12 August 2015

vacant parking lots across the street

Red ribbons hanging up 
Tennessee Square 
Old people laughing and singing 
And dancing down there
I'd like to join them
I got no money to spare
So I sit here and watch from the porch
Drinking whiskey in granddaddy's chair
Ferris wheel lights look like pictures
I'd seen in a book somewhere
Vacant parking lots across the street
Remind me I'm going nowhere
I'd like to join them
I got no money to spare
So I sit here and watch from the porch
Drinking whiskey in granddaddy's chair
It's difficult to go on
Knowing you're out there somwhere
Vacant parking lots across the street
Remind me I'm going nowhere

05 August 2015

he showed his vacation to his camera

The Vacation

Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.
He went flying down the river in his boat
with his video camera to his eye, making
a moving picture of the moving river
upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly
toward the end of his vacation. He showed
his vacation to his camera, which pictured it,
preserving it forever: the river, the trees,
the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat
behind which he stood with his camera
preserving his vacation even as he was having it
so that after he had had it he would still
have it. It would be there. With a flick
of a switch, there it would be. But he
would not be in it. He would never be in it.

"The Vacation” by Wendell Berry from New Collected Poems. © Counterpoint Press, 2012.

13 May 2015

scribble sunlight in the margins

a remix for remembrance


For my students

This is for the boys whose bedrooms are in the basement,
who press creases into jeans, who carve their names in pavement,
the girls whose names are ancient, ancestry is sacred,
the Aztec and the Mayan gods abuela used to pray with

This is for the dangerous words hiding in the pages
of composition notes, holy books, and Sanskrit
This is for the patients who wait for medication,
for the mothers microwaving beans and rice at day’s end

This is for the marching bands and girls at quinceañeras,
the skaters and the writers whose moms are eloteras,
laughing “Cops don’t scare us, we sag so elders fear us
We will rewrite our textbooks in our own language if you dare us”

This is for the Sarahs, the Angelicas, and Shawns,
the Beatrices, Paolas, Danielas, and the dawns
we scribble sunlight in the margins of horizons with our songs,
for all the voices tangled with the silence on our tongues

Rivals in the parks, fireworks at dark,
tired shirts that sweat your scent on hangers in the closet
For the boys who fix the faucet while their sister fixes coffee
’cause mommy had to leave for work at 6 AM and laundry
isn’t folded yet: you don’t have to hold your breath

You don’t have to behave: stage your own rebellion,
paint canvases with rage and religion and prayers for pilgrims
sleeping in the train cars at the border and their children
Filibust the Senate and bust markers on the Pink Line,
stain the prosecution’s case and force the judge to resign,
force the crowd the rewind the lyrics you invented

Speak away the limits to heights of your existence
Be a witness, be a record, be a testament, a triumph
Set your poems flying in the glitter of the planets
Feed open mouths with truth, the truth is we are famished
The Universe is starving for the symphonies you play
Clarinets and thunder and the syllables you say
are the instruments: you are infinite. Stretch your hands to heaven
Let your throat throttle the rhythms of all your fallen brethren
Your legacy is present, your history is now
You are the tenth degree of sound
You are the nephews of the sky
You are the bass line and the hi-hat and the snare drum and the cry
of red Septembers. You’re the architects of winter
You are the builders of the roads that you’re told you don’t
      remember          You are
      the builders of the roads
      that you’re told
      you don’t remember       You are the builders
           of the roads that you’re told you don’t

Cast poems in the river and tell them you remember
Skate City Hall to splinters and tell them you remember
Send diamonds to your islands and tell them you remember
Find your God inside your mirror and tell Her you remember

Source: Poetry (April 2015).

05 May 2015

All has been consecrated.
The creatures in the forest know this,
The earth does, the seas do, the clouds know
as does the heart
full of love.
Strange a priest would rob us of this knowledge
and then empower himself with the ability
to make holy
what already was.
St. Catherine of Sienna (14th Century)

missing her this mother's day but always my mother's son.

