“The absurd does not liberate; it binds.” —Albert Camus
I catch a rainbow in my hand.
You remind me that even in stillness
light breaks sound. I take that fracture
and bury it deep inside myself.
I want my darkness to mean something.
You stand desperate. The concept of “self”
broadens into a flattened “we”. Self-appointed,
I anoint you and under faith’s observation
we begin to believe we matter.
Blue fading pink light transitions the sun’s nightly disappearance as a star.
Earlier the concentrated sunlight, setting late, hit a distant window—
just right. The bright reflection took shape of an ordinary reminder.
A reminder that temporal sequence as closure is felt, a sense.
What if we are actually expanding instead of contracting?
Hours as measured by:
clouds slipping by
street pigeon’s stuttered coos
gossip economy news cycles
a flock of geese in V formation
rivers carving out gorges
Can we claim survival as the measured depth of a body of water?
An ending does not always need to follow a chain of events.
Duality alters thresholds, choices, interpretation.
These ongoing attempts become accumulations, layers,
a structure of ongoing being. There’s worship and fetish.
A complete world.
Perhaps I did not succumb to ideology…because I have never seen myself as a spokesman. I am a witness. In the church in which I was raised you were supposed to bear witness to the truth. Now, later on, you wonder what in the world the truth is, but you do know what a lie is.” —James Baldwin interview with Julius Lester, May 1984
The surge is back.
We are hosts, again.
Feeling nothing but empty.
A physical sensation.
I am left wanting, again.
Never not forgotten urges.
Restraint is an evocative need.
Its own stimulation.
Free will is in the news, again.
When the wave comes, go deep.
For most of the morning,
a banner declaring I LOVE YOU
hung visible from the hotel window
until housekeeping removed it—
to keep the room unsentimental.
Blue sky so bright, a harbor
to distract my voyeurism. Later,
a business man made a phone call.
Tie, no suit. Shadows from behind the curtain
portend a drama is breaking beneath the horizon.
Cherry blossoms explode on scene.
The trees have begun their spring planning.
Extending their grace & hope forward,
it would be wise for us to start doing the same.
We are well over 900,000 dead & barely counting anymore.
It’s the last week of February.
Angled rooftops, a single pane of glass
holds my wandering perspective.
I’m probably not telling you the right story.
Sun-marked rooms were the sentient witness.
If we do not forget, what is there to remember? —Mary Ruefle from “On Secrets”
Suspension is a type of prayer
in the same way hard luck is still luck
or how clicking clocks make meaning.
Ending another year with reconstituted rituals:
unwrap an orange, warm the house with lights,
leave no trace and lament the echoes.
Interiors become accomplices
in a cascading culture of closures.
Reminding me the moon makes no light
of its own, and I don’t know
is the most honest answer I have to give.
This response to an unknown call,
how deeply personal an endeavor.
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.
Everything is just enough to be the same—
delusional observation—everything except
for the unwelcome return of an orangered sun.
The sky is no longer a place to look up to.
Wednesday news: 34 wildfires
have started in the last 24 hours. Have started is an example
of present perfect tense.
As in, trees of all types and ages
have started screaming.
So many remain illiterate
about events they claim
have never happened—to them.
Blind to the sound of yellow. Deaf
to exploding blues and facile ghosts.
Forgive me, you wanted this memory to be precise.
“No matter what disintegrating influences I was experiencing, the writing was the act of wholeness.” —Anaïs Nin, In Favor of the Sensitive Man and Other Essays
A local politician sells
subtext. Mixing patterns
of outbreaks, denial, aggressive
neglect, profit, waste. Time
monetized into relativity of spectacle.
Subterranean realities. July descends into August.
Clouds sail by dry as bones. Crowns above spread
shade. Our vernacular noisy wagons, isolated
oak savannas, quarantined in translation.
Wanting to do what we see; evidence.
