Monday, December 31, 2007

last day of the year

My usual lunch hangouts were closed today so I tried a Thai place I haven’t eaten in in years. That turned out fine. The sun is out but a cold wind gets to blowing. When windy around here our front yard gathers scraps of debris – candy wrappers, tissue from the supermarket deli, plastic bags.

Kent was home when I got back from eating. If I’d known he was going to be off work so early I would have waited lunch till he came home. He zapped a frozen onion soup portion for himself.

I’ve been telling Sundy (the cat) I’m going to make a documentary about him. Just follow him around with a camera. He’s totally telegenic! The project requires a camera, of course.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2007


Back in October I commented on Ron Silliman’s blog, responding, as one does now & then, both to what Ron had said and to one of the earlier commenters. The result, I find upon rereading (I copied the comments to a Word file), continues to bother me. Ron will grump about how the poetry world’s awards tend to be heaped at the feet of those he considers tiresome reactionaries, at least in style if not in wider world politics.

A commenter took Ron to task, “[Y]our posts on this issue exercise us into sputtering rage. 90% of poetry these days is gossip. I was just at a SoQ reading in Chicago (sponsored by Poetry Magazine and the ALSC.) The post-reading drinking was dominated by discussion about publishers, names -- it might as well have been about music, or archetecture [sic], or Romance novels as about poetry. … At some point you grow up as a poet and as a reader, and you grow to regard this with disgust. You grow to hate talk about the National Book Award, who's getting published by Knopf, and so on. It just seems incredibly remote from what you yourself are doing, and what your friends are doing, and if you have a good bookstore in town, what you think the best writers are doing. … [W]e feel that complete abdication from the gossip world -- which involves thinking of ourselves and our friends as ‘poets’, not ‘poets of a certain type’ -- has been a necessary step. … I don't want a place at the table, and being told to demand one seems a bit bullying.”

SoQ is an acronym of “School of Quietude,” the term Ron Silliman has applied to those I called in my first paragraph “tiresome reactionaries.”

This was what I posted: “All human endeavors include at least a dash of politics (even religion; the Zen master or the Pope got where HE is unsullied by the temporal world?). I'm puzzled that [the commenter above] puts discussion/analysis of it off limits -- because we're poets and politics is irrelevant to poetry? Politics (gossip?) is part of the program. One can certainly ignore something bulky in the room ... Still, that I tire of it and wish it would step outside for a smoke and let me talk about ... what? ... stanza breaks? my next book (first book)? ... doesn't make it leave the party. It's one more thing to talk about. Ron, for one, talks about many other things, too.

“Far's labeling myself is concerned: I write poetry and I define ‘poetry’ loosely, and because I write poetry & rather a lot of it (my pile of notebooks from the last 20 years is about 3 feet high; yes, they got knocked cattywampus & I did pile them on the floor) ... so I call myself a poet. I don't write the same thing over & over. I suppose the preponderance of my influences (& my art) would slouch under Ron's ‘post avant’ banner, though there's SoQish stuff, too. When asked what kind of poet I am I hesitantly offer ‘experimental’ because that's what I do. Experiment a lot. [ellipses in original, indicating pause rather than excision]”

The earlier commenter came back with: “What I said was so unobjectionable and true that it's internet-axiomatic that someone has to come along and disagree.”

He quotes a few sentences from my comment before continuing to protest:

“I never put discussion of it off limits. I never said that ‘politics’ (who gets published, and by whom) doesn't matter. I never said that mention of poetry gossip would make me leave the room. I never said that Ron was bad because this is all he talks about. For my actual beliefs, do read my comment, which expresses them well.”

I was startled by the commenter’s protest. “I never said … I never said … I never said … I never said.” Then he sneers, “For my actual beliefs, do read my comment, which expresses them well.”

Should someone tell me that a topic reduces him to a “sputtering rage” it would seem not only reasonable but essential to read that as a demand the topic be off limits. What, I want to experience his “sputtering rage”?

He says, “90% of poetry these days is gossip. [At a recent reading] the post-reading drinking was dominated by discussion about publishers, names … At some point you grow up as a poet and as a reader, and you grow to regard this with disgust. You grow to hate talk about the National Book Award, who's getting published by Knopf, and so on.” Yet the commenter’s “disgust” should “never” indicate that to talk awards gossip is “bad”? How odd. Disgust – hate – rage – a necessity for complete abdication [sic] from gossip.

It’s hard to believe the commenter expects to be taken seriously saying one thing then, in a wounded howl, renouncing what he’d said as though he had “never said” such a thing.

My own comments I’d thought “so unobjectionable and true that” I was merely making conversation, of a bland, even tired sort. Politics, it’s part of the world of Art (and Poetry), too.

You can read the unedited comments on Ron’s blog here.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Fame killed him

I recently joined Facebook. I’ve had a couple reconnections that have been good. One was with a colleague on the staff of Berkeley Poetry Review. Patricia Johnson went on to Yale Business School, I learned. Of all of us I’d have guessed she’d be best at that. Poets, remember? She’s been working at New American Media the last few years and when I asked she shared links to some of what she’s written.

In one article she remembers Andrew Martinez, the UC Berkeley student who became (reluctantly) famous as “The Naked Guy.” They lived at the same student co-op. She remembers a sweet man, not some defiant radical but almost an innocent; he wanted to live his life peacefully, not stage a confrontation or exemplify a controversy. I could identify with that. Being a gay man I’m familiar with my boring ordinary life being a “controversial subject,” and totally without my permission.

Was I embarrassed by Andrew’s public nudity? Sure, a bit. I wasn’t going to strip in solidarity (some did), but philosophically I sympathized. I had no classes with Andrew, but I saw him around a few times. As Patricia says in her essay, “He wasn't hard to look at. He was a tall, lean man with lovely brown skin.”

What killed him? Patricia fingers fame. “He lost himself in it. By naming him The Naked Guy, we all drove him crazy. I heard he eventually wanted to take it all back. … If Andrew had been ugly, he might be alive today, because fame wouldn't have wanted him so badly -- certainly Playgirl wouldn't have wanted him.

“Being in the headlines is the worst kind of fame, because there's no paycheck, no royalties. They take your picture, interview you, get the ratings and spit you out.”

Patricia’s most vivid memory: Andrew “walking naked into the co-op dining room for breakfast with a plate of toast. He set the plate on the table, and his backpack on the floor. He pulled a small towel out of the backpack and placed it on the chair, with a dignified snap like a four-star restaurant waiter. Then he sat down to read the paper.”

Read the rest here.

May of ’06 I posted a link to an article about the death of Andrew Martinez.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

comments on “Hell it is, Pop” version 4

Christmasy? The versions of this poem were all written before I posted the first one. I haven’t done that before. No one had a chance to comment so there was no taking comments into account. (Little joke there.)

Hope your holidays are going sweetly, peacefully, and warmly.

“Hell it is, Pop” version 4

Ever more beautiful wounds
the diamond burns.
But the stitchers thread

a cure for this gap.
The river wavers
because the viewer wobbles?

The head’s its own snake.
Let her climb letters, shine down

feathers light-fingered ladies
lift. On older wings men drift

three many thousand falls,
eight ending hundred feints.

Across a range of lines,
the plots families draw,
knots overlap ridges, acres in grudges.

Good road but cracked with green.
Earth girded by goodbyes.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

comments on “Hell it is, Pop” version 3

Should I send this to Slate when it’s done?

“Hell it is, Pop” version 3

Ever more beautiful wounds
the diamond burns.
But the stitchers thread

a cure across the gap.
The river wavers?
Because the viewer wobbles,

the head in its own way to see
snakes, to climb letters.

Over light-fingered ladies
shine me. By old wings lifted
these men turn.

How many thousand feints,
hundred dead falls,

range acre lines,
the plots families draw,
knot by knot, overlapping thin grudges.

Good road not yet cracked with green,
earth girded by goodbyes.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

another postcard

Beverly Backstrom was another of Mom's old buddies. I like this one because it is just a nicely written dispatch from travel. You don't have to know anything about Beverly or Mom to find it interesting.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

comments on "Hell it is, Pop!" version 2

Most of the poems I’ve versioned on LuvSet have been old old poems. The first version of this one is quite new. Usually I do a new version just before I post it. Version 2 is not that fresh. In fact, I already have versions 3 & 4.

"Hell it is, Pop!" version 2

From above, the diamond burns
ever more beautiful wounds, the stitcher's thread

a cure for the bright act.
The river wavers because the viewer wobbles,

the head its own way to see
snakes and letters.

Shine me on over light-fingered

ladies, their gentlemen lifted by old wings
a toe’s-breadth above turbid currents

below which blind muck-lurkers
poke feet of claw.

How many thousand feints,
hundred dead falls,

range cheek by elbow, acre lines
overlapping plots families draw,

knot by knot, among their grudges.

