Thursday, December 30, 2004

noises

I pulled down the last Chumbawamba CD "Readymades" and tried the web address that was printed on the box. Didn't work. Turned to Google. Yes, they have a new website. "Last week saw the unfortunate collision of the Anarchist Bookfair and Buy Nothing Day. The groups and small distributors of the political books would have been gutted if they'd set up stall only to be told that no-one was buying anything on principle." -- Chumbawamba ... Chumbawamba is best known for "Tubthumping", you know, "I get knocked down, but I get up again." But they've released an album with Noam Chomsky; they're totally intellectual lefty brits with a pop sense.

I found my way from the Chumbawamba site to Peace-not-war, a jukebox of peace songs. Just heard Martin Luther King name-checked in 2 songs. The Le Tigre song was a celebration of peace demonstrations: "They've shut down the bridge!"

Didn't Noam Chomsky have a blog? Yeah, he does. But he hasn't been keeping it up.

I finished that Man on the Moon book. The book doesn't say who named it but it seems one of the craters astronauts visited (or were to visit) was named Shorty after Trout Fishing in America Shorty, a character in Richard Brautigan's Trout Fishing in America. Every so often I remind myself that I'm going to do a screenplay version of Trout Fishing in America.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

comments on The Baker

Last night I said to Kent, "Maybe I'm just trying to see if I have the skills now to write the poems I wanted to write when I was a teenager."

Tales of the Blue and Yellow Sun: The Baker, version 2

Mr F.C. Brown baked bread.
All day it took him to make a single loaf.

As the sun squeezed its blue morning bump
Out of the dark, and yellow stripe followed yellow stripe,
Mr F.C. Brown was plunging his fists into dough
That nudged his elbows.
As the sun threw blue to west and east,
Yellow north and south,
Mr F.C. Brown crouched before the oven door
Listening to the bread brown.
As the sun tugged its blue after its yellow down
Mr F.C. Brown mopped tears and snot
From his red face with doughy lump and crumbling crust.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

comments on "Tales of the Blue and Yellow Sun: The Baker"

Another one from the hippo notebook. This one is dated 1/82. Which would mean I was sixteen. A junior in high school. The hippo notebook is a bound paperback, a Quillmark. The cover, an off-white patterned with a brick red hippo motif (the icon-like hippos alternately right-side and up-side down), is lightly padded. I did not want to put anything in it that wasn't finished so I wrote poems or stories on looseleaf notebook paper then copied them carefully into the hippo book, handwriting as neat and legible as I could make it. I had a four-color ink pen and didn't use the same color twice in a row. I remember getting angry with myself when I made a copying error. I wanted to write a series of poems/stories about a fantasy land, like Oz or perhaps like Carl Sandburg's odd Rootabaga Stories -- I remember Sandburg's stories mostly for their strangeness, how many did I ever read? The stories didn't have to share characters, I decided. But they all took place in this magical land overseen by a blue & yellow sun. I wanted them to be inventive and fun. Sadly, as it usually does, my imagination disappointed me. What I was writing wasn't inventive enough, was more work than play.

Typing this old poem I flinch, am embarrassed. It's so ... not good. Not that I haven't read worse. Sure. I've written many poems not this good. And I've read (or stopped reading partway through) many poems or stories by other people that I think worse. I embarrass too easily, maybe. I was no prodigy. Though I was praised for my writing since I was little it always seemed to me there was someone better. There always is, yeah? Does that bother me now? Hm. Maybe it doesn't, really. Best best best. What's that?

OK, Sundy, cat who's been yowing at me and tapping me to get my attention, I'll play with you a minute.

Tales of the Blue and Yellow Sun: The Baker

Francis Brown was a baker
It took him all day to make one loaf of bread
Because travelling lemming salesmen
Kept stopping him between kneads and shouting in his ear.

As the blue and yellow sun
Rose in the west,
Francis Brown was kneading dough.
As the blue and yellow sun
Blazed overhead,
Francis Brown was baking bread.
As the blue and yellow sun
Sank in the east,
Francis Brown was weeping bitterly.

No travelling salesmen had stopped him in his work,
He had made good time
But his bread fell
And his time ran away,
It wasn’t good after all
And Francis Brown was bitterly disappointed.

By the setting
Of the blue and yellow sun,
Francis, sobbing miserably,
Began throwing hunks of brakenburger
At the innocent floor.

The unprotected floor
Burbled in protest,
But Francis continued to toss painful projectiles
Until the floor, in anger,
Swallowed him down.

