for scientists to confirm the shift occurred. Pundits had convinced the public that such a change could not occur simply because they had no imagination to the contrary. Scattered conversations slowly and remotely extended what had been idle reservations around the basics of grace as understood as time. It was a dramatic revolution. Men were not brave. We found their excuses strapped to the back of westbound bus seats.

We considered multiple ways to drown ourselves in the meanings of what we had known and what was now. Immediate and sharp like a broken tooth, we rejected regressive poetic frames. In some places, it became fashionable to sell boredom while others practiced local rituals that buried light. By all accounts, we now live immoral lives. Only the youngest birds have yet to learn not to take from the most fragmented rumors to make their shelters.