end of the third quarter | 2022

Alex Prager, Anaheim, 2017, 60 x 45 inches

“It is a time for tons of verbiage, activity, consumption.” —Mark Rothko

The end of the year is coming, again.
Will you claim you are satisfied,
so far? How will you commit
to these remaining days? In this interlude,
what to cherish, what to improvise,
what to root, and what to let go?

I am still learning to pretend
the difference between memories
of a past gone and memories of a past unknown.
A loop on its return becomes a harbinger
of sentient evidence, now personal phenomenology.
It’s best to surrender to messianic joy

at this horizon point in a vanishing year.
Update your maps of what remains of your calls
to provisional responses. Name your beloveds.
There’s still time for passionate cadence and
appreciation of light’s lengthened silhouettes.
That space, that pause, is an insider’s point of view.

These longings pull from long-shadow days and nights.
Return, again, repeat. That kind of essential
permanence, palpable. Cross reference your embodied index,
then become a territory beyond meaning.
Enable new, interpretive beginnings. I flicker—an epic
verse. Your alterity is my resonance. Ride with me.

hope is a hairshirt

“Die knowing something. You are not here long.” —Walker Evans

Québec / Montréal / 1983 / © Gil Rigoulet

I don’t want to complain. It’s the morning light, bright and orange, that is angry.
Do not read this as a confession but more guided by the belief: a month of Sundays.
It may be true; I have a furious wish to rearrange time. This is not a mare’s nest but more deceptively a half-full moon. Breaking has an edge when the loudest crowd is guided
by psychopomps muted mouthing and demented. Sound waves are dependent upon temperature to carry their messages too. I’m learning town names and their geography
by following wildfires. Not quite pastime, like writing, but more gradual like buried cities now exposed. Reminders that it is the slanting light who is sharing this memory.

stack the days

“Today was one of those non-days as if in a parenthesis, …” —Etel Adnan, Shifting Silence

“Busy Being Born”, Matt McCormick

Workers move the product from the field
and from the factories to the trucks
to the table and into the mouths of bosses
so full from efficiency they are starving.

like an electrical storm

I AM HAPPY_Louis Wain

A love for language and its capacity to remind,
to provoke, to destroy, to build—all ways
to make meaning within life’s chaos.
That duality of attraction and repulsion,
to be godlike, to declare a voice,
to make nothing something.

summer testimony (no. 7)

That things “just go on” is the catastrophe. — Walter Benjamin

Gil Rigoulet, England series, 1970-80

The poppies were still asleep.
Cats, the ones who never let me pet them,
stare past me as the sun migrates west.
It is summer. I am feral, again.
Or maybe this rumor wants to be about withdrawal,
an urge for a substance being withheld. Within,
there can be acceptance, resistance,
and something possessed delicately in between—
unknown, suggestive and loose like spontaneous prayer.
The atmosphere, thick with notes of jasmine and rose,
wanders around my morning shadow. It traces vintage memories
swarming unsolicited and holy: 4th of July rodeos,
tomato sandwiches, shedding cottonwoods, and parental neglect
so pervasive it remains material witness to all those lost summers.
Of course gravity is physical, but who will study its somatics?

of the now

“Nearly everyone in the world has appetites and impulses, trigger emotions, islands of selfishness, lusts just beneath the surface.” —John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Miklós Turtle, Hungary, 1999

If you read the daily news,
you are told to be afraid.

If you read the poets,
you see why the sun sings.

If you measure that gap,
slightly more oblivious than
upholding divine rights of kings,
you will find yourself.

If you are quiet, enough,
your erasure will light the way.

when you’re afraid, your brain wants to fight

“Reading criticism clogs conduits through which one gets new ideas: cultural cholesterol.” —Susan Sontag, 1964 journal entry

Headline News, 2013, Vladimír Takáč

A handful of ranunculus, yellow, swell open.
Morning showers pass through. I make a wish
when the sun breaks free from its shroud.
A temporary proscenium of light forms. I see
motes and ghosts in gestured choreography.
A possessed experience of gods or a trip
of light god-shaped? In rapid succession,
I am mouth-to-mouth lucidity. I breach a crown
of paper tigers. Inside this current occupation,
I surrender in ecstatic objection to a language,
blue, that takes from lust and sells back violence.

smile, with your eyes

Dangerous, but careful. Wanting everything, I tamed my anger, smiling wide and innocently. Dorothy Allison, from “Steal Away,” Trash: Stories

photographer: Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

An old man carries two oranges,
the size of his fists,
in a red see-through plastic bag.
The oranges swing inside its corners.

I know I need to throw away
your wilted memorial flowers.
The moon is in its last quarter.

Yesterday slipped past me
like a stranger. These artificial
gaps of light both score inner life
and the sounds of meaning.

unidentifiable aggression

They made you pay for bread
For sky earth water sleep
And for the poverty
Of your lives.

