Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Yahoo! Questions

There is a pain behind my right eye and why do I have a dog? Why couldn’t I have been a man like my neighbor who has his own black lab, an old dog, who’s slow, and would he be willing to trade him for my apeshit spaceship? Golden Lady is my favorite Stevie Wonder song, that’s easy, but why are we still in Iraq? Is atheism normal? Why do people tempt death running out into traffic to catch the train? The trains here run every five minutes. Every five minutes near my house there’s a squirrel that wants to kill me and why is my daughter so nice and so nosy? I have eaten an expired egg. When will I die?

song of the day: golden lady

Monday, March 29, 2010

immediately sheeped

Monday so far has been very very small. Small morning, small mind, small public urinal behind the train station. I think it has to do with the shortening of the Rhine. Tragic, really. The Rhine.

But Saturday was huge. At an exhibition in Bonn, I fell in love with Erwin Wurm. I did everything he asked. I lay down in a public place and thought of nothing. Balanced a bottle of toilet bowl cleaner on my head and thought about digestion. Climbed into a box.

Wurm is the discoverer of one-minute sculptures. You make them with your body, and then relinquish them. It doesn’t have anything to do with Buddhism. That's one in the photo at right. Oranges.

I stopped to write something down in my notebook. (“The house climbed up to the roof and contemplated jumping off.”)

Museum guard: Writing with a pen is not allowed.
Me: What, in the museum?
Him: Yes.
Me: Why not?
Him: Because if ink gets on the artwork, it won’t come off. There are pencils available downstairs at the desk.
Me: And if pencil gets on the artwork, it’s just as bad if you try to erase it.

I know all about the duty to fight stupidity, but I didn’t pursue it. The exhibition, after all, also concerned absurdity. And he wasn’t being a jerk or anything. Still, you’re not allowed that close to the artwork that you could write on it. If I wanted to damage the artwork, I’d bring my gun, which works from far away.

Anyway, Erwin Wurm. Excellent guy.


When the notebook is full it’s like the tolling of a great gong. BONG! it goes, none too lightly. The notebook sits sodden and heavy and warped. The back cover has fallen off, and the pages run on like a long, hairy pair of knit eyebrows. Boy, there’s a lot of crap in there. You could comb through the scrawl, or you could go bury it in the backyard.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

There is something I've been looking for

I feel such hope whenever I walk into a bookshop.
I call this particular hope “Near Eureka.”
Maybe I’ll find the book I’ve been looking for, the book I need.

I don’t know what it’s called or who wrote it or if it’s paperback or hardbound, or if it’s fiction, poetry, art or non-fiction or a big-format book with instructions for building 16 different paper airplanes.

If only I can be attentive enough, I might find it.
It might let me find it.

And that’s why I need time to deep-browse the bookshop, like a cow at pasture.
And that’s why I may end up reading a lot of books.

song of the day: schlummert ein

Thursday, March 25, 2010

spring prints

And now a word from our sponsor!
I have some poems coming out in print journals in the next few weeks.

The annual RHINO will publish two of my homebody poems, two of a bunch of poems I’d like to package in a chapbook. RHINO took Steam and sPonge, the latter being about a kitchen sponge, written in the tradition of the wonderful Francis Ponge, a great observer who has brought many inanimate beings, including the baguette, to life. My sPonge begins –
“The sponge comes like a cut of beef, a vivisection rife with pocks and gulches.”

Barn Owl Review 3, out any day now, will publish Unseen, a backyard poem that starts –
“An airplane slices up Sunday
and why do I have to listen?”

Whiskey Island 57 is publishing two poems, Riding Backwards on the Train and To Long Division. I hate long division, and the nightmare returned when my kids hit fifth grade or so, and still hasn’t ended.

As to riding backwards on the train, I personally don’t mind it, but I notice how many people do mind it, and the poem is written from that point of view. It starts: “It’s not unpleasant: perpetual surprise.”

I ride the train every day and don’t mind it, with the exception of the occasional coffee slurper, cell phone chatterer and multiple seat hog. Mostly I like babies, even crying babies, which drop into my life like a surprise test.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Beneath a lean-to teashop,
an abacus clicks in dialect.

On bikes overloaded with parcels,
millions of black slippers spin
into markets, parks and hovels.

Add or extract a body
and the scene careens in unity.

Coal dust falls like pepper,
sticks like echoes, ink, and the talc
of butterflies considered long extinct.

Squat in a bamboo grove
sits the cottage of Du Fu,

master poet of the T’ang,
who wrote everywhere I go, I owe
money for wine

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

n.(OFr. riote) wild or violent disorder, tumult, uproar

They don't do verbs or adverbs in dictionary illustrations, and I really must object. I remember being 13 or so and just dying to see an illustration of akimbo, which is an adjective AND adverb and a very cool word. It doesn't seem that hard to depict.

