Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Very Good Explanation

I'm working myself up to posting something substantial. For now, this gem from the start of Alberto Rios' "Don Gustavo, Who Had a Hand for an Ear":

One sees the world differently from the rooftops of a town. The people are a little smaller, with bigger heads and smaller feet. One looks down onto the tops of trees and bushes. A small horse is like a large dog, a dog is like an awkward cat, and a white cat is like a comet or a falling star, only sideways, along the darkness of the street.

On a rooftop the air is colder, and the sound of people's talking is indistinct, no different from the turning handle on a meat grinder or the loading and unloading of boxes from a delivery truck. A woman's sharp laugh is a bicycle bell, but from up on the rooftop you yourself had better not laugh.

It might be all right if one has business on the roof--if one is, say, installing a new cooler or fixing tiles. Then a laugh heard by a woman on the street seems like no more noise than a mosquito flying by. But if your business is something else, the mosquito bites, and the lady points and yells. And there's never a very good explanation.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Check out the new Anti-

Once again in excellent company, I have work in issue #5 of Anti-, which you can find here.

The work in Anti- is always top-notch, but I do have to say I often return just to read the "Anti-thesis" for each poet.

Happy solstice, dear reader. Here's to longer days!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Post In Which It Never Occurs To Writer To Mention Tiger Woods

Jesus on Toast: the Pareidolia

A few years ago a friend got me one of those plastic cookie-cutter things that make Jesus imprints on toast. This was after a long conversation of pareidolia, something I’ve been captivated by since I was a small child.

As a child my brother and I did not much go to church. Sometime in middle childhood (I think I was seven or eight and my brother was ten) my mother gave us the option of going to church or not going to church anymore. I don’t remember whether my mother ever went with us to church the few times we did go, but I don't think so. We were either Episcopalian or Methodist. Methodist, I think.

No, definitely Methodist.

I have a memory of my mother dropping my brother and I off in front of the church, then an older woman scuttling us into some basement for lessons on God. But maybe it just felt like abandonment and she really was up there somewhere above, listening with the other believers to the organ buzz vibrating the walls.

My brother and I were thoughtful children. When given the option we didn’t answer right away. I remember a few moments huddled in his room, the dog and us in a trinity of thought, before emerging and letting mother know that, no, we didn’t think we wanted to go anymore.

As a result of this The Bible has always been my weak category on Jeopardy.

As a result of this I started seeing Jesus everywhere. I was convinced the face of Jesus watched me while I slept from the back of my bedroom door. With dark knots for eyes and a beard shaped by dendrochronology, he watched while I slept.

I saw Jesus in the popcorn ceiling over the stairs. In oil stains in our garage. In patterns of leaves at the side of the road. And in clouds, especially in clouds.

In my bedroom in high school, I was persuaded to make a move on my best (girl) friend by the fact that the bare branches of the tree outside my window spelled love. This I noticed for the first time while we sat on my floor talking about U2 and REM and Losing My Religion,

Consider this
The slip that brought me
To my knees failed
What if all these fantasies
Come flailing around
Now I've said too much

and never stopped seeing until the leaves returned to the trees.

I never once thought being gay was like being straight. Not once did I underestimate the anxiety of letting on I liked a girl. I knew what it was to like a boy. The tremors that came with this were nothing like the earth-shattering and possible brain-bashing of liking a girl.

Sarah was religious. She was born-again, evangelical. If at 17 I’d had any idea what these things meant, I probably would have kept my distance.

She played golf, she played drums, her family read from the Bible every night, sometimes her mother spoke in tongues. When I had dinner there, I too read from the Bible, but the words meant nothing to me.

This isn’t where I meant to go with this. In short, it all worked out. I mean, for a little while. There was violence (though not between us), there was excitement of subterfuge, the shock of revealing our relationship to a handful of people. Of course she wasn’t gay then; it was just about me.

I don't know which will go first - rock 'n' roll or Christianity. –John Lennon

Under directions from her mother, Sarah’s brother buried her CDs next to the creek behind their house. Her mother went in and out of thinking all music that didn't exalt Christ was created by the hands of the devil.

It took a few weeks before she found the CDs again, covers wilted and stuck together with the ground’s perspiration.