Cities bright as sousaphones in winter
greet dawn’s new filament

with an oomph and an oomph and
an oom pah pah. Good time! Good news!

Good road not yet cracked with green,

earth girded by meets,
loosened for goodbye.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Among the material I brought back from my mother's house was a box of postcards. Most of them are blank. A few aren't. This one is from Mom's old friends Rose & Galen Smith.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

comments on “Hell it is, Pop” version 1

“Hell it is, Pop” is a piece written on top of "Elegy, Father's Day"
By Kevin Young, which appeared at Slate.

“Hell it is, Pop” version 1

From above, the diamond burns its look
into ever more beautiful wounds, the stitcher's thread

curing the bright act.
The river wavers because the viewer wobbles,

the head its own way to see
snakes and letters.

Shine me on over light-fingered

ladies, their gentlemen lifted by old wings
just above the turbid currents

below which blind muck-wanderers
poke clawed feet.

How many thousands of feints
and hundreds of falls,

ranged cheek by elbow, line the acres,
overlap like plots families draw,

knot by knot, among their grievances.

Cities bright as sousaphones in winter
greet dawn’s new sight

with an oomph and an oomph and
an oompah pah. Good time!

Good road not yet cracked
with green,

the earth girded by meets,
loosened with goodbyes.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Living in Berkeley

Rained yesterday & through the night.

Kent wanted to see the new Coen Brothers movie, No Country for Old Men, but it’s not playing in Berkeley. What? With all our movie theaters?

For lunch we walked down to Au Coquelet, a cafĂ© on University Ave. Sun’s shining now.

Monday, October 29, 2007

all the way

All the way and in the way and thus the way evades the way the way a nay will turn away the daily tray of pales applied to knights and fastened with ribbon to kites and tucked under tights and carried aloft in the bottom of a bite. Whose ruse chose this loose shoot’s fruits? You gotta wonder, maundering, while under the sundered venture, a new purple panders to renderers.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

this gust

Suppose a rough gust tucked into his guts and the roomy tomb, vacated by a spoon, cuts a figure of rust. Suppose what?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Deadly Nightshade

Today at the Spice of Life Festival (they closed down the street two blocks away) Kent & I watched a cooking demonstration. The chef of Bistro Liaison prepared a butternut squash soup. While the chef was doing something that didn’t require commentary the emcee offered up a giveaway – a one-cup coffee maker (Kent leaned into me and said, “We need that.”) – to the first person who could answer the question, “What popular culinary ingredient belongs to the deadly nightshade family?”

My hand went up. “Tomato?”

Kent made coffee with it soon as we got home.

Monday, October 08, 2007


ENDA is the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that's before Congress. Its purpose is to outlaw employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. ENDA has been introduced and reintroduced over the years and gradually gathered more cosponsors and better chances of passing. Now that Democrats are in charge of Congress (at least theoretically) Speaker Pelosi was going to put ENDA up for a vote, and it looked like there was a good chance of it passing. But Congressmember Barney Frank, our only out gay male Congressmember, was counting the votes and discovered that many were balking at the protections afforded the transgender. Such protections had been added fairly recently as tg activists organized and made themselves known. But when it looked like their needs would scuttle the legislation altogether Frank proposed separating tg protections into another bill entirely (one with little prospect at this point).

Debate has been going on about the advisability of this. I left the following comment at Michelangelo Signorile's blog:

I admire Barney Frank. One thing that strikes me about him, though, is his inability to perceive the symbolic. He is pragmatic to a fault. It only matters if you can get it done, he seems to think. Frank accepted the so-called compromise of Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell, insisting that the version he agreed to included Don't-Pursue. In practice there's been plenty of pursue.

Republicans are happy to indulge in huge splashy symbolism; witness the repeated introduction of the Anti-Marriage Amendments and such fireworks as the Sciavo bill. There are those who say the Republicans are letting down their strongest supporters because they haven't succeeded in outlawing abortion or inserting an anti-marriage amendment into the Constitution. Maybe. But the country is not virulently anti-abortion and it's getting more pro-gay all the time, yet the the Democrat's attempts have been mired in a sort of anti-symbolism, as though the only way they can get anything good done is if it's possible to sneak it by.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

take the poll!

Do you subscribe to the magazines that reject your work?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Alex the parrot

I saved this link to an obit for Alex the parrot because I was charmed by earlier stories about him and because research into animal intelligence fascinates me. It’s not the freshest news, but if you’ve never heard of Alex and Irene Pepperberg, here’s an excerpt:

According to Pepperberg who is a faculty member at Brandeis University, Alex was able to identify 50 different objects, seven colors and shapes, and quantities of up to six. Alex also understood the concept of bigger and smaller and same and different. Pepperberg says they were in the midst of learning basic mathematics skills. … After repeating some learning trials dozens of times, Alex would become tired and throw objects off the trays with his beak. When visiting the veterinarian, Alex would go back in his cage and slam the door.

… Alex would say to her every night before going to bed: "You be good. I love you. See you tomorrow."

Saturday, September 22, 2007

the yoga forest

I used to think of my practice as a journey where time and change were major components. As time progressed, changes would occur. Lately, I have started to think of my practice as a forest that I'm wandering through at night. Every moment of my practice, I'm learning something new about the forest. Whenever a teacher shares a bit of knowledge about his yoga practice with me, it's like a star lights up in the sky. Sometimes the light helps me see the forest better from where I'm standing.

Ann, one of my coworkers at the Claremont Branch library, writes a column for The Yogi Times. The above is a paragraph from one of the columns.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Ingersoll stuff

In the Miles City genealogy forum Mike Raunig said he had some Ingersoll stuff, so I wrote to him asking what that would be.

Raunig wrote back, “I had owned a very neat large wooden foot locker/trunk which had ‘Ingersoll Ranch ~ Miles City Montana’ painted nicely on the outer box. The box was full of cowboy gear, family photos, guns, tools, etc inside dating back to the late 19th and early 20th century.

“The inside lid of the trunk had painted on it: ‘7th Cavalry ~ Post Quarter Master ~ Fort Abraham Lincoln ~ Dakota Territory’.

“I had the trunk for a few years, but sold it a year ago or so. I had contacted some Ingersoll family thru various sources to research the item, as well as see if someone in the family wanted to buy the trunk and its contents. I was able to run down some information on the Ingersoll fellow who came to Miles City with a herd of longhorns from Texas and settled in the Miles City area in the 1880's. Nobody in the family I spoke with was interested in the purchase of the trunk.

“All of the family paper work I had compiled in doing my family research went with the trunk and I do not have it anymore other than what is in my feeble little head. I believe I was able to make contact with an Ingersoll in Alaska, and Ingersoll back east, and made an attempt to contact an Ingersoll in California to no avail. I ended up with several emails, and regular mail correspondence from 2 or 3 family members.”

That trunk sounds like a neat thing to have. But where would I put it?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

cousin Pamela

Since I’ve had the stats service on LuvSet I see what searches bring visitors and sometimes I follow the search back to see what other sites the search engine turned up.

Somebody interested in an Ingersoll other than me showed up here, so I followed them back to their search, and thus over to a website for Miles City, Montana, where there’s a genealogy forum. My dad was born in Miles City.

A Marvin Miller says (7/14/02), “I went to Custer High (class of 1948),with two Ingersoll brothers, Bruce and Gary. Bruce graduated in 1944? Gary in 1946? I talked to Bruce about five years ago, he lived in Anchorage, Alaska, and was listed in the 'phone book.” Bruce is my father’s name.

Collen Carter writes (4/18/03), “My great-great grandmother, Mary Collins, moved from Minnesota to Terry Montana in 1880 with her 14 year old daughter Rose (b. 1866). Rose took a job as a schoolteacher and eventually married George F. Ingersoll. The 1900 U.S. Census lists Rose and George, a ‘stock raiser,’ and two children, a son Lynn and a daughter Dixie. Rose later became the superintendent of schools for Miles City.” My father’s father’s name was Lynn? Yeah, that's right.

Mike Raunig responds (4/22/03), “George F. Ingersoll (originally from Iowa) … was better known as ‘Dick’. Dick was associated with the Lee-Scott Cattle Company of Ft. Worth Texas. Around 1885, Dick and a partner drove a herd of longhorns from Texas to Montana and settled in the Miles City area and formed The Bow Gun Ranch, and the ‘Bow and Arrow Ranch’.”

Pamela Ingersoll, datelining herself “Sonoma County, California” (which town? I grew up there) fills in details (11/27/04), “I believe the 'Ingersoll Ranch' you're looking for belonged to my great-grand-parents, George F. ‘Dick’ and Rose Collins Ingersoll. They owned the Bow Gun and Swinging H Ranch properties, north of Terry, Montana. George F. ‘Dick’ and Rose Collins Ingersoll had a son Lynn R. Ingersoll, (the 1st), my grand-father, who married Bernice Kempton Ingersoll, my grand-mother. Together they had five (5) sons, Dick, Lynn R. Ingersoll, (the 2nd, my father), Thomas , Bruce and Gerry . All born in Miles City. My father, Lynn R. Ingersoll, II and Bruce K. Ingersoll are now deceased. … Apparently, both my maternal and paternal great-parents and great-great-grand-parents, are well known in eastern Montana history. I am not aware of any Ingersolls from my family, still living in Montana. We are all scattered throughout the U.S.” So Pamela and I share a grandfather.

