Monthly Archives: September 2014

Rocking

Originally posted 11/16/2012.

I am rocking out to music 
that once upon a time
I would have said sounded
like a series
of mistakes

Must be getting old
rocking out 
sober clean cool
tweed up
flannel down

I can rock out to anything
now that no one’s looking

Rocking out
in my empty living room
Rocking out with this
whatever its label
However many strings it has
However its hair looks

Had hoped once to die
before I got old
What a damn fool I was
I would have missed
rocking out
to a series of mistakes

I would have died afraid of mistakes


The Raw Instruments

Originally posted 8/20/2013, original title, “Hip Lament.”

Today
supersweetened ukulele. Tonight

mere kisses on the banjo, tomorrow
untroubled unplugged guitar.

Once, the people’s music;
now it sates a lust
for a chipper soundtrack
for slighter ways of life.

These raw instruments
were once rams, crowbars,
shovels.  Once, we rocked our Jerichos
with their firm assent.

Now, they are
mostly overcooked and bent;
serve mostly to ease
hip laments.

Fuck the gentling of raw instruments.
Fuck spring in the step
and no darkness
behind melody-thin walls.

Fuck simple
and bright and easy.
Fuck a depression costume
and a plinky-cute tone.

Fuck abandonment
of the dark.

Fuck smoothing
of the rumble strip in the guts.

Fuck harmless, fuck canned,
fuck background,
fuck a soothing playlist
full of nothing;

fuck having fuck-all to say.


Fear Of A Brown Planet

Originally posted 5/26/2010.  Revised again, 11/4/2016.

Noah invited no insects onto the ark, but they came anyway;
flies and roaches, gnats and ants, covering every square cubit
in a seething, confident carpet of stubborn, resilient brown.

American bison, once endangered, have grown numerous.
They are leaving Yosemite to roam their old prairies, leading to calls
to thin them out, to gun down some of that stubborn, resilient brown.

In the Gulf of Mexico, frightened men drop chemicals, lower booms
onto oil surging from the deep, a torrent they once sought to own.
They stare in despair at the mass of stubborn, resilient brown.

In Phoenix, water pours from sprinklers into the dry soil.
The desert is held at bay by lawns of green and golf courses.
Let the effort lapse just a bit and see the return of resilient brown.

South of the city, along a man made line, soldiers in sand camo
stare south into that shimmering oven, guarding against
a surge moving north — people of stubborn, resilient brown.

In tidy houses the fearful huddle, seeing everything as a threat;
ashamed to say that what they are most afraid of
is the pastel shell of their world restored to surging, resilient brown.

Bad Penny

Originally posted 10/28/2005.

you say she keeps turning up in your life 
like a bad penny,
forgetting that

if a bad penny
has been beaten
by time and trauma,

it will pull your fingers
to your pocket

far faster than a good one will and

if your bad penny
is made of something other than copper
it will be warmer to the touch so

you will guard it
far longer than you would
any good penny;

you’ll keep it, show it off,
dream of it, cry if you lose it,
die with it on your mind.


How To Be Their “Indian, I Mean Native American” Colleague

Originally posted 1/19/2013.
Accessorize!
Hang a dreamcatcher
near your monitor.
Tell them your uncle
is an avowed shaman
at plumbing.
Hang no pictures of your parents;
stoically hint at a “plight”
when you mention them at all.
Squint, shade your eyes, and nod
to support the notion
that “the past is past.”
Smile wryly and often
when choking down
bile.
When faced with the questions
about surviving in the wild,

cryptically suggest “you know a few tricks.”
Pat their shoulders, firmly but gently,
when they cringe mightily before you
about rooting for the Redskins.
Always dress as a ghost might dress,
or how you think a ghost would dress
for becoming trapped between worlds.
Stifle your screams when you hear the words
“Cherokee grandmother, great-grandmother, oh,
somewhere back there somewhere there’s Cherokee…”
Turn down the offer
to join the gang
for drinks after work.
Get in the car and put your head down.
Be yourself for a minute
while they aren’t looking.

Man Without Qualities

Previous revision posted 4/5/2013.  