Your Clothes

Of course they are empty shells, without hope of animation.
Of course they are artifacts.

Even if my sister and I should wear some,
or if we give others away,

they will always be your clothes without you,
as we will always be your daughters without you.

by Judith Kroll
Source: Poetry (March 2000).

03 May 2015

bruce dern in "Nebraska"

not sure about the rest of the cast, but brother dern is amazing.

01 May 2015

disappearing. wish i had a name for feeling nothing. ("The Blues Can't Even Find Me" by John Hiatt)


World is closin' in on me
Don't know what to do
Can't see the big picture anymore
If there's even one to view

Wife keeps pushin' buttons
Spend all day starin' at a little screen
I'm feelin' invisible
The blues can't even find me

Wish I had a name for feelin' nothin'
Wish I still had my old address
Where anyone could come on over
And just put me in a mess

Now I'm tellin' everybody
When we'll be takin' our next breath
Blues can't even find me
Like we never even met

She cried all the way to Memphis
With the kids in back
And only me to talk it out with
Used to be like that

Now there's fifty people in the car
And the kids are grown
And I've heard her side fifty times
Talkin' on her cell phone

Now we're just so lonely
And there's no turnin' back
It's virtually impossible
But I can live with that

I wouldn't want in on this train wreck
Wouldn't wanna be on this last date
Now the blues can't even find me
All I know to do is wait

Now the blues can't even find me
All I know to do is wait

Holden Caulfield:

"Anyway, I kept walking and walking up Fifth Avenue, without any tie on or anything. Then all of a sudden, something very spooky started happening. Every time I came to the end of a block and stepped off the goddam curb, I had this feeling that I'd never get to the other side of the street. I thought I'd just go down, down, down, and nobody'd ever see me again. Boy, did it scare me. You can't imagine. I started sweating like a bastard – my whole shirt and underwear and everything. Then I started doing something else. Every time I'd get to the end of a block I'd make believe I was talking to my brother Allie. I'd say to him, "Allie, don't let me disappear. Allie, don't let me disappear. Allie, don't let me disappear. Please, Allie." And then when I'd reach the other side of the street without disappearing, I'd thank him. Then it would start all over again as soon as I got to the next corner. But I kept going and all. I was sort of afraid to stop, I think – I don't remember, to tell you the truth. I know I didn't stop till I was way up in the Sixties, past the zoo and all. Then I sat down on this bench. I could hardly get my breath, and I was still sweating like a bastard. I sat there, I guess, for about an hour."

28 April 2015

On the day that you wake up under some yellow curtains with a smile on your face

I Wanted to Make Myself like the Ravine


I wanted to make myself like the ravine
so that all good things
would flow into me.

Because the ravine is lowly,
it receives an abundance.

This sounds wonderful
to everyone
who suffers from lacking,
but consider, too, that a ravine
keeps nothing out:

in flows a peach
with only one bite taken out of it,
but in flows, too,
the body of a stiff mouse
half cooked by the heat of the stove
it was toughening under.

I have an easygoing way about me.
I’ve been an inviting host —
meaning to, not meaning to.
Oops — he’s approaching with his tongue
already out
and moving.

Analyze the risks
of becoming a ravine.

Compare those with the risks
of becoming a well
with a well-bolted lid.

Which I’d prefer
depends largely on which kinds
of animals were inside me
when the lid went on
and how likely they’d be
to enjoy the water,
vs. drown, freeze, or starve.

The lesson: close yourself off
at exactly the right time.

On the day that you wake up
under some yellow curtains
with a smile on your face,

lock the door.
Live out your days
untroubled like that.

Source: Poetry (December 2014).

01 March 2015

Ida. the old man can't--won't get over this. one of the most beautiful films ever.

