Why Morning Poems

I have a friend who takes to the woods each morning with her camera. She photographs insects and snakeskin and dew on spiderwebs, orange daylilies opening themselves to the world, fiddleheads unfurling, bones of a long-dead creature disintegrating under a canopy of cottonwoods and bramble. Every day there are new things to see.

I have no skill with a camera.

I write poems.

I hear the birds in the elm across the yard, a conclave, starlings and mockingbirds and cardinals and finches. The rattling hum of cicadas and the baritone murmur of a barge on the river, passing by. Some days the birds have a lot to say. Some days they don’t. I try to get it down, either way.

In the space between my kitchen window and the outside screen a spider has amassed an impressive collection of dead bodies wrapped in silk, suspended by threads invisible except in a certain light, morning light. My coffee goes cold in my cup as I watch her move her parcels from one part of her web to another, grouping them like sculpture, to what purpose I can only guess.

I don’t drink much. But I love this song all the same. We do what we do. Fish swim, birds fly. My friend takes lovely photos. I write poems. And you?

It’s Very You

I sent a copy of Beautiful Terrible World to my mother. Today she called to tell me what she thought of it.

“It sounds like you. You always did care about the environment, and you never liked war. The one about the school shooter was sad. I laughed at the line about not liking ballroom dancing because you didn’t want some boy to push you around. It’s very you.”

Best. Review. Ever.


Perhaps it was the leaded gasoline that did it.
Gone too late in all our happy motoring,
the burnt aftermath lingering in our cells,
permeating our formative years, our young-country brains,
so much soft mineral marking our fantasies,
we believed we were super-powered, turbo-charged,
we thought we could fly like dragons through the sky,
but we were only falling,
and it was such a long way down,
all that lead now a weight we must carry,
a burden of ignorance, innocent or arrogant,
heavy and awkward, we are, and stupidly defiant,
we no longer know what it means to walk on the Earth,
fooled by the illogic of too many rockets,
too many silver bullets,
too many horses under our hoods,
the blowback from combustion unfathomable
to our enfeebled swiss-cheesed understanding,
our Augean stables now full to the rafters,
and where, pray tell, is our Hercules?
And where did we put all the shovels?

A Few Words on Saving Energy

The very-energetic Joe Konrath continues his point-by-point refutation of the idea that Amazon is the devil. Me, I’m still contemplating the seemingly-unrelated (but we know it’s all connected, somehow) U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the religosity of the corporate person. So I’m reading Joe and this little quote fell out of context and into my lap:

“The energy required to refute stupidity is exponentially larger than the stupidity itself.”

As a friend of mine commented on the Supremes, those who are upset about the decision and those who are pleased with it seem to be having two entirely different conversations. Each accuses the other of missing the point. Which is hardly surprising. Talking past one another has become the national pastime in these dis-united States.

It wears me out.

Another friend tells me that putting my head in the sand is no solution, that it only leaves me with sand in my ears and my ass in the air. But withdrawing from the daily noise feels like the only way to maintain my sanity. I am loathe to be like former first lady Barbara Bush, who in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina refused to fill her beautiful mind with thoughts about the sad plight of others. But Barbara’s ass wasn’t in the air. It was nicely enrobed in finery, cushioned on a quality damask-upholstered chaise. What is a normal person to do?

I like Amazon. I like that I can publish, and purchase, indie books and ebooks and fill my library and my own (somewhat beautiful) mind with thoughtful stories and interesting ideas without going broke in the process. Have you priced a bookstore hardcover lately? Have you had much luck finding indie works at your local Barnes & Noble? It isn’t Amazon that’s putting bookstores out of business. It’s readers who’ve made their choice. Welcome to the world.

I don’t much like the Hobby Lobby decision, any more than I liked Citizens United, or the decision that placed George W. Bush in the White House in 2000. The Supremes seem intent on reshaping the rule of law to conform to some corporate dystopia in which only those with millions to spend get a seat at the table. Again, welcome to the world.

Anyway, I like Joe’s quote. It reminds me of that other truism:

“Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.”
~ Proverbs 26:4 (KJV)

Meanwhile, I’m re-reading Gore Vidal’s Empire, historical fiction set 100 years ago, when the U.S. was getting ready to seize control of half of the world, birth control was illegal in the U.S, and money, property, and lineage were the yardsticks by which power was measured and bestowed. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.


Why We Blog

From Dave Pollard, at How to Save the World:

“Whether our collective resistance makes a difference or not in easing the pain and damage of civilization’s collapse, people millennia hence will at least know that there was resistance. To the extent we shape the myth of civilization as it’s understood by our distant descendants, we just might help them avoid repeating our mistake, and that I think would be the greatest gift we could ever hope to give to this world.”

That about says it.

Read the whole post, a Q&A, here.

Moving the Furniture

The last time I was in Buffalo, New York, was perhaps 15 years ago. It was even then a city in ruins, roads gone unrepaired, the industrial sectors vacant but for the ever-present birds, entire neighborhoods overgrown with crabgrass and Queen Anne lace, dirt lot gaps like missing teeth amid the rows of tumble-down houses.

I met a young man recently who was walking the midwest and lower New England states, not a wanderer, he assured me, but a walker. He had a home on the east coast, money in his pocket, a grey backpack, and a deep tan. He was walking so he could see things. “You don’t see things when you drive,” he told me. “You can’t process the data, it goes by too fast.” I asked him what he was seeing. “Ruins,” he said. “The whole country is in ruins.”

