Monday, August 3, 2015

Not such on a ladybug, not tears on slices of apple, green & drying in August heat.
Not hymns. Not hearses. Not garden hose sunflower woodpiles municipal park run-through

with immanent creek, bursting with ducks, not this.

Not January hearts schlepped to the curb after dug from snowdrifts, pulled from banks,
not poplar or widow, not pine or supine wolves fresh from the fold, negation here what's popular--

Not this, semi-iced. Arnold Palmer a drink not a golfer. Not a dozen books full of dragons.
But a dozen books of dragons. No paper-bag princesses. Not your skin, brown and elusive, not lion's

mane hair once mere wisps. Not candy hearts or "love you's" or "Daddy, I like your shirt"s.

This, all of this, is an Un- you can't understand. Or you do understand but what littleness it all is.
Not in jail, not life-preserved, not put-up like canned summer bounty, but I only see you

from behind glass, from filmy hills, of which there are twenty-seven, & on each stands

a figure from a story, our rag-tag mythical "not this" & "not that" contingent, 29 strong
when we're all present. But you're never present. I'm never present. Did you get my present

or, this is non-presence, unrepresented. Ghosts out there. The air has snapped finally

& all is cool. Too many sticks, too many rivers. Not drowning. Not lowing. Somewhere a bundle
of nots & uns. Who needs to think when your feet just go.


I am connecting a treehouse to a house
said a man on TV. I watched it for a little while;
I like to watch things on TV. But I also like
to watch birds, who also have houses
& nests & smaller birds in the nests
they feed with vomit & small fresh-pulled
delicate worms. When you think about it,
most birdhouses are treehouses & some
of them are connected to groundhouses
which is what we call houses for people
in my country. In my country we like white
people better than black people and brown
people & about as much as we like birds.
But the thing is--we are all equal because
we have things in common. We all have
houses for example. Er, I mean. Nevermind.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Forgotten daybook entry from 2013

It's a summer of discomfiture, of comfortable furniture, of cardboard-windowed ACed spare rooms. A handful of tarnished tokens of a particularly unspectacular year of early middle age.

A mercury bulb, a novena, daisy chains & lazy railroad workers.

Grief peels off like sheets & we measure our days in day-glo gelatin, & the lakes like lilac cubes are everywhere, JA. Your prospect of flowers is my self-correcting tar pit.



"Postmodernism" is one of those words like "hipster," used by frustrated people to displace anger at something they don't like or understand. Don't like this art? Must be postmodern. Don't like that guy over there? Don't like his glasses? Don't like that he's younger than you? Probably a hipster.

Somewhere in adolescence, we begin to formulate, assess, process, absorb, reject, and self-actualize about what "cool" is and what it means to "be cool." Even if we don't call it such, that's what we do. Being "cool" or rejecting prevailing notions of "cool" is an ongoing exercise in aesthetic formation that begins to calcify by our early 20s. After age 30 or so, further developments of cool, contemporary ideas of cool, start to look foreign and backward to most of us. You know, that moment of horror-cum-relief when you realize that you might be turning into your parents, and well, you're more or less ok with that. You are no longer cool. That which *is* cool is now worthy of ridicule.

(I get this. I do this all the time. I don't understand most pop music these days. I also understand that I haven't *tried* to understand it; I feel I have better things to do. Note that I don't run around screaming about how today's music sucks. I just don't happen to be in a position or desire to be in a position to consider it thoughtfully and critically.)

Wrestling with this anxiety (which we often express through dismissal) is difficult, and we find it easier to simply label this or that thing we don't like as "hipster." This is just one example, using a term which still seems to have a bit of cultural currency--there are dozens of others and this is hardly a new phenomenon. Argh! Everything is changing and I'm staying the same! This must be what dying feels like. It *is* what dying feels like, and well, that's the way it should be.


I don't particularly like the term "postmodern" for the same reason I dislike the term "hipster"--it's often applied haphazardly to that which we don't like. Neither of these terms has a particularly stable meaning. Both make it easy to generalize.

Of course the test for this is simple--next time somebody decries "postmodernism" or "hipsterism" ask them to define clearly and concisely what they mean.

This is not to say there are not legitimate uses of "postmodern" (I'm less sure about legitimate uses of "hipster") but most use it badly, which is to say with hazy intent.

Hulk Smash! --Hulk
"This Earth concept of 'wuv' confuses and enrages me!" --Lrrr, Ruler of Omicron Persei 8


Detractors of postmodernism often think that supporters of postmodernism (the distinction between these camps is made by whoever is making the accusation) imagine themselves as "cooler" than the non-postmodern types.


