Monthly Archives: May 2009

Night Running

Stumbling along in the twilight
still wet from the fear that
this path will end
in the same place the old one
ended, he understands

that it’s out of his hands now,
as this downhill trail
has become steep enough
to keep him from turning back.

Behind him were boulders the size
of mansions which he’d had to slide down
and cliffs just high enough to jump from
without dying, though the landing
had sent a shock up his legs to his chest.
He’d never get back up again.

Night-running now.
Here it flattens out a bit
but the roots of big pines
ridge the packed dirt underfoot.

Owl calls in the trees.  The birds themselves
unseen.  Twigs cracking twenty paces
off the path, in the moonless dark.

Ahead is the thunder of the river
cutting the bottom of the valley.
It’ll lead him out if it doesn’t kill him.

He strips off everything but the shoes
and runs faster.  The plunge ahead
will freeze him but it’s all that’s left to do.
There will be no need for modesty if he comes out alive
and if he dies, he won’t care about how it looks
when they find his body.  He’ll end up
as a story of folly
for the ones who might come after.

Only he will have known
how it feels
to hit the water running.  To forget
failure and success.  To fall
into the impersonal night and become
one small part of the Whole.

To chill down as he smashes
along in the current, the pain fading.
To see the stars as he goes blind.
To be alive at last.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Memorial Day

Before the parade,
a veteran
lit a cigarette,
saying:

Some of us
that went to war,
we enjoyed it.


Some of us missed it after it was done.

Consider what it took for us
to resettle ourselves
among you folks. Keeping that
kind of fun quiet isn’t easy.
We wanted to tell someone
about it, just to get past it.
But no one wanted to hear,
so we tried to forget.
Ever since the Towers, though,
no one can get enough of us.

We’re smoking together now.
No one’s sitting near us
because to smoke, these days,
is to translate undesirable wisdom
from a language
only marginally less taboo
than the warrior tongue.

Ok, I’m listening.
What was it like?

I ask him.

A blue fog rolls
from the old mouth.
Then:

Just like this,

and held up the cigarette.

I knew it was bad for me
but I did it anyway.
I started to do it
because
others did it.
I kept at it
because I couldn’t stop.

He looked
at
my shining eyes
and at
the butt
burning bright
in my own mouth.

You’d have done fine there,

he spat,
before
the band
drowned him out
while making my heart
float out of my chest
like a big
bad cloud
of Martian wind,
or delighted razors,
or something else
no one
could fully understand.


Some thoughts about the online world of T. Brown

I’m going to be making some changes soon, based on a lot of thinking I’ve been doing.

First:

— Probably getting rid of Facebook account.  I don’t like FB, but felt it was necessary to keep in touch with a lot of people.  It has become a major and trivial timesuck, and I don’t need it — the people I want to get in touch with, I will keep in touch with and vice versa.  Not sure yet what will become of the Slam discussion group I run there.

— Myspace: ditto, except that I need a replacement for the feature that allows me to post MP3s of Duende stuff for promotional purposes.

This may lead to the creation of a dedicated website, except I have no interest in creating one, learning to create one, and also have no spare money to have one done, or to maintain one.  Dilemma.  Will explore.

If I do create a Website, this (LJ) will likely turn into an embedded blog on the site, hosted either through LJ or through WordPress.

—  This blog may become friends only — not sure yet.  I’ll be really thinking very hard about what goes in here; still not planning on posting poems here again for a while. 

Why all this?

I’m thinking very hard about reducing my "ego footprint."  My need to be read and heard.   While I understand the need to maintain an online presence for promotional purposes, I’m getting pretty close to done with the "social networking" experience. 

There is something to be said about reducing accessibility to one’s self.  Un-American, perhaps, but I become more and more convinced of this the older I get. 

I’m not a particularly social being.  I prefer relative solitude.  I find myself with less and less in common with people in the slam and performance poetry scene, with a few valued exceptions.  To try and be as "socially networked" as I am currently is a major expenditure of energy I don’t have.  I need, for me, to handle that better by taking greater control over the way the Poetry is heard and read, and to simultaneously reduce the connection between my work and me. 

Anathema to some, I’m sure.   Ah, well.

Details to follow as they become clearer to me.


At The Last

At the last moment,
all he could see was his own face–

a little shady, gray bearded,
nearly devoid of affect

but for a slight sloppy smile betraying
a sense of relief.

No need, then,
to explain himself again.

The face in the mirror
was all he had to answer to now,

and it already knew what would be said.
No reason he ever had to listen to anyone else

tell him things he didn’t believe.
No evidence worth considering would be presented.

At any rate, the swelling of that reflected face — once dear to him
but now repugnant, marked with his mistakes and

so unutterably lonely from all his repelling
of myriad approaches — was taking up so much

of what he could see that it was obvious
what needed to be done to quiet the nagging voice

that kept saying, “There’s more out there…”
when he knew it would just be more of the same.