The year before I met Sarah, I was hanging out a lot with Ali. It wasn’t the same kind of adoration (deeply into hairspray and lipstick, oh, and boys, I never would have tried anything on her), but we were close. Her parents were my parents briefly, I too hated her brother, that kind of thing. I don’t remember why she had friends in Youngstown, but there was a party and I went along. I remember somebody’s kitchen, the linoleum especially. I spent some time drunk on that yellow tile.

There was plenty of alcohol. There was the standard pairings of one girl and one boy making out here and there. And the girls who weren’t latched to a boy seemed to be aching for it. At this point I’d done nothing about my affection for girls. I had had a boyfriend the year before whose best friend (a girl) had kissed me, but that was all.

Let’s call the girl at this party Maggie. When we got there, Maggie was strumming a guitar in the kitchen. She did not look up, she did not say hello. Her dark hair fell over her face. I had no idea what she looked like except for her hands, which gnarled out to pluck at the notes, but were lovely when ever they paused.

The end of the night would find Maggie and I curled up in some strange bedroom, the door locked and all of the furniture against it.

In the kitchen she played a Beatles song. I said I shared my birthday with George Harrison, a bit of trivia I liked to share. George Harrison and Pele (I used to play soccer, a lot). I knew George was the ‘lesser’ Beatle. John was the best for his glasses and early death. Paul came in second for song-writing. Ringo, by pure virtue of a cool name kept him firmly not-in-last. But George was better than nothing. “Oh, really,” she looked up. Blue eyes, beautiful. In that instant I knew I would always favor girls with blue eyes. “I share my birthday with John.”

Sometimes with Butter

I like toast. A lot. Breakfast, if I have it, is usually a piece of toast and a few swallows of orange juice. Always the same kind of bread. Always the same brand of orange juice. It’s been this way for years.

Friday the man was coming to look at our furnace, to make sure we weren’t poisoning ourselves. I’ve been smelling a smell whenever the heat’s on. C doesn’t notice it at all.

We have the ritual now of coming home to me saying, “There. How about now? Can you smell that?” It makes my throat burn. “No, but we can call someone.”

We have finally called someone and I’m waiting for him to show up. Between 8 and noon; it’s a busy time of year. I want toast, but I don’t make it. Toast smells good and I’ve cranked up the heat in the hopes that the burly, dirty man who shows will smell the same terribleness that I do.

I’m starving. I could have some Grape Nuts, but it’s not what I want. I’m making tiramisu for a holiday party on Saturday. I forget and brew a new pot of double-strong coffee to dip the ladyfingers in.

Gary shows up and I ask him, “what do you smell?” “Coffee,” he says. “And rum.”

Telling Them Stories

At the local coffee shop a new artist has put their work up. The photographs aren’t bad, but there’s some tacky plaque up that I misread at first.

I don’t have children, yet. But in my dreams I’m telling them stories.

I read this as in my dreams I’m selling them.

Perhaps it’s best I don’t have kids.

Mexico’s Futurism

I want to talk about Stridentism, but maybe not today.

Absinthe, the Poet’s Third Eye

I want to talk more about Rimbaud. And the concept of potential, realized and unrealized, and what that means. If somewhere in the universe floats all the books he never wrote. The books Bolano didn’t write. All the artists who died young.

I want to talk about playing board games and about Christmas trees. How my grandmother never let me win Scrabble, and what that means to my competitiveness.

C and I don't go out a lot. Like most cozy couples with nothing to prove, we often prefer Lost on DVD and hanging out with cats to real socializing. Between Garth and Pierre's holiday extravaganza and game night at Debra and Cata's, it was a busy Saturday. I learned Rummikub, which I'm probably spelling wrong, and of which I've discovered one can play at many different levels of comprehension. I'm sure I played at one of the lower levels. But it's also got more to do with luck than I'm generally looking for in a good rousing game. All in all, a good time was had.

At Garth and Pierre's party, we really couldn't help staring at the tree. Get two talented artists and combine two and a half decades of gathered ornaments and a love of detail and you've got something that really shines. Blindingly so. For a few minutes I actually considered convincing C that we too needed to put up a tree.

Having another commitment, we didn't stay nearly as long as I would have liked. Hopefully we'll see them again soon.