—Paul Eluard, from “Victory for Guernica”, Selected Poems (bilingual ed. trans. Gilbert Bowen)

Jan Beutener, Ochtend, 1992

In the museum of modern art,
we wanted to see the details—
up close. Moving inches
past the official stand-here line,
we needed to know
how exactly did the artist
capture the depth of pure fear
in the subject’s hyperrealistic eyes.
We knew that fear, frequent and embodied,
from our own ensnared lives
as daughters born from violent men.
The movement of color showing,
with excruciating precision,
how endlessly hollow
the projective space is for deception
like transparent fingers, pointed and sharp,
foolishly optimistic that escalation
is a proven strategy for peace.

scrawl

I’m begging you. Please don’t use this time wisely.
I want you to waste every swollen second
as your breath catches inside your abandoned throat.

Untitled, Louise Bourgeois, 1999

I’m sure you’ve felt this ineffable pleasure before?
Being unwanted, unseen, silenced: useless reputations.
What these words leave inside you matter to me.

static imprints

I can connect
Nothing with nothing.

“The Waste Land: III. The Fire Sermon”, T. S. Eliot, 1922


“Cluster of Rats”, dated late 19th century

Denying greed’s influence on our myths
means we are buried in tragedy.
Obsession of scale has left us wading
in the sheer depravity of accurate detail.

All the morning newspapers land on the same headline.
Near future is the sound of a volcano exploding
five thousand miles away. Ripe tomatoes hang on the vine.
Children swing in the blue fading black darkness.

shapes of buried sounds

“When it’s your turn to live through a war, you’ll see, you don’t have time to feel anything.” —Colette Marin Catherine

Zenon Zubyrtowicz

It’s all random chaotic vigilance these days.
Day number: “unknown”. Secret selves will be revealed
in the times to come. They know desperation
influences choices. Which illusions may end up real?

II.
This “new normal” hangs like a loose shirt,
an odor, a swallow. We are promised a brighter future.

III.
Philosophers and preachers’ predictions,
unproven claims, betray their nostalgia.
Doubts to the contrary raise suspicions,
an emotion of imagination and subjectivity.

IIII.
Uncertain and curious how permanent this now
will be is one way to recognize the game.
Loss, grief, time are the same measurement,
which requires comparison in some form.

IIIII.
The rich, and their need for luxuries, buy ready made.
Some beauty is unimaginable, a pang. Sharp vanishing
click bait. Possession was an emanation: source.

the saturation capacity of a week in December

That moment when the word incarnates, finds its skin: yes.
— Lia Purpura, from the essay “Sugar Eggs: A Reverie”

photographer: Leon Levinstein, New York, 1981

I’m gnawing off my own survival
and feeling full at the end of another year.

That any private emotion can still be felt
feels victorious. Sure, sensationalism

feels good, but only for so long.
Invisible patterns, an intentional result,

form this temporality, which may be also be
averse pacification. It’s not even midwinter

and yet we want—phantom abundance.
The way marginalia signals scarcity.

That kind of resourceful:
our aggregate bodies immersed in attention.

Pasteurized sameness. But wait—
there’s still anticipation—

a specific kind of waiting.
What clouds teach us.

this side of heaven

God’s own calmness is a sign of God.
The surprisingly cold smell of potatoes or money.
Solid pieces of silence.

— Anne Carson, excerpt from “God’s Work

photographer: Ashley E. Walters from When the Moon Was in the Seventh House series

The preacher leaned into salvation’s promise at the very end.
It was a funeral, no better time to coerce eternal life.
Another soul claimed and sweetly celebrated as taken.
The rest of us will just have to wait our turn.

How death gathers us together—memories of memories.
Grief a double-edged fascination, overactive,
a disorder of obsession. Not here, anymore.

But on this side of heaven we must find a way.
Not wanting to arrive too late for the inevitable call
to forgive what has been left behind, and its remainder—
the sky laid open in exonerated glory and surrendered
its filtered light to be just as definitive as belief in faith.

revision happens on Sunday

Now I become myself. It’s taken time, many years and places.
—May Sarton, “Now I Become Myself”

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

I’ve traveled far enough to remain the narrator.
The beautiful distortion of reflection,
time arrested. Star gravity.
Symbiotic or parasite? It’s both
and there’s only one answer. Details,
I need to add details. Salt air stains.
I am not doing anything wrong,
which is where we disagree. What does it mean
when the middle ground is now the high ground?
Sometimes the only place to start is right here.
It’s the same kind of living that believes
challenges are opportunities. Experts predict
the rapture will happen in the early morning
during the hours of softening darkness.
Show a smile; brave a tooth.
Imagine this as it is—a holy exposure.
Stimulate me, please.

as time expires

Praise in the sense that it is an embracing of emerging experience. —William Stafford

Back from the market, Blizzard 2 series, Christophe Jacrot, 50×75 ed 10

A cloudless sky, mostly blue,
held remnants of peach
at its opening edges.

