Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Having just finished the book about the Heydrich assassination, I started HHhH, a "nonfiction novel" about the same thing, which so begins fabulously it reminds you why people write, why people read, and why some people bother to live at all.

In English, of course, the title is pronounced 'aitch aitch aitch aitch.' In German, however, it's 'ha ha ha ha.'

I find that kind of eerie.

The Hs stand for 'Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydrich,' meaning 'Himmler's brain is named Heydrich.'

Monday, October 29, 2012

at dawn how much i hate myself

It's not raining where I am. It's not snowing where I am. There's little wind and it's dark, and has gotten warmer since this morning, when frost encased the park I smashed through. In the book I'm reading I am still waiting for Heydrich to be killed (see previous post) but on the train home I got to the chapter called "Assassination," so hey it can't be long now. Also just around the corner is November, my birth month, with its own dark weather.

The November issue of Thrush came out today, and I have three poems in it, along with a number of fellow poets, including Margaret Bashaar and Sandy Longhorn. The first of my poems, Palisades, is a sea poem. The second, Ceraunoscope, is a self-hate poem, and the third, Self-Portrait with Lava Lamp, is exactly that. 

I'm off now to walk the dog, who can hardly wait.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Passive Aggressive Anticipatory Schadenfreude Post

I’m reading a book about the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the blond SS monster with his hook nose and disturbingly feminine hips, who strove to be one of Hitler’s inner circle, if not Hitler himself, and maneuvered to become the F├╝hrer of Czechoslovakia, plotting the deaths of many, mass deaths and slavery, and squelching the culture and national identity, and this reading is a prelude to reading another book about the same assassination, meta-fictionalized (HHhH, it’s called), that I picked up at the book fair, and the more I read about the vanity and self-promotion and political posturing, the bragging, the putdowns, the boasts and merciless determination the more I realize if you want prestige it is best to find a way to get invited to events attended by those with power and to continually TALK ABOUT YOURSELF IN CAPITAL LETTERS & bring the conversation back to your supposed accomplishments and ambitions whenever possible, and I think of some people I have known, and I look forward to (twice experiencing through reading) Heydrich’s assassination.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

a star nailed the evening

It was a misty, cool day. Just before leaving for work I remembered a colleague asked me to bring her something to read, so I spent an extra 15 minutes choosing some books for her. I'm glad I seized on that short leisure since it turned into an overlong workday. I took her Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre, which Werner Herzog is making into a film, No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy, The Bell by Iris Murdoch, one of my all-time favorites, and Skylark by Dezso Kosztolanyi. My colleague was happy, and so was I. Picking out something I thought she’d like was a pleasure, but even better was coming home this evening and finding a short review of my chapbook at the beautiful Escape into Life. Thanks, Kathleen Kirk! I'm glad Kathleen found some of my poems 'hilarious' because - stuck in a foreign country - I often feel I'm laughing at my jokes alone.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


As a nonbeliever, I never wanted to have a Thai massage but somehow there I was. The room was darkened and smelled of warm peppermint. I was told to remove my clothes and put on a pair of baggy knee-length pants that, in my Puritan discomfort, I had to make fun of alone. I lay down on the massage table, heated from beneath. A lady no bigger than a cat came in and crouched beside me. I was belly-down and as good as blind. I said the woman was small but did I mention she had two enormous hands and something like 16 or 17 fingers? And she was not a cat but a kind of demon weaver. My skeleton was her loom, my muscles threads, and she went to work to make my backside into an unimaginable tapestry.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


The eyelid browses down 
like a tunnel wall collapsing 
in a mudslide and all 
the automobiles and spitfire drivers 
slam softly into 
the crucified for slumber’s sake one man 
no other way around this 
brown blur with black in it 
litter of nickels, 
and dimes

Friday, October 19, 2012


I read through the work email that piled in during the couple hours I was tied up. It wasn’t much. Mostly I just hit ‘delete.’

A little later I was trying to recall why I felt buoyed by a vaguely positive feeling. Wasn’t there something good in my email? I went back in and poked around. 

There was nothing bad in my email. That was the good thing in my email.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

What we can learn from machines

I fought with a machine today. It was the automatic door of a small shuttlebus taking visitors around the Frankfurt Book Fair.

It was raining gently and crystal and the air was cool October. I was wet and tired.

I’ve known many ferocious machines in my life, better left unchallenged. My fight with the shuttlebus door was more like wrestling a child. I knew it wasn’t going to hurt me; I felt the give in its shoulder.