On the Bookshelf

I’m currently reading Kathleen Rooney’s For You, For You I am Trilling These Songs, Lorrie Moore's Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? (from a writer I adore, not one of her best, but still worth a read), Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. I’m taking a break from reading poetry. I won't go into why, but it has to do with this:

There’s Something to be Said for Chronology

So I wrote this novel. I haven’t sent it very many places, and have gotten excellent “not quite”s every time time, several close calls from very nice presses. And have had in the back of my mind that I need to get back to it. To mold it around some central emotion. I mean, it has that. But more. Make it more while making less. You know. What you Do.

I took a year to write it, two more to revise it and revise and revise and revise. Looked at it more the way a poet would a poetry manuscript. The rearranging of parts. Like a mix-tape. It’s composed of short sections.

Revised for two years. Every day. Then couldn’t think about it for more than two years. I wanted my character crazy. Unable to trust and untrustable. Unlodged in time, omniscient. Reaching into minds the way you once feared your mother could.

So I’ve gone back to it now, though a few places are still looking at it.

The characters have begun obsessing me again. In that unhealthy way that I can’t take a shower without them. That I find them tying my shoes, steering the car, throwing the ball for my dog. Like bodysnatchers, they take over sometimes.

But I’m finding it hard to re-read when I’ve already read the 500 pages so many times. So instead I’m recreating the book from the sum of its parts. Developing Re-versions, if you will. One will hold to strict chronology. This isn’t something I’m used to. I don’t believe we live this way, all at once moving forward.

I know what Time really looks like, and it’s got more than two hands.

Anyway, I’m in love with it again. This I have needed.

Sometimes I Think Maybe Everything That Needs to be Said Might Be Communicated with Cumulous Cloud Formations

I don’t really think I see Jesus anywhere. I’ve never believed in the sightings, except that first one on my bedroom door.

It’s all about patterns. I know this. And focus. About staring at a wall long enough for Jesus to come looking for you. For words to emerge. Military formations. Constellations. A little bit of butter on a thin slice of bread.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sharon Stone and a Bag Full of Books

I’ve been neglecting this blog. I’m a bad blogger. Honestly I blame it on a) living, b) the damn cold (how can I blog if my fingers are freezing?), and c) books.

I recently thought about re-reading The Savage Detectives. I liked that book so much and I’m putting off reading some of Bolano’s others (the few I have left). I really wish he wasn’t dead. Anyway, instead of rereading, I ended up flipping through and looking at the notes I had made while I read it the first time. And reading a few reviews of it online. It's funny to me that several reviews didn't actually get past the first 150 pages. I wouldn't have any idea anything about the book if I'd only read that much. Anyway, I don’t know why I write notes. I have no papers to write, don’t belong to a book club, and I haven’t written a review in a long time. God, what a book. Anyway, you should read it.

Also distracting me from blogging this week: Lily Hoang’s Parabola, Ayn Rand’s Anthem, and Arthur Rimbaud, who I’m currently in love with. I’m reading/rereading/gorging myself on A Season in Hell like it’s a Thanksgiving turkey. Parabola is also a force to be reckoned with. Stretching the definition of “novel” to a nearly unrecognizable form, this book is entertaining like nothing I’ve come across. The book wants me to figure out who I am. Or at least that’s what I think the tests are for. I’m closer, anyway. I might be a De-Constructor or a Doer. Also, a Sadist. Generally also anytime a writer wants to throw science in, I’m pretty delighted. If you need a book to shake you up a bit, to look at your own work a little differently, this is a good place to start.

And Anthem? Well, I don’t think Rand writes anything that isn’t one. The scope is always larger than the pages in your hands. For some reason this slim allegorical tale makes me want to try my hand at filmmaking. Maybe it’s just the image of the light in the tunnel, maybe the glass house on the hill. Ah, collectivism. Perhaps I’ll get a group together to make the film. (No I won’t.)


This week also saw me on the road. I can be fussy on the road, but this was mostly a good time. Carol and I read in Portland with Emily Kendal Frey. Like I’d special-ordered it, Emily read Airport, which you can find here: http://issuu.com/bluehourpress/docs/airport.

I read some of the new conspiracies, and also from Money for Sunsets. Carol, in my opinion, did not read nearly long enough. Also, she did not read the poem about the girl in the photograph with a plastic gun. I will make her bend to my will on this soon.


