Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Salon. (Not a Hair Salon)

An Evening at The Upper West Side Salon

Apartment #002
twists into a technicolor jumble,
as we riff on caste & color & power & privilege & good & evil,
as we break open boxes of control and see the dead cat inside,
but she's alive.
as we re-distribute wealth and pray to a god,
and there is no god.
as we question #progress and change, lurching forwards
and slipping back.

In a gleaming white kitchen,
we bounce thoughts off brick walls,
that change while we watch them.
naked - and then clothed - in the Garden of Eden,
we walk through each other's dreams.

Glasses of Sorel collide, we drink,
playing games,
threading our consciousness,
to form the crooked edges of a patchwork web.

Around the table, over seven layer dip and hazelnut toffees,
we slide sideways in time,
remembering the future as we wait for the past.

So. What's Your Story?

"In the end, we'll all become stories."

                                                              - Margaret Atwood

Infected - A Cento

Infected, A Cento*

So many people, can't express what's on their minds,
Nobody knows them & nobody ever will,

My heart is heavy--my head is confused,
And my aching little soul--has started burning blue.

[No.]. I'm a man without a soul, honey,
Who lost it while parading it, in a town full of thieves

A shadow hunting shadows
[S]miling through my teeth

I don't know what's wrong or right,
I'm just a regular guy with bottled up insides

Down by the river, I've been washing out my mouth,
Deep in the heart of me, there's a frightened man breaking out

[J]ust another guy, with desires that I can't satisfy
Sometimes I get so lonesome, I could die.

I never said I was the man I appeared to be
[G]onna move up close [] and wrestle with the thoughts solitude always brings

*This poem is composed of two lines from each of the tracks on The The's Infected Album (1986). 

The songs are: Heartland, Infected, Out of the Blue (Into the Fire), Twilight of a Champion, Sweet Bird of Truth, Angels of Deception, Slow Train to Dawn, The Mercy Beat.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Joshua Tree - A Cento

The Joshua Tree, A Cento*

The night
It burn[s] like fire

Sky rip[s] open,
the howling wind driving nails into [my] soul[]

The moon has turned red
And the stars fall from the sky
[I] turn away to face the cold enduring chill

I want shelter
I want to feel sunlight on my face

[I] cry without weeping
[I] talk without speaking
Scream without raising [my] voice

Nothing to win, and nothing left to lose
I await without you.

Dress torn in ribbons and in bows
Like a siren she calls me

Love, slowly stripped away
[She's] all that's left to hold onto
I'm hanging on

In the hands of love
I went deeper into black - deeper into white

I was cold and you clothed me honey
But I was naked in the clothes you made

In the rain, tears
In the wind, laughter
[My] heartbeat. [I] hear my heart beat.

*This poem is composed of two-three lines from each of the tracks on U2's Joshua Tree Album (1987).  

The songs are: I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, Bullet the Blue Sky, One Tree Hill, Where the Streets Have No Name, Running to Stand Still, With or Without You, In God's Country, Red Hill Mining Town, Exit, Trip Through Your Wires,  and Mothers of the Disappeared  

Saturday, July 26, 2014

We're Out of Time - A Cento

We're Out of Time, A Cento*

She got up from the kitchen table.
Folded the newspaper and silenced the radio.

Something has gone wrong.
And I don't know how much longer I can take it.

This flower is scorched.
This film is on, a maddening loop.

The world is collapsing, around our ears.
But I can't hear it.

40,000 stars in the evening,
Look at them fall from the sky.

My mind is racing.
Blackbirds backwards forwards and fall and hold hold.

It seems a shame you waste your time for me.
But what about me?

It seems so silly.
I skipped the part about love.

Oh no, I've said too much.
I set it up.

There's no time to cry.
Throw your love around,
love me,
love me.

*This poem is composed of two lines from each of the tracks on REM's Out of Time Album (1991), except for Endgame (an instrumental track).  