I imagine pinch, point and punch are also easy enough to do, but verbs are apparently tabu.

They do do adjectives. The dictionary is full of shapes, for example, and I appreciate that. Lobate. Sagittate. Obovate. They don't do relative adjectives, though, like long and short. Hell! The dictionary doesn't want to be judgemental.

Mostly they favor nouns, but generally not those denoting ordinary, well-known objects that most people (who spend any time in dictionaries) are familiar with. The manatee trumps the mouse, and gaff outranks the goat. One of my dictionaries, however, has the octopus , the panda and the oboe, which I hope are recognizable in most households. I can only assume these guys are irresistible for illustrators. Irresistible, period. Speaking of goats, I'd like to see a goatee . I personally love the goatee. If I were a dictionary illustrator, I would argue for the goatee.

I wish they'd do abstract nouns, but they don't. I could use help with despair, harm and marriage.

I'd also like to see riot done. And meleƩ.
They should hire Breughel.

On pages 1254-1255 of my old Webster's unabridged, they've got illustrations for opthalomoscope, opinicus, opium poppy, opossum and opposite leaves. I guess all these are useful. I thought all poppies were opium poppies. What do I know.

As Ms. Scarforo used to say: look it up, people!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

i fondly remember smoking

In my mouth
I once planted a star,
a crackling white rifle
pinched between a finger
and thumb, stuffed
and rolled
with sumptuous crumbs.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

dictionary neighbors: M

menopause - menorah
mensch - menses
menswear - mental
mercy seat - merde
merciless - mercurial
merlot - mermaid

song of the day: bitterblue

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

walnut grove

If – instead of Arthur Miller – William Faulkner had married Marilyn Monroe, and then had a baby with her, that baby would be the author of this book.

If Walter Cronkite had had long dark hair and shown a penchant for mauve, he could have been the author of this book.

Reading this book is like licking tunafish out of the can.
It’s like whacking a scoop of chunky cherry ice cream with thong underwear.
It’s like a lactating yak springing from a river.

If a hillbilly married his bastard aunt off in a shotgun wedding to a mythical beast, and that beast was not a unicorn, you’d be on page 56 of this book.

If Orwell had been down and out in the town near the Little House on Prairie, disguised as Mrs. Ingalls, that would sort of say what this book says.

This book will augment your bookshelf.

If you like this book, you’ll also enjoy cutting your hair with an exact-o-knife while sucking the cream from Devil Dogs with a straw.

If you went to jail and a guy called Cheebo bought you for 2 packs of Salems and a bottle of prison moonshine and then raped you repeatedly while watching The Days of Our Lives until you had to be hospitalized, that would about equal the denouement of this book.

It’s like Jude the Obscure meets Dracula on crack.

It’s like Yukio Mishima meets Susan Sontag meets Charles Bukowski in a long series of deceptively lyrical sentences.

The colorful, heart-warming characters come to life, and would nearly jump from the page if they didn’t die in the apocalypse.

If John Cleese had been born in South America and raised among monkeys, he could have written this tour de force with his right foot.

If this book had a soundtrack, it would involve the harmonica.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

a pass between hills

Some months ago I took up the habit of sitting in my office chair with my right foot tucked up under my left leg. Soon after this we hired Geoff, who says this position is bad for me.

It is a very comfortable position.

Forced to choose between pants and trousers, I’ll take slacks. The word drapes so nicely, so casually. It hangs like the jaw of someone very recently amazed.

Tonight our exchange student from Moscow arrives. She’s 14 years old and speaks some German. The school has sent along a list of instructions. “Russians like to eat bread,” it says. “They sometimes have to be cajoled into taking second helpings.”

Speaking of cojones, my son and daughter need to be soldiered into practicing piano. I have always been a spoon, at most a ladle. I make a terrible sergeant, but I try.

Song of the Day: 70 Million

Friday, March 12, 2010

Feng Shui

When the bridge between east
and evening lies down to die

and the rain drops as freight
unevenly among the doomed,
I decorate my mind with drapes,

untie the silk ropes and tassels
that cinch them back

and appoint my room with jewels
looted from the later dynasties.
I am among immortals!

Still, there’s just so much
one soul can rearrange.

Also the river tires of coursing.
And the earth gets fed up
wth the burdens put on furniture.