The other laughable charge against "postmodernists" is that they are literary nihilists, that they believe in nothing, that nothing means anything to these guys! Well, I suppose that depends on which "these guys" you're talking about. I'd argue that the average alleged postmodernist believes the contrary--everything is meaning! It's all over the place! It's too much, maybe! You don't have to be post-modern to appreciate the surfeit of meaning in language. You could be Gertrude Stein. You could be Don Draper. You could be anyone you imagine.


What the detractors really mean is "I feel threatened in some way." The irony here is that these detractors always have held the firm ground, the higher ground, higher not in a moral sense, but in a warfare sense. To use a musical analogy here, Americans haven't suddenly turned away from Toby Keith and Maroon 5 and toward Brian Eno or Yoko Ono. Just ain't happenin', kid.

I'm pretty damn sure that Philip Levine and Billy Collins sell more books than Charles Bernstein. If we remove a primarily academic audience from the equation, the gulf widens considerably.


It's a kind of benign bullying, this thing we do to each other.


The hipster is, most likely, going through a phase. The "postmodernist" is lying. Or I imagine that's the thinking.


The defender of literary tradition, the whistle-blower, the bulwark against postmodernism, is deeply reactionary and deeply wedded to old notions of "appropriate" and "inappropriate" art. He is a mannered fellow who would have us believe that he's a populist. He's no hipster. He's no THEORIST. He's just a regular guy.


"Why are you doing that thing?"
"Because I'm making something."
"Stop making that!"
The Red School

Monday, July 6, 2015


About to take a ride on the bus
to the nearby city with a shiny font
a new font, where all is adjacent
to the polluted city center fountain
and pigeons and starlings have struck
a tentative friendship based on mutual
ancestry because windows are shuttered
and so many brethren have fallen
slain like waxwings against that azure
pane and it's on days like these
I feel like Herve Villachaize
on my bus with the vinyl seats
where love is an addendum to an appendix
in the operating manual on flying machines

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

half a poem from VERSE

Rosa Maria Jauregui, June 13, 1953. Age 4. Oakridge.

A few notes on governing. (daybook day 3, jun 23)

Nationality is an outmoded concept.
Identity is flawed idea.
Smiling is overrated.
Dark skin isn't as pretty as other skin.
White fences keep out bad neighbors.
Countries don't exist in my country.
Dragons be there. And there. In that country.
Dragon skin is scaly and beautifully tinted.
There are no ideas in my nation.
Individuality is based on a popular misconception.
The border around my town is a wall.
The wall around my town is there for a reason.
The moat around the wall around my town helps to keep out the Philistines.
There are no gays in my nation.
There are too many gays in the principalities to the west.
Beauty is a silly idea, and outdated reliance.
A relationship requires concordance or discord.
The chords to this song are C-G-D.
This song is simple so we may bring our words to the Lords.
The Lords who run this town don't want old people here.
In the village to the east, everyone is under 30 years of age.
Everyone is beautiful, which is too bad because it's outmoded.
Socialism is better when it's a spectacle.
In this way it's not much different than fascism.
In this country, nationhood is more than badges, flags, and emblems.
Identity is based on difference. Please don't be diffferent.
Be yourself! Write what you know!
Don't write about yourself in the Town Square.
Start your own country with a book you bought from Loompanics.
Play hip-hop to prove your relevance but not in this country.
Keep your states to yourself. Keep your rights to yourself.
Impose your rights on others but colonize them gently.
Soldiers in your pocket can be pressed into multi-purpose.
Only kill a few.
Only eat a few.
Only eat as much as you can kill.
Raise the children in your country like it's all one big village.
Tribal norms will keep us together.
Love is all you need. Love is all around.
In our country pop music is used for propaganda.
Don't get pregnant.
Identity is malleable.
Please stop talking about fluidity already; everyone knows that's a load of hooey.
I asked Madeline Mary about the immaculate conception.
The birth rate in your country is declining.
This is the way it's supposed to be.
It goes like this.
Eat your peas and gravy, my boy.
Patrol the borders and stay awhile.
When it's all over, the sun will still set in the west,
the moon will still climb the sky,
and everything will still be available
for a limited time.

daybook poem day 2 (6/22/15)