The songs are: Belong, Near Wild Heaven, Country Feedback, Radio Song, Texarkana, Low, Me In Honey, Half A World Away, Losing My Religion, Shiny Happy People.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Immortal Poetry

"Every society we’ve ever known has had poetry, and should the day come that poetry suddenly disappears in the morning, someone, somewhere, will reinvent it by evening."

                                                                                                         - David Bespiel

*More from Bespiel's wonderful NYT article, Poems Hold the Mysteries of the Present, Dreams of the Future:
    • "Poetic utterance ritualizes how we come to knowledge. In the same way that poems illuminate our individual lives, poems also help us understand ourselves as a culture. Or at least they spur us to ask the questions." 
    • "Poetic utterance mythologizes our journey of being. Poetic utterance tells and interprets our stories. Poetic utterance shapes our perspective of the mysteries of the present moment and helps us imagine the next one." 
    • "In this way poetry connects us to our past, and poets unmask both private and civic memories, dreams, and urgencies. By harmonizing the body with the mind, serving both young and old, poetry is a guide to deliver us into a fresh engagement with our inner lives and with modernity." 
    • "[I]t is the art of the utterance of beauty and the grotesque." 
    • "If we care about the deepest aspirations of men and women across every community and culture, language and race, then poetry is always relevant because it is the art of the utterance of what we share in our innermost psyches." 
    • "We know that human beings are intrinsically connected to one another in how we assert our being. When we read a poem, we are in the presence of this link. We are open to the metaphors of our shared natures." 
    • "Because poets have the highest faith that every word in a poem has value and implication and suggestion, a poem orients us in both our inner and outer existence. No matter what language we speak, we follow the guidance of poetry to better perceive sorrow and radiance, love and hatred, violence and wonder. No matter what continent we call home, we read poetry to restrict us in time and to aspire toward timelessness — whether we are in our most vibrant cities or in the remote woods." 
    • "It is the song of song, the language of language, the utterance of utterance and the spirit of spirit."

    Monday, July 21, 2014

    Road Trips Home [DRAFT]

    My favorite part of breakfast was the make-your-own waffle station.

    The coffee was weak. The hard-boiled eggs, in a clear plastic bin, were rubbery.

    The dispensers of Apple Jacks, Cheerios, and Fruit Loops didn't quite capture the imagination in the way deserving of The Most Important Meal of the Day.  Nor did the pre-cooked circles of eggs, which could be matched with similarly sized circles of sausage and placed between a toasted English Muffin. Too circular. Too prefab.

    The juice dispenser was a nice touch.  There was a dazzling array of juice concoctions to be made by mixing different amounts of the apple juice, orange juice, pineapple juice and cranberry juice. I did like that.

    But it was all about the waffles.  The batter slid perfectly from the inside of the circle outward, as the top of the waffle press smushed down.  If you flipped at the sound of the first beep, waited, and then popped it out at the sound of the triple-beep, you got a large brown Belgian Waffle every time.  Consistent.  Fluffy.  In the windowless room of moulded plastic chairs, with SportsCenter highlights running and re-running on the two 22 inch televisions, those waffles felt decadent. I ate them everyday for breakfast.


    I had started off on my way home, but now I wasn't.  I'd been living alone at the Holiday Inn Express off of Exit 127 on the NY Thruway for a full week now.

    This was six days longer than I'd planned.

    That's not true. The truth was, I hadn't really planned anything.  One week ago, after the last of my finals, I got in my car and drove.

    I wasn't alone. Not really.  He was with me.  Whispering in my ear from the back seat.  He told me not to go home.


    After a week at the hotel, the days begin to bleed together.  I fall into a routine.


    Sunday, July 20, 2014

    Fiction - We Become Less Alone Inside

    David Foster Wallace, on fiction:

    "I had a teacher I liked who used to say good fiction’s job was to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. 

    I guess a big part of serious fiction’s purpose is to give the reader, who like all of us is sort of marooned in her own skull, to give her imaginative access to other selves. Since an ineluctable part of being a human self is suffering, part of what we humans come to art for is an experience of suffering, necessarily a vicarious experience, more like a sort of “generalization” of suffering. 