Let’s take these metastasized days
and ride them into darkness. Be silhouettes,
featureless. Are you aware of all the consequences
when accepting the advertised risks?
The pattern is there is no pattern. Only thrills split from the inside of nightly dreams. Fireworks imploded. In the background of Jaws, the captured sound of the ocean insistent. Tumbleweeds untitled. Lives carefully leashed. Forgiveness now sold at cost. It’s cheaper than a full-bodied excavation or postponing uninsured vacations. Those flag waving contests, sacred competitions, enunciate the ascendant feelings. Clear and bright. Rising suspicions, surges of delusion, all of it natural as dredged wetlands or pipelines exploding to spectacular affect. The variants are just following the rules of long division. A simple prayer; please. Insert more coins to keep living. The transactions of ordinary time. Freedom to fill an empty page. Phantom whisper networks now interstellar contextual markers. Parabolic welcome wagons. There is no pattern, only recognition.
“How innocently life ate the days.” —John Updike, Couples
All day long, she sits behind windows
watching swollen ancient clouds
echo along abraded front lines.
She traces their carved patterns
and records distorted stillness.
Parting seductive, the bruised grey sky
swarms off to her west and opens wide.
Some might say she’s damned
but that’s a different parable
for a different time. Today,
she’s thinking about sanctity of attention.
Relationally vast in its deviant transience,
she listens to sovereign urgent voices
like well-fingered coins tossed into wishing wells.
This form of anticipation reclusive and incessant,
unyielding as the agency of water.
An observant song now broadcast as western light.
Time is visual—
the sun an arc,
we are the curve.
On the cusp of a new year
time has been absorbed;
last year not yet finished.
Unless otherwise stated,
no one is coming to save me.
Time now swarmed with qualifiers,
its own forgotten circumstance.
Lead me gently back to place.
My tense present perfect—
Loving feels lovely in a violent world,
—first line in “Community”, Marge Piercy
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
trees with new leaves
look fresh next to those
who keep their looks all year round
same view, thoughts recycled
40 more hours squeezed
into future dollars
performing “ordinary life”
(overheard on morning NPR)
all of this so-called-living
to be cherished
“All of our reasoning ends in surrender to feeling.” ― Blaise Pascal
I was told salvation is coming. It could be any day now. My earliest memories integrated this knowing as a worried occupation, equal parts faith in and fear of the odds. Much later, I learned trees share similar survival stories. Expressed urgently as generosity, with occasional pause to report danger, trees communicate through elaborate, networked underground comms systems. This year, they’ll wait for a response not aware their friends and family didn’t survive wildfire season. We all wait in this sense of unknowing as predictions of unimaginable loss dampen relentless holiday sales pitches. Our cumulative temperament is tuned towards intermittent reinforcement, an addiction to hope.
Lately, as a ritual of escape, I wander between landscapes of turning Japanese maples and persimmon trees, flickering reds and faded orange, as palms stay evergreen while limes and lemons transform sour. Take this lust and ride its crest. I want to believe this could be a new beginning as waves of survivor’s guilt swell, then spread.
Poetic principles like allowing for improvisations and diligence of testimony guide my guarded thinking these vanishing days. I create deliberately, in curious inquiry of being in a state of suspended exile. Forgive me as I loop.
During the war, we felt the silence in the policy of the governments of English-speaking countries. That policy was to win the war first, and work out the meanings afterward. The result was, of course, that the meanings were lost. —Muriel Rukeyser
I consumed so much “information” throughout this very long weekmonth that this post is what it is. I know that too much intake isn’t good for me and yet I binge as if satisfaction could be found in declaration. Refreshing will tell me something new, smooth these edges of unknowing, and fill all the holes. At saturation, it physically hurts. Early symptoms are a tight chest and shortness of breath. Today the sky is a perfect California blue absent clouds and smoke. Fact: you can believe it but that doesn’t make it true. The barrel of the camera can cause dramatic harm. This is a threat. Surely witness reifies reality. I know some will say angles and their slants are beholden to the power that frames and seduction laps those edges but there’s more. There’s always more. Urgent thinking and wanting immediacy always take us away from the subject who doesn’t want to, ironically, be seen. The next spectacle must definitely be worth it? Any similarity to a person living or dead is entirely coincidental.
