Friday, June 7, 2013

When I first started writing "seriously," as they say, it was because I just loved poetry. I was overwhelmed by discovering something *new* by feeling part of something through simply reading, and then having that feeling enhanced through writing *into* it. I couldn't not write, and I wrote every day, thought about writing every day. Read every day. I didn't see beyond this bubble--there was nothing like ambition, or career, or publication or anything on my mind at the time.

I guess, two or three years into it, I began to meet other writers, both domestic and foreign, as it were. Both classmates and students, both "IRL" and through the internet machine. I got to go a few places where I met others. I edited some journals, participated in a way that only strengthened my love of this thing. Through writing and reading, I had also found a community, the particular aspects of which sometimes eclipsed the love of the words in the first place.

And then. And then, I don't know what. I don't know what happened. I know a lot of what didn't happen. I watched a lot of that community disperese, move on, people whom I had published and thought I was friends with, people I had worked with, people who had championed my work, and so forth, weren't there any more. And I wasn't there for them.

And then I wasn't writing. I was reading very little. A different sort of life took over--work, family.

Then that stopped happening.

Today, in the early summer of 2013, I still see my old friends, my old colleagues, my old community members, publishing their third and fifth books, getting tenure here or there, being "famous" in a way that is, you know, not really "famous" but "poetry famous," which means, I suppose, a few people read your stuff, and you get awards sometimes, and you get to teach college kids sometimes, and you get a paycheck, and you're still in this community that we all used to be in together.

And when the imaginary interlocuter asks me how I feel to have almost been a part of something that I am no longer a part of, how it feels to have lost this community, how it feels to see my former mates being "poetry famous" and having happy families with children and nice things and bookshelves, while I am for the most part, homeless--

I can't really answer in any way that seems intelligent. I just shrug. I'm like, uh. Yeah.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

S. left Eugene the weekend of Father's Day. It was mid-June and her hopes of securing a summer teaching position had fallen through. She brought S. over to see me early Thursday morning, which was unusual. E. had a cold and was fussy. I was only able to hold her for a few seconds before she cried for mommy. And then they left, in a hurry to get on with their day. Of course I didn't know they weren't coming back.

S. called that Sunday, or maybe it was Monday. She was in Montana, visiting a friend. It was an impromptu vacation she told me unconvincingly. They were to be back in a weeks, and she was sorry she just up and left, but there was no time to call. (Yeah, I know.) Minutes after hanging up the phone, I walked over to her apartment. The front door was open, the place was bare. There was a U-Haul in the driveway and unfamiliar people walking back and forth with boxes.


In the days that followed I quickly realized that all of "our" friends were her friends. I had nobody to talk to, and quite frankly had no idea what was going on. I was too hopeful or naive to call it "kidnapping" but that's what it seemed like. It wasn't until a couple of years later that I realized that S.'s best friend, the one person in all of this who seemed good, seemed caring, and seemed to genuinely like me, had more or less--if not outright engineered--insisted upon this stealing away in the middle of the night. (I don't know if it was night. It must have been night.) It was, she figured, in the best interest of S. and E. I don't doubt she believed that but it can't make me wholly forgive her.


We see people how we want to see them, try to love them in the way that we want them to love us, and even those we don't necessarily get on with, we try to see in a not unflattering light. But all we have is light and absence of light, and the shadows are just the same as those fluffy clouds we look at: we find animals, we find a face on the surface of a distant planet, in the formless we seek forms that remind us of each other, of ourselves, and we want our best selves for others. We want others to be their best selves for us.

One day someone comes in and turns flicks the switch. Cleans up. We see the dust in the corners, the cracks in the walls.


When I write about this, I'm going to call this chapter the Great American Fake-out. Or the Friendship Juke. Or Humanity Pump-Fake. Or That One Time that My Kid Was Stolen and The People I Thought Were My Friends Were Actually Just Strangers With Kind Faces.


Portland artist / recluse Matthew Hattie Hein seems to understand how important appearances are, not just to others but to our sense of self, and how much we willingly buy into illusions of good intentions and good will. He sings:

"Thanks, it's nice to be invited. You look nice, or nicely lighted. / Are we going somewhere after this?"

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

potions. salves. unguents.

I was so glad to get your letter

in the grass to get your letter

pieces of your letter in the head

somatic components of sky & oval


I wish this thing had moving parts.

I'd try to fix this thing if things
still had moving parts.

She mouthed three small words & didn't
look like a small person but a nail file.

A board is a Set-up.

"Love" is a motion detector set for "stun."

This is why it's advisable
to not have moving parts.


Always get your news from a refutable source.
The found me face-down in the source

Repeated at the source.
Your news wet at the source.

Your face is an immovable force.

Water all around. Cancel.
Carmine Appice is on That Metal Show right now. He still looks exactly like he did 25 years ago. He wrote a drum tech column for Hit Parader or Circus--one of the big "rock and metal" magazines of the 1980s.

In 2003, in the baggage claim of the St Louis airport, I stood next to him and he looked exactly like you'd expect an aging rock star to look--or, specifically--how you'd expect Carmine Appice to look: skinny, dressed in black, sleeveless leather vest, 1970s Mick Ronson hair, *that mustache*.

I was there for poetry. He was there for rock and roll. I wanted to tell him I liked his music but I didn't know his music. I just knew that he was the drum guy in Circus magazine. And you know, he looked like that.

Don't go to St. Louis for poetry. Don't go there if you're looking for a Pepsi. Don't go there for a girl--really don't go there for that.

In my variously limited travels across our Great Nation, disappointing trips many, I try to find something notable or interesting to file away to tell someone about when I need small talk. In St. Louis, I didn't get a Pepsi, got burned by a girl, spent a weekend drunk on bourbon in a Ramada inn, ordering expensive room service and a strange form of pizza prevalent in St. Louis involving a crackery crust and a strange processed cheese, watching James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal on the cable television act out master and servant stuff, less sexy than stylized. So that's what I remember about STL. That and Sadam Hussein was found in a spider hole that weekend. And I wrote two poems. And at the reading I gave, the Indian kid from the spelling bee movie "Spellbound" was there. I don't know if he liked the reading.

Monday, June 3, 2013

A picture day

& he was old then
but every one
was old then

again I lost you

no blue
no water