Monday, December 27, 2004

invisible art

In response to a couple postings by geof huth at his blog, one on invisible art, one on being the poet in the family I wrote:

"I've decided invisible art and my invisible-art-making is a form of spiritual practice. Like prayer (or meditation) it seeks communion with an unnameable, is not "communication" in the ordinary sense, does not offer up a message that someone is supposed to get in order for them to do something -- the message, if any, not being instructional or directive. Of course, saying poetry is prayer is as likely to confuse as to illuminate, as most people will think I'm saying I'm asking God for something, which is not it at all. I've lately been revising poems on my blog, which is as close to publication I've gotten in months (years?)."

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas

Odd that I said something snarky about generic holiday songs versus real Christmas carols. Odd because the fundamentalist wing of the noise machine got in a big clattery flap about the de-Christing of the holidays, fuming, it seems, about phrases like "Happy Hoidays" and "Seasons Greetings." Dailykos has a nice touche to that. When I was collecting Christmas songs I found a few winter songs, "Winter Wonderland" for instance, that don't even mention Christmas. And if I enjoyed them I happily included them in my Christmas mixes, much as the compilers of the commercial mixes did.

We listened to hours of Christmas music today, the mixes I put together, then KFOG on our way out to Steep Ravine. Aggravatingly it turned out the combinations that Kent had been given for the locks at Steep Ravine were inoperative. While we were waiting at the gate by the highway two other cars showed up -- the people in the first car also had numbers that didn't work. The woman in the second car had the magic digits. So we all drove down. But the locks on the cabins wouldn't budge for us (nor for the other little family whose numbers hadn't fit the gate). We waited around for awhile, knocked on the "Host" cabin door (no one home), snacked, then took Flash for a walk. Quite beautiful there, the cliffs, the rocks, deer, even a hare, surf and tidepools (sea anemone, hermit crabs, starfish); the air was cool but calm. What to do? We came home. The hot dogs, which had been purchased for a grilling over coals, toasted up in the broiler tray under the oven. Flash hunkered under the table after we got home -- nauseous from the ride or from slopping sea water? Kent left a dog biscuit by her nose; as I was serving dinner she scooped it up and trotted out to the back porch to munch it. Right now Flash is sleeping curled on her square cushion (the only remnant of a couch) and Sundy is snoozing, tail over his nose, on the chair by the PC. Kent is in the side room watching television. Tomorrow is his birthday.

Friday, December 24, 2004

comments on "Man-in-the-Moon" version 7

Wow. I had zero expectations for this poem. With version 6 I found myself delighted. I liked it a lot. Version 7 is merely tidying up version 6.

Reviewing my comments for version 6 I don't see any enthusiasm. Yeah, I didn't want to go, "Isn't this great!" and find later it was merely the heat of creation ... aren't there those times you've just done something and it seems so sharp, so clever, so special ... then time goes by and ardor cools.

So I like it. Hey. Isn't that great!

"Man-in-the-Moon" version 7

In which a man with the face of the Moon is served tea on the porch of a cabin in the woods by a boy who knows the stars, the only lantern low on oil, new snow on the limbs of the trees


A cloud slips off the chin of the mountain and wipes mist
from the Milky Way. The boy tips the teapot and tea,
dark as earth and trailing clouds, falls the long way
to the cup’s dry white. Says the man, “Ah.”
And, “I couldn’t.” But he takes the full cup and empties it
into his mouth, the cup’s round bottom a clean eye
that looks with the blue emblem of its maker at the boy
who looks all the way back. The cup cooling in its saucer,
the man lets his gray eyes drift out of the dark back
to the other. “I couldn’t have another cup, no.”
So again the boy pours the tea, then again, returning
his hands to circle the cup he’s burned his lip on, burned
his tongue. “I’ve imposed.” The man turns his face again
to the lamp’s yellow, though shadows, firm and ancient,
refuse to vacate the hollow of a cheek, the orbits of eyes. He smiles,
a smile the boy won’t see. Stars mess the sky up,
their dimnesses tangled and knotted; any other night’s
incontrovertible points lose this argument. The boy knows
the man’s face. He can’t place it. “How much farther
did you have to go?” he asks. “How much farther?”
the man responds. He rolls his eyes slowly, from one side
to the other. “All the way.” The boy says, “I’ve seen you
before.” “You’ve seen me.” The man glances
at his empty cup, but when the boy lifts the pot it’s light
and the thread from the spout is the tiniest ravel and breaks.
“I’ve barely drunk mine,” says the boy. So the man takes it
and drinks it and puts the cup back. “Ah,” he says
and the boy watches for his breath and sees his own breath
wandering. “I’ve kept you up,” the man says. “I am poor
company. I have taken too much of your time, and you
shall never have it back, yes?” “No,” the boys says, “no.”

