polemical allusions

I exchange my life for words.

Weak, uncertain currency.

—Anna Kamienska, from “Industrious Amazement: A Notebook,” translated by Clare Cavanagh Poetry (March 1st, 2011)

Adger Cowans, Icarus, 1970. Canon pigment print.

Every day since March 13th, I have written something. Some days only a string of words, bursts of breath, or an image find their way through and out. It is my commitment to pay attention.

On March 22nd I wrote that almost 400 people had died from COVID-19, and started to track the pace of American death on April 2nd (over 5,100). I stopped consistently tracking on May 31st (105,000 dead), an arbitrary deadline because the notebook I started on March 13th ended there. I was also experiencing cognitive dissonance between my values around attention as action and my writing practice which centers curiosity. I could only integrate this morbid number on a jagged graph as an abstracted affect of weight, like the moon’s gravitational pull on Earth or the resonance of unmasked grief. I had been lying to myself that I was curious about death, in this quantified way.

Yesterday my source [google: “covid 19 us deaths”] told me 142,000+ were gone.

Risk assessments are strategic investments: four walls and one door to escape. Subtext is its own elegy. Sometimes only metaphors can help me decipher a world where death is sold as the inevitable cost of doing business, which has been conflated to mean the only way to have a life. Metaphors are a clever method to take up space and complicate our mutual knowing. How might I displace our assumed common language and still connect to you?

If I’m feeling lucky, I might be able to translate my curiosities to you beyond the distance of pencil to paper. I recognize energy lost in between contact eventually fades like a bruise found but not remembering its source. William Stafford might name this felt experience.

Long ago, I replaced god with something bigger — an awareness there’s no precision in the prescriptive phrase “let go of the past.”  For now, I reclaim there’s pleasure and possibility in waking up to an anticipatory life. Otherwise, a paranoid reading would lead us to believe that depravation is the norm or something far worse, complacency as impulse.

negative capability

I don’t think I have said enough about the splintered disorder of June, July & August. — Virginia Woolf, The Complete Works: The Diary

You Will Be Towed, January 2018, Oakland, CA

Sustained turbulence becomes gentle mania.
Where violence shapes, hope shelters.
Redwoods may represent us more than we know.

But it’s the love you don’t give
yourself that’s got me worried.
If skin is cut off from oxygen, it will die.

It’s also true the last part of the body
to burn when cremated is your belly button.
A finality to an already severed attachment.

By gathering this evidence as a way to signal
private grief, I reckon these traces of darkness
will eventually find you brave.

line of sight

“For greed, the entire world is too little.” — Seneca, Moral Letters to Lucilius

Walton Ford, The Island (detail), 2009

Will the past be unobstructed
when the observed become intervisible narrators?

Culture is cancelled. Culture has been cancelled.
Only blue this morning.

The cat’s fur fades in the summer light.
Time [redacted].

We remain virtual until we go outside.
Hashtag: nature, grass, sky.

pink noise

Pears cannot ripen alone. So we ripened together.” — Meridel Le Sueur

Lyndi Sales. What are your chances if the game is rigged?, paper & thread, 124 x 115 cm

I remember when we would go with you to feed the owner’s cattle.
You’d shovel hay from the bed of a slow-moving pickup,
driverless and pointed in the general direction of home.
In the summer, we would pretend to be left behind
and race each other back to the truck.
The first one to jump onto the tailgate was the winner.
In winter, we would sit bundled up, heater blasting,
in the cab and watch as the cattle’s eager breath
etched a chorus of hungry moos into the frozen air.
The chore was done when the hay was gone
and we were witnesses to the wavy furred lines
spread across the barren prairie landscape.

I remember how the weight of your loudest threats
mapped to your hands. You hit us to teach us a lesson,
to be quiet, or because you couldn’t hit the boss.
As we got older, and bigger, you perfected your words
into weapons, making invisible your impact.
Then came the tender gaps of amputated time
when your anger spilled over into vengeance
against those you had declaimed to love so fiercely.

I remember you forced us to move
to the deepest parts of nowhere,
packing your temper and always at your testimony
that this time would be better than the last.
Starting over was the goddamn point when
all you have for a legacy is your name.
That may have been one reason why
no one knew us where we were headed.
Our legacy now an extension of mutual reputation,
much like how only female cottonwood trees
shed their obnoxious cottony seeds
to the most distant, wind-driven places.

a month in June

“…and that is the sentence on repeat in the tapedeck of my chest: How do you go about finding the heart?

[…]

I am amazed by how much people can survive, endure—and how they can go on living, laughing. After thorough devastation, indescribable loss, people’s hearts still beat. People can, still, live. This is perplexing, bewildering news to me. Defies all sense and gravity to me. And yet.”

Aracelis Girmay

Still from As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty, Jonas Mekas, 2000

Thick bands of clouds scroll by — unbothered. The poetics of narrative: landscaped yards with lavender, slow growing Japanese maples, bushes of rosemary, hissing palm trees, roses, fuzzy foxtail grasses, vine tendrils straining toward the brightest light, jade trees, announcements of jasmine. Please mute yourself when entering a virtual space. Passive voice writes headlines. Who deserves punishment? A voice reminds us to be careful about seductive victim scripts, leaches of energy. Is having power worth its traded value? For the first time in a long time, we want to continue at the current pace; light holds on longer.
It is June and the radiator is still spitting.

backwash of rumor

[Let the bears devour our enemies]. We have no obligation
To open // ourselves // for those who do us harm.

last stanza of “[SOMEWHERE IN LOS ANGELES] THIS POEM IS NEEDED” by Christopher Soto

SHOW UP, Oakland, November 2017

Recede
like waves—
a motion,
refract.

When speculation
is commercialized
what power is ceded
by paying attention?

On distracted authority,
faith becomes the plan.
Repress judgment.
Feel your immediacy.

__________
title borrowed from Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency by Olivia Laing

apophenia

“Sensuality. Our basis of being concrete about the world. It is lustful relationship to things that exist.” — Mark Rothko, from Mark Rothko From the Inside Out

Fruit postcard, Paul Huf, 1983

Not quite epiphany
more
   false positive
associations of pink
or orange to flesh
as displacement
or tender resignations
   an unqueering
a gamble.

Such inconvenience filters the odds
into other’s perceptions, luck, or madness.
When our fists equal the size of our hearts
there’s recognition in that sovereign drama.
Beginnings blindspot endings.
All rhetorical approximations
become redundant.
Transitions, as in not yet.

Our histories are programmed errors
    marked like rings inside trees
plastic as the immediate future.
Mystery strikes then bends
absorbing the unrecognizable
when opposites compliment
more than divide
  potentially godwinked
impossibly divine.