The Democracy of Bad Food

When I travel I eat a lot. Every coffee is a soy latte (which I never get at home, too candy-like), four dollars for a drink seems like nothing when you're moving at rapid rates of speed, when you're away from and feel you'll never get home. I eat on the road. My favorites: Subway sandwiches, waxen chocolate Donettes, fruit leather, scratch-off lottery tickets.

On Wednesday we did not take the train. Instead of the 8am departure, I walked the dog in the morning, walked the little lady to the yoga, cleaned house, packed the car, rolled around on the (newly cleaned) floor with the dogs, picked the little lady up from yoga, all her duds in the trunk and ready to go. On the way we stopped at the Mount Vernon co-op, a half hour south of Bellingham, oh land of richly organic produce and fantastic prepared foods. The sandwich I got tasted like soap. Or rather, the first bite with cucumber and pepperjack cheese tasted like soap. The turkey was smoked and not what I asked for. And every bite I was waiting for soap. I ate half the sandwich, not good for me (I'm an eater) and all of a great big Snickerdoodle to rid myself of the memory of (what I thought was) goddamn soap. Cookie for lunch=excellent start to any trip.

In Portland, I did not ask where the Indian restaurant was. I was a little turned around, but I knew there was a really good place close by that I'd been to before. We walked a few blocks, it was cold. Or, I should say, C was cold. So we picked a nice-looking Thai place. The boys working there were nice, it was clean, they gave us water, smiles, got tipped well. Back in the room, hotel towels for napkins, bad TV going, we ate Thai food that tasted like paper towels. I ate just to feel the texture, then scraped all the peanuts off the top and nibbled on those. Then had a great big chocolate chip cookie. Peanuts and cookie for dinner=excellent continuation of trend. I also had a soda, which I never have. Thank you traveling belly.

In the morning (starved), I had bad coffee at the corner coffee shop and a tasteless and stale croissant. Back in the room, cozy and showered, I spied something with baguettes in the window on the next block and had the best salad I've had all week. Okay, the only salad, but it was good. Walnuts and apples and bleu cheese. Lettuce, too.

Dinner was a pizza delivered by an uncool boy with a bad faux hawk. The pizza was cold-ish, but excellent. I also had a soda, drank directly from a two-liter bottle C wanted nothing to do with. In the morning I had another piece and got all the way to Everett before I was hungry again (more than two-hundred miles). Had a Subway sandwich, the bread of which tasted ridiculously sweet. They put sugar in that? Seriously? I picked the nine grain. What does that mean to them? Is sugar the ninth grain? Then C cooked vegetables when we got home, though I went to happy hour and Art Walk and didn't get home until 8 (much earlier than I should have, tired, tired, for Art Walk). Ah, vegetables.

I made soup last night.

And How the City Could Have Failed Us

The drive down was peaceful, easy. The last few times I've taken the train because the last few times before that it's taken me, respectively, 10 hours to get to Portland, 10 hours to get to Monmouth, 6 hours to get to Oly. It was that last trip to Oly (only 140 miles) that made me give up on driving. Portland should take 5-6 hours; Olympia, 3 with bad traffic. This time it took 5 hours to get to the Fremont Bridge in Portland. It's the bridge you take just after you get onto 405 and is the second-longest tied arch bridge in the world (I like reading about bridges; I do not like driving on them).


My mother used to joke that she'd close her eyes while she drove over bridges. I don't do this. I open windows. You know, just in case I end up in the water. I don't want to die all boxed in and watching water.

We hit traffic, bad traffic. Enough to sit on the bridge for nearly an hour, feeling the breeze and the tremble from the weight of traffic. I understand about failure factors and how most bridges are constructed with a factor of at least 7, weight-wise. I should be calmed, but I'm not. I've seen far too many videos about bridge failures to want to be one of the cars that feels the weight give away, hear the whine of metal and the thundersnap of everything going wrong. I don't panic while driving over them. I panic while sitting still on them. C rolled down the window. It was bone cold and I rolled them up again. "But," she said. I said, "I know, but at this height it would be like hitting concrete; there's no way we'd survive the impact. I'm not at all worried about the water."

The drive back, even with all our stops only took us 5 hours. I have faith in traffic again.