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

What Book!?

The following is from editor Gary Gach's "Pre Face" to his anthology of Buddhist poetry, What Book!?:

Poetry may seem to be only prose cut into short lines
-- but the end of each line lets us breathe, be attentive --
as if we could get up, walk around the block, and come back, to continue the next line
renewed, without missing a stitch --
or spend five minutes on a single line, if need be.

[slightly edited]

Yeah.

smashing!

Wayne Wilkinson read Billy Corgan's book of poetry so you don't have to. Says Wayne, "BLINKING WITH FISTS gives me hope. Hope b/c I know that I write poetry every bit as well as Billy Corgan. It should give you hope too for the same reason." Says Billy, "I taste, relate, to invade you / No wait, I'll change, and await you ..."

solstice!

Shortest day of the year? They get longer from here on out!

More light! More light!

Monday, December 20, 2004

happy birthday to my blog

2 years old this month.

lay off

So the library tax that was on the November ballot did not get the required 2/3 vote, which means lay-offs. I think I have enough seniority in my job classification that I won't be tossed out the door. Last summer some people got pink slips but the union agreed to give back a scheduled cost-of-living adjustment so those jobs were saved. Hopes rode on the tax measure. But there were tax measures for city and fire and whatever else, too. And they all lost. So there are going to be cut-backs citywide.

I didn't get a pink slip in the summer. But if you do get a pink slip and you have sufficient seniority you get to bump into somebody else's job, if you want it. So the lay-off moves down the line. I don't know if anybody with bumping rights will want to bump me out. Since I work fulltime and most of the people in my job classification are parttime if bumped I could probably end up with a parttime job.

Who knows. It's going to be strange watching it all play out.

I decided tonight to do something celebratory what with the baby jesus long since grown and pegged to a stick. So I bought us tickets to The New Pickle Circus, an afternoon show on Christmas Eve. Kent reserved a night at one of the cabins at Steep Ravine on his birthday, which is the day after Christmas. I don't know what we'll do on Christmas day now that Mom's gone. What did we do last year? It's not like either of us is into the Christian thing. Maybe I should take to calling it Santa Day. Not that I've bought Christmas presents either. The whole gift-giving round. I try to avoid it. I'm not bah-humbug about it, but gifts create obligations, even if you hate the gift, and if you love it, too. Things. Things stick to you. Objects, I mean. I can't get rid of them. I feel bad getting rid of things. I'd like to travel light, right? I should want to.

Cats and dogs seem happy these days. Cats go outside less when it's cold and rainy. Hasn't been rainy much. When are we going to get that again?

Lots of bills to catch up on. HCR stuff. I'm blocking it out!

Steve Mueske has moved his blog to blogspot and I commented, "You already know more about blogspot than I do!" And he said, "What? I just chose a template and turned on the comments." Oh. Right. I could do that.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

comments on "Man-in-the-Moon" version 6

Here I was thinking the only thing interesting about the poem was what the Moon said. I was faced, I said to Kent, with coming up with something the Moon would say. I am not wise and shouldn't the Moon speak wisely? Shouldn't the Moon have a knowledge beyond the ken of men? Beyond my ken?

I launched the newest attack on the poem thinking I was going to be getting the Moon to speak. He didn't. He didn't, dern him.

The poem has recovered a shadow of its funny. That's a bit of a relief. I hate dead serious poems, especially when they come out of me. I don't believe 'em.

There's a little more situation in the poem now, what with the context given by the title and the boy's queries: "How much farther do you have to go?" But the Moon's answers merely reflect back what the boy says. Ooh. A sort of moonish thing to do, eh?

"Man-in-the-Moon" version 6

In which a man with the face of the Moon is served tea on the porch of a cabin in the woods by a boy who knows the stars, the only lantern low on oil, new snow on the limbs of the trees


