Monthly Archives: October 2011

Ripple The Age

Ripple the age, dammit:
ripple it.  

Throw yourself in, not because you’ll be 
at the center of all those circles
for that instant, be a target, be a
bullseye; but because 
as others join you, the circles
will disappear, interlace,
turn to full disturbance,

and then what you’ll be
is all wet, immersed,
what you’ll be
is in it for the long swim,
part of the stream, the flow,
the flood. 

1929: Stockbroker’s Lament

After all the partying,
the exuberance, the Stutz
and the backroom booze,
the easy money, the luck;

after all that, what I’m left with
is the best blessing of the modern age:
that we built these buildings high enough
to make the flight I’m about to take

certainly fatal.  When I fall,
it may be that I will become
warning to those who come
after: don’t ever do this again.  Make certain

that those who make the money
keep the money.  Make certain that
we are safe from those we stole from
with promises and shell games,

and pad us well enough
so that if we fall we do not feel it.
Well enough that we will bounce.
Too late for me, of course — but 

get to work,
and make a world where them’s that got
shall fly if they fall, fly over
those that have not, that never had.


Old Hippies

Sparse-framed, reticent, particular,
the old hippies come in to the market 
on odd weeks
for what they cannot grow
or raise.  

A friend sneers at them,
calls them un-American.

I hear they’ve got a sod roof on the house.
Life underground:
a few acres
and a 1978 Ford pickup.

Here on the grid we’ve got
fear, troubles,
and the grind.  We all 
talk too much.

Hey, hippie,
go hug a tree.  Go
bathe in the snow.
Get a job.  

don’t associate with us
unless they have to —

bastards, get in the trough with us
and bring some eggs or something else 
to eat.


Heavy Metal, Heavy Tree

Metallica’s “Blackened”
is playing: loud, loud…Then
the tree breaks out back,
louder even than that.

Half of a two hundred year old oak
comes down
across the whole yard
with snow-weighted limbs,
tears out cables,
and only gently grazes the house.

Barefoot in the wet
checking for damage,
other than the tree itself,
there’s none.  The power
has even stayed on.

Back into “Blackened”
once back inside.

“Callous frigid chill?”
Only outside.  Life doesn’t always
imitate art.  In here it’s warm,
blistering almost.  I lower the heat

and return to the music
of promised disaster.

Heads up

Storm has taken out my home internet for what may be a few days…so expect a slower posting schedule.  Thanks.

The Big Tree Obviously Doesn’t Care For Heavy Metal

playing.  Then
the tree breaks out back,
louder than that. 

Half a two hundred year old oak
comes down,
fills the whole yard with snow-weighted limb,
tears out cables,
only gently grazes the house.

Barefoot in the wet
checking for damage,
other than the tree itself,
there’s none.

Back to “Blackened”
because there’s nothing else to do.
“Callous frigid chill?”  Perhaps,
but only outside.  In here it’s warm,
blistering almost.  I lower the heat

and return to the music of promised disaster.

Isn’t it something when art, for once,
doesn’t imitate life? 

One Stupid Song

Too long
since I was last excited
by a stupid song.  

This must be why the classic rock radio format exists.
This must be why the pop oldies radio format exists.
This must be why the old school jams radio format exists.
This must be why “we play everything radio”
plays nothing but classic rock, pop oldies, old school jams…
a certain layer of the population
wants to be reminded of what mattered once,
wants to be reminded endlessly of being surprised
and thus changed
by one stupid song.

No one listens to the radio for surprise anymore.
No one wants to be surprised, really.
They tell each other what to hear.
They choose their music on line.
They watch videos on line.
They watch the videos and listen to the music
then box it all up and carry it around
so they do not have to be surprised, ever.

Let me say I know how stupid today is.
Let me say I know that the radio is stupid now.
Let me say I know how good it is to carry with you
a cache of anti-stupid and to have it near at hand.