Colleen Carter closes the discussion with a bio of Great Grandfather Dick by his son (my grandfather?) Lynn, “Originally from Lynn, Mass, and Boone, Iowa, after graduating from Mount Vernon, Iowa college [Dick Ingersoll traveled] all over the Western U.S. He headed for the Black Hills Gold rush 1875, but wound up at Old Tascosa on the North Canadian river, not far North of [today’s] Amarillo, Tex …
1884 spring he got to be trail boss or foreman of two herds of 3000 steers each headed for the big grass country of Eastern Mont., between the Yellowstone and Big Missouri Rivers. These herds of young steers were from the Lee-Scott (L.S.) out fit on the North Canadian River range and were being sent up North to develope [sic] into 5 & 6 yr old steers weighing on an average of 1200 lbs … These two L.S. herds landed on the Big Dry at mouth of what is still called L.S. creek. 20 miles below what is now the town of Jordan in later day Garfield [County, Montana].”

Some of the bio varies from that provided by another source, according to Kenny Vail (6/24/02), who quotes from “the Hoopes’ index book”: "Ingersoll, George F. (Dick) born 12/20/1858, at Lee, Berkshire Co., Mass. '65 with parents to Boone, Iowa; father in cattle business; graduates Cornell College, Mt. Vernon Iowa. '77: gold fever; to the Black Hills with his father, then returns to Iowa. 1878: with father to Fort Worth, Tx., cattle business; ride the range until '85; is appointed foreman, ‘Lee-Scott’ Cattle Company. Trails their cattle overland to southeast M.T.; settles there."

I’m only mildly interested in pursuing the research necessary to draw a family tree. When somebody does it for me … well then … that’ll do.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"Are you a boy or a girl?"

"I'm fa'afafine," Tafi said. "That means I have a boy's body, but I was raised in Samoa as a girl."

Tafi could have explained that in the islands, nobody ever asked. She could have told the girl that a Samoan mother with a fa'afafine among her children is considered lucky. Fa'afafine help with babies and cooking, they tend the elderly and the sick. They are presumed to have the best traits of both men and women.

… In the islands Tafi was more accepted, but her life was still complicated. Many fa'afafine live as women, the maleness of their bodies ignored by those around them. … Many families, including Tafi's, expect they will remain celibate. In a culture that prizes both its tradition and Christianity, fa'afafine are tolerated, but behavior that hints at homosexuality is not.

Still, many fa'afafine … do have discreet relationships with men.

In her ideal world, Tafi, who was raised as an oldest girl-child named Alicia, wouldn't have to change her body to be accepted … Since she came to Anchorage, Tafi's family, who loves her as she is, has pressured her to dress like a man. They have decided she needs to fit in to avoid ugliness she isn't used to. Now, at 23, she's torn between the expectations of her family who accept her as an asexual helper, and American culture that's less accepting but offers her what she wants most: a chance to become physically female, to find a husband and have a family of her own.

The above is excerpted from an article I discovered last month at the website for The Anchorage Daily News. Alaska has a Samoan community?

Polynesian societies typically had transgender/gay roles, much like many Native American societies. As there are rules for men and women, so there are rules for third gender people. It’s not the individualistic American experience. It’s part of a traditional way of life.

But for her father and her brothers, one thing is very important. Tafi must follow the rules. A fa'afafine brother is one thing, but a gay brother is quite another. … When the subject of a boyfriend came up at the table after church, Tafi's mother and sisters cheered with approval.

Unfortunately, among the evils Europeans brought to the South Pacific was a censorious Christianity that seeks to destroy families in order to save them. Fun!

In her sarong, a flower behind her ear, Tafi carried plates of food to the elders from church, she dished out salad and chow mein, she sliced the elaborate banana cake. A child fell; She picked him up and shushed his tears.

R&B rolled out of a big set of speakers and the rhythm took hold of her sisters. They stopped work to dance, raising their palms to the sky. The mood captured their mother, Ropeta, who bounced her shoulders and swayed. Tafi put down her big spoon and let the song catch her hips in a slow groove. … Ropeta looked at her happy child dancing in the barbecue smoke and felt moved to cheer her on in English: "Go, girl! Go, girl! Go, girl!"

Saturday, September 15, 2007

comments on “Rush Hour” version 4

One of my old poems comes to mind every so often. I grew up in a town called Sebastopol. I wrote a poem called “Sexual Sebastopol” and tried to make a sort of eros of the streets – the physical thing of the town. I ran across the poem in my recent rereading and thought there wasn’t much that worked about it. But the idea informs “Rush Hour”, the sensual hunger of the inanimate, how it wants to feel, how it must feel bound up with things & things. In their grip, acted upon, moved over.

So I revisited the accusatory voice of the first version of “Rush Hour”, the pointing-finger voice seeming to scold the street. In this version I was more interested in the street and its experience than in the commuters in their cars.

Rush Hour, version 4

You, street, you like it, the stink
of the machine, hanging hot
over your skin, hot already with sun,
hot already in the black of you, paling,
as the youth fades, the darkening of

You, street, you need that jerk jerk jerk
slow over the face you turn up to tire,
to rain, to cloud passing over the single
sun, the cold creep of a broken night wheel
among the glass crumbs spattered
on an older skin.

You, street, you breathe it, the exhausted
cough and the muscled grumble, the
wheeze, the growl. You breathe it,
the long body of you expanding, taking it up.
You breathe it out all night, squeezing
the quiet out.

You, street, you take it, going nowhere,
the fastness of your progress out of town,
the only way allowed. You take it loud.
And you take it far, street to street, road
and road and road and track, this path
that trick of trail.

You, street, you carry past capacity,
past velocity, past city, past farm, past
one last turn, the truck’s churning gravel
as its wheels spin and grip and gripe
and the body lurches leaving what
help you gave.

You, street, you don’t want a thing.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

comments on “Rush Hour” version 3

I don’t like the phrase “rush hour”. But looking at it I saw the hs push together, the words ready to have done to them what I did to the car names in version 2. Then, naturally, I saw the rs do the same.

I’ve done poems looking somewhat like this before. I would do a few blocks of text and, with each repetition, change some of the words within the block. I called them “animations” as they had some of the characteristics of animation cells.

I’m a bit dubious of the concrete poem that tries to make the words pictograms. The word “faucet” shaped like a faucet with a pendulous “drip” coming from the opening. Doesn’t do anything for me.

I tried to find information about the coinage of the phrase “rush hour”. No luck. Other than: Everybody’s trying to rush the highway at once …

Haven’t decided what I think of this version yet. Does it go the pictogram route, too obvious? Do the mushing together & intermixing of the words up the interest? …

Rush Hour, version 3







Wednesday, September 05, 2007

comments on “Rush Hour” version 2

Version 2 is a list of the names of automobiles. I got the list from name nerds. The names overlap, thus the first few “accentaloneonavigator” broken apart would be “accent talon neon navigator” … bumper to bumper traffic, you might say.

In my comments about the original “Rush Hour” I said, it “was merely an exercise.” Whether this, too, is merely an exercise, it is rather fun.

Rush Hour, version 2


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

comments on “Rush Hour”

After “On the Edge/Four Addresses” I was intrigued to find another poem of second person address, this one to a street. I wrote it the same busy month of February 1985 (but in a new notebook, one titled This is important!). “On the Edge” was addressed to a person. Only in revision, the versioning I did on the blog, did the speaker address nonhuman elements of the scene. Yet here is a poem written shortly after “On the Edge” that speaks directly to an inanimate object, a poem I had not rediscovered before I started the new work on “On the Edge”. It’s a fun coincidence.

“Rush Hour” is not a poem of much interest. There are nice bits: phrases – “jerk jerk jerk ever forward slightly” – and word music – “queasy stomached cars” with its k sounds …

I have no idea what to do to make it a better poem, not because it’s a good poem to start with but because the scene is utterly banal. Rush hour traffic. … uh? … the one element that suggests something to me is the notion that the street itself is responsible – “miscreant street”, “a street that doesn’t breathe” …

This is a different challenge than the one I posed myself with “On the Edge”. I thought “On the Edge”, though ultimately unsatisfying, had a power to it, was a poem. “Rush Hour” has no power, is merely an exercise. I felt responsibility toward the original “On the Edge” not to lose what it started. What does “Rush Hour” have? At best a few phrases to be used in something else?