When like most of us
the clouds have had enough
of bunching up and sundering,

I get on my bike,
circle three times the ditch
identified as best for resting

and fall asleep
head first.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

aunt jemima in a bottle

Thursday, sliding into the homestretch, I find is a good day to link together my elongated thoughts. All the time I spent thinking them; all the work spinning them out past the point of what seemed a decent and natural death. It’s not Wednesday and not Sunday. I might be tired but it’s too early to give up. I link them together like a paper chain of dolls. Here’s the drawn-out thought about dangerous dogs with bad masters. The poetry in numbers. The plan I nursed about making a deserved prank phone call: Is your refrigerator running? / Do you have Prince Albert in a can? / The police got your number. . . Like Grandpa Decker used to say when Nana passed him with a plate of too-chewy beef, potatoes, gravy and peas – “I’ll mush it all up together. It’s all going to the same place.”

song of the day: the godfather theme, acoustic

march sunsets

1) 6.07 2) 6.09 3) 6.10 4) 6.12 5) 6.14 6) 6.15 7) 6.17 8) 6.18 9) 6.20 10) 6.22
11) 6.23 12) 6.25 13) 6.27 14) 6.28
15) 6.30 16) 6.31 17) 6.33 18) 6.35
19) 6.36 20) 6.38 21) 6.39
22) 6.41 23) 6.43 24) 6.44 25) 6.46
26) 6.47 27) 6.49 28) 7.51 29) 7.52 30) 7.54 31) 7.55

Monday, March 08, 2010


I was checking out an actress’s website the other day and her profession was listed as “actor.”

I’m sad about the widespread extinction of the –ess suffix. It clung to female thespians for a long time, but seems increasingly absent. “Actor” sits so awkwardly on women. I’d insist on “actress.” To be honest, I’d prefer to be a poetess, but that died out long ago. Ditto sculptress. And among the –ess words now dying an institutionalized death are waitress and stewardess. By that I mean society seems determined to kill them.

“Hello, my name is Jane and I’ll be your server tonight.”
“Flight attendants! Please be seated!”

Some believe they’re being forced out in the name of equality, but I don’t buy the argument that –ess is a “sexist” suffix. There’s nothing demeaning about it unless you enter the equation with a sexist attitude to begin with. If you google postmistress, you’ll get Wikipedia telling you it’s been dropped in favor of postmaster, which “has no gender quality.” Which is a lie. Master has no "gender quality?" Isn’t it a worse chauvinism to have to give up your true calling for the masculine version? Couldn’t we all change to the feminine version?

I think the feminization of professions/roles is an enhancement of the relevant words, and the shift away is a linguistic impoverishment. Is “Diana the Huntress” the same as “Diana the Hunter?” It doesn’t have to be just –ess; other forms are also lovely. For example, as if the word connoisseur weren’t beautiful enough, think of Sharon Olds’ “connoisseuse of slugs.”

I know I can’t stop language from changing, and luckily there are some words in which the –ess suffix appears fossilized. No one seems ready, for instance, to give up temptress and adultress, which pack more wallop than their male (generic) counterparts ever could. And the -ess is also permanently parked at the end of stately titles like baroness, empress, countess, princess, and the magical professions of enchantress, goddess, sorceress and priestess. If you can break into those fields, your femininity is safe.

Sunday, March 07, 2010


We're going to see The Lovely Bones today. I read the book, appropriately, on a trip to Disney World about 6-7 years ago. Despite the fact that I didn't want to like it, I actually did like it. Until about halfway through. Then it deteriorated in disneyesque fashion. I rated it "schlock" on Good Reads, but must confess I went back a couple months ago and upgraded my one star to two because I gave the book to my daughter and didn't want her to think I'd given her a book I found stupid. (She's on Good Reads, too.) Honestly, for 13-year old girls I think it's probably a totally cool book. Anyway, I fully expect to dislike the movie, but to cry my eyes out despite my better judgement, because I am unfortunately very susceptible to sap and schlock, being hormonally and emotionally at sea, as only a melancholy, middle-aged, overtaxed, sentimental ex-pat keeper-of-the-motherly flame can be.

Song of the day: Eric the Half a Bee

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Fish Heads

I didn’t have any acceptances in my inbox this morning.
But I didn’t have any rejections in there either.
Somebody did send me a WC Williams poem.
THE WC Williams poem, ie "This Is Just To Say."

This is just to say I never particularly liked that poem.
And the worldwide frenzy for it only turned me off more.

Why didn’t somebody send me this poem instead?
Either that or some fish oil supplements.

Song of the day: Raindrops

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

it's hard to overlook

the lust in slut
the broth in brother
the boom in bosom
the zoo in floozy
those torches in the orchestra

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

farewell, sapocalypse

“As the Olympic Cauldron is lit – the unique magic of the Olympic Games will be released upon us.

Magic so rare that it cannot be controlled by borders

The kind of magic that invades the human heart touching people of all cultures and beliefs –

Magic that calls for the best that human beings have to offer –

Magic that causes the athletes of the world to soar -- and the rest of us to dream.

Tonight – here - in the glow and wonder of the Flame -- we can all aspire to be Olympian . . .

(From the opening ceremony. Italics mine.)
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