James Howard Kunstler was recently in Buffalo, attending a meeting of the New Urbanists. He writes of an entire section of the city where the human density per acre appears too low even for successful drug-selling.  He has a way with words, doesn’t he?

I’ve been moving the furniture around in my house. Literally, of course, shoving bookcases and rearranging my belongings in the aftermath of a breakup. It’s therapeutic, and necessary. Energies collect like dust bunnies in the corners and need to be swept clean. But as it often happens, the literal transmutes into the figurative, in my effort to find meaning in this reconfiguration. And so from the post on Buffalo I read deeper into JHK’s blog, and found this:

That fading modern world is the house that America built, the great post World War Two McMansion stuffed with dubious luxuries in a Las Vegas of the collective mind. History’s bank has foreclosed on it and all the nations and people of the world have been told to make new arrangements for daily life. The USA wants everybody to stay put and act as if nothing has changed.

Therefore, change will be forced on the USA. It will take the form of things breaking and not getting fixed. Unfortunately, America furnished its part of the house with stapled-together crap designed to look better than it really was. We like to keep the blinds drawn now so as not to see it all coming apart. Barack Obama comes and goes like a pliable butler, doing little more than carrying trays of policy that will be consumed like stale tea cakes — while the wallpaper curls, and the boilers fail down in the basement, and veneers delaminate, and little animals scuttle ominously around in the attic.

I’m tired of stapled-together crap designed to look better than it really is. I recently had the roof of my house repaired to forestall any scuttling little animals. You can read the whole JHK post here.

Cherry Syrup

I have a few things of yours,
dusty in the bottom of a drawer
I haven’t opened in years,
rags and bits of old news,
a birthday card from your mother,
tacky with the spillage from a small
plastic bottle of cherry body syrup
you brought home one night
to pour across my skin, vivid
like movie blood, sticky as
everything we were to become,
even after all this time it remains
as it was in the beginning,
content in search of contour,
cloying on the tongue, unable
even at the most earnest bidding
of love and time to become solid.

This is My Radio Voice

I hung out on the radio for a bit last month with my buddy and local npr-affiliate show host John Gibson, talking about Beautiful Terrible World and reading a couple poems from it. You’ll find me in the last 10 or 12 minutes or so of the hour.

The big celeb of the show that day was author Brian Kimberling, whose book Snapper was just released in paperback. He gets more time than I do, which is only right, but I do think I have the better radio voice.

Beautiful Terrible World is available in print and ebook. (No audiobook yet. But I’m thinking about it…)

Alas, Just an Asteroid

Moments after the words were said aloud
for the first time, and the tides turned
and the waters parted and the dark
was at last an entity distinct from the light
and the light could at last illuminate
the vastness of what had come between us,
light years and galaxies, time and space,
the cosmos of heat and frozen rock,
you were as distant as a thought
from the mind of an alien god, two moons
circling what we thought was our home world,
alas, just an asteroid, mineral and mass.

The Gratuitous Gratification of Wrath

Rob Brezsny owns my heart. [Even more so now that I've spelled his name correctly. Apologies.]

In the forward to Richard Grossinger’s book, The Bardo of Waking Life, Brezsny — creator of Free Will Astrology and author of Pronoia is the Antidote for Paranoia — writes:

For years, much of my creative work was stoked by my rage against the machine for its soulless crimes of injustice and greed and rapaciousness and cruelty.

But as the crazy wisdom of pronoia overtook me in the 1990s, I gradually weaned myself from the gratuitous gratification that wrath offered. Against the grain, I experimented with strategies for motivating myself through crafty joy and purified desire and the longing for freedom. I played with ideas that helped me shed the habit of seeing the worst in everything and everyone. In its place I built a new habit of looking for the best.

But I never formally renounced my affiliation with the religion of cynicism. I didn’t become a fundamentalist apostate preaching the doctrine of fanatical optimism. In the back of my wild heart, I knew I couldn’t thrive without at least a tincture of the ferocity and outrage that had driven so much of my earlier self-expression.

Even at the height of my infatuation with the beautiful truths that swarmed into me while writing Pronoia, I nurtured a relationship with the awful truths.

Rob Brezsny, The Honey & Vinegar Tasters

I share this excerpt with you because I find myself walking similar ground, poking at the beautiful and the awful with the same stick, and wondering what it means.  This morning, after reading Brezsny’s essay, I turned to Michael Klare, who writes of madness and delusion and oil addiction, and — aside from wishing he hadn’t ended his piece on a banal 12-step note — I’m nodding and saying, “Well, yes, that pretty much sums it up.”

In his recent book Beasts author Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson writes, “Humans are the only species that will act out fantasies putting themselves and others in danger out of pure paranoia.” Fantasies. Acting out. Murder, war, genocide, the annihilation of species and habitat, including our own.

Madness and delusion. I could poke at these, too (where is my stick?) tho I suspect they have already been well and thoroughly poked. What more is there to say?

Meanwhile, Pronoia: the antidote to paranoia. Having had my fill of Law of Attraction bullshit, I am uncomfortable with the idea that the world is conspiring to shower us with blessings. But I’m willing to suspend disbelief.

I suppose some of you will avoid Brezsny’s work because of his association with that woolly mumbo jumbo known as astrology. Understandable. Although to do so means you will miss out on a perspective that might ameliorate your own tendencies toward madness and delusion. Your call.