The door resisted for a second, then understood, and let me inside.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Moving Sidewalks

Busy two weeks. First I took a Bildungsurlaub, a German institution that allows employees to take an extra week of paid vacation studying something for their personal or professional development. An industry has grown up around it with all kinds of this and that, most with a shiny certificate at the end. It does have to be approved by one’s employer, but they also need a reason to say no. Anyway, long story short, I did a week of online journalism courses - at my mother’s house in NJ. 
I came back and did some coverage of the Frankfurt book fair, which was fun but also time consuming without too much yield. I’ll have to think it over better next time. One thing I did was put together a slide show of the best book covers I saw. Like any reporter I did a lot in advance - in fact I had a list of books I hoped to find, and wrote blurbs in anticipation. But not one of those books was there! I had to start from scratch, navigating acres and acres of space. 

I hope my routine returns to normal now. I did go back to the fair for pleasure. One of the highlights was seeing Richard Ford, whose “Canada” I just finished. I met a woman born in the same hospital as me. I talked to various people and came away with seven great books. Six of those books were handed to me free, including two Fence books, put into my hands by Rebecca Wolff herself. Fence shared a stand for 4-5 other poetry/literary presses, including Red Hen, and the funny detail was that, unlike most other stands, instead of a bottle of water there was a bottle of Jack Daniels on their table.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Sleep struggle

I thought "I am a rippled strip of bacon, undercooked."

I thought, "there are two small dogs yapping in my kneecaps."

When I pressed the alarm clock button to light the clock face and see the time I noticed how soothing the pattern of the adjacent tissue box was.

A few minutes later I pushed the button to figure out why.
(Because the pattern of leaves is very like decorative Matisse.)

I thought about Abraham Lincoln's melancholy.

I thought about how it's nearly impossible to find a book concerning Abraham Lincoln that doesn't include his picture on the cover, or at least his silhouette. Or hat. 

I thought, "those are pearls that were his eyes?"

I thought about trichinosis, more the word than the disease.

I thought I would never remember some of the things I thought so I got up to write them down.

I wondered if Happiness really is the best Revenge.

Monday, October 01, 2012


I spent $78.30 on books today at Bookhaven, my favorite used book store. I like used book stores because even though I go with a list, something great always jumps out at me, or something apparently great since I don’t know until I’ve read it. I found books from my list that made the last cut. I found books on my list that went to the 'no' pile (this time), like Samuel Beckett’s I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On. I found books I didn’t know I wanted but it turned out I did. Of course some books on my list weren’t there, like Liz Jensen’s Ark Baby and Richard Ford’s Canada, which, yes, I left behind in Frankfurt. Here’s what I left the bookstore with:

Old Filth by Jane Gardam. This has been on my list a long time, and last trip I didn’t find it at the Strand in NYC. This is a novel about an 80-year old character Sir Edward Feathers, nicknamed Old Filth, Filth being an acronym for Failed in London Try Hong Kong. I must admit part of the charm of this book is the title.

The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek. I also looked for this at the Strand last trip but no dice, so I left with Wonderful Wonderful Times instead, which was intense. This is about a piano teacher who becomes entangled in crazy sexual relations with a student. I don’t hope everyone dies at the end but they probably do.

The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright. Another one from the list. About Al-Qaeda in the run-up to 9/11. Won the Pulitzer for non-fiction.

Recyclopedia by Harryette Mullen. Poetry. Not on the list, just found it on the shelf and browsing proved promising so voila.

In a Landscape of Having to Repeat by Martha Ronk. Ditto above. Never heard of her until today.

Little, Big by John Crowley. From the list. Off the beaten track. Has the potential to disappoint. Fantasy fiction. Here’s hoping.

What a Carve-Up! by Jonathan Coe. From the list. I’ve heard this political novel is very funny. I need that.

Plainsong by Kent Haruf. From the list. I’ve seen some rave reviews. It has the potential to be a goody-two-shoes community novel but maybe that’s ok?

Morte D’Urban by J.F. Powers. Another from the list that I wanted because of the strength of various reviews. It’s a comic novel about a priest, but the priesthood is comic to begin with. Won the National Book Award for fiction the year I was born.

The Stories of J.F. Powers. Not from the list, just saw it, loved the cover, decided I haven’t done enough stories this year, paid my money and left.
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