Rush Hour

Miscreant street full of cars
bumper to bumper you push them close
jostle those slinking machines
bumping, rumbling roars of motors
as they jerk jerk jerk ever forward slightly
antsy, nervous, queasy stomached cars
rub grills and exhaust pipes
the men at the wheels
the women at the wheels
inhaling the exhale of their vehicles
some smoke cigarettes
some blare stereos
some drum their annoyance with their knuckles on the dashboard
in a hundred speedometers a tenth mile clicks
stopping, starting
brake and gas conflicting
first gear, second gear, first gear
this is the fault of the naughty street
a street with police car bars
a constricted artery
a street that doesn’t breathe

Monday, September 03, 2007

John Ashbery

Ron Silliman was posting about John Ashbery last month. I left this comment:

I have a strange association with Ashbery. I was reading Houseboat Days when the cat of my childhood was dying. He would cry & cry and I would stroke him but he could not stay still more than a moment and would wander back & forth and begin again to cry. Because I needed something to distract me and because I discovered I could read Ashbery both with & without attention (it seemed to work equally either way) I read Houseboat Days while we waited for morning and the vet's office to open.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Watch the first Iowa marriage

Great video of the ceremony at the Des Moines Register.

Kissing in Iowa

Yesterday Judge Robert B. Hanson in Iowa ruled that same sex couples must be allowed to marry.

When I saw the news I shrugged. Nobody’s actually going to be allowed to marry, I thought. These judges issue these forceful opinions saying there is no reason that isn’t special pleading that would divorce same sex couples from the rights & protections to which other sex couples are considered entitled, then they stay their decisions so they can have no effect. The couples involved in the lawsuit say what a wonderful decision it is, the appeals reach the highest applicable court, cowardly judges there run shrieking from the mousy terror of gay marriage. That’s what happened in New York. That’s what happened in Washington state.

That’s not quite what happened in Iowa. Judge Hanson forgot to stay his decision. Oops. Now college boys are getting married.

“The Rev. Mark Stringer declared college students Sean Fritz and Tim McQuillan legally wed. … ‘We're both in our undergrad programs and we thought maybe we'd put it off until applying at graduate school, but when this opportunity came up we thought maybe we wouldn't get the opportunity again,’ Fritz said. ‘Maybe the chance won't come again.’

“Friday morning, with the ... marriage license in hand, Stringer married the two men, concluding the ceremony by saying, ‘This is a legal document and you are married.’

“The two students then kissed.” Story here.

Update: Hanson has corrected his oversight.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


So my friend Diana in Forestville adopted burros. Or donkeys. Or whatever. She’s sent me pics before but this is the first one that’s showed proportions.

Her husband is 8' 3".

Monday, August 27, 2007

Monday, August 20, 2007

what happened to those high school friends?

Officer Michelle [Lazark, who I took to the Senior Prom,] answers questions at the Sacramento Police Department blog. She reveals, for example, an officer’s first choice of weapon, “We first attempt to use our voices.” (Follow the link and you’ll see her on the right of the frame.)

And Hope Levy, who was always bubbling up in some high school musical, announces with pride that her infant son is on the cover of TIME magazine. With an Einstein moustache.

update: Hope has her own website. You can watch her TV spots.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Robert Ingersoll, 1955-2007

Anchorage resident Robert "Bob" Gerry Ingersoll, 51, died suddenly of natural causes July 16, 2007, in Cooper Landing while on a camping trip.

A graveside service was held July 24 at the Pioneer Cemetery in Palmer with the Rev. Jim Strutz of the Anchorage City Church officiating. A celebration of life ceremony will be at Anchorage City Church at a later date.

Robert was born Oct. 24, 1955, in Tonasket, Wash., to Bruce Kempton Ingersoll and Anita Marie Davidson. His family moved to Alaska five years later and settled where the family home still remains on the lower Hillside. When Robert was 14, his father married Janet Smith Batres Ingersoll, the woman Robert considered his mother.

Robert was one of the first to attend the newly built Service High School, his family wrote.

After years of working for others, Robert founded his own carpet cleaning business in 1989, Delux Care Associates. He was a proud member of the Better Business Bureau.

His family wrote: "A born-again Christian, Robert worked daily to incorporate his beliefs into his life and business. Robert exchanged commitment vows with his longtime love, Kim Terhune, in a private ceremony in 2005.

"Robert had several hobbies at which he excelled. In addition to reading, he had a fondness for movies and maintained an impressive collection. He kept freshwater fish, creating many beautiful tanks in his home and happily shared his skills with others. Robert had an especially good eye for beauty in nature. Indoors or out, he was an avid gardener; an industrial parking lot flourished with his self-designed patio and container garden.

"Robert will be greatly missed. He was generous. He was thoughtful and thorough when he set his mind to something. We remember his campy, cheerful humor and loving ways. His good heart will not be forgotten."

Robert is survived by his life mate, Kim Terhune; mother, Janet Ingersoll; sisters, Bernice Ingersoll of Seattle and Sevilla Ingersoll of King Cove; and brothers, Tony Batres and Dion Batres of Anchorage, David Ingersoll of Seattle and Glenn Ingersoll of Berkeley, Calif.

Robert was preceded in death by his brother, Bruce Kempton Ingersoll Jr.; father, Bruce Kempton Ingersoll Sr.; and grandmother, Bernice Kempton Ingersoll.

The above appeared in the Anchorage Daily News.

Monday, August 13, 2007

the gay debate

Last week The Human Rights Campaign (maybe you’ve seen their yellow equal sign sticker?) and the gay cable TV channel Logo put together a program of interviews with the Democratic presidential candidates. I’m contemptuous of the frontrunners’ triangulating around the word “marriage” … we’re all for civil unions!, they crow, though the argument seems to be: All the polls say I can’t be for Marriage and be Elected so, you understand, it’s just not possible!

I did not watch the show. I’ve only followed the coverage on the blogs. The first big news seemed to be New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson’s gaffe. He calls homosexuality a Choice! That’s a no-no, as we know nobody would choose to be a reviled minority. It’s gotta be an inborn trait! Melissa Etheridge (the rock star! Elton John too English?) was on the interview panel and threw what she expected to be a softball, So, Bill, gay – Choice? or Couldn’t-help-it-born-that-way-victim-of-biology-don’t-hold-it-against-me? Chirped Bill, Choice!

Melissa stumbled all over herself trying to clarify for the clueless straight what the right answer was and couldn’t he, you know, redo?

For someone who’s supposedly a great diplomat Richardson didn’t get the bludgeoning hints. As he said in a later “clarification”, “I always love the word choice. I’m for freedom of choice.”

At Atrios’ post on the subject I left the following comment:

Richardson aside, I don't agree that bio is the right answer. As Richardson somewhat stumblingly suggested Choice is a perfectly fine answer. It shouldn't matter!

If I'm born gay and the man who chooses to spend his life with me (or just my bed for a night) doesn't think of himself as gay and only thinks of himself as in love with me (or hot for me) -- who happens to be of the same sex as him -- does that mean he (choice) is not entitled to the same rights as me (bio)? If we were to marry (in Massachusetts, say) and took a blood test and the blood test showed that I was biologically gay and he was choosing me gay would our marriage be annulled?

Isn't religion all about Choice? What right does the government have to annul same-sex marriages performed by some religions?

If you’re curious to follow up on the Logo forum here are some other links:

Americablog liveblogging it.

MyDD thoughts.

And Towleroad’s response. Towleroad has video clips.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

comments on “On the Edge” version 7

Final version? Perhaps. The original version contains 264 words, the current version 342. About an 80 word increase.

What are the major differences between them?

The first version addresses only the youth. The current version addresses his seersucker suit, the cliff he’s standing on, the youth, and a nearby seagull in flight.

In the first version the wind lifts the youth, saving him from a suicide? In the current version the suggestion that the youth might leap from the cliff is so subtle one might credibly argue it’s not there. “It’s too late to intervene,” says the speaker of the first version. “Let [your arms] hold you up,” says the speaker of the current version.

In the first version the wind is personified, as are other non-living elements of the scene, the wave “gestures”, the foam’s “kiss”, the wind “licks” and “brushes your hair”. Less of that in the current version, though the “face” of the cliff is interrogated for its inner thoughts – “is that passivity?” or “preoccupation with the self”? (Could this be a comment by analogy on the youth’s face?)

There is eroticism in this personification of the non-living world in the first version. The kiss, the lick. The personification of the non-living in the current version suggests an indifference to the youth’s fate. Even the only other living creature, the gull, gets in a “jeer” from a mouth with a “beauty spot” (the rejection of the feminine?), though that, the speaker insists, isn’t personal.

The first version’s lines often sprawl. It’s a thick block of text. The current version is tidily arranged in separately titled sections, the stanzas within each having an equal quantity of lines (but for the cliff section, which is 4-5-4).

The first version seems full of action, even involved in the action it describes. The current version feels much more removed from the action, the speaker contemplating from a distance, from an ironic remove? The teasing of the first version, “You look so clean-cut … so debonair”, gets a curl to its lip in the current version, “You’re no boy … You’ve dressed yourself … Aren’t you debonair?”