This longing permeates, resisting
a horizon—a working class assumption
of completeness.

Our culture is from men who recorded tides
before gravity from the moon was proved
by future men.

And we must keep living
in that absence.

chatter

Mona Hatoum, Deep Throat, 1996. table, chair, television set, glass plate, fork & knife, water glass, laser disc & player

This feels influenced…
in the same way as
believing in tomorrow
is a predictive narrative.
Futures become quid pro quo
throbbing, mid-life lust.
Fog pushes inland, offshore swells.
Well-earned suspicions form furious
visceral optimized expectations,
soaked in publicly circulating emotions
from day-trading warlocks and wardens.
Waste is fantasy. Plastic generations
replace curiosity with optimism, a commodity.
Hoarding ironically creates emptiness.
Ask any aspiring millionaire.
Habitual behavior now discounted reward.

Hard learning

“These are my Confessions and if I say nothing in them it’s because I have nothing to say.” —Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

Seconda Emerging, Barry Stone, 2015

is to know where the bones are buried.
Synonym: institutional allegiance.
Why is risk so often in your mouth?
Your answer, “That’s where the desire swells.”

It’s true the end of a river is also a mouth.
Waves form unnoticed. We tell each other stories—
unanswered questions worth more conceptually.
Wanting words that hold their form
both as concrete nouns and confluent verbs.

No subject is stable you often tell me.
Following the principle of least astonishment
is probably how we got here.
The living room pictures hang crooked
from the last noticeable earthquake.

Lesson: survival is a false dichotomy.

carry the message

“What use having a great depth of field, if there is not an adequate depth of feeling?”
—W. Eugene Smith

Barbara Kruger, The Globe Shrinks (video still), 2010

The park’s grass is ankle deep,
again. Promises of everlasting life
continue to hold their sway.

It’s 2021, and I just learned
gold seeks gold.
Bounty hunters still scheming.

When will the rich suffer equally?
Is that even the right question?
Forests burn to their crowns
while babies drown in basement apartments.
What frequency will you hear
the trees screaming? Repeat yourself.

The neighborhood birds continue to sing
their morning songs. We must still be ok,
for now? Surrender—then acceptance—or
is it the other away around?

Certainty needs urgency
to keep it potent.
Embody your devotion.
Watch the ocean replicate.

All those Sunday sermons
soaked deep within.
Knowing, that convinced feeling.
Accuracy a worthy reliquary.
Be an animal, again.

panic in the pocket

personal screen shot from the film “Utuqaq” by Iva Radivojević. Text reads: “There is a time/space interval between thought and fear.”

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“To imagine that turmoil is in the past and somehow we are now in a more stable time seems to be a psychological need.” —John McPhee, Assembling California

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In Audre Lorde’s 1984 Creative Writing Workshop in Berlin, she had two requirements:

  1. Read at least 10 poems a week. Keep a log of the poems—name of poem and poet—and write a sentence that will help you recall how you feel from the poem.
  2. Keep a pen/pencil and paper with you at all times to write things down (“it will not stay in your head”).

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In claiming this emotional space every week, anchors of memory and experience structure a highly unstable body of work. I arrive inhabiting this swath of living, or as Lauren Berlant said in her essay Cruel Optimism, “deflating the symbolic into the somatic”.

After all, islands are the tops of mountains. Perception as slant, signaling both perspective and insight. That sweet trigger of embodied habit. Writing from an ascetic life.

What earned reward lays in wait? Is it focus as illumination? Maybe the reward is endurance inside an anxious limbic system. Simply, a need gets satisfied. A temperance of honesty that there is no final outcome to this effort. That this predictive text, and its energy, may be read as art. That this is worthless.

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“If I resisted, I was lost. If I gave in, I was saved.” —Didier Eribon, Returning to Reims

forced to opinion

with the animals dying around us
taking our feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
thank you we are saying and waving
dark though it is

W.S. Merwin, last stanza of “Thanks

photographer: Mark Steinmetz

Afghanistan is falling. Call me.
Pulling out resonates
inside the soft mouths of liars.
Strategic slants are concealed
into compressed scrolls [timelines].
Repeat. The future of artificial
intelligence will be a series—trying and failing.
Like the original version of intelligence,
it presumes. It bleeds into itself.

Audacity is roiling. Shhh
your contemporary affect is showing.
In rooms with no windows, meetings crosstalk.
Taunting, we call out to god and beg
his celebrity angels to rescue us.
Suckling angst between pauses of incidental music,
our atmospheric knowledge tells us to take comfort
knowing even the rich are mutually suffocating.
Our shared psychosis now bonded as emotional reality.

electric hum

How good it felt: to want something and
pretend you don’t, and to get it anyway.