More of the same.  So he stopped looking.
“Enough,” he said.  Enough. And made it so.


This Is A Social Justice Poem

This is a social justice poem

about Jill staring at the lawn
so long that it breaks into pixels
and shimmers through water
while her husband cries into his sleeve
and cleans out a tiny locker full of tools

An anticapitalist poem

about Tomas reimagining his genitals
and singing forth a new weapon
to draw a harpy’s bead on ecstasy

A racial harmony poem

looped over a forsaken beat
with a noose in its mitts
while a dead suburb of heaven steaming
in the middle distance

This is a poem for the gross domestic product

slipping one by us
as it turns its hip-hop vices
into remedial charges

This is an empowerment poem

which scrambles to eat its placenta
for the protein and the soul scraps adhering
to the bloody rags on the kitchen floor

The poems come pleading
to put war in the docket
peace on the barstool
and music in the porches
of the weary king’s ears

The poems come a-curdling
in corners of convenience stores staffed
by the blue soldiers of the new
waving the scent of their empty pockets
at the promoters

But here is Jill dancing with her blurry eyes
for the comfort of her representative child-man
and his stranded dream
And here is Tomas with his re-imagined arms
moving furniture and earthquaking routine drama
to make a home

This is a social justice poem
about how it is that a poem
doesn’t mean a damn thing
to those trying to figure out
how a cherry bough
can hold a noose and flowers
at the same time


Ein Jeder Engel Ist Schrecklich (revised)

Ein Jeder Engel Ist Schrecklich

Every angel is terrifying.  — Rilke

Close a door, open a door, write a letter
or make a phone call: endings are easy,
as easy as beginnings.  Small stuff,
actions we take every day
when there’s no potency attached.

What matters, what makes it hard
to end or begin, is the Angel
of Possibility who hovers on the margin
of decision. Who could fly off with us
clutched in her brazen arms
if we choose a false path.

I know too much
of her scarred wings
and fruit-toned breath.
Too many meetings,
too many flights into
sun and stars. Each time
I’ve moved into or out of something,
I have flown with her,
and I am scared of the height
from which I might fall,
or might have fallen.

That any journey
leads to anywhere
is terrifying.
The Angel who carries us
is of little consequence,
but I stay perfectly
still while she floats
at the edge of vision, near the door,

as I pray for my feet
to remain on the ground.


Gravedigger

You long for redemption after death.
But redemption after death is a probable myth.

You long for that myth.  But all you desire
is a fiction.  Here are the facts you need,

as far as can be told
from this side:

death is final.  You’ve been digging a hole
all your life, tunneling away from it.

That hole will fail you and in a panic
you’ll dig another one to find dirt to fill it,

having given away all you dug out of it
as a penance ahead of the expected redemption. 

You’ll keep digging, filling the previous hole,
making a new one, always falling short as you dig.

You’ll be surrounded by holes up to the moment
you die, and then you’ll fall into one of them.  That one

will come out even, because you will have put everything
you rightly own into it. 

Someone’s going to trip over the pits you’ve left behind.
You can’t even apologize to them.  Offense continues

to build even after you’re gone. 
You’ll never get even.  You’re a gravedigger

and all you bury is the original myth
with every stroke of the shovel.


Cairn

Craving
the cracking sound my back makes
when it’s overloaded,
I pile on rocks and rocks
and more rocks.

Carry them as if they were
wings, despite
their utter lack of lift. 

I can fly
strictly because
if I believed in the harm
I am doing to myself,
it would be
impossible. 

I will fall someday.
Perhaps today —

perhaps that burning, shattering moment
is what I’ve lived for
after all I have said to the contrary.

Hope
takes different forms;

sometimes it is shaped like
the cairn a man
is buried under, the one
he carries with him.


The difference between “poets” and “bloggers”

An essay from the inimitable Tao Lin.

I make no judgments one way or the other.  Just thought it was interesting.


Poetry and Pizza

Every time I go to New York City
I always make time for two things:

one, to read poetry before an audience;
two, to eat pizza.

My obvious presence on the stage
attests to the former,

the obvious presence under my shirt
confirms the latter.

There’s something about that burg
that brings out my appetites.

Something about how swiftly
the people move makes me want

to add to it all, stir the air a bit on my own,
and to take something of it back with me

to my slower home.  I shovel in a giant slice
from a hole in a wall and it sticks to me

as close as a brother in arms.  It makes me want
to nourish a sheet of paper in return, to offer

gratitude for what I have received from this place
on the run, filling myself as I walk among the crowd

without a name of my own: just another shlub
doing the New York Thing, taking whatever I can,

leaving whatever I can, and doing it all
at the speed of life.