The first version is a unit. The current version is four poems. Would any of the four be able to stand on its own? “To the seersucker” is my favorite read. Its voice is foreign to me; it barely ties in with the following 3 parts. Only its last line, “Coast?” Seersucker is not again mentioned (“handsome kit”?), no “seersucker seagull”. Seersucker is worn in the humid, windless south, probably not the best choice for the breezy cool west coast. No second mention is made of the “brave straw hat”; perhaps the youth left it in the car (the one he parked on the “road” away from which he took the “narrow path”?).

The youth has “cleanly shaved the dark from [his] pink face”; the cliff face is stubbled (though the jumble of geological items that poke from its “softer” skin don’t make for a neat picture);

Not a single question mark in version one. Ten question marks in version seven.

“On the edge” version 7

Four Addresses

To the seersucker

Bespoke, custom-cut, hand-stitched,
even so some threads bunch, it’s the weave
gives you that pucker, which feature
lets in what stirs in high heat a summer.

Blue-and-white pinstripe number,
to normal wool cool alternate,
but what to wear with you? It’s a light
buckskin lace-up with sole of red rubber,

paisley blue tie, a pink button-down,
white pocket square and hat of brave straw
that won’t overdo. Though suspenders? A no.
Where to take you today? Coast?

To the cliff

The face you offer, varying grades
of slope, the drop in places just air
all the way to black sand and graywacke,
seething white wave-shatter -

when Pacific gales wash it and the softer
sands and gravels fade to stubble
of orange peridotite and the shale sheared
with serpentine, blueschist with its
amphibole slickenside grooved –

what’s the look of it? steady even then?
before the reaches of ocean, the daily drop of sun into it,
is that passivity? a grand passivity?
preoccupation with the self?

To the boy

You’re no boy. You’ve so cleanly shaved the dark
from your pink face, tamed those curls with a trim.
You’ve dressed yourself, picked from the closet
a handsome kit, fastened to your wrist a slender ticker.

Down from the road, along a narrow path
cutting through a shallow turf, you took your shoe.
Aren’t you debonair, the air rare
at the cliff’s lip, one lone gull taking a share?

Now you’ve looked up, all the sky white
as the seagull’s breast, as the dash the surf makes
against a stonestack poised in surge. Unfold those arms,
sleeves aflutter. Let them hold you up.

To the gull

Out to the black tip of each gray wing,
between your toes the green yellow webbing
folding, spreading, you hold it.

Your position? This must be your advice,
this the way to take to air,
your keep. Your hold.

The yellow bill with the red beauty spot
opens to a sharp tongue and a jeer,
not to make fun, to have it said.

Monday, August 06, 2007

It’s not like it was the first time

They said it was a storm, thunder, lightning, and led me back to bed but I knew my parents lied to pacify me.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

That’s where they went 2

his gums hesitate the eyebrows are raised and there are teeth on the ground teeth on the ground

Friday, August 03, 2007

Instead of the bitter bitter pines to which they are consigned

They chose their paths but now regret it, realizing — too late — they could have gone to the seashore or forests of sweet pines.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sunday, July 29, 2007

comments on "On the Edge" version 6

Hey, if you couldn’t force yourself all the way through version 5, version 6 is shorter!

I’ve noticed an odd thing. When I get, in this versioning business, to a place where the poem is working. It’s pleasing me. It becomes invisible. That was happening earlier today with this one. It was disappearing before my eyes.

Changes: fewer great words in the cliff address (great word fatigue); grammar adjustments in gull address; boy address consolidated; last line of seersucker address once again touched up; goodbye to wind address; stanza breaks added throughout.

Now that I’m rereading it: Is that ending ending it? Are those questions strong enough? Should I try a version without questions?

Do the addresses work together? Do those great words in the cliff address read like an undigested lump of research? Are those stanzas appropriate in the seersucker address?

“On the Edge” version 6

Four Addresses

To the seersucker

Bespoke, custom-cut, hand-stitched,
even so some threads bunch, it’s the weave
gives you that pucker, which feature
lets in what stirs in high heat a summer.

Blue-and-white pinstripe number,
to normal wool cool alternate,
but what to wear with you? It’s a light
buckskin lace-up with sole of red rubber,

paisley blue tie, a pink button-down,
white pocket square and hat of brave straw
that won’t overdo. Though suspenders? A no.
Where today to take you? Coast?

To the cliff

The face you offer, varying grades
of slope, the drop in places just air
all the way to black sand and graywacke,
seething white wave-shatter,
foam yellowing on softened lost telephone poles -

when Pacific gales wash it and the softer
sands and gravels fade to stubble
of orange peridotite and the shale sheared
with serpentine, crystals of grass green
omphacite pyroxene amid a pox of garnets,
flaky muscovite silver, blueschist
with its amphibole slickenside grooved –

what’s the look of it? steady even then?
indifferent? a compassion for all things jetsam?
before the reaches of ocean, the daily drop of sun into it,
is that passivity? a grand passivity?
preoccupation with the self?

To the boy

You’re no boy. You’ve so cleanly shaved the dark
from your pink face, tamed those curls with a trim.
You’ve dressed yourself, picked from the closet
a handsome kit, fastened to your wrist a slender ticker.

Down from the road, along a narrow path
cutting through a shallow turf, you took your shoe.
Aren’t you debonair, the air rare
at the cliff’s lip, one lone gull taking a share?

Now you’ve looked up, all the sky white
as the seagull’s breast, as the dash the surf makes
against a stonestack poised in surge. Unfold your arms,
sleeves aflutter. Spread them. Spread them wide.

To the gull

The yellow bill with the red beauty spot
opens to a sharp tongue and a jeer,
not to make fun, but to have that said.

Out to the black tip of each wing with gray feathers,
the yellow green webbing between toes folding
then spreading, you hold air.

This is no demonstration, is it?
You didn’t take this position to advise:
this the way to take the air, the only way, really,
to take to it?

Friday, July 27, 2007

comments on "On the Edge" version 5

It’s long, isn’t it? You could think of it as a few short poems. I had a lot of fun working on this Wednesday. I tried to save substantively different versions. Still, I did a lot fiddling. Change a word, a line break, change something else. I decided not to reread it before posting it today. When I reread it I expect I’ll make more changes.

So now it has sections addressing the boy (the man!), the seagull, the wind, the cliff, and … I guess that’s it. You! … oh, yeah … The seersucker! How’d I forget the seersucker?

"On the Edge" version 5

To the boy

You’re no boy. You’ve so cleanly shaved the dark
from your pink face, tamed those curls with a trim.
You’ve dressed yourself, picked from the closet
a handsome kit, fastened to your wrist a slender ticker.

To the seersucker

Bespoke, custom-cut, hand-stitched,
even so some threads bunch, it’s the weave
gives you that pucker, which feature
lets in what stirs in high heat a summer.
Blue-and-white pinstripe number,
to normal wool cool alternate,
but what to wear with you? It’s a light
buckskin lace-up with sole of red rubber,
paisley blue tie, a pink button-down,
white pocket square and hat of brave straw
that won’t overdo. Though suspenders? A no.
Where to take you today? Coast?

To the boy

Down from the road, along a narrow path
cutting through a shallow turf, you took your shoe.
Aren’t you debonair, the air rare
at the cliff’s lip, one lone gull taking a share?

To the cliff

The face you offer, varying grades
of slope, the drop in places just air
all the way to black sand and graywacke,
seething white wave-shatter,
foam yellowing on softened lost
telephone poles, the odd striped polystyrene chunk --
when Pacific gales wash it and the softer
sands and gravels fade to stubble
of orange peridotite and the shale sheared
with serpentine, crystals of grass green
omphacite pyroxene amid a pox of garnets,
flaky muscovite silver, blueschist
with its amphibole, glaucophane, lawsonite,
slickenside grooved, nappes of chert
pressured red – what’s the look of it,
even then steady? indifferent? compassion
for all things jetsam? before the reaches of ocean,
the daily drop of the sun into it, is that passivity?
a grand passivity? preoccupation with the self?

To the boy

Now you’ve looked up, all the sky white
as the seagull’s breast, as the dash the surf makes
against a stonestack poised in surge. Unfold your arms,
sleeves aflutter. Let them spread out wide.

To the gull

Of no great size you hover, the wind good
for holding you up, brown-eyes.
Your black-ringed yellow bill with the red beauty spot
opens to a sharp tongue and a jeer,
not to make fun, but to have that said.
Out to the black tip of each wing gray feathers
adjusting to the air rushing them, the green yellow
webbing between your toes spreading then folding.
This is no suggestion, is it? Not advice?
You’re not demonstrating the perfect example,
the only way to take the air, to take to it?