—last two lines of Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz’s “July

“Whose Values?”, Barbara Kruger exhibit, Getty Museum, July 2015

Trust your gut. I don’t want you to get lost in the details. This is a map, a blueprint, a ledger of interactions, process or form or whatever you’ve been taught to see.

Guests of former selves clamor. There are fires and no water. Heat domes and variants. Return-to-work and shelter-in-place. Critical race theory and Big Lies™. Long division and 4th of July car sales. Blueberries are rotting on the bush and border theatre sells out. The routine of keeping it together. Line by line, word by word, click by click. 21st century prefabrications.

How can I hurl myself deeper
into this life

—Ellen Bass, “The Long Recovery”

I’m a maximalist by virtue. I want more than an average understanding. I’m the oldest daughter of an amateur bull rider. Surface-level commonality is temporary as an ocean wave. I want to be like the tides, consistently influential to the point of unforgettable. Inverting the fates, nothing unimportant.

proportional speculation

Les Krims, 1970, spitting out the word p-h-o-t-o-g-r-a-p-h-y

Hope was my greatest sin. —Clarice Lispector, from “The Disasters of Sofia”

Your and my immunity are fated these dragged, hot days.
In a burning world, my dreams saturate. Mostly trees,
thick, green, with moss thick as absence. Caution—
only longing and sunny winters ahead. Toward is a feeling.
Away a noun. What luck has found us both still breathing?
Our futures have become increasingly jealous of the past.
Portents of death a spammed life—forgettable.
Self as a frequency. Do you know how to want less?

summer testimony (no. 4)

“What happens when you reposition agency away from power?” —Ocean Vuong, episode 227 of Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso

Hayashi Waichi, Large Chrysanthemums, 1981

I’m writing this down
as proof of memory.
The sky is almost always
a solid backlit blue
unless it isn’t.
A specificity shared
by anyone who lives beneath it.
Not unlike knowing poppies don’t unfold
until midmorning and being aware, now,
how summer here blooms—
if you’re paying attention.
Gradients of time punctuate
while light cascades unnoticed.
In other words, there’s devotion
and there’s feral experience.

pay me for this time

Pleasure is productive; it produces itself. —Arielle Zibrak

Clouds stretch fluff
over million-dollar hills.
That clock stopped years ago.
The plants grow taller.
Evacuations have started,
master prompts. This land of fault lines
under a sky so blue, suspended in hope.
Responsive is the desire, a memory.

a stranger’s response

Wincenty Dunikowski-Duniko, Breath, 1976

I regret to inform you the rich have begun
harvesting Mars’ oxygen;
inter is in the written news again.
They claim no correlation nor ask for forgiveness.

I am worried you aren’t worried.
You might not be paying attention? Public
policy is stillborn. Impulse
thoughts and prayers are batched releases.

I want to relax. Find a way to watch
the Milky Way spin its slack spiral.
This slow death of heat and tempers rising
does not hold the sweet promise of sublimation.

I need rapture, not the heavy-breath version
on repetitive pulpits and news shows where
mouths of pundits and preachers whip
contagious affect for our infinite reconciliations.

I crave that immediate pause
left behind after release. Once shared,
this can no longer be mine nor exclusive.
Now, simply, the evaporating breath of a stranger.

condolences

Having the equilibrium of a poet, I kept falling in love. — Frank Stanford,
“With the Approach of the Oak the Axeman Quakes”

Felicia Simion, Self Portrait, 1999

And everyone’s competing
For a love they won’t receive
‘Cause what this palace needs is release
— Lorde, “Team

The neighbor’s laundry hung drying in the wind generated from our conversations below. It listened like well-placed ears as your observations unraveled my patterns: cold penetrates while the sun strokes. You said in order for this to work, we must agree to be happy but your gaze was hard, questionable. My tone grew suspicious. Wandering fragmented and feral as virtual imagination, I drifted. Our poetics of pleasure and devotion now kindred mysteries. Illusions of prophesy, or was it property, told us we could own each other with infinite monthly payments—no money down—an absolute steal! A flashing sign said Don’t Eat, Touch Only. Absorption may reduce your wing span and there’s not an airport within hundreds of miles from here. Yes, of course this is a competition and you’ve been eliminated before knowing all the rules. Love, now a cathedral built from simulation, was defined for us. The laundry, dried hard as bones, was pulled back inside.

revival

… Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

— Wendell Berry, last four lines of “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front,” from The Country of Marriage (1973)

Chieko Shiomi, EVENT FOR THE MIDDAY IN THE SUNLIGHT, 1963

Monday:
Beneath a gray sky, backlit bright,
the persimmon tree is full of leaves
as if it hadn’t just been naked for months.

Tuesday:
If you find an orange
on the sidewalk,
one solitary orange,
what kind of luck is that?

In Olivia Laing’s opening essay in Funny Weather, “You Look at the Sun”, she references Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s concept of a paranoid reader. “A paranoid reader is concerned with gathering information, tracing links and making the hidden visible. They anticipate and are perennially defended against disaster, catastrophe, disappointment. They are always on the lookout for danger, about which they can never, ever know enough.”