Boys Who Look Like

Jay Farrar hasn't aged. I went to see Son Volt night before last, kind of with Oliver and Meredith, kind of by myself because C didn't want to go. I never saw Uncle Tupelo because I only knew about them after they broke up. Some people followed one second marriage (Wilco), some followed the other (Son Volt); I've always liked both for different reasons. I think they were stronger together still. Anodyne is a genius album. No Depression too. Neither Wilco nor Son Volt have (in my mind) achieved this kind of greatness.

Jay Farrar had a bandaid over the bridge of his nose, a little tummy, and a spot of grey in the scruff of his facial hair. Other than that, he looks exactly as he did when I first saw him in 1996.

The lead guitarist was strangely attractive to me. I haven't looked him up, he's nobody I recognized. Younger than, probably 30. I had a sudden thought that he was probably good in bed. And maybe why the woman next to me never took her eyes off his tremolo-ing hands.

Sera Cahoone opened. Not my type, and her stage presence didn't add anything to the music, so I hung back and talked while she played. I liked the music though.

The boy at the Mac store yesterday also had a huge gash on the bridge of his nose. A theme. He was blonde in that way that made me think of all the boys in Salt Lake City I saw the first time I ever went there. Blonde boys at the gas station pumping gas. Blonde boys pouring Slushees. Blonde boys holding the hands of their blonde children, crossing streets.


At a coffee shop before the reading Thursday night, the barista reminded me so much of B I almost missed her. The good B. The quick wit and innocently seductive way of moving. The one that didn't ultimately hate me. But really, I suppose all incarnations would have disliked me eventually.

I bought a pastry from her, just to go up to the counter again.

A Son Volt standard:

The Biggest Fan

If I'd been on stage I would have been terrified of him. I don't think there was anything wrong with him, he was just really into the show. He looked like somebody's dad who had just been let out for the night after a rough few weeks locked in a house where no one talked about anything but female issues. Balding, short hair rimming the shiny pate, a straight-man's jacket, ill-fitted jeans (everybody has jeans that will fit them right, but hardly anybody wears them), a polo shirt. Maybe he was drunk. Right up against the low stage. The stage is elevated only about a foot and a half higher than the rest of the crowd. One good step and anyone could be up there with little effort. The man rocked out, hands alternately in his pockets, alternately cupped to the back of his head (as in, oh-my-god-i-can't-believe-it's-really-them?), lots of movement from the upper torso, lots of singing along. People around him had to stand back. Seriously. By half way through the show he probably had an equal audience to the band. I could see the guys in the band look at him from time to time, never laughing the way the fools in the crowd did, probably waiting for the inevitably gun or knife or broken bottle to come at them. We live in crazy times. This man looked the part.

The Dirt of Powell's and Other Bookstores

Looking Glass Books actually had a surprisingly good collection. Lots of stuff from Dalkey Archive, a press I really admire.

If you look at their website it's a caboose and they say it's much bigger than it looks. It is much bigger than it looks. It's a caboose connected to a house porch closed over, connected to the front of a house, all of which contain walls of books. I didn't buy anything, I was too distracted by talking to people and talking to my wonderful aunts who made the long drive north to see us. C bought a couple of things, right now all I can remember is David Rees’ Get Your War On.


At Powells, everything seemed strangely gritty. Like the front room, mud room of a house will seem in winter. The gravel wants in. I felt it everywhere. But maybe I was just irritated they didn't have everything I wanted. What I did buy: Noy Holland's What Begins With Bird, Lawrence Sutin's When to Go into the Water, Lance Olsen's 10:01, Denise Duhamel's Ka-Ching, Rimbaud's Illuminations (though not the Donald Revell translation I wanted), and Herve Guibert's To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life.

Basic Instinct

I watched this on TV.


The last time I saw it was on a little TV in Mark's room in high school. Neither of us knew the other was gay. I knew that a) Sharon Stone had gone to high school near where we were and that she slept with the whole football team and also my neighbor who went to school with her, and b) that I would sleep with her if I had the chance. Mark and I ate popcorn. And talked loudly enough that his mother told us to shut up; his father had to work early the next day.

It's still a good movie. Sharon Stone is still hot. It occurs to me that I'm probably now about the age she was then. She seemed so old and untouchable. I have little interest in her now.