A cloud slips off the chin of the mountain and wipes mist
from the Milky Way. The boy tips the teapot and tea,
dark as earth and trailing clouds, falls the long way
to the cup’s dry white. Says the man, “Ah.”
And, “I couldn’t.” But he takes the full cup and empties it
suddenly, the cup’s round bottom tipping up, a clean eye
that looks with the blue emblem of its maker at the boy
who looks all the way back. The cup cooling in its saucer,
the man lets his gray eyes drift out of the dark back
to the other. “I couldn’t have another cup, no.”
So again the boy pours the tea, and again, returning
his hands to circle the cup he’s burned his lip on, burned
his tongue. “I’ve imposed.” The man turns his face again
to the lamp’s yellow, though half stays dark
and shadows firm and ancient refuse to vacate the hollows
of a cheek, the orbits of eyes. He smiles,
a smile so small it’s not visible. The stars mess the sky up,
their dimnesses tangled and knotted; even the points
of any other night lose in the argument. The boy knows
the man’s face. He can’t place it. “How much farther
did you say you have to go?” he asks. “How much farther?”
the man responds. He rolls his eyes slowly, from one side
to the other. “All the way.” The boy says, “I’ve seen you
here before.” “You’ve seen me.” The man glances
at his empty cup, but when the boy lifts the pot it’s light
and the thread from the spout is the tiniest ravel and breaks.
“I’ve barely drunk mine,” says the boy. So the man takes it
and drinks it and puts the cup back. “Ah,” he says
and the boy watches for his breath and sees his own breath
wandering. “I’ve kept you up,” the man says. “I am poor
company. I have taken too much of your time, and you
shall never have it back, yes?” The boys says, “No.”

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

comments on "Man-in-the-Moon" version 5

I figure I'll resurrect some of what I discarded from version 4. But today when I stopped in at the blog to give the poem a quick read, sufficient time having passed since I last worked it over, I found the poem dull dull. If the damn thing had been in a magazine I wouldn't have finished. But I pushed on and did get interested, about halfway through, when the moon-man talks. I'm not terribly fond of what he says. But at least what he says seems active, the passivity of the descriptions having been deadly.

"Man-in-the-Moon" version 5

In which a man with the face of the Moon is served tea on the porch of a cabin in the woods by a boy who knows the stars, the only lantern low on oil, new snow on the limbs of the trees


A cloud slips free of the mountain and wipes mist
from the Milky Way. The boy refills the teacup.
“I couldn’t. All good men must sleep. Even young.”
The man laughs. No, he does not laugh. “Even old.
Must cross the waters that draw their dark

past the river’s stones. Each stone a dream.
Dream by dream alone he steps the width
of a valley that goes on forever, and a wind
blows softly on him or blows hard and sudden.
You have only hours to get all the way over,

who have to travel, from day to day night by night.”
The boy tightens the circle of his hands around his cup.
He lifts it again to his face, the steam too cool and the tea
again hot enough to hurt. But he drinks. And stops.

And drinks. When he has finished his cup
he feels wounded; he looks at the man whose face,
lit by no moon, only the blue of the snow,
the dimnesses of stars, regards him or looks on something
other. “More tea?”asks the boy, the pot cold.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

the uncanny Xmas

We have 2 CDs of Christmas music -- Kent's is old crooners like Bing Crosby and Dean Martin. Bing, however, does not sing "White Christmas." Instead he sings "Holiday Inn", a generic holiday song. "Holiday Inn" is not a Christmas song, not, at least, any more than it's an Easter song or 4th of July song. ... Or was it "Happy Holidays"? Whichever. My CD, which I bought a few years ago, is a benefit for, I think, Choice ... it includes Luscious Jackson and The Presidents of the United States of America. Since I've been burning mix CDs from music I've listened to at my desk at work I thought I could fix the lack of a decent CD of Christmas music by listening to a bunch of samplers and boiling them down to a Best. I now have nearly 3 hours of music in a iTunes playlist. So I'm figuring now that I'll mix up 2 or 3 CDs. A rockin' Christmas, a croonin' Christmas, an are-these-really-Chrismas-songs Christmas. Or something. My sources are a stack of CDs I grabbed from the clearance bins at Amoeba, spent a maximum of $2 per CD (less, as when you buy 3 clearance CDs you get the 4th free). Of course, the library also owns many Christmas music CDs so I've started listening to those, too.

I thought it was gonna be torture. Egad! Tired old Christmas carols! But it's been rather fun. I've heard some pleasant versions of "Merry Gentlemen" and "Silent Night" ... and I've heard rather wearisome versions.

On my way home today I stopped in at the drugstore and at the checkout counter I saw a display of Christmas CDs ... was amused to see one of Bah-Humbug Chrismas songs with liner notes by Harvey Pekar. The CD is called "Yule Be Miserable". Tempting.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

comments on "Man-in-the-Moon" version 4

Better. Mostly an edit of version 3. Who are these people? Is it a logical inference that this is "The Man in the Moon"? Does it matter whether it is or isn't? Are dreams stones? Dreams are stories or non sequiturs ... stones?