But I pity you too —
for this will not happen to you
nearly often enough:

4 AM.  
2 PM.
9:35 AM.
10:30 PM.
Monday.  Tuesday. Saturday night.
Driving 95 north through New Jersey.  
The 405 or PCH in the Southland.  
New England backroad, border of MA and RI,
not sure which state you’re in minute to minute.
Under full moon, Card Sound Road, FL, going flat out,
due west back through mangroves
toward US 1
and then out across the Gulf.

Volume down.
“What’s that?”
It’s…gin and juice.
It’s…no future.
It’s monkey toward heaven,it’s domino,  it’s loser smile,
it’s low-placed friends,
it’s black metal keys,
it’s the noise, the music, the shit,
the jam, the bomb.

“Is this the new Seger or the new AC/DC?
The new Prince, the new Boss, the new
Wu-Tang?  It doesn’t sound like 
it should be but it — I know what this is,
this is the new goddamned WHO!
Who the fuck’s playing drums, on the mic,
when did this come out, is this the new album,
the new single, 
where the hell did this come from,
when did this drop,
turn it up
turn it up
turn it up some more —
and if that is as loud as it goes 
that’s not enough
so I will be selling this car as soon as we stop — ”

You pull the good, warm body next to you closer
and smile like a clown, not caring
as your smile is as large as the music.

I wish you all just once this joy
of having the stupid radio deliver you
from the evil of the stupider world.

I wish you just once 
to be surprised by the radio
with no earbuds in
to make it a private revelation.

I wish you the joy of looking stupid in public
as you fall forever into the arms
of one perfect, stupid song…

Santa Muerte

Santa Muerte
forgive us
on stone
reed paper 
in script 
by moveable type
in scrolls 
in heavy bound books
on fire-borne data streams
through keyboards and screens
we have cheated on you
our most faithful lover
Santa Muerte

You promised us everything
from within robes of white and red
Gave us what we wanted
The close access to the edge between life and death
and then we went about
seeking immortality
as if death was to be feared
and not honored

We pray you are patient
and as you know us all too well
and are well enamored of what we’ve given you

our peace of mind and free will
our ability to walk away
our strong tongues
our reverent approach to your realm

We pray you will wait for us
for as long as we stray 
(all the while stroking
the skull-pillowed head
of our dreaming child)

We will come home sooner or later
leaving behind
the words that we once hoped
would thrill us past you

Come home to our private altars
where you sit with the piddling heaps
of what we had promised you
and with a smile of suffering
and clean absolution
take us in again

Santa Muerte
whether we choose to acknowledge it or not
we are yours
Santa Muerte


That Was That

He looked at me
and told me what I couldn’t be,
though I was that and had been that, 
always.  Said, “If you don’t look it,
you’re not.”  And for him, 
that was that.  And for me,
as well.  He was wrong, and so
I put him behind me, and that
was that.

Another told me that because
I didn’t sound right, I wasn’t that.
“It’s that simple, that’s how you win,”
and that was that.  And for him, 
that was that and for me too, so when
I put him behind me because what I called win
was for me a win, and so he was wrong,
that was that.

And then another, and then another,
and then another said I was not 
the one, and for them that was that;
and for me too, almost, because I’d given them
that and now I was no longer that.
“It’s not you, it’s me,” they said, and for a while
I disbelieved but then I changed my mind
and put them behind me, and told myself
that was that.

Now, all those naysayers behind me
have been talking, and they’ve gotten to know
each other, and they call “Fraud!” and “Phony!”
in unison whenever I am quiet for a minute.  
And that’s that.  That’s what it is.  A chorus
of shit-talkers I half-agree with.  I say, “That…”
and then cannot complete, cannot compete
with their dismissal; though I dismissed them myself
once I know that saying “that was that” meant nothing
at all.  I’m pale and flat and dull and wrong, and that,
I gather, I believe, and I know, is that.


Drowning In A White Man

I’m drowning in a white man!

Can’t breathe.
Chest is caving.

What I wouldn’t give for a pipe
and some cold air.
Bring on dry land and the sound
of singers and a big, solid drum.