Distilled: “to prove what we already feared we knew”.

Wednesday:
I fingered the begging-for-it jade trees.

Thursday:
As the flowers slept,
still curled tight,
the sun floated above me
already round and bright.

Abstract as repentance or glory—a transitory representation—is the distinct learning from unknowing, an experience of active living. A day of rituals, smooth from habit, bloom into conscious discipline. Nothing less than a lived response will do in these warped times.

Another week soft as cat paws sneaks past me. The sounds of the radiator and freeway now so familiar, I consider the silence around the noise. Maybe this form, an oblivious infinite loop, finds function waiting like the persimmons? Or maybe this release continues to demand merging threads fleeting as sunlight passing through morning clouds. It’s just as possible all that happens is that I learn to love myself a little more.

Friday:
What if
this whole time
I’ve been writing my future?

mend the hole

Loving feels lovely in a violent world,
—first line in “Community”, Marge Piercy

Wisconsin, Photo by Kenneth Josephson, 1979

I relished pleasures of the mind and the flesh equally.
—Marge Piercy, Sleeping with Cats

mind that gap
somebody must know
the biochemical difference
between fear and excitement
that moment
trees with new leaves
look fresh next to those
who keep their looks all year round
same view, thoughts recycled
blandly overstimulated
40 more hours squeezed
into future dollars
performing “ordinary life”
(overheard on morning NPR)
all of this so-called-living
     still
to be cherished

junk stats

I CAN HEAR THE BIRDSONG CARVE SHAPES IN TIME, screen shot from Fishcakes and cocaine

“I shrug whatever is gone and welcome the changing truth.”
William Stafford, 25 September 1975

* crosswalks are supposed to keep you safe *

Consider this to be a true story. Send a self-addressed stamped envelope to learn more.

* a moment, a chance, they are everywhere *

The orange tree has been gone for at least a year now?
It was one of those bright and sunny days.

* perpetrators hidden in plain sight *

Home is a loop, shadowed at its edges.
Go out and gather. Return /
insubordinate.

method making

“I set the limitations. The limitations of course are the color, the size, the wind in the room, and how I put the paint on.” —Pat Steir, Pat Steir: Artist

San Francisco, 2011

Can you quit something that doesn’t exist?

Portland, 2012

trace the traces
unknowingly, knowingly

Oakland, 2015

stay curious or die

respond

I am not writing a history of these times or of past times or of any future times and not even the history of these visions which are with me all day and all of the night.
— Anne Boyer, “Not Writing

Hubert Hilscher, cover of Projekt No.1, 1969.

You asked me if I had responded to the response.
I thought about those high school boys from Tennessee
bragging about their football conquests in the Mariott hot tub.
They were beautiful, hard like toy guns
full of manufactured bravado.
Again, you asked me if I had responded.
I remember witnessing a new moon’s illumination.
A simple and ordinary texture of perceptual darkness
worn resilient and smooth as a natural pearl.
You asked me when I will respond.
I answered with a question wound around reactive
need, a homegrown suspicion. Where, in my body,
won’t I respond based on all this surveillance?

accumulated chatter

Alexander Calder, 1966

Are your feelings loud enough to be heard?
Will they last long enough to remember
these stretched thin and cheated days?
How should I trust the slant of this sound —
as a temporary glance, as weather, or as
a debatable response? Is this everyday
violence dystopia or social change?

As if the media makers and media takers
are building the same empire. As if they
fantasize to the same thrills.
Explain where god can be found in this.
Rectify the impossibility of knowing.
Show me the value of undivided attention.

Where faith’s enforcement tends to
get stuck is wanting results. Shame on me.

politics of knowledge

: you use a multiplier factor, the language. — William Stafford, 11 January 1976 (source)

Wet Hands (2015), Sanya Kantarovsky, Oil, Pastel, Watercolor, and Oil Stick on Canvas

It’s always the details.
You know the cliché.
The public is personal.
It’s just business
or fun
or boys being boys.

Years ago, now,
I asked about the narrator
in a room full of narratives.
I was told “story not facts”
is how we would “win.”
All the narratives nodded
into well-trained echoes.

souvenirs of temporality 

… read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life,
re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book,
and dismiss whatever insults your own soul…
— Walt Whitman

Maurizio Nannucci, THE MISSING POEM IS THE POEM, 1969

This just-past year was a hard and impatient year to live through. All the ways that living had been previously measured—flesh on flesh, breathing in blue sky, talking with your eyes in crowded noisy rooms, curating analog conversations—were inverted. In my sheltered place, I watched as the pace and geographic scale of global suffering became buried in disembodied aggregates. Paradox ruptured.

“Everyone remains aware of the arbitrariness, the artificial character of time and history.”
—Jean Baudrillard, The Illusion of the End 

pleasure  |  obsession |  distraction |  instinct

This list contains references from a calendar year that borrowed time to push its own way through. It began as it ended, incomplete.