"Man-in-the-Moon" version 4

Moonless


The cigarette smoke’s wan light takes a shade
of black from the night. The man taps a tiny ash
from the end. “My boy, my boy.”
His words stones, smoothed and softened by
the turning, slow and ceaseless, of an ice-edged creek.

The boy lifts the pot, tips tea out of it,
the tea’s earth-dark dropping into the cup’s
lightly shadowed white. Again the man’s lips
part and the cup touches them, the round white
eye pupiled by the emblem of its maker

rises to gaze upon the boy. The boy blows
steam from the surface of his own cup, sips,
and burns his lip and tongue. Empty as a shadow,
every earth-dark drop drained, the man’s cup
cools on its saucer. He pats the blue napkin between

his long hands, lays it over the unstirred spoon.
A cloud tears free of the mountain and wipes mist
from the Milky Way. The boy watches his breath
move away from the table. The man’s cup,
white as dawn, has caught one star on its gold rim.

The boy looks from it to the man’s still face.
Then he pours the tea. “I couldn’t,” the man demurs.
“I couldn’t. All good men must sleep. Even young.”
He laughs. No, he does not laugh. “Even old.
Must cross the waters that draw their dark

past the river’s stones. Each stone a dream.
Dream by dream alone he steps the width
of a valley that goes on forever, and a wind
blows softly on him or blows hard and sudden.
You have only hours to get all the way over,

who have to travel, from day to day night by night.”
The boy tightens the circle of his hands around his cup.
He lifts it again to his face, the steam too cool and the tea
again hot enough to hurt. But he drinks. And stops.

And drinks. When he has finished his cup
he feels wounded; he looks at the man whose face,
lit by no moon, only the blue of the snow, the thousand
dimnesses of stars, regards him or looks on something
other. “More tea?”asks the boy, the pot cold.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

comments on "Man-in-the-Moon" version 3

It's a new version, all right. And it was fun to write, I'll tell ya. Playing variations. Less fun to read, I see. Too long. This is not a fourteen stanza poem. But the nothing happening, it's OK I'm thinking. We'll see what the next version looks like.

"Man-in-the-Moon" version 3

Moonless


From the end of the cigarette he rolled himself, the man
taps a tiny ash and smoke leaves his mouth.
He doesn’t blow it. Rather, the smoke’s wan
light takes a shade of black from the night.

“My boy, my boy.” His words soft as stones
being turned in the winter creek. He does not
look at the empty cup, looks instead at the bones
that have refleshed with snow muscle,

ice sinew, the seasonal body of the skeletons.
The boy looks up at them, too. And those
beside them in their spiky and permanent green.
When the man blinks, the time it takes

seems a phase his face must go through
night by night. And the boy lifts the pot,
tips the tea out of it, the tea’s earth-dark
dropping into the cup’s lightly shadowed

white. The boy also tips tea into his own
half-full cup and put his chilled hands around it.
The china too hot to touch he lets his hands
wait, and they receive what heat escapes.

The man, his gray cheeks catching the light
cast from the window, his eyes almost lost
in an old distance, lets his lips part, and the cup
touches them, the bottom of the cup rising,

a wide eye, the tattoo-blue emblem of its maker
regarding the table, looking unmoved upon
the boy who blows steam from the surface
of his own tea, who burns his lip and tongue

and puts his cup down. Empty as a shadow,
every earth-dark drop fallen out of it, the man’s cup
cools on its saucer. He pats the blue napkin
between his long hands, lays it softly over the unstirred spoon.

A cloud tears free of the mountain and wipes mist
from the Milky Way. The boy breathes the breath
he can see. There isn’t much in the pot and the cup,
white as dawn, has caught one sharp star on its gold rim.

The boy looks from it to the man’s still face.
Then he pours the tea. “I couldn’t,” the man demurs.
“I couldn’t. All good men must sleep. Even young.”
He laughed. No, he did not laugh. “Even old.
Must walk across the waters that draw their dark

around the stones in the river. Each stone
a dream. And so dream by dream alone he steps the width
of a valley he can’t see the length of, and a wind
blows softly on him or blows sudden and hard.”

The boy tightens the circle of his hands, the heat
of the cup less hard. And when he sees the man’s
hand descending and settling the cup in the saucer’s
center circle he sees the cup is dry. “To keep you

from your bed would be burgling from you, my boy
thieving from you the only way laid out for us who have to go,
who have to go on, from night to day night after night.
How cruel I am to take from you, dear one.” This time

it is the boy who laughs. And he laughs until he hears
the dry crackle of his laughter and he takes refuge
in tea which does not burn him. The ember
of the cigarette lights the whites of the man’s two eyes.