Saturday, January 30, 2010

sync in progress

So weird I've been having John Martyn songs pop into my head the past couple days and I just checked and he died a year ago yesterday. Such a talent. Adding a couple of his songs to the iPotty today. This video is nothing special, but "Fine Lines" is a great song.

I think I said this a year ago, but when I was in China in the late 80's, someone left behind a cassette tape of John Martyn, but without any song list or identification. I had no idea who the artist was. But since "May You Never" was on it, I was able years later -through the miracle of google- to find out. Of course, I thought John Martyn was covering Eric Clapton, not the other way around.

(Thanks for reminding me, Bob.)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Why would anyone even try to follow "a train of thought?" Trains move fast. You couldn’t chase after it on foot. You’d need a car, although there’s probably no road alongside, so you’d need a horse, and a pretty quick one.

Doesn’t it seem like the expression would be better as “a trail of thought” or “a track of thought?” More doable and probably more interesting, too. If you see animal tracks in the snow, it makes you want to follow them, right? Which animal is it? Where does it live? Even if it’s a bird and doesn’t live on the ground, it’s still a treat to see the scrawl and imagine the hop.

But a train. I do like to see trains go by. If it's a subway train, sometimes I cover my ears.
Still, you shouldn’t follow a train, you should get on it.

Maybe the expression should be “I am on your train of thought.”
“I am comfortably seated on your train of thought.”
“Riding on your train of thought, I can see the mountains!”

Monday, January 25, 2010

Are You Experienced

When my step-brother Shane was little, one day he claimed the Jimi Hendrix song Purple Haze was his favorite song. He must have been about seven. The rest of us kids, a couple of years or so older, made sure to remind him that he had never actually heard Purple Haze. Still, Shane was very firm about it. Even so, he said, Purple Haze was his favorite song, and he was sure hearing it would only confirm that.

We had a good snicker about that. Poor Shane, what a dope!

And yet over the years I’ve also suffered from Purple Haze syndrome. Even before I’ve read a book, I’m sure it’s going to be essential. Or I hear of a poet I’ve yet to read, and I’m sure they’re about to become my favorite poet. Or a restaurant I’ve never been to, a dish I’ve never eaten, a song I’ve never heard. A career, a country, a movie, a moisturizer.

I think I’ve only ever been disappointed.

And that’s why the Purple Haze phenomenon is important.

It’s the hope, stupid.

Friday, January 22, 2010

red reminds me

Some books I ordered came today, finagling a positive end to what wasn’t a great week.

WS Merwin’s The Shadow of Sirius
Robert Shearman’s Tiny Deaths
Maurice Manning’s A Companion for Owls
Maurice Manning’s Lawrence Booth’s Book of Visions
Georges Bernanos’s The Diary of a Country Priest
Chris Bechelder’s Bear v. Shark
Laynie Browne’s The Scented Fox
Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian

A couple of these are true whim purchases. For instance I knew exactly nothing about Tiny Deaths and Bear v. Shark before I saw them lauded somewhere and spontaneously decided they’d save my life. (My mother got me an Amazon gift certificate for my birthday late last year – still $24 to use up...)

On the other hand, I’ve been waiting to get a copy of Lawrence Booth’s Book of Visions, and what do you know but whoever it was that the poet gave this book to as a gift (the Mims? - the handwriting is not clear), it now belongs to me with Manning’s signature in the front cover.

“To Ted and Sandra Mims,
With appreciation,
Maurice Manning
March 5, 2004.”

This is the third time I got lucky with a signed copy in an online used book transaction. The others were an Elaine Equi book, and the novel The Art Lover by Carole Maso. This is another reason to love used books - you never know what you'll find inside. A bookmark. Old opera tickets. A profession of love. Some helpful thing.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

To God

"If you have formed a circle to go into,
Go into it yourself and see how you would do."

William Blake

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

winter morning misanthropy

Our snow is gone, which is sad. Our slush is also gone, which is good. Not gone are those tiny pebbles they throw on the sidewalk to keep folks from slipping. These are legion, and mostly stuck in people’s shoes where they scratch across the floor of the subway car when the lazy shuffle in, just to annoy me.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

let's spit on what we loved

The ReadWritePoem tour stops at Jill Crammond Wickham's blog, where there's a very kind review of my chapbook. Thank you! There have been a couple other reviews as part of the tour recently, which you can also read here and here. I appreciate ReadWritePoem's arranging the virtual tour. A lot.