What I wouldn’t give for firm tradition
to hang onto while cousins
pull me up and in!

But, not likely.
I’ll have to grow
thin white gills and survive,
if not thrive.  I won’t thrive —

no.  What I could give
to thrive, I will not give.

A Very Bad Boy

My little boy inside
(as predicted by books)
is sad under clouds and

I will punish him
for not growing up
and out of me 

I have no external children
and must practice bad parenting
in order to be fully myself
in order to achieve my potential

I am a very bad boy
I am a much better adult
and will be an even better old man
a splendid grouch
with more memory than context
while abusing my inner child

Someone take him away
foster him
reform him
whatever you like
just put him in the system

I’ll only be right
when he’s been thrown away





I know certain stories so well
I can fall into them anywhere
so the torn up, crayoned book
whose only intact pages
reveal the blond in the bed
and the three confused bears
is as dear to me now as it was
when both it and I were new.

So turning on the Manson docudrama
at the moment of the Tate murders
was not disconcerting; I at once began
to hum Beach Boys and Beatles songs
and think about that harem of blood

and remember Snake Lake, Diane
by birth, the girl from Spahn Ranch
I met briefly years later who was still
as cold as the memory of Cielo Drive,

and to wonder where Linda Kasabian
was now, does she ever listen to the band
that bears her name like a grisly hipster badge,
the name that means “butcher” in Armenian

though she never raised a knife to anyone?
Did the name take her to the Family
as surely as any story takes its reader
to its end?  I don’t even blink listening to this;

where has this story taken me since I first heard it
on the news at age nine?
What has it inured me to?
I don’t even need to watch it to see it.
I don’t have any missing pages to comfort me into denial.

The one question left:
why did the bears
not tear Goldilocks to shreds?
Isn’t that
what’s supposed to happen?

Maestro, Virtuoso, Aficionado

play on

In the hands of a virtuoso even a decayed instrument, ignored for years, attic-bound,
can make a music strong enough to bend walls.

my maestro
play on 

I don’t claim the title for myself but my age being its own reward and punishment at once,
I live toward the words maestro and virtuoso as if they were mine to use.

I am aficionado
I am waiting 

What do I call myself now when, with my instrument all but played out,
I cannot help but seek a clarity in the use of a single string?

I am obsessed with the hunt

I am forsaken

I’ve been told that nothing made on the single string is performable,
but here I find myself facing an audience who expects performance.

I am the impression of you only

In command of the single note
and — of course, now I see!  In command of the silence around it.  

I am aficionado
I cannot stop this
Am no virtuoso

Can one perform silence?  On stage, now, I do nothing.
The audience expects something.  But what could replace this?



You Are The Country

Looked at en masse, you are the country:
in your eyes and hair there are provinces
and regions and ecologies, local traditions,
ghost stories, breaks and mends. 

Up close and from afar, the view is plain:
here is history, welling up. History comes to wet view
in this old earth, a new spring emerging.
The thirsty are preparing to drink from you.

When this flow breaks through it will carry
much before it.  Some things will fall,
some will be skewed aside and there will be
cries of pain and distress from those 

taken in the flood.  When it happens, 
I beg you to keep looking, as I will, 
into the faces around you, the eyes
that are the mountains, the mouths

that are the canyons, the hands
that are the memories of coal miners, farmers,
villagers, city folk, slaves and servants
and rich and poor artists and crafters;

keep looking at this country that tried 
to be complete and never was whole; 
keep seeing the people who were the 
carriers of its imperfect hope, and keep thinking

of the cold, clear water they all prayed
to drink.  Keep thinking of that water
covering the land.  Keep thinking of 
every thirst quenched, someday.  

You are the country.  You are
the name and the land and the heart
of conception.  In your eyes and hair,
the country. In your mouths, its hope.


An Actor Prepares

Find your motivation

Learn to 
fake tears on cue
fake a fuck
handle a gun

Learn lines

Die convincingly

It’s like living except
in living
you may not find motivation and
you frequently
bump into furniture