Why I hate American History
has nothing to do with having
or not having or guns or flags
or powdered wigs or movies
with Edward Norton.It has no
thing to do with cigar store
Indians, Harriet Tubman on
the ten or the twenty & very
little to do with Andrew Johnson
who I was recently informed
is the only president to have
been impeached which is clearly
not the case because William
Jefferson Clinton was also
impeached, just not removed
from the Oval Office of the Blue Dress
& this is not why I hate American
History. The square office I sit in now
on this Day of Our Lord, June 22, 2015
is "lonely and austere" & has nothing
to do with love despite the black
& white photos sitting on the scanner
& anyway this is not about love
of History or the Nazi Channel
which I admit to watching too much
of, meaning I am now Middle Aged
but not middle-aged enough
to watch golf on television yet, which,
according to the dead American
George Carlin, is "like watching flies fuck."
I don't hate American History because
today, 6/22/15 anno domini, was
the day in 1992 that the "Teflon Don"
John Gotti was sentenced to die. I don't
even hate the America that sentenced
Sacco & Vanzetti to perish, or because
Abraham Lincoln wrote "shall not perish
from the earth," and so far has been correct.
This is all part of American History
but it is not America and I don't hate it.
I don't hate that you left me & took
what I most loved, I don't confuse you with
America, or her history, or other things
I do not hate. What I hate are the long
silences & the gap between this life
and the next, the self that continues
to slowly erase itself, the self that erodes
in small-town America. The life
that I don't hate but can't bear to live inside
but live inside anyway. I don't hate
Margaret Mitchell or racist novels but I
don't understand racism. I don't hate
racists, but I don't understand their
America. I'm trying to put together
a version of history that includes
harmless things like coffee mugs & tomes
of verse & children who don't have
the sort of life that prompts them to say
"why are White people so mean?" & children
who have never seen--or heard of a gun--
this is not the America I live in, neither is it
Whitman's America, or Thoreau's. I don't hate
dead white mean, bearded or not. I think American
History is a thing--incapable of thought or action,
thus not something to hate. This is why I
like the song American Girl by the still very
much living American Tom Petty. I don't
hate American History. I wish our America
could exist in small ways, like this photo I found
of little Rosa Jauregui, age four and a half,
sitting in front of tract housing, adjacent
to a railroad track in 1953. I don't hate
American History. I just don't like Americans
all that much sometimes. But this is not why
I hate American History. I keep trying to breathe.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Summer Daybook Project, day 1

Out in the back yard, we push plastic forks into the soil as markers for future vegetation. The purslane, though, grows on its own, no fork necessary.
In the near distance ("alli") past the rotting past-due fence is an almost-imposing structure of blue and grey metal siding that looks like a small-town, river-adjacent Quonset hut. I don't know which war we're fighting anymore, but I do know that the finches, the towhees, the jays have all moved into tract housing in another part of North America, early, it seems, this year. The mourning dove and her brothers in shaky alliance, the crows and ravens, remain, though distant, in another tree.

Friday, April 24, 2015

five minute poem with carl swart

It's a thing unlike most other things
by which I mean a thing like everything else.

To this, my dear, you are beholden.

Nonspecificity is a virtue; don't ever say what you mean.
I dislike, in a semi-not-so-random order, the following:

poetry, broccoli, mushrooms (except the fun kind), sad
small hearts on the parched yellow ground,

cornmeal, old bananas, powerful hankerings, & most
things that begin with the letter G.

Get this, though, mon frere, you are not my brother
because I also dislike families. Can't get too
frantic here because the finches are flitting

too far out back, converging on the framboise.

I sing a canticle of sixpence & a pocket full
of Canadian currency & a tiny man with a shifty eye.

I would really like to love you, but well,
don't worry. I won't try.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

FOD Walkdown

There's garbage everywhere & we
must protect it from the intake

in our dungaree pants & khaki
polyesters & these obnoxious
cephalopod-like helmets.

That's not a metaphor but should be.
We have no time to be figurative.
The past approaches, honed in on our tendons.


Back for a limited time! It's me.

On some horizon, the heart makes
a series of tactically sound left
turns, so, you know,
a circumnavigation of a slow
but yearning apathy.

These airplanes make me itchy
& the tarmac is a placeholder

not just for a hundred thousand tons
of metal but for all these dots,

these points on a line we call
people. You've rendered my life

in two dimensions & neither one
flatters my figure. I see a washer

on the ground, I pick it up.

Into my pocket for good luck.

Empty Nest

This house & all the things in it.

Do I repeat myself? Very well, then,
I repeat myself. I am small. I contain platitudes.

Before the detritus is wiped off the tablecloth,
before we're elbows-deep in a preponderance
of potting soil, to stop & reflect on what

this trash means is a necessary balm against
what fades. Archie wrote the "great spiritual poem"
of our time

& I hover over dumpsters looking for a perfect
crime to take home & care for as my own.


This house, quite obviously, needs renewal
but I am no carpenter. Jets overhead
can't see us in the slate-pathed backyard

with its birdhouses & curios & withering
tulips. Sometimes I feel I'm in Cordoba
but I have no idea what that means.