I’ve been here before.
I am sure of it.
A year-day that has
no beginning, no middle
and no benevolent end.
Some argue this absence
must be lived, that it
is more of a felt sense,
similar to elaborate escape
routes dreamed nightly
and soft as bodies
You’ve been here before.
You are sure of it.
“The number of people here [New York City] who think they are alone, sing alone, and eat and talk alone in the streets in mind-boggling. And yet they don’t add up. Quite the reverse. The subtract from each other and their resemblance to one another is uncertain.
… It is the saddest sight in the world. Sadder than destitution, sadder than the beggar is the man who eats alone in public.” — Jean Baudrillard, America (trans. Chris Turner, 1991)
Nearly a year ago, I carried America by Jean Baudrillard around the Bay Area and all the way down to the most American of places, Los Angeles.
I wanted to capture Baudrillard’s idea that eating alone was the saddest sight in the world.
And of course nothing and everything can change in a year.
Contemporary America is at an epic and fevered hyperpitch with an advancing crisis of reality. What is refracted is what will be. Our ascetic online lives more fake than ever. Asepsis is an arousing and obsessive state in this quarantine simulacrum. Hygiene a cult. The habitual repetition of survival, an amplified fascination of being alive, its own seduction.
But one day soon—in the scheme of weeks or as quick as when you notice your neighborhood trees blaring their blooms—restaurants will open for sit-down meals and I will prove Baudrillard wrong.
Listen—this is a faint station
left alive in the vast universe.
I was left here to tell you a message
designed for your instruction or comfort,
but now that my world is gone I crave
expression pure as all the space
around me: I want to tell what is. …
— William Stafford, TUNED IN LATE ONE NIGHT, first stanza
We were told to get extra, but not hoard.
All professional sports, including NASCAR,
and all mass entertainment cancelled.
Church and work shifts to virtual platforms.
Even the Pro Football Hall of Fame
shuts down for “at least two weeks.”
Tourists won’t hear the bronze busts
speak in stiff-lipped whispers.
Witness begins to require recalibration.
An Italian doctor corrected the British talk show host –
bomb metaphors are inadequate for this pandemic.
A bomb implies “one moment in time and space.”
The doctor begged viewers to grasp spacetime physics
as Florida’s spring break beaches swell.
I scrolled and
for good news
Freeway traffic flows in east/west lanes
like ants on a crumb score.
I’m waking up later each day,
blending home and work
into a double-stitched seam.
It is the first day of spring.
I beg you to prepare for the future you want.
Yet nothing has really happened
Place has even more significance
than we can consciously hold
now cracking open at its weakest points –
where we are isolated and approximate distance.
News moves relative to a wide margin of incompetence
and displays itself as curved lines.
I bless the bus drivers keeping their ghost routes.
New leaves spread wider each passing day.
I am hyperaware of my phantom wants:
a balcony and family. A dopamine loop fueled
by anticipation. The future now a fermata.
Yet listen well. Not to my words,
but to the tumult that rages in
your body when you listen to yourself.
If it is true we are floating through space
& each of us contain the stardust of a million galaxies
then the sun glittering receptive is our asylum.
Exuberant in this signification,
we propel beyond daydream nations.
Expressive attraction becomes its own tender gravity.
Change is accelerating
is feedback looping.
What do you believe in: violence or power?
It is our right as poets to be suggestive
to value a secure spirit & apply logic of affect.
We know why the grace of a curve invites.
