Wednesday, June 24, 2015

half a poem from VERSE

Rosa Maria Jauregui, June 13, 1953. Age 5. 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Beauty is a silly idea, and outdated reliance.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.

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.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

new poem

A few frightened maples
& some misplaced birds,
crested jays, I think,

foreground the red house
on the farm where I sit
as the world grows larger,

disturbed at brindled
horses & elderly dogs,
scent of bath soap

on my hands, knowledge
that homecoming is not
returning but acclimation

to what surrounds, denial
of a face in the white sky,
cleaving to an idea,

swath of fallow crops,
last century's last love,
that will not displace

these fallen things.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

My generation’s best phrenologists said
Something about a rose, windblown carcasses
Displayed just so to say your head isn’t right
On the coffee cup emblazoned Memphis
No Elvis in my mid-day buzz but sanity
At an all-time premium: some tree, that one,
Over there with the crested jay & the foam
Finger. These are the finest days, the days
Of broken surplus & pamplemousse.
Your soda gives me pause: it’s broken
Over here, so many bubbles, so little text.
& the next best ratchet foams a coastal
Rise of trees & monumental rocks alight.

Thursday, August 29, 2013


We were young & we were shattered.
We took our lives & we settled down.

“I like your town & your trees & your
bodies of water” the way the music
drains out across a field. No vision here.

The house we built no more
than a maintenance shack. Insect shells.
Dry road. No visions.

I don’t believe I understand. God
was happening all at once & even
though we didn’t believe, he made us
good in the wind, made us something big

& dead & so comes love, so comes
this anniversary. So comes again
up, empty, open on the face of the waters.

Open across the breadth of the sea.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Biographical Note

I am not a politic.
I am not a politics.
I am not a politick.
I am not white magick.
I am not a sonnet unfurled.
I am not a crown prince, not a spear of asparagus
of the sort buried, robbed of chlorophyll so as to be
the best thing there is to be, which is white & fat.

I am not a sonnet in your hedgerow.
I am not an alarm in your digital.
I am not digitalis extracted from the vagina-like
foxglove to cure your terminal illness.
I am alarmed by your refusal to capitulate.
I masturbate twice, then absolve myself on your back.

I am trying not to hear you but goddamn the sonnets
are so fucking loud.
I am not reading your book about mangroves & paneer.
I am not a brick.
I am not a Frenchman walking all over your America.
America I am not a trail nor a trial nor a fish masala.
I am not a foreign national.
I am not a national velvet.
I am not Andy Warhol.

I am not employed by your "man."
I am not interred in the Cliche Mausoleum.
I am not finding in this new enterprise something
to make me a better man like it was supposed to do
but am finding new reasons to be annoyed.
I am not a crown of sonnets.
I am not a purple.

I am saying this very slowly so
that you will understand very slowly.

I am not a self-referential dead lyric.
I am spending half the day just coming back around.
I am not a proud man.
I am not a doctor of physick.

I am not a peninsula.
I am not America's Wang.
I am not those blinking taillights &
I am not exploding at 10,000 feet.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

More thoughts on the "internet / television Atheist."

The argument that the Atheist most often makes, most often in public but also in private conversations, is NOT an argument that God does not exist. It is also not an argument that the Bible or the Koran or whatever holy book a particular faith adheres to is somehow incorrect or false. Instead, the most common argument of the mission-driven Atheist is that a person of faith cannot also be a person of reason or intelligence. In simpler terms, the atheist argues that if you are a Christian (for example) you are an idiot.

The argument that the Bible is *not* true, at least in an objective, testable way, isn't much of an argument when posed to anyone but the most strict biblical literalists. Most educated people of faith understand a holy book to be a very different document than a science book or a treatise on logic, a book that is understood differently than one understands science or even more subjective forms of writing such as history or journalism. This premise is easily testable--what reasonable person believes that snakes talk, or giant fish swallow men? If we allow that this is a small percentage of reasonable people and we also allow that a greater percentage of reasonable people also profess to be Christians or Jews or Muslims, we can deduce that many reasonable people of faith don't literally believe many biblical accounts.

In a recent episode of Real Time with Bill Maher, the host accuses a Christian guest of "cherry-picking" only the "good things" in the Bible. I am surprised that the guest didn't point out that Maher, in pointing out the bad things (as when he calls the Old Testament God a mass murderer--a characterization I can't disagree with) is also "cherry-picking." This should not surprise anybody--we do this as a matter of course all the time. Accepting or rejecting certain parts of a whole does not mean wholesale acceptance or rejection of the whole. This fallacy, though, allows Maher to accuse people of faith of hypocrisy or stupidity. The fact is, reasonable people of faith do not, on the whole, believe everything in the bible as literal truth. They just don't.

Similarly, ask a religious person to prove that God exists. He can't do it. He simply cannot. But there are plenty of people who believe in God. This point, then, is hardly arguable. The Atheist easily wins this. You cannot prove a negative.

So what the Atheist is really saying to the believer is that the believer is somehow less intelligent or, at least, misguided for professing religious faith. In simpler terms, I'm smarter than you.

The Atheist, then, is not making an intellectual argument so much as a social one. The Atheist doesn't want to associate himself with someone who possesses Keats' negative capability. The Atheist is not trying to convince you that God doesn't exist or that the Bible is bunk. He is trying to tell you that he thinks of you as a lesser being for having the audacity to believe in or find comfort in something that is not scientifically testable. The Atheist does not like you. Why? Because his myopic view of the world dictates that he is smarter than you. And he doesn't like to hang out with fools.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Mission Statement

To re-imagine the "writing life" so as not to drown. To continue to write with 1) no pretense to ambition and 2) no actual ambition save that to clear a space for better thoughts, for more lucid practice, by which I mean, living.
Beneath a sriracha-washed summer sky,
my kid said "puffy cumulus clouds"
while all of us, the entire town,
tried to talk about our feelings.