Having gotten by. Having made a mask.
Having spotted eagles chasing ospreys.
Having retired to the concrete stoop.


The derivative of nothing is still nothing.
& every line I write is still a bird.

A Model Year

The mourning doves, in morning, come
to wake the frozen yard with low white sighs.

Later come the wrens and finches, the towhee
with his pylon-colored breast.


The cusp of winter, edge of spring
does not so much unsettle as derail.

Each boxcar brightly painted
is an emblem of departure.

We need these markers or makers
the way someones need things.


In the fall, we'll throw trinkets in the river.
Forget and want: the water always finds us.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

sestina that carl told me to write

Mother of all things that ostensibly rise from the foam of an ocean,
Mary come lately, saintly matron giving birth to something furry,
or at least less Cthulhic than my Satan-loving friends or Jesus
-adoring enemies could fathom , hear me: From several fathoms down, a hoagie,
also known as a submarine or U-boat, inches toward the Sea Mother,
who is, of course you, my lithe old gangly wearer of couture that's juicy,

I beseech thee right now to get out of its ever-loving way, can't you see
beyond your non-tentacled face that you're going to get blown from the ocean
like all the drowned Argonauts before you? Just wait a second, Mother,
and let me explain. I come to you from a windy place where the furry
tendrils of August enwrap me in something like a convection oven, toasted hoagie
gently toasting inside, and that hoagie is me, because I'm damned hot. Jesus

Christ couldn't even harrow me from this hell, but you are cuter than Jesus
and infinitely more merciful. Forgive my forward talk, but it seems my juice
box was spiked by some raincoated lover's older brother. Now I'm hoagie,
toasted, for reals. But to put a point on it, a fine embroidery, the ocean
ain't my home, the sea is not my bailiwick, though San Diego (home to the furry,
deceased Jim Croce) once was my home, where as a teenager I listened to "Mother"

from Danzig's second album and contemplated laying lady sailors. My own mother
probably approved, eager as she was for her underachiever to grow, Jesus
and chastity be damned. Forgive the oedipal digression, I am yet still furry
of cranium (and face)and must now repair to kitchen to fetch more gin & juice
and try to figure this thirty-nine-line lumberer into something like an ocean
-worthy craft. A poem, they say, should be like a ship: wooden. Hoagy

Carmichael, "Stardust" on his Georgia mind knew this, living with a name like Hoagy
in early 1900s Indiana, in a stately house among some pines with his dour mother,
where there is a great lake in the north but no ocean.
Forgive me, I know, it's taking a while. But speaking here, (poet, be like Jesus,
I say) it's hard to address directly what I mean. This life left is without juice,
I bereft here against a coastal shelf, missing the small one, listening to Super Furry

Animals, in an attempt to stay this middle-age against a disappointed God, for He
so gave his only begotten something in hopes I would amount. Instead it's a hoagie
I settle for, no job, no wife (and it's a sad life), a daughter, (a Jew, see)
a couple of dust bowls away. And so it comes to something borrowed, dear mother,
something here washed out, my remaining days the side of cliff, barely held, Jesus,
by the gangly roots of admonished trees, not good enough, unable to hold back the ocean.

I forgot my question. Figures. There is a hoagie here though.
My poems are seldom autobiographical and I suppose this isn't juicy enough
for the tabloids. I'm going home, where Jesus went out for smokes and didn't come back.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The last thing I believed,
and then behaved

abhorred a vacuum.

But then, I am not nature

Not a real being at all. It took
councils so assess this.

My most recent counsel says
that nothing is born

and nothing dies.


I want to punch him in the eyes.


Severe, the world still runs
around like it owns the fucking place.

Like a careless father, I pick up the toys.

And where have you been?

Monday, December 9, 2013

poem to matt henriksen


Now I need to write, but something is preventing me.
My dollars don't equal dollars
in this economy of parenthood

in this dustbowl
I return

my wall street, the walls I built
to shield
from small figures on a vast horizon
of vast horizons & lake houses
boats & dementia

bottles bobbing in the lagoon
& a watery face saying "daddy"

& a watery face saying "darling"
because & I say
I do declare

Fuck Sentimentality. This is just--
it is just & it is real.

The mountains can't recede
but I'll push them off the line
of sight if need be

if you need me
if you need.

Friday, November 15, 2013

You remembered me before
you could remember who
I was & this the dense
terrain of heart & bone
in our reflection, wood-
paneled walls, a sprig
of thyme, too many under
a fog & and a dalliance,
these things make
a cathedral to the now
that was in photographs
& dusty furniture, our
"thing" past or beyond
the reach of what once
mattered. This dark
matter, those old people,
standing in a queue,
they are us.