To the wind

You could carry him. You’d have to do the work.
But you have the power. You can sweep the kid off his feet.
Lift him up. Fill him with the distance you’ve traveled,
wave by wave across the wide ocean, empty into him
what you’ve picked up getting here, show him how you’ve come.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

comments on “On the Edge” version 4

Versions 2 & 3 addressed a seersucker suit. Version 4 addresses the cliff. As with version 3 I built the poem from a hunk of research. Most of it is from Terry Wright’s geologic tour of Shell Beach, a beach on the Sonoma Coast. I grew up in Sonoma County. Shell Beach was not one where I’d spent much time – mostly we drove out to Salmon Creek Beach which has a lot of soft sand. When I took a geology class at junior college our instructor told us Shell Beach is world famous for its melange, a mix of rocks transformed by the pressure of subduction, the Pacific plate grinding under the Continental Plate in a series of fault zones. The metamorphized rocks pop up at Shell Beach. It was fun stirring in words like chert, eclogite, radiolarian, and slickenside. I’m still hoping to find room for nappe and amphibolite.

I’ve long wanted to incorporate research into a poem and internet research is proving remarkably congenial to the effort. It’s sure nice being able to highlight and copy to a file all the interesting bits; once grabbed they are easy to manipulate. I suppose one ought to be cautious about plagiarism here, the accidental (?) reuse of the original’s phrasing. I want to retain some of the flavor of the original as that material is a good deal different from what I do and holding onto some of that difference seems like a good thing.

"On the Edge" version 4

Crags of rock tear holes in the blanket of turf
which tucks over your melange – shiny serpentine
sheared with shale, borne up from old sandbars
pressed to terraces, a flight of stairs,
each year gaining a millimeter on the sea.

Pacific gales shave your face of coarse
sands and gravels, and a stubble
of conglomerates emerges – cherts
from radiolarian blooms reddened by pressure,
veins of white quartz, grass green crystals
of omphacite pyroxene pocked by garnets
and flaky muscovite silver, eclogite and
bluescist with its amphibole, glaucophane,
lawsonite, squeezed into flow, slickenside
grooves from what drove them down.

The drop you offer, the one the youth has walked
a mile along, a black beach below seething with white wave-shatter,
a hardy yellowed foam drying on softened
lost telephone poles and the occasional
dingy polystyrene chunk, how sheer is it,
what speed does a rock knocked loose
get to get to in full tumble? There are places
you offer slope of various grades;
there are places you offer air
all the way down.

A Pleistocene sea stack washed by the waters
of what gives you heft hulks skinnily in
the churning. The wind yanks his tie
from its clip, and it swings out from his neck,
a tail feather lonesome for tail and sky.
You give him ground, here at ocean edge,
all he needs to stand and feel, his clothes
aflutter on him.

Friday, July 20, 2007


I got rejected. That hasn’t happened in awhile. Years. The reason? I haven’t been sending work out. I have sent work out very occasionally. Very selectively. And have seen poems taken up.

Yesterday’s rejection from Global City Review was no big surprise. I didn’t think my aesthetic and theirs fit up well. But I had bought the latest issue and I was pushing myself to get work out somewhere, if not just anywhere. I was following the advice to send to a magazine you’ve studied. The poems I sent seemed somewhat Global-City-ish. Besides, it’s always seemed silly to me to hold back sending good stuff because the magazine hasn’t (to one’s own knowledge) published exactly that sort of thing before. Maybe it’s cuz they’ve not seen it? Does one only ever eat hot dogs because one has never tasted kielbasa? Or because one just doesn’t like anything else? You can’t know for sure. It’s not like I offered up an uncooked eggplant.

When sending work to a new place I wanted to send a poem written especially for them. I’ve done that three times now. The first time the magazine chose one of the poems in the packet but not the one I wrote to their announced theme. The one I wrote for Global City was versioned on LuvSet. It turned out the least Global-City-ish of the batch. Not that, in their case, they went for one else. The last of the three magazines has not yet responded.

I imagined my vow would result in more poems going out. It has, I suppose. But drip-drip turning into a trickle?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

comments on "On the Edge" version 3

I tend to read a poem aloud repeatedly during revision. Have to adjust the sounds, sound often pushing around meaning, though must take care with that.

The poem is addressed to the seersucker itself, rather than the wearer. I’ve long thought the second person (the you) problematic as when I read a passage written in the second person I resist it. What, it’s telling me what I did/am doing/would do?

You lift your face to the sun, its warmth soothing you. … Or maybe making you squint? The worrying type has already put on sunscreen. … The I speaks for itself. The he is spoken of. But the you is a form of address, a command form. Not to say I haven’t used second person many times; I am wary of it.

In the original “On the Edge” the person addressed is described in such detail that the reader is unlikely to mistake the you for himself. Is changing the addressed from a person to a suit of clothes a touch too whimsical? Does it sap the drama?

As I said in my last comments I reread “On the Edge” and don’t see a new way for it. But I’m having fun with this alternate poem. We’ll see if they grow together or remain apart.

"On the Edge" version 3

Bespoke, custom-cut, hand-stitched,

even so some threads bunch, it’s the weave

gives you that pucker, which feature

lets in what stirs in high heat a summer.

Blue-and-white pinstripe number,

to normal wool cool alternate,

but what to wear with you? It’s a light

buckskin lace-up with sole of red rubber,

paisley blue tie, a pink button-down,

white pocket square and hat of brave straw

that won’t overdo. Though suspenders? A no.

Where to take you on a day like this? The coast?

The cliff? The rocks below wet like lips?

Those flops of seaweed and blue mussel shells,

barnacles in their beak pucker white.

It’s too late, the sea wind sings, checking the watch,

thin and gold among the dark hairs of the wrist.

The wind will wear you, won’t she, work her way

through to the boy inside.

Monday, July 09, 2007

comments on “On the Edge” version 2

I can’t find a way in to the old version of “On the Edge”. Often in poems I will see a new version shrugging out of the old, like a bright snake from frayed skin. That’s not happening here.

But I got interested in seersucker. Tell the truth, I didn’t know what seersucker was when I wrote the first version twenty years ago. I just thought it meant something high class, formal. But not tuxedo formal. After failing to find a way into “On the Edge” I started doing research into seersucker. At ehow I found some advice on how to wear/what to wear with a seersucker suit and at Wikipedia I found a description of seersucker fabric. The version here excerpts much from those sources.

I had fun with this. Little idea of what next, though.

“On the Edge” version 2

Bespoke, hand-crafted, custom-fit,

woven even so so some threads bunch,

giving you that pucker, which feature

lets in what stirs in the high heat a summer,

what airs the affections and moves over skin.

Blue-and-white pinstripe number,

cool alternative to normal wool,

there's more way than one to wear you.

It's a light buckskin lace-up with red-rubber sole,

tie of blue paisley, a pink button-down,

white pocket square, and a hat of brave straw

won’t overdo you, no, though suspenders? No, no.

Much depends on where you go. Coast?

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

comments on "On the Edge"

I haven’t presented myself with a revision challenge in awhile. “On the Edge” was written in February 1985. I was 19. It’s from the notebook “Spring Breeze on Purple Iris” which I filled over the course of a month (mid-January to mid-February), a level of production I may not have matched since. The work that begins the book is not the work that ends it. There was a qualitative change. I wrote my writing better. I’m not going to say the work up to this notebook was bad and the work after it was good, but I didn’t expect to find within it any particular change – trying new things, sure, working in a productive vein, perhaps. I’ve been reading through my old poetry notebooks, wondering sometimes if it’s worth the bother. Even allow-for-its-time-and-place me can tire of reading bad poems.

I am posting “On the Edge” because I like it. I wouldn’t submit it for publication. I doubt I ever did, though I may have read it at an open mic. I have only the vaguest notions of what I could do with/to this poem. But that’s the challenge!

"On the Edge"

It’s too late to intervene.
You look so clean-cut in your seersucker suit,
your argyle socks, your thin gold watch.
You look so debonair, so fair, in the rare air
at the tip of the cliff, where wind whiffles your pantlegs,
invades your short hair, curling it back from your face.
Such clear skin, close-shaved dark beard in pale cheeks
and firm chin, bright blue eyes, thick black eyebrows.
One seagull cries, hovering – you glance at him, his gray wings, dingy white breast,
his squawk is nearly soundless as the gusts whip up from the waves, carry off his vowel screams.
You lean forward, cup one blunt hand against the buffeting wind, catch a tingling of sea mist spewed from the crash of waves.
Arms of wind reach inside your jacket, fingers caressing your back.
Another feather of wind seeks up your pantlegs, tickling your shins, knees, thighs.
You lean further into the wind, let it buoy you up, let it tenderly rescue you from gravity,
from the beckoning wave gestures, the seductive kiss of foam, the seaweed with arms to hug holding tight a rock.
It’s too late for fate to save you now should the loving wind recant and slip away, allow you to fall.
You spread wide your arms and still the wind licks your stomach, clambers over your shoulders, brushes your hair,
holds you so gently on this cliff
so gently high above the edge of the sea.
Now lifts, now lifts you, and you hover like a seersucker seagull.
Only the wind hears your vowel shout.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Amusement Park Horror

I love the Roller Coaster. And, yes, I have gotten nauseous on them twirly-spinny rides, but mostly no. Mostly I just like ‘em.