    Does this make sense? We all suffer alone in the real world; true empathy’s impossible. But if a piece of fiction can allow us imaginatively to identify with a character’s pain, we might then also more easily conceive of others identifying with our own. This is nourishing, redemptive; we become less alone inside. It might just be that simple."*

    *Others, like Neil Gaiman have also described fiction in terms of creating empathy:

    "The second thing fiction does is to build empathy. When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things happening to other people. Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world and people it and look out through other eyes. You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You're being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you're going to be slightly changed."

    Wednesday, July 16, 2014

    Stolen Lines - Of Wistful Hopefulness

    If it comes out of your soul like a rocket.

    Burn it out to the end.

     I forget the rest. . .

    Ah yes . . .

    Everything will be okay in the end.
    And if its not okay, its not the end.

    Friday, July 11, 2014

    Anais Nin, On Writing and Growing

    OK.  A few more quotes and such to fill this pause, before I get back to the business of writing.

    I came across this quote today in an article about the difference between our conception of what our future will be and the reality of what our future is when it arrives*:

    We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another, unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.

                                                                                       - Anais Nin

    She also has so many wonderful nuggests on love, life, and also on writing:

    * My favorite thought, after reading that article: We're all like Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future, holding that Polaroid picture. The one with the future versions of the people we love fading away because of the steps we take or don't take in our present or our past.  Except, its each of us in the picture. And we have to take action in the present to keep ourselves from disappearing in our own futures. . .

    Saturday, July 5, 2014

    Anthony Trollope - On Poetry (Dedicated to My Uncle Jack)

    "In this world things are beautiful only because they are not quite seen, or not perfectly understood. Poetry is precious chiefly because it suggests more than it declares."

                                                                                            - Anthony Trollope

    Storytelling: Why We Write

    Below is an excerpt from Neil Gaiman's acceptance speech for winning the Newbury Award for The Graveyard Book.

    I've admired Gaiman from afar, through quotes and tidbits, for quite some time.

    It's time to start reading.
    It's time to start telling new stories.


    More...from the same speech:

    "I've been writing now for a quarter of a century.

    When people tell me that my stories helped them through the death of a loved one--a child, perhaps, or a parent--or helped them cope with a disease, or a personal tragedy; or when they tell me that my tales made them become readers, or gave them a career; when they show me images or words from my books tattooed on their skin as monuments or memorials to moments that were so important to them they needed to take them with them everywhere ... when these things have happened, as they have, over and over, my tendency is to be polite and grateful, but ultimately to dismiss them as irrelevant.

    I did not write the stories to get people through the hard places and the difficult times. I didn't write them to make readers of nonreaders. I wrote them because I was interested in the stories, because there was a maggot in my head, a small squirming idea I needed to pin to the paper and inspect, in order to find out what I thought and felt about it. I wrote them because I wanted to find out what happened next to people I had made up. I wrote them to feed my family.

    So I felt almost dishonorable accepting people's thanks. I had forgotten what fiction was to me as a boy, forgotten what it was like in the library: fiction was an escape from the intolerable, a doorway into impossibly hospitable worlds where things had rules and could be understood; stories had been a way of learning about life without experiencing it, or perhaps of experiencing it as an eighteenth-century poisoner dealt with poisons, taking them in tiny doses, such that the poisoner could cope with ingesting things that would kill someone who was not inured to them. Sometimes fiction is a way of coping with the poison of the world in a way that lets us survive it.

    And I remembered. I would not be the person I am without the authors who made me what I am--the special ones, the wise ones, sometimes just the ones who got there first.

    It's not irrelevant, those moments of connection, those places where fiction saves your life. It's the most important thing there is.

    I was, as I said, twenty-five years old, and I had an idea for a book and I knew it was a real one.