Speaking of ReadWritePoem , this week they're talking about knock-out first lines of poems. I did something similar last year for first lines of novels, but the first line of a poem is even more important. I chimed in with mine, but here's a fuller list, which I may add to.

"My chest wants and does not want its color" Cesar Vallejo - untitled poem

"How much 14 there has been in existence!" Cesar Vallejo's Anniversary

"At last you are weary of this ancient world" Guillaume Apollinaire's Zone

"My love is building a building" ee cummings

"supposing i dreamed this)" ee cummings

"When I went out to kill myself, I caught / a pack of hoodlums beating up a man" James Wright's Saint Judas

"The whole town has come into my room" Philippe Soupault's Horizon

"Brave as a postage stamp" Philippe Soupault's Sporting Goods

"You do not do, you do not do / Anymore black shoe." Sylvia Plath's Daddy

"Let's spit the two of us let's spit / on what we loved" Louis Aragon's Poem to Shout in the Ruins

"Sky of a hanged man, is it going to rain" Benjamin Péret's Song in the Time of Drought

"Since you ask, most days I cannot remember" Anne Sexton's Waiting to Die

"I want the water to go on without its bed" Lorca's Ghazal of the Terrifying Presence

Please chime in if you have a favorite first line(s).

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Aloft and found

I find the department store ladies who want to spritz you with perfume menacing. Sometimes they don’t wait for you to say yes or no, they just start squirting. These ladies are required to be very made-up and lipsticked, and wear high heels. They’re scary. And armed with something potentially awful.

I don’t spritz perfume directly on my skin. I spray it in front of me and dash through the mist. I call this the lion-through-the-hoop method of perfumery. Subtle, no? Sometimes I spray it straight up towards the ceiling, close my eyes and let it fall on me. I haven’t got a name for this. My husband laughs. Apparently there’s a joke about the Italian police doing the same thing. I don’t get this joke.

My perfume is Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue. I like pretty much all the Guerlains, in fact, but there’s gluttony to think about. Today at the store I spritzed myself with Mitsouko, a fragrance that reminds me of almonds crushed in warm milk. I think that’s what it is. I could concoct it at home. Ignore all that talk about bergamot and oakmoss.

Another scent I like is garlic being sautéed in oil. And gasoline. Bacon. Cake baking. Campfire. Marijuana, too, though I abstain. Also the smell of those mimeographs that have become obsolete.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

now you try

I tried lying on my back, but sleep would not have me.
I tried fetal position, left side, then right, but sleep would not have me.
I tried sleeping on my stomach with my right foot dangling off the bed, but sleep was not buying.
I tried the pharmacopoeia nesting snug under the childproof, but sleep was not fooled.
I tried holding my arms & legs in the air until they were exhausted. No go.
I tried feng shui brain,
yoga brain,
rack and pinion brain,
and brain of the fat shambling Buddha.
I tried breathing through my mouth.
I tried not breathing.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Whenever I get a wall calendar or shop for one, among the first things I do is to look at November. Because my birthday is in November. The November page contains an important message. If it’s a calendar with dogs, what breed of dog will be on the November page? If it’s a Paul Klee calendar, which painting will it be? Which flower, which skyscraper, which optical illusion? Which drink recipe, which Gee’s Bend quilt? It’s not that finding out what's on November is going to make or break the calendar deal for me. The essential deal is already made. The page is going to reveal something to me about myself. Something immutable. I have complete trust in the calendar. It is omen, astrologist, and psychoanalyst.

(quilts are here)

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Ground Shadow

I’m going out with the storm cloud.
I’m leaving now, staunched in gauze,
clotted with vapor and rain.
I cruise the chewed edge of the pothole
then drop from the foot of the wren.
There is no stay. What does it matter?
What on earth doesn’t end up in tatters?
I’m going to fall hard and get up again.

Friday, January 08, 2010


It was my turn to hold the remote. This was more difficult than it sounds, the remote being a cool and elusive thing, often hard to grasp. But there is lay in my palm, jabbering.