I don’t like lines. That’s about the worst thing about amusement parks. Except maybe getting killed by a ride. That would be pretty high in contention among worst things at amusement parks.

Last week an amusement park worker in New York got killed by a ride. The article I read was vague on how it happened. She was getting off work but told her replacement she was going to lock in a last batch of riders. The new guy started up the ride. Did he start it up before she’d gotten out of the way? The article says he shut down the ride as soon as he “noticed [her] still on the ride,” which implies she’d plopped into a seat herself. But she “already had been thrown from it” before the big machine could stop.

I’m not one to dwell on the details of other people’s deadly accidents, okay? But I live with an employment law expert. And he comes home yesterday and tells me he had to post a reply to some “expert” who sniffed that this accident “highlights the limits of workplace safety laws” as though such laws were powerless before “human error” … thus, what, we’re better off without them?

Anyway, the original post appears here with Kent’s reply below it.

“An off-duty (perhaps tired) worker was improperly loading passengers (late arrivals) on equipment that was not using all appropriate protective equipment [this was acknowledged in the news item] (precaution not followed) in a park that (recently) is killing over one person per year.”

How, K’s saying, is this not an example of a preventable accident? This is the very thing well-enforced laws would make less likely.

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Bush program

Here's a link to an AP report. It's three minutes long, audio & slideshow. Charles Hanley has returned after a year away from the country. Misleadingly the report is titled, "Reporter sees little change in Iraq since last year." Yes, all the concerns are about the same -- lack of security, electricity, government. But progressive degeneration is change. And there's been a lot of it over the year Hanley was elsewhere.

"More grim gray blast barriers, more checkpoints, more nervousness ... car bombings, deathsquads, kidnappings, escaping to Syria or Jordan ... two US soldiers are missing, captive ... last year two US soldiers were missing ... the headlines are all the same ... Shiite & Sunni deathsquads have cleaned neighborhoods of the other sects ... 110 degree heat ... no air conditioning, refrigerators become cupboards ... the US army is stronger than before but more than 600,000 refugees have joined the 1,000,000 already out of the country." [some paraphrasing]

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


I was writing steadily on Dare I Read. Then I stopped. This seems to be my style. Regular, steady writing. Then a pause. Not always planned. I never know how long the pause will last but it rarely drags on. I don’t get that scare, that feeling I’m never going to write again.

This week I added a stats service to LoveSettlement. It’s all the way at the bottom of the page. Open to anybody who wants to click. When I first looked at the stats I was startled to see my average reader spending 3 1/2 minutes on the site. It didn’t take long to figure out that my average reader was me. I will open the blog and leave it up while I’m writing a new post or searching the web, so the stats show a “visitor” hanging around for a half hour. Average that across a few visitors who somehow manage to stop in for 0.00 seconds and you get a … you get what I saw.

I’ve had three visitors over the last three days (yup, one a day) who have actually stayed long enough to read something. The visitor today was reading posts from 2004, having followed a Google search result to the blog. Yesterday’s visitor had followed a Technorati search. Neither read beyond the post the search led them to. The third visitor got here, I think, via a bookmark, so is probably somebody I know. (Hi!)

A few years ago I set up my poetry site (also called LoveSettlement). I added a counter (how many years has it taken to turn to 7400?) and a free webstats service. I was involved with an online poetry workshop and whenever I posted a new poem or commented on someone else’s I would include a link to my site then would rush to check my stats. Look! I would exult. Readers!

The stats service got buggy at just about the right time. When it failed to load I would feel anxious, frustrated. When at last I removed it I felt more relief than expected. It felt so good, in fact, that I began to hate stats. Nobody reads poetry, right? How could one expect a big readership at a poetry site, especially one by a poet who has never published a book (not counting chapbooks!), never taught a class, has let his push to get his work into magazines (& ezines) subside to an occasional gentle poke in a random direction?

I chose not to pay Homestead to allow me to update my poetry site. So it sits there, still mostly useful. A few of the links are dead, but it’s not quite a graveyard yet. I’m not much interested in the mechanics of making websites. I could do a great deal more to promote myself and my work. Thing is, the writing energizes me, the marketing wearies me.

When asked, “Are you writing?” I answer, “I am always writing.” The Dare I Read project is one that will hit periods where I resist it – it’s a memory project, not just a booklog – but after a rest I know it will come back. I write poems, but rarely post them online. I keep an offline diary, too. There’s a manuscript that started up last fall; it has topped 40 thousand words. It might be close to done. I’m giving it a new read. A novel? A memoir? Something like that.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Saturday, June 23, 2007


I sent poems to Poetry. I haven’t done that in years. Poetry is dedicating its summer months to reading poems by poets who have not yet seen work in their magazine. What a good idea.

Back in 2004 I checked out from the library the 2003 issues of Poetry. There were a handful of decent poems but on the whole I decided if Poetry were poetry I would not read poetry. Many many poems were just bad. At the tail end of 2003 longtime editor Joseph Parisi gave over to Christian Wiman. It seemed to me the few issues I read with Wiman in charge were better than the Parisis. But surely he was working mainly with Parisi’s backlog. I haven’t read an issue of the magazine since.

But one of the parts of my new send-work-out resolution is that when I send poems to a magazine I will try to include a wholly new one, a poem I have written specifically for that magazine. The one I sent Poetry was based on poems they posted on their website. I was thinking I was going to be producing poems somewhat akin to the editor(s)’ aesthetic, the poem thus having a better chance than most to make the cut. I’ve yet to see the result. (Of the three batches I sent out this year not one has seen a reply.) I rather doubt I’ve bettered my odds with these magazine-tailored poems. Who knows? But I do like the challenge; it’s an opportunity to make something new, whatever/wherever it ends up. The poem is my project. I have long since let go of expectation that I will build a poetry career that breaks even, or that brings fame. The poem is the thing, what it does.

Recently I wrote a poem to a generic magazine editor begging to be included in their magazine. I was resisting writing it – absurd subject! Then I remembered, what steps up to be written is what makes it to the page. I’ve learned that my writing is what my writing wants to be. There are all sorts of things I’ve wanted it to be over the years – salable, for instance. And I’ve had plenty of clever ideas for stories or experiments. But what gets written is what wants to be. If the writing is me forcing something into words the writing is going to be abandoned.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Rep. Sarah Peake of Provincetown said afterwards that tension was high even for lawmakers, who were unsure of what was going to happen even as they filed into the chamber.

Peake, who is openly lesbian, said that she sat next to Rep. Christine Canavan of Wakefield in the chamber. Canavan had previously backed the amendment [to the Massachusetts constitution, which amendment would have eliminated the opportunity for same sex couples to marry]. As Canavan went to vote, Peake said, “She banged me on the shoulder and said, ‘Rep, watch this,’ and she pushed the ‘no’ button.”

“When I saw her finger hit that red button, it was momentous,” Peake said. “I gave her a big hug and a kiss.”

from Bay Windows


The Massachusetts legislature was voting on whether to allow the populace to vote in a general election on the proposed marriage-bashing amendment. To move to the general election ballot the amendment needed the votes of only 50 legislators. The amendment lost its chance by a vote of 45-151.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

response poem

RJ has recently posted short poems at his blog. I left the following response to the one he posted June 4:

I am so common,
filled by wishes used to loneliness,
levers against ever. Elsewhere
a woman looks, and across her
I confess.


The response poem uses the original poem for its words and some of its ideas.

Monday, June 04, 2007


In a post at the blog Very Like a Whale the writer wonders about critiquing, especially in an online workshop then says, “Once a writer has got beyond the usual yeek-cliches-and-abstractions stage and has stopped obssessive-compulsive telling, once they have a good grip on the basics of the craft - what is there to separate one poet from another but the personal taste of the reader? We respond to what we read the way we are. Critiquing others’ work now just seems an exercise in talking about myself. And a rather futile one at that.”

I left the following comment:

I’ve recently become part of a small poetry group/workshop, having not done such a thing in several years. I find it much easier in person than on line.

When I was heavy into an online poetry workshop I would write comprehensively about the poem, which was a lot of work and, even when appreciated, it was hard to tell what got through to the poet, what mattered to the poet, what was needed, what a waste of time. When I stopped learning through the experience (a big part of why I did it) I shifted to quips — making quick comments about a particular piece of a poem, praising a sharp metaphor or chiding a lazy one, for instance.