    • 40 hours online is not affectively equivalent to an embodied 40 hours
    • consciously inviting imagination and reducing perceived need of others’ assumed expectations cultivates fascination, which is an antidote to manufactured boredom
    • making assumptions wastes time, and more importantly, energy
    • change is unquantifiable malleable entropy
    • morning walks adjust the perceived stillness
    • step into the slant

It has been enough to record the honest and the irreverent interruptions. There are whole days, months, ideas, and precious witnesses missing. An almost unbearable time-lag of consciousness is now felt experience. To survive what? An optics of promise, a future?

distance + force = gravity

the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

—William Stafford, “A Ritual to Read to Each Other”

What I continually draw from this poem’s well is not hope but alert perspective and prophetic  predictability. I anchor on should — indicating both obligation and possibility — as the holding ground. “A Ritual to Read to Each Other” is a solicitation, or a prayer, to listen to your clearest signals — yes or no, or maybe — and bravely claim them.

zwischen den Jahren

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has since said that the risk of being infected from a dead body is low, because they do not exhale.”
‘Humans need the ritual of saying goodbye’: the Covid life of a small-town funeral director

(slow heavy metal music playing), artist unknown

Some branches still have fruit, hanging heavy and waiting. Other branches broadcast their superior ability to let go. What is found in this imagined center is a hymn.

Do I leave the gaps alone and pick apart what remains? Flickering waves of mutilation swell tight and solicitous as an echo at the horizon. Curves turn into cliffs.

When asked how I survived this year, a question loaded with context, I answer: I’ve taken to stroking tree trunks to experience exotic touch, to feel materiality of time.

By the time attempts to describe loss become offerings of intimacy, the muted shine of flashbacks turn into conviction. I was always here — in this impermanent place.

I too remain untrustworthy like a cloud. What comes next is future’s damage. Replication, pattern, or suggestion: between “be well” and “goodbye” is tomorrow’s hopeful exhale.

this is the best time of year to be a futurist

Keep busy with survival. Imitate the trees. Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember that nothing stays the same for long, not even pain, psychic pain. Sit it out.
Let it all pass. Let it go.
— May Sarton, from Volume One: Journal of a Solitude (Norton, 1977)

Photographer: Harry Gruyaert

As evening’s frantic pink light slips into a lavender twilight hour,
gravity continues to hold us in place like constellations.
We string and loop lights around the apartment to project
hope’s fractal reflections everywhere. Yes, we really do
have to keep going and salvage tomorrow’s fragile glittering promises.
Predictions of our survival will be found in the how of our doing.
When oranges begin to ripe on the West Coast, that’s the signal
to gather for the next new beginning. Heed tradition’s clairvoyance
and pull on the shiniest threads to prepare for a better future. Pop! Fizz!
Incite! Even in the expanding darkness, prophetic renewals
of mutual liberation trend as lack rages on. Hope brings so much to want,
manufactured and genuine, next year no longer waits.

the impossibility of having an honest relationship with memory

Is there a way to be gone and still
belong? Travel that takes you home?

Is that life? – to stand by a river and go.

—last two stanzas of “Quo Vadis” by William Stafford

USA / Utah / Beaver / I-15 / Somewhere Along the Way/ Untitled, ©Jacek Fota / Anzenberger

They come hard, and fast, and have worn themselves into a series with anchored images: rainbow sweater, double queen room, a noisy air conditioner full blast in December. Then sensations follow: a specific kind of scratchy found only from the machine stitching of cheap hotel blanket covers, the coldest setting on the air conditioner running full blast in December, recede. I want you to distract me. Corrupt this circuit. Find a way. This is phoenix as purpose, not process. There is no ending, yet, only restarting, again and again.

 

elegy for the collective

Han Jin (South Korean, b. 1979), Inner Side of the Wind #1, 2017. Oil on linen, 130.3 x 130.3 cm

Large-scale logistics require brutality to properly function. It’s a consistent low-grade hum, not quite elevated to cadence, buried between the lines of the system’s dramatic rhetoric. Have not. Listen to the outgoing empire’s heroes—the obedient civil servants, the priests, and the keepers of fluctuating interest rates—as they transition their esoteric power. In this tenuous state, it feels risky to outright deny dehumanization is holding together our mutual cultural identities. Shut your mouth, withdraw. Are your dreams an onslaught of forbidden touch too? Historically, politics of a republic abandon specific kinds of astonishment. Buried seeds of exaltation. This year’s plans were just that, plans. Revision requires experience, which can only be earned through the passage of kairological time. Our collective scripts of possibility are now hardwired into the evaporating streams of multiple realities. We are conducted citizens. The death of illusions can be a gift with the right slant. I think philosophers of imagination make the best poets. Please love me as much as a skeptic’s devotion. Help me feel for the traces of memory around our capacity to forget. That’s grace. The last time it snowed in Los Angeles? 2007. If you want, you can call that feeling of recognition emotional regulation. Are you a canary? Am I? Were they?