“I think your toast is burning,” I said to my husband.

We’d spent so much time quarrelling over the remote. He said I was too rough with it. I hated the way he held it, with his sweaty palms.

Worst was the time he sat down on it, which sent the room spinning.

He quit the room, leaving me in control, if only from the look of things, since what the remote offers isn’t really control, but manipulation. Because it’s what the remote conjures that has the controlling hand, proven simply by how much we want to hold it.

Sometimes I put such a tight grip on the remote that the buttons jam. It’s as if the battery’s dead, and I’m stuck in place.

It happened when my husband went to check his toast, leaving me husbandless, just as I was in the long-ago, and might remain, suspended, into far-off future.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

in which I am ravished by wolves

I’ve got two poems in the new issue of DMQ Review This Was My New England and Quite at Home, a cento. I’m pleased with both of these poems and think this is a really good issue of DMQ. The artwork is terrific – bold and a little folky.

Concerning a recent bit of criticism that my poems don’t touch relationships, I can only say that indeed many of my poems spring from solitude and often focus on the ordinary everyday, including a whole series of poems I’m forever at work on about household objects, including the whisk, the toaster, and bad toothbrushes.

If you want tear-jerkers I must beg you to look elsewhere, but that my poems ignore human relationships isn’t true. Take My New England, for example – what is the poem about if not a disappointing love affair? Why would someone flee for Canada, to escape foliage season?

Other poems of mine that deal with emotions and relationships, for easy reference:
The thin line between pain and ecstasy!
Human stupidity!
Sibling rivalry!
Relentless despair!
Grandmother elegy!
Desire and loneliness!
Optimism amidst adversity!
Another failed relationship!

Shit, I could put together a whole book of gush.

Monday, January 04, 2010

museum shop

For spirituality, you can get the Mark Rothko gravelike placemats and magnetic 15th Century Buddha bookmarks. For sensuality, there’s the Egon Schiele masturbatory silk throw pillow and Henry Moore bulging salt-n-peppah shakers. The practical among us go for the William Morris Poverty-Proof Tote Bag, which eternally belches the smell of new plastic. And you can get a Tiffany scarf, the very last word in really good, bad taste. Or luggage tags picturing Hokusai’s "Great Wave," the last word in really bad, good taste. I particularly like the “Flight into Egypt” holiday cards, now 75% off. The Babylonian Carnelian multi-bead necklace that was $148 is now a bargain at $97.87 for members. Maybe you’d like to become a member? What better reasons than the deep discounts and show of deep cultivation? It’s almost embarrassing, how high class you can be. Who would have thought it possible? What a grip the museum shop has on sophisticated visitors! Some people never get past it.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

K'ang Keaw Wayn Gai

Today I read this sentence in a poem and it struck me funny: I can be had.

“Had” used in this way for me implied “purchased,” as in “the gigolo can be had for $60.” But “being had” also means “was able to be fooled,” as in the revelatory buyer’s remorse epitaph “We’ve been had!”

I think the weird part about this usage is the having seems transitory, like you’re “had” and then you’re let go, mostly because the “had” seems so past tense. But in fact it’s the perfect participle, the equivalent of “you’ve been eaten,” “it has snown,” “the oats were chewn.” You know.

I think one of the stupidest set phrases I know is “Fun was had by all,” or as the British say, "Fun has been had by all."

And so 2009 was also had. Fun was had, anger was had, gladness, regret, the gigolo, the flu and item #43 on the menu at the Thai restaurant with dishes I can't otherwise pronounce.

And, while on the subject of stuff had and abandoned, on New Year’s eve we went to a party where folks re-gifted their unwanted Christmas presents. I took along a pair of duplicate pajamas. (I’d gotten the same ones last year.) And I received a super anonymous soccer trophy! Miles got a huge paper-maché purple rabbit. Carlo got a black plastic desktop pencil organizer and Luisa got junk sunglasses.

The year that was. I think my accomplishment of 2009 was I finally had a poem accepted that had been rejected by 33 different publications. Most sane people would give up, and I’ve given up and put poems aside before in the face of lesser humiliations. But I really like this particular poem and had some trouble understanding why it needed counseling. What I finally did was change the title, and believe it or not I think that was the hitch.
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