On Facebook, there is a man
who has 1500 friends,
approximately 800 of whom
he has met personally.

Of those he’s met
he’s had more than passing conversations
with maybe 200,
had longer and more confidential conversations
with perhaps 40,
and perhaps 15 have the qualities
of “friends” 
in the sense of the word
that existed prior to the year 2006.

1500 friends —
800 he’s seen,
400 he’s spoken with in meatspace,
200 he’s connected with,
40 he would tell this story to,
15 who would agree with him
but for the fact
that they are vanishing
into a cloud.

The man one day decides to read
a three volume unfinished novel

titled “A Man Without Qualities.”

He opens the first book,
closes it, opens it again,
closes it…a book,
three volumes long 
and still unfinished,

about a man who is nothing
but what he is given to be
by others.

The book will sit on his bedside table
unopened for long spells
as he talks to 1500 friends online.

If there is a Quality
to “friendship”
it is being absorbed into a cloud.

If someday the man wants to speak
to those 15 friends
after they’ve vanished,

he will have to learn a new word
with which to summon them.


2014

Never before posted.  Originally written in 2010 or so as part of a suite of poems I was planning to use to accompany some music Faro (the bass player for Duende Project) had written.  I ended up discarding most of it, but found a bad recording of this while cleaning up my hard drive.  Never titled.


We have
a problem here
that has many strong legs
and stony little eyes,
mistakes and poisoned prongs
wound round it
like barbed wire.  It’s bringing
the brine with it:

that flavor of soiled ocean,
that smell of sweat
on ancient bronze.

It’s going to be
one dirty night if it makes it
over the threshold,
and it’s coming in hard and fast.

Naming it won’t stop it.  

Connecting it
to something already named
won’t stop it.  
Shooting it, stabbing it,
gassing it, loving it — everything 
we usually do
to solve a problem
is doomed to fail.  

Strong legs.
Stony eyes.
A stink pulsing in the air before it
as it rides its rotten wave.

Our only hope may be
to tear down this house 
it was born to infest,
do it fast enough
to save ourselves,
and learn
how to live rough.


Picturesque

Originally posted 3/2/2012.

You exhort me to know and love
the natural world
of orcas and eagles
polar bears and honeybees

but tonight I must put in a word
for silverfish
spiders flies and
centipedes

who speed around
our feet and food
hang suspended in corners
behind the dryer

nearly impossible to
catch or kill and who
always have
the cellar as a retreat

Those are
the beasts for me
Unlovely
and universally reviled

yet thriving
So perfect
for the modern
broke household

I’m getting
tattoos upon me
one for each
shudder-making pest

I live among them
have learned
their habits
have prayed to become

good enough
to fake my way into
their good graces
as this world is ending

I know
the natural world
You don’t survive just by being
picturesque

 


Neither Dad Nor Jethro Gibbs

Originally posted 10/26/2010, originally titled “Thirty Mescalero Men.”

My father
gave me 
my first knife
when I was six.

A man’s 
only half a man
without a knife, 
he told me then.

On a TV show
the tough but fair Marine
schools his team
on his Rules.  

Rule Number Nine,
he reminds them, is 

“Never go anywhere
without a knife,”  


which is
something

my father
would have said.

At fifty four I keep a box 
of more than sixty knives
under my bed
and never leave the house without one.

Some of the knives I carry
are old — I still have
my first, which was old
when I got it — 

but some are new,
and I cannot say

I’ll never buy another
or stop adding to the armory.

By all the rules 
and lessons I have learned
I am at least 
thirty men,

but I feel certain that neither Dad
nor Jethro Gibbs

would believe 
I’m any 
of them.


Fireboy

Originally posted 12/19/2004.

My mother has always said
that when I was born,

I yelled like kindling
crying for a match,


but I have never yearned
for the fires I’ve started

as much as I have longed
to be soothed by their quenching.

My deepest hope is that 
one can of gasoline away 
from wherever I am, 

there’s a world
that forever smells
of approaching rain.


My Bastard

Originally posted 9/23/2013; originally titled “Lie Of A Brother.”

Wake up at midnight to find
my daytime mask gone from the nightstand.