fever dream

Photographer: Ren Hang

The stimulus of showing up, here, is a fevered habit. Prompt: insert your abject wandering into a space consumed by right-leaning ideas of lack fortified by institutional memory. You may be thinking insufficient curiosities flourish in dank places or perceived stimuli explodes into slow release, but if you’re not thinking about death, or its cousin grief, are you even alive right now? Pull from intermittent signals so faint they remind you of the softness of privilege, an edge of feeling safe. Remember that feeling, you’ll need it today and every day that follows you into the future. I agree, this practice has earned the boredom of recognition. Say transformative like you really mean it. I want to glimpse that specificity, again. It may be entirely possible the change we seek is not propaganda, or won’t be recognizable in the way we’ve been told. Repeat until fully integrated, until expansion is assumed. What if we understood our respective divergence like the quest of a glacier crawling unnoticed across outwash plains? In other words, your finish line will not be the same as mine. It’s the lived experience between habit and ritual—an autobiography of coercive fragments—that reminds me, it’s time to re-read You Must Revise Your Life by William Stafford. “But I make the lines be the way they are by welcoming opportunities that come to me, not by having a pattern in mind.” Miracles demand that kind of attention. Come, gather with me.

end of the 3rd quarter | 2020

Anthony Hernandez, Los Angeles #1, 1969

count the number of Tuesday’s remaining
this year, if lucky a new year is coming
calibrate your most latent expectations

distinguish stimulation from propaganda
if you need drama, watch the leaves turn

feel the unconscious dare of hope
swallow the sacredness of ordinary days

examine the materiality of fidelity; listen
elucidate future present tense

seek pleasure to root out despair
replenish your somatic prayers

consider how your routine is a rhythm
write down its verse, chorus, verse
review when you forget you are the bridge

stuttering days

If the water should cut my mind, set me free — Cat Power cover of  Bathysphere

Claire Falkenstein, From Point to Cone, double-sided lithograph, 1977

This waste has a frequency. Fragmentation, ritual undulations.
Football snaps. Trees release their green grip as shadows lengthen.
Gritty details of fire and death dominate our collective vision.
Language is spoken as advice. Gather paper: cash, proof of identity, maps.
Consider packing the most precious of your valuables, nothing more.
Poets obsess over lyrical scale, enormity of loss and perspective.
I crave open space in the way a true horizon shows separation—land from sky.
If we believe these times are unlived, restricted and dangerous,
how will we evolve within the inevitable next adaptation?
Urgent expectations transition this chaos. Short-term addictions.
Thunderstorms from a ghost hurricane came through last night.
Focus on a feeling of ascension as our emotional worlds
and their borders dislocate from distracted penetrations.
You say deprivation. I claim radical self-interest.

prevalence

“In cities no one notices specific dying. Dying is a quality of the air. It’s everywhere and nowhere. Men shout as they die to be noticed, remembered for a second or two.”
— Don DeLillo, White Noise

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Seeing Through You)

When Mary Oliver, in 2015, said:

And always I wanted the “I.” Many of the poems are “I did this. I did this. I saw this.” I wanted the “I” to be the possible reader, rather than about myself. It was about an experience that happened to be mine but could well have been anybody else’s. That was my feeling about the “I.” I have been criticized by one editor who felt that “I” would be felt as ego. And I thought, no, well, I’m going to risk it and see. And I think it worked. It enjoined the reader into the experience of the poem. (emphasis mine)

and later stated “there is no nothingness” I found an edge of where I had been wandering disassociated these tangled smoky days.

I, too, posted a flurry of orangered sky photos on Wednesday, a sky Australia experienced during their “Black Summer” the final months of last year. I did not want to believe what was in front of me—what was real and happening.

I am, now, acutely conscious of feeling triggered by the mere recognition, now a pattern, of that very specific hue of red and orange mixed with smoke and sunlight. When that extraordinary color and any adjacent approximation catches my scrolling eye and peripheral sense of self, I am physically reminded how saturated a lived experience can be.

It summons Audre Lorde’s image in The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power:

During World War II, we bought sealed plastic packets of white, uncolored margarine, with a tiny, intense pellet of yellow coloring perched like a topaz just inside the clear skin of the bag. We would leave the margarine out for a while to soften, and then we would pinch the little pellet to break it inside the bag, releasing the rich yellowness into the soft pale mass of margarine. Then taking it carefully between our fingers, we would knead it gently back and forth, over and over, until the color had spread throughout the whole pound bag of margarine, thoroughly coloring it.