Opacity

If what is usually invisible
were to become opaque,
would we ever leave the cover
of our beds?  Would we dare
to immerse ourselves in brown wind
or pale-blue humidity? 

Light would be forgotten at once.
We’d have no need of it,
and we’d have to find new constants.
Everything would be subject
to redefinition. 

Think of us all, for instance,
so certain of the intangible natures
of love and hate.   If we found ourselves plunged
into this new life, suddenly blind, drowning in its indigo
stew, catching only the fire of its
red-streaked highlights, with no certainty
as to what we were feeling, or how it was
happening, I think we would all
go mad for a time.

Until we retrained ourselves to navigate
from one passion to another, we would
fall silent and still. 
Our comas would show
endearment.  Stasis
would indicate a longing for change. 
Language would fail.
We’d be dumbstruck.

Eventually, some genius would realize
that words themselves could be exchanged
for paintbrushes and palette knives. 
We’d learn how to mix colors
and exact our meaning with varied strokes and scrapings.
Every day would be art. All of us would become
artists.  We’d loathe the crippled hands
of the untalented.  We’d come back
to our former lives, throwing back the covers
to greet the day, all our prejudices and pressures
restored to us in a new swirl
of paradise reimagined,
with the essential question unanswered:

how do we draw out Eden
from a cloudy, muddled world?


Love Story (second draft)

Stephen
the flint,
a handsome
but somewhat common
sedimentary rock,
could not believe his eyes
when first he saw Sondra,
the girlfriend-shaped
parachute.

God, he said,
and I do mean that,
I love you.

A thermal took them
and they soared,
pendulum and silk,
rocking back and forth
until they landed
with a thump
and a sigh.

Sondra billowed a bit,

and they at once sought a cliff
who could marry them. 

Dearly beloved,
said the cliff.
Gimme a reason,
I dare you, said
the couple in unison,
making
that most formal of vows.

They kissed a lot
and fell over the edge
and they either made it down safely
or they didn’t.   That’s the end
of that story.

That cliff is still there, though,
waiting for a breeze
to bring in the business.
Never has to advertise. 
The oddest shapes
always seem to find each other
and come wanting to take that fall,
hoping
this time
for one soft landing.


Why surrealism is no longer all that interesting…

1.
A rich and stupid man steals a whole kingdom and no one stops him. Some judges say that It wouldn’t be polite to do so.

2.
In another kingdom there’s a man with a long beard who knows all the words of God. He has some soldiers who are not soldiers, and they fly some stolen planes into buildings in the first kingdom and a lot of people die. 

As a result, the robber king gets to be legitimate while reading about a goat and he sends a lot of soldiers who are soldiers off to the caves to kill the bearded man, but it never happens.  More people die.

3.
Another man in the first kingdom mails a disease and some more people die. Everyone thinks about that beard all the time.

4.
The robber king says that there’s a third king who has a lot of those same diseases hidden somewhere waiting to be mailed.  He sends a lot more soldiers off to kill the third king and steal that kingdom too.

No one finds the diseases but it’s ok, and a lot more people die.

5.
The robber king’s grand vizier shoots his friend in the face and the friend apologizes for the trouble he’s caused.  At least no one died this time!

6.
Meanwhile, the earth is melting and no one’s got any money to cool it down with.  Some people die.  A lot of people die. 


Censorship

Whatever bird
you are

The little one emitting
a slow and steady series of similar chirps

The rockstar melodian
trilling fluidly for hours on end

The sharp jay shocking up the neighborhood
with bully in his voice

Or the guardian laying down smooth tracks
on the perimeter circuit from tree to tree

You ought to consider
the window mounted cat

Who watches everything
and contemplates bringing you to silence

Who imagines you as just another irritation
worth his attention

And after having considered that
for a while

Please —
sing louder


Growing Down

No sir,
no.  I won’t
grow up — I’ll
grow down instead,

into the earth,

drawing in
shadow nutrients,
gritty water.

It is the Goddess of Dirt
that I serve.

I may present to you
a form
that seems
symmetrical
and bright,

but it springs from
the insistent tug
in a holy underground,

and what can be seen, admired,
used for shelter or shade,
logged
and laid out in board feet
or carved into utilitarian
shapes —

what you count as important —

that’s
not the truest part of me,
no,
no sir:

go ahead
and take it.

That stump
you leave behind?
That grip of roots
holding on after
you think you’ve gotten
all of me
that matters?

You come back.
Try grinding me out,
blowing me up,
poisoning me.

I’ll be there, somewhere under
your feet,
well and deeply dug in,
still saying my

"sir, no sir"

to you
with every ring of sucker shoots
I send up around my remains,

a crown for Her dark
and somber head.