“Walking on the land or digging in the fine soil I am intensely aware that time quivers slightly, changes occurring in imperceptible and minute ways, accumulating so subtly that they seem not to exist. Yet the tiny shifts in everything – cell replication, the rain of dust motes, lengthening hair, wind-pushed rocks – press inexorably on and on.” – Annie Proulx, Bird Cloud
I’ve learned enough to be dangerous. I’ve failed enough to feel successful.
Lessons learned, in the order they showed up:
Expectations are different than boundaries.
Shame is a form of self-abuse.
Distinguish the difference between meaningful work and paid work.
The stories I tell myself matter the most.
Maintaining a conscious awareness of abundance is the work of being open to inspiration — being fascinated feels good. Acceptance is eternal work.
Establishing new routines takes time.
Trust in self is a sacred commitment.
Patience is its own desire and trust in myself is sacred energy. Learning stimulates: both focus and curiosity are required.
Creating poetics inquiries deepened my capacity for patient discovery.
Breathe through the urge to have answers.
Staying present and having curious inquiry is the process of accelerating joy.
It matters how you show up.
2020 is one of those future-forward years, like 1999 and 2000. Every year has its own biography of echoes. The list above are some of my loudest.
The hills are thick with creamy fog these late-August mornings, then fade into brilliant blue. My dreams have been performed in airports and church vans. I rode a mechanical bull pleading to get to where I thought I wanted to go.
a different summer morning
you joked that Red Delicious
was put there by a witch
I’m disciplined to distraction
the peek of a thigh
roses at the edge of on-ramps
yielding to pressure
what survives in me
i still suspect.
–Sonia Sanchez, “Fragment 1”
time signatures bridge memories spread wide,
open as my early childhood landscapes
we moved most often when work got too hard
or you simply wanted a change of scenery
self-destruction a competitive pursuit,
or why my syntax lacks a particular kind of self-love
I found an aesthetic: beg
more of a grasp than a hold
& I define how tight
shattered pieces create the best whole
naked sounds vibrate the loudest
most thoughts end
drawn from the month of August 2017: the dramas of poetry
Internal struggles are creative escape. A quiet move to form a space where survival can be shown joyful. Today this emanates as imagination externalized into poetry, an archaic organizing structure. I find active comfort in writing. A motion that has desperation as its wings. I write because it feels good. Not from a place of fear, but from a deep place of longing that has expansive connections. I write because I love.
I could try to name all the details, get them just so, while also aligning them to a truth I’ve silently cultivated. Yet dear reader you will bring yourself, whole and fractured, to my exposed interpretations. When I write about light, darkness, or a combination (such as stars) I may try to steer you in a direction that makes sense—to me—but you will pull yourself along freely, or not. All I know is how much you desire days that open themselves.
I believe that kind of desired stillness can be found in a “good” poem. A temporary place of collaborative movement where desire meets an experience that shows effort.
I witnessed the sea lion lay still and bloated. A murder of crows took fur and the wettest pieces of its eyes. Obscenely exposed, tender in its inability to no longer defend itself from harm, there was both stillness and flurry of excavation to what the crows found most useful.
The truth from that image is not mine to tell. My privilege as a writer is to show. May I be so fortunate to connect you dear reader on another experiential plane. Not forcing but gently holding together a moment of stillness, an honoring. And I may tell you one thing as I adeptly show another disparate possession. That gap is not mine to control. I owe myself only the structure and integrity around the truth of this moment.
I evolve. I decompose. I exist here.
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curated from the near past: self-immolation
Fixing fences is a full-time job and a hard way to make a living. Those edges form a territory where scarcity implies there is something to want. It is not absence or loss. There is a lack but it’s expansive, wide and open.
This lineage has been stored as power taken—a binding agent of trauma and songs shared in darkness. Fear becomes us like the secret textures of a thousand trees.
If it’s true that perfection is a scarcity never to be fully actualized, my life was first performed where sin delighted to now wanting love when wrong. This claiming is mine and its purpose is to make meaning.