I can hear one of my fictional characters
typing somewhere.  I’ll bet he has it on

and I’ll bet he’s working
on another fictional character.


I can tell by the tempo —
it’s my tempo. He’s killing those keys.

It’s OK with me that someone I made up
handles my day-face so well he can make up another.

My myth is taking over my life
and my bastard is better at being me than I am.

I built him well, it seems.
He’s caught my spark for creating 

so I think I’ll roll over, go back to sleep, 
maybe skip living altogether tomorrow.

Let him and his creation handle it.  
I like it better here — dozing off 

while listening to my betters
laboring in the dark.


Commuter Moment

Originally posted 6/27/2008 — original title, “Mass Pike Moment, June 2008.”

The pond by the side of the road
is obscured in a green-brown mist.
If I wasn’t stuck in traffic
I might never have seen that color
that may be the result of the sunlight

pouring through the green leaves behind it,
or perhaps it is caused by the oak pollen
so thick in the air
that it clearly has changed

more than my breathing.

It is something I would not likely have seen
if I had gone whizzing by
intent 
on my eventual destination,
or if I had noticed it

I might have missed its hue,
and if it showed up again
in my thoughts

I might have decided
to say it was mist colored,

the default silver-gray that shows up in every poem.
I might then have turned it into a metaphor
for something else
instead of letting it stand on its own.


Perhaps all morning fog

carries a shade worth noting, a shade

only visible when the viewer
is halted in his progress 
toward importance
long enough to see it,
long enough

to be content in the viewing
and the knowledge

that everything that is known and believed
has a loophole 
in it somewhere
that is large enough to drive through.


By the way…my OTHER project is…

I’ve mentioned here and there that I perform much of the time with a tight jazz/rock/funk/folk/what have you band, The Duende Project.  I do the poetry and play a little guitar and cuatro while Steven “Faro” Lanning-Cafaro (electric and upright acoustic bass, nylon string guitar, and archtop jazz guitar), Chris Lawton (electric and acoustic guitars, Dobro, banjo, mandolin), and Chris “O-D” O’Donnell (drums) do the heavy lifting behind that.

Here’s a cut from our most recent album, featuring Faro on 5-string electric bass and O-D on drums.

Zodiac Mindwarp, by The Duende Project.

If you like this or any of our other work — and there are five albums worth at that site — it’s all available for purchase.  But not really pushing that — just thought you might like to hear what we do.


Polish Hall, Uxbridge, MA

Originally posted 12/19/2005.

nothing has changed
except for the higher prices
it’s now two seventy-five
for a jack on the rocks
and a bag of chips
is now seventy five cents

I could end up drinking here all the time
the way I used to drink here all the time
thirty-odd years ago

some of my old barmates are still drinking here
dave parker

sue something different now but born boulanger
rat guertin

we all get to talking
rat hits the rest room before he takes off and
suddenly i’m helping dave
push rat’s car

out into the center of the parking lot
while it’s locked and running
and then rat’s cussing us out
and we’re laughing our saggy asses off

the car looks like it was made in 1980


I’m wanting a cigarette bad

it’s damn cold out here
it’s warmer once we’re back in the bar 


six drinks
in one hour
seems about right

once again


Phoenix (for Blair)

Originally posted 7/24/2011.  

The cut on my arm reminds me
that after the phoenix has flown some
always gather around its birth-hearth
to stir the ashes with dirty sticks.
What do they expect will come of that — 

is it the same thing
I expected
from the blood
I drew from myself
when I heard he was gone?

Did I think that if I drew enough,
the phoenix would rise again
from where my blood
had pooled? I don’t know.
I’m old enough to know better

but for a second there I became young again
and fell in love with childhood magic,
believing that if I gave enough
and hurt enough,
the phoenix would return.

I am old enough
to know better
so I bind the wound
and listen as I do
for the song.

The myth says when the bird flies
he sings, and the song
burns the air behind him
with the fire 
that released him.

A myth becomes a myth
not because it’s a lie,
but because it is a truth
that cannot ever
die for long.

It rises again and again.
It flies blazing
up from the ash.
It is never in the ash.
It is in the clean, bloodless sky.

— for David Blair