    I tried writing it, and realized that it was a better idea than I was a writer. So I kept writing, but I wrote other things, learning my craft. I wrote for twenty years until I thought that I could write The Graveyard Book--or at least, that I was getting no better.
    I wanted the book to be composed of short stories, because. The Jungle Book was short stories. And I wanted it to be a novel, because it was a novel in my head. The tension between those two things was both a delight and a heartache as a writer.

    I wrote it as best I could. That's the only way I know how to write something. It doesn't mean it's going to be any good. It just means you try. And, most of all, I wrote the story that I wanted to read.
    It took me too long to begin, and it took me too long to finish. And then, one night in February, I was writing the last two pages.

    In the first chapter I had written a doggerel poem and left the last two lines unfinished. Now it was time to finish it, to write the last two lines.

    So I did. The poem, I learned, ended:

    Face your life
    Its pain, its pleasure,
    Leave no path untaken.
    And my eyes stung, momentarily. It was then, and only then, that I saw clearly for the first time what I was writing. I had set out to write a book about a childhood it was Bod's childhood, and it was in a graveyard, but still, it was a childhood like any other; I was now writing about being a parent, and the fundamental most comical tragedy of parenthood: that if you do your job properly, if you, as a parent, raise your children well, they won't need you anymore. If you did it properly, they go away. And they have lives and they have families and they have futures.
    I sat at the bottom of the garden, and I wrote the last page of my book, and I knew that I had written a book that was better than the one I had set out to write. Possibly a book better than I am.
    You cannot plan for that. Sometimes you work as hard as you can on something, and still the cake does not rise. Sometimes the cake is better than you had ever dreamed.
    And then, whether the work was good or bad, whether it did what you hoped or it failed, as a writer you shrug, and you go on to the next thing, whatever the next thing is.
    That's what we do."

    Friday, July 4, 2014

    Who Needs Books Anyway?

    "Some people might tell you that books are no longer necessary now that we have the internet. Don’t believe them. Books help us know other people, know how the world works, and, in the process, know ourselves more deeply in a way that has nothing to with what you read them on and everything to do with the curiosity, integrity and creative restlessness you bring to them.

    Books build bridges to the lives of others, both the characters in them and your countless fellow readers across other lands and other eras, and in doing so elevate you and anchor you more solidly into your own life. They give you a telescope into the minds of others, through which you begin to see with ever greater clarity the starscape of your own mind.

    And though the body and form of the book will continue to evolve, its heart and soul never will. Though the telescope might change, the cosmic truths it invites you to peer into remain eternal like the Universe."

                                                                      -- Maria Popova, Does My Goldfish Know Who I Am?

    Winter Songs in Summer

    "This is my winter song to you.
    The storm is coming soon,
    it rolls in from the sea.

    My voice a beacon in the night.
    My words will be your light,
    to carry you to me. . . .

    I still believe in summer days.
    The seasons always change
    and life will find a way."

                                   -- Winter Song, Sara Bareilles

    Post Storm v.3

    The wet heat presses against us.
    And a charged blackness, darker than night, oozes across the sky.

    The clouds wrap us up, and hold us underwater.
    Breathless and panicked, our eyes go wide.

    But afterwards, sunlight.
    Afterwards, there is an afterwards.

    Post Storm v.2

    The damp heat presses down and envelops us.

    Electric whips singe the clouds that swirl through the night sky.

    The darkness tumbles and spreads.

    But afterwards.
    The sunshine survived.

    Afterwards, there was an afterwards.


    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

    Post Storm

       Lightning lashes out in electric strokes.
       Clouds swirl over dark skies.
       The damp heat presses downward. It envelops.
                                         . . .

       Afterwards, there was an afterwards.

       (The sunshine survived.)

    One of Those Days

    "Some days are dry, some days are leaky
    Some days come clean, other days are sneaky.
    Some days take less, but most days take more
    Some slip through your fingers and on to the floor.
    Some days you're quick, but most days you're speedy
    Some days you use more force than is necessary.
    Some days just drop in on us.
    Some days are better than others.
    Some days it all adds up
    And what you've got is enough.
    Some days are better than others."

                                                  -- Some Days Are Better Than Others, U2