It’s a relief to be working with two poets face to face who have writing poems 20 or more years whose egos seem not easily bruised. In workshop I go thru the poem top to bottom, giving a reading as best as I understand it, saying what confuses me or delights me as I go along, making general comments about poetic strategies, and summing up with what pleases me most &/or what leaves me unsatisfied. The idea (at least in my mind) is no longer offering fixes for another poet’s work, but exposing to the poet what is going on in this close reader’s mind as he is going through the poem. If the poet sees that his poem is not doing on the page what he thought it was doing perhaps he can see a way to shift it toward doing so. But I’m mindful not to make prescriptions. It’s better for me not to, as then I won’t feel I have some stake in (my view of) the poem’s success.

Monday, May 28, 2007

sexing the marrieds

One of the things that’s puzzled me about the marriage debate – i.e., who gets to – is, if marriage is going to be restricted (via constitutional amendment, even if only state constitutional amendment), when will the time come that the government will face the problem of defining once & for all what a man is, what a woman?

An essay by Alice Dreger at the Intersex Society of North America website recently came to my attention. She talks about the experience of the International Olympic Committee in determining who gets to participate as a woman or as a man. Dreger says, “There isn’t any rational way to decide, in many cases.” Naturally, rationality and human behavior coincide accidentally, but, what the hey, law likes to claim it’s all about rationality, so let’s play pretend.

“The International Olympic Committee [IOC] figured out the high frequency of intersex the hard way. Before the 1936 games, athletes were allowed to sort themselves out. But then Hermann Ratjen cheated by trying to pass himself off as a woman and, though Ratjen lost, he set Olympic officials off on a quest for the ultimate divider of males and females. First they tried genital exams, but that didn’t work so well. They found that a lot of athletes had confusing parts. (Intersex.) Then in 1968 the IOC turned to buccal smears for would-be competitors in female sports. The idea was to rout out anyone with a Y chromosome. That didn’t work well either; a number of women athletes had Y chromosomes because they were born with androgen insensitivity syndrome [AIS]. (Intersex again.)

“…For a few years, the IOC in fact did try to insist that AIS women were men; once they figured out which women had AIS, they tried to get them to give back their medals. But the medical establishment, to its credit, rallied around these women and explained the facts of biology—especially intersex—to the IOC. And so the IOC finally gave up gender verification.” A genetic XY with AIS is actually at a disadvantage when competing against an XX athlete as AIS prevents all metabolization of testosterone, whereas XX athletes can take advantage of some.

“If history is any guide, as gay marriage prohibitions make their way through the courts, a scientific expert here and a medical expert there will offer up one little gene or one type of anatomical tissue that might be used as a male-female sorting mechanism. But such a sorting system simply won’t accord with what people see on the outside and feel on the inside. The fact is, every anatomical bit you think of as female (breasts, XX-chromosomes, even ovarian tissue) can be found on someone who has looked and felt like a male since birth. The opposite is also true.”

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

anywhere at any time

Rachel Dacus decided to try the National Poetry Writing Month poem-a-day exercise. She writes about it on her blog: “[I]magination is like any muscle. As any dancer or athlete knows, the more you stretch and tone, the more articulate that muscle becomes. Writing a poem a day, even a stinky poem, strengthened that muscle to the extent that I don't fear the blank page or the need to write as much as I did at the start of April. … Inspiration (as they call it) is mysterious. But what I discovered was that it's always lurking under the surface.”

I left the following comment:

I went to a poetry reading last night. During the break I got some sangria and chatted with a couple strangers. Then I ran out of schmooze and thought to myself, If I'd brought my poetry notebook I would sit down and write a poem.

Then again I do carry loose paper in my travel pack and I had the portable writing surface of a library book (a mystery by Joseph Hansen) so I pulled out paper, pen, and book and started writing. The poet/audience member next to me later said, "Were you writing a poem?"

When I acknowledged the fact he said, "You've got more balls than me."

I can write anywhere at any time. All it takes is giving oneself permission to write crap. Many a first draft written under ideal circumstances is crap, anyway. And sometimes writing in the midst of distraction leads you to interesting places. On the other hand, it wasn't all THAT chaotic in the break between readers at a poetry event.

Monday, May 14, 2007

which is the poem?

At her blog Reb Livingston was pondering publication. What is it? She was at a conference where, she discovered, “Apparently I was the only person in the room (world?) who doesn't consider posting a poem on a blog or personal website to be the equivalent of publishing in a magazine (either online or print).” She likens the blog poem to the poem read aloud “in front of 100 people” or printing up “500 copies of a poem … and hand[ing] them out to people on the street.” Surely neither of these can be considered publication?

I left the following comment:

On one of my blogs I version poems. I've been going thru 20-yr-old poetry notebooks and taking out poems I think have potential, I post the poem on the blog, make a few comments on it, then post revisions separately and comment on them. Even though, so far as I know, I have no readership for these, I imagine readers intrigued by the disappearing comma of version 3, the exploded cliche of version 8. At least one of these versioned poems has subsequently been published. The published version differs fairly slightly (but, to me, significantly) from the last version that appeared on the blog. I don't think of the versions as published. Each version exists and is accessible. Which is the poem?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

if I mean to mean

At Geof Huth’s blog he says, “As writers or artists, our role is not to interpret our work; ours is to create a work upon which interpretations can be built. The experience we create is not the message of the work, but the work itself. Even misunderstood or not understood works can be experienced. Our job is merely to create those experiences, not to create their interpretations.”

I left the following comment: I've made this argument about visual art. Such a work can be experienced by anyone not blind. Beyond that one works with one's box of interpreting tools -- one's cultural assumptions, one's experience in looking at art, etc.

The field is less wide when you're talking language art as such arts are built from meaning objects. Language is an act of interpretation.

Vispo is somewhere between the two.

The point of my second paragraph is not that there is only one interpretation for a work. Rather I mean to say one must start with the meanings of the words/phrases. Our role as artists should include interpreting our work. You had an interpretation of the abed piece. That is a good thing. Knowing what the piece is saying assists in the crafting.

Naturally, once it exists independent of author, the piece is available to a myriad of interpretations as its new context is that of the lives/thoughts/experiences/philosophies of the reader/viewer.

I don't claim to know what my pieces mean. (I won't insist a poem doesn't mean what you think it means.) I have readings for my poems. But they mean what they mean, which is not necessarily what I think I mean or imagine I mean, even if I mean to mean something which sometimes I don't. (Meanings will accrue, no matter.)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

zombie government & other quotes

"Alberto Gonzales is now among the political undead -- not alive, but unvanquishable in his own liminal existence." -- Josh Marshall


"It’s a Justice Department that is running amok." -- Tom DeLay on being investigated by the FBI

"We are very comfortable that the Justice Department is proceeding properly and expeditiously." -- DeLay's attorney

quotes from TPM muckraker


“The fastest way to defeat al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) is probably for us to leave and let the Iraqis do it themselves.” – Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly


“Within moments of handing a piece of paper with the words ‘Don't Discriminate’ to a person who asked me for it, I was grabbed, my wrists and arms twisted to near breaking behind my back. I was shoved down a hallway, banged against a wall and slammed to the ground.” -- Nadine Smith, the executive director of Equality Florida, describing her arrest for handing out fliers at the city council meeting where the city manager was fired for being transgender. When felony charges against her were dropped, Nadine said, I’m supposed to be “bathed in relief”?

Monday, May 07, 2007


My sister Sevilla has begun crafting dolls. Something to do in her tiny Alaskan town, a small plane flight from anywhere? The doll looks happy. Nice toes.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


The new LoveSettlement! Somehow my archives had become inaccessible, so I knew I had to change something. Before I did that, though, I wanted to make sure I had everything saved. Yesterday I went through and copied to my computer what I hadn't as yet. Today I decided to see what I could do to resurrect the archive. New template seemed to be an answer. So here it is. New template. And now I find I'm able to change all sorts of stuff without having to troll through tiny print html coding to figure out where to effect the change. Does this mean LuvSet will be afflicted by all sorts of new snazziness?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

exercise's completion

And love lasts past
thank you, she says, folding this
that you placed in her hands,
and fall, the time of year
someone left on a doorstop to wrinkle,
your shoe impressing its pattern on the face
stands startled in a tumble
your soft heart dimpled by a raindrop
landing hard as a period.

What, starved of home, compares
Now there, now here, to an hour
from both ends. A dry kiss, a
wet kiss, a kiss laid open, a kiss
that could settle into a pillow,
or, buried among papers, could
but hear what wants up.
Of pulling, she says, she’s had to
remind herself, she's done.
The soft is softer.

comments on exercise

Sunday night Alan Bern came over for our poetry group. The other member of the group had a bad ol' headache so missed out. After we workshopped a poem by Alan and a poem by me Alan admitted he hadn't come up with any clever writing exercises. As I'm rarely at a loss, really, I pushed my poem across the table to Alan and told him to fold it in half lengthwise. I did the same to his. What remained of his poem is what you see below. Now, I said, write a poem using the words/line fragments as you see them on your paper. Complete the lines. I used Alan's as beginnings.