Excerpts from David Denby's NYT review of May 2014

"We are so used to constant movement and compulsive cutting in American movies that the stillness of the great new Polish film “Ida” comes as something of a shock. I can’t recall a movie that makes such expressive use of silence and portraiture; from the beginning, I was thrown into a state of awe by the movie’s fervent austerity. Friends have reported similar reactions: if not awe, then at least extreme concentration and satisfaction. This compact masterpiece has the curt definition and the finality of a reckoning—a reckoning in which anger and mourning blend together. The director, Pawel Pawlikowski, left Poland years ago, for England, where he linked up with the English-born playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz."  

"How can you capture a nation’s spirit by telling a singular story? By making every shot as definitive as an icon. “I’m not emotionally excited by the power of cinema’s tricks anymore,” Pawlikowski has said. The director and his fledgling cinematographer, Lukasz Zal, shot the movie in hard-focus black and white; they have produced images so distinct and powerful that they sharpen our senses. “Ida” might be called static were it not for the currents of emotion from shot to shot, which electrify the women’s relation to each other throughout. Clearing away clutter, Pawlikowski almost never moves the camera; many of the scenes are just long-lasting shots, fed by a single light source that often puts the faces in partial shadow (what we understand of these two women will always be limited). Sometimes the figures are positioned at the bottom of the frame, with enormous gray Polish skies above them, as if the entire burden of a cursed country weighed on its people."

David Denby NYT

turn sad songs to lullabies.

this old house is cold and empty

10 January 2015

otay mountain truck trail. the old man gets away for the day.

 a good outing.  very few but very nice people.  helpful border patrol officers.  green in january after our november and december rains.  beautiful views.  fun ride back down hwy 94.
 starting up otay mountain truck trail from the otay lakes road side.  (the entrance is on the right (south) side of the road just after you start to see the "thousand trails" campground but before you pass the entrance to it)
 the road is really well maintained.  relaxing, easy ride.  mirrors on the blind turns.
view from the saddle.  three ways down from here. otay lakes in the middle distance.

the view south toward mexico
looking west(ish) from the summit near the antenna array

23 November 2014

from "Night of the Iguana"

Represent as you must: dusk, dying, ends/ and row us into winter’s water


Summer-long the gulls’ old umbra cry
unraveled ease
but certain waves went by, then by.
The sky shook out the days.

The seabirds’ hunger rose in rings,
flung rock-clams to their shatterings,
raked gullets full, the bone-bills scraped.

High noon: oceans of time escaped.


All winter we slept benched together,
breakers, sleepdrunk children in a car
not conscious where they go.

We kneaded bread, kept out the weather,
while old suspicions huddled by the door,
mice in the snow.


In spring, the leaving bloomed—
oak leaf unfurled, a foot, resplendent
vigorous, aching to shake loose
but still dependent.

One morning moongreen loaves
rose into bones that rose to lift
our skin like sleeves,
our time together’s revenant.


Perennial fall, come cool the cliffs,
bring quiet, sulfur, early dark.
Represent as you must: dusk, dying, ends
and row us into winter’s water:

The body, wind-whipped, forms stiff peaks,
ice settles in the marrow bone.
At the chest, the live stone breaks against the beak,
beak breaks against stone.

Maggie Dietz, “Seasonal,” from Perennial Fall (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006).

08 November 2014

in lieu of the people themselves



A translator who has a phobia of moths
spent three years translating a book with a moth motif.
It’s ironic, she has said, that she knew more about the moths
than the author of the original, who was merely fascinated.
The translation contained a greater variety of moths than the original,
drawn from suggestions she had made, some of which were in fact
too perfect and changed back before it went to print.

Her moths, the ones that were too aptly named,
meant too much, her moths that she hated, where are they now?
The same place as all the versions of people
that have been undressed and slept with, in lieu of the people
themselves, by others. That must include a version
of almost everyone, lots of versions of some people,
some only a flutter, animated then decided against.
Source: Poetry (October 2014).