Friday, March 30, 2012

tiny kingdoms

A tree is considered too huge and unruly to bring indoors, unless you choose the docile bonsai. We have four bonsais in the house, in various stages of surrender. Tending them is an exercise in patience, but also a show of power. We love them because they’re beautiful. We love them because they make us giants.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

off we go

We leave for America tomorrow and I have not packed any snacks. Despite airplane food, I have not packed any wheat bread or fishes and I don’t consider it my business to make money exporting the dirt around Schopenhauer’s tombstone. Dear suitcase that comes smashing down my mottled halls, things go better with clean underwear. Things go better with a change of socks and soap and jewel-like jars of eye moisturizer. Tonight I will lie conscious of the long bodies of airplanes, their cool wings waiting, their tailflukes and inner chambers that explode with headphoned entertainment. Like any man I will refuse a blanket that’s become a sack of static. Like any man I may drink a tomato juice once we have reached cruising altitude, and I won’t take Manhattan but will accept a moist towelette expertly folded and packed tight with a hint of lemon.

thanks to catherine mellinger for the collage.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

death & vegetables

Nothing much happened. I woke up. I made coffee. I washed my hair, and in the elevator later in the day I noticed how very grey it's growing. I had my mozzarella sandwich and worked non-stop all day long. I gave up on a crappy book set in NYC in favor of a promising one set in Poland.

I also had a prose poem up at Juked called "Mist," which involves death and vegetables.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Another reason to love Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands

I have dueling versions of Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands on my iPod, Bob Dylan’s and Joan Baez’s. For a long time I only listened to hers, but in fact I prefer his. She has a distinctive, beautiful voice, whereas he just has a distinctive voice. But he’s also got personality, and that piercingly sad harmonica!

Ok, so what's another reason to love the song? Because it is a list poem that reminds me of the French surrealists, that’s why.

Take this, from the song:
With your sheets like metal and your belt like lace,
And your deck of cards missing the jack and the ace,
And your basement clothes and your hollow face,
Who among them can think he could outguess you?
With your silhouette when the sunlight dims
Into your eyes where the moonlight swims,
And your match-book songs and your gypsy hymns (etc)

Then this, from Benjamin Peret’s “Here:”
my ghetto of black iris my crystal ear
my opal snail my mosquito made out of air
my bird-of-paradise mattress my hair of black foam
my exploded grave my rain of red grasshoppers
my flying island my turquoise grape (etc)

Then this, from AndrĂ© Breton’s “Free Union:”
My wife whose hair is a brush fire
Whose thoughts are summer lightning
Whose waist is an hourglass
Whose waist is the waist of an otter caught in the teeth of a tiger
Whose mouth is a bright cockade with the fragrance of a star of the first magnitude
Whose teeth leave prints like the tracks of white mice over snow
Whose tongue is made out of amber and polished glass
Whose tongue is a stabbed wafer (etc)

See! I told you.
Listen to André Breton read his luscious poem.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Word Thursday

The word mellow acquired a dubious reputation in the 60s with that goofy Donovan song and later with the antics of Cheech and Chong. If it didn't reek of marijuana, it would be a useful member of worddom.
Sometimes it manages, for example in talking about wine and dogs that lose the desire to bite, or in this odd sentence from Wolf Hall:

"The mellow brick frontage is smaller than he remembers, but that is what memory does."

I had to wonder when I read it how on earth mellow was being used. I imagine the red bricks have faded with age? They've gone soft and chalky, and are possibly intoxicated?
The proximity of mellow to brick also evoked Oz's yellow brick road, and I wondered what on earth kind of bricks those could have been. Gold, I guess. I'd never asked myself.
Though mellow and the prefix melo- have no known ties, there is a hidden affinity between mellow and melodrama, that which makes the eyes well stupidly with tears and softens the grey matter to a mushy pulp.
I guarantee none of this happens in Wolf Hall, however. The stiff upper lip prevails.
It has been a busy morning on page 510!

Song of the day: Factory, Martha Wainwright

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

legs too short

It's the first day of spring, and our transport union celebrated with a strike. This is the second time in two weeks, and after a grueling, pointlessly long taxi ride last go-round --at one hour I could have walked it in the same time, less expensively-- I took my neighbor up on the offer of borrowing her bike. It was a bit too high for me, at least so says my sore crotch. It took about the same amount of time as the UBahn, maybe less, and indeed there was fresh spring air, but cycling would never be my preferred way to and from work. I don't know if you've noticed, but it is impossible to read a book while commuting by bicycle, even if it's Wolf Hall. Make mine the UBahn, even if it can be rough company.

I celebrated spring with a poem in the new issue of Birdfeast, their second issue. It's one of my short poems with long titles: "Lines written in a Japanese noodle shop watching a building being demolished." I hope you will enjoy it, and celebrate by liking spring on Facebook.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


the chest
the pretty chest
the pretty chestnut

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The zone

I was downtown today, and noticed I have officially entered the mental “near-home zone.” This occurs every year before I visit the states. I go into a store, see something I like, then turn up my nose and snort:

“I can get something better in America.” (tough luck, potholders)
Or “I can get this much cheaper in America.” (hope to see you in 3 weeks, Calvin Klein tote)
Or “I don’t like this enough not to covert the 30 euros I would have spent on it into $40 I can spend in America.” (good try, pillow covers)

This is really a great money-saving psychological device, also because there's often no follow-up. I don't go LOOKING for potholders, for example....

My retail dreams of America are no longer wholly realizable since the airlines started charging for overweight baggage, rather than just threatening to. Last April when I came back they told me I had to pay $200 for overweight, or $50 for a second bag. Needless to say, I whipped out a second bag and transferred the 50 books I’d bought from my suitcase into it, mentally adding $1 to the price of each book (which was still kind of a bargain).

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

snakes and birds

sometimes it's as if i lived my sister's life / or i am inside it / i inhabit her gestures / my sister had a clique of friends in college / ages ago / they claimed all people resembled either birds or snakes / there were no hybrids / there were no cats no horses no starfish / they went around categorizing whole populations / they did their best to be outrageous / one threw up in my room / though i would not admit it to them / i have been surveying the data / 30 years later i can report back / the split is not even
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