As these days surge on sensory overload, I am suspicious of receiving and having to interpret new information like “unhealthy” versus “very unhealthy” air. I understand how conspiracies comfort the masses by creating gaps in perception. I surrender thoroughly (to borrow from Lorde), when I realize all of this—this living, this breathing, this give and take—is a radical synopsis of cognition, dear possible reader.

time as delusion

“Instead of becoming preoccupied by the extraordinary things the deluded individual believes, we should turn our attention instead to the ordinary things they no longer believe, the absence of which have allowed the bizarre to flourish.” — Huw Green, “Deluded, with reason

Jill Friedman, Christ Loved Men Only, London 1967

I was born on the east side of the Missouri River. U.S. Route 12 segregated town into north and south. If you drove west, time moved backward one hour from Central to Mountain. A sign on the bridge let you know you were crossing the threshold when you reached the middle of the river. Everyone west, within a certain driving distance of town, set their clocks to Central. Awareness of time in this way, coupled with growing up immersed in seductive Evangelical promises of attaining an afterlife, shaped absolutely how I perceive time and place.

Living in a community that so willfully defied authority (whoever put that arbitrary line of what time was supposed to be) while persistently yielding to a prophesy that believed you were doomed unless saved, was ordinary—normal—to me. Technically, every day was urgent and distorted.

What was delusion and what was habitual enough to thrive in that unique cultural echo?

Learning so young to measure time as both borrowed and flexible expanded my ability to conceptualize reality, an immense landscape of what I knew and what I saw. It also helped to construct a very specific concept of suspension of disbelief. I recognize and am familiar with waiting as an anchor of suffering and its twin—earned anticipation of endurance.

As the contemporary drags hot and dangerous, I wonder if these times, right now, are worse than other times of war, protest, fire. To pull an image from the last line in William Stafford’s A Ritual to Read to Each Other …the darkness around us is deep.

What revelations lay at this undulating edge?

I don’t know. For now, I’ll keep translating evocations into poems and finding pleasure in trying to answer unanswerable questions. Where I come from, we call that feeling for miracles.

enter the ember months

“Some days in late August at home are like this,
the air thin and eager like this, with something in it sad and nostalgic and familiar…”

— William Faulkner from The Sound and the Fury

Wallace Polsom, Some General Questions (2017), paper collage

Its salience starts inside you —
an intersection, a portal, a punch.
Greed is an expression of fear,
that kind of penetration measured
by depth, loss contextualized.
A landscape of insatiable memories
bordered by anodyne forgiveness
and tectonic imperfections.

Take comfort in knowing
plants turn light into sugar.
Tell me what you notice, and why.
I want to cross reference
my slanted smoky sunlight
with your details to create
time stamps, a rescue map
dispersed into winks of blue.

jamais vu

Ketty La Rocca, Autoritratto (Selfportrait), 1971, mixed media, 2 parts overlapped, handwriting on plexiglass, photo 11.8 x 9.4 inch

This week’s evening light:

  • Sunday, 8:42pm — tender blushed peach compressed under a darkening blue
  • Monday, 8:18pm — pink fog then total gray
  • Tuesday, 8:01pm — same as the morning, thick grey, bluish twilight filtering milky air
  • Wednesday, 7:55pm — golden swath darkening blue
  • Thursday, sunset — pink forming clouds pulled taffy puffs
  • Friday, 7:56pm — waning baby blue, wails of light
  • Saturday, 7:47pm — soft yellow cast shadows, sharp, green pulled light

Each passing day isn’t the same or no less familiar to before.
Minor threats of depersonalization thrive.

Are you posting guilt or vulnerability?
When does adaptation become submission?

< 24-hours after a murder, sunbathers litter the park.
Patches of grass worn thin from socializing.

Does a poem always have to have an image to make sense?
Where is hope, not as commodity but energy?

Regret and regards now partnered as the high and low tides.
Oracles continue to collect then sell the texture of amnesia.

Will we recognize our cumulative danger as real now?
When the common fades into spectacle?

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.

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 helping my father feed the boss’s cattle.
My sisters and I would watch him shovel hay
from the bed of the slow-moving pickup, driverless
and pointed in the general direction of home.

In winter, the cab’s heater blasting,
we were witness to the cattle’s eager breath
etch a chorus of hungry moos into the frozen air.
The chore was done when the hay was gone.
Wavy furred lines transformed the barren prairie landscape.

I remember the weight of your loudest threats
mapped onto your hands. You hit us to teach us a lesson,
to be quiet, because you couldn’t hit the boss.

As we got older, and bigger, you perfected words
into weapons, making your impact invisible.
Then came tender gaps of amputated time
when your anger spilled vengeance
against those you had declaimed to love so fiercely.

Forced to move into the deepest parts of nowhere,
packing tempers and testimony
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 mutual legacy now an extension of reputation,
much like how only female cottonwood trees
shed their obnoxious cottony seeds
into 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 fragmentation: landscaped yards with lavender, slow growing Japanese maples, bushes of rosemary, hissing palm trees, blushed 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.