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.

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) and persistently yielded 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?

rest, even in war

I AM TASTING MYSELF
IN THE MOUTH OF THE SUN

—June Jordan, excerpt from “Intifada Incantation: Poem #8 for b.b.L”

PANIC CAREFULLY (photographer: unknown)

Maybe what we really want is hero stories
that also reflect happiness, where joy is
contextualized during epic and courageous
suffering. This desire, a creative impulse,
a strategy to have complementary thinking
break binaries. A knowing that innocence
can be misremembered. Behind the fog, bright light.
Remember when obsessive attachment became slack
from devotion? Of course we resisted our differences,
as much as we could, starting over —
again and each time evidence repurposed itself
to the contrary. A reciprocity of loss or maybe
more simply the effect of a parallax.
From a certain distance, we are all drifting along.
Idle in mood and expansive in perpetual conflict.

emotional edges

“What am I ready to lose in this advancing summer?”
— Audre Lorde, from her poem “Seasoning”

photographer: @edwardatlee

The complexity fails us —
over identifying as an outsider.
Maybe we can be simple
and want to understand
or admit we don’t know and
sometimes mistakes get made;
I miss you,

sincere sinecure.
Which phase is martyr culture
after the kingdom falls?
Is it when conscription
feels like collaboration or
knowing the rules of engagement?
Optics of war are intimate operations.

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.

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.

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.