42 degrees Fahrenheit, 59% humidity
Feb. 3, 2017
there was an odor in my studio:
the maggot smell
sweet and thick, hard to locate
effusing for a few days then passing.
there are always flies in the summer
the screens gape tattered by cats and the doors are always open
people, animals and insects freely come and go in imitation of one another.
now? just a fly here and there
the birds want to sing; soon they’ll remember why.
as I reach into a padded camera case
there’s a softness that isn’t right
the desiccated corpse of a field mouse in its nest,
dead of old age, eyes eaten, a mummy
curled in a ball of fluff peppered with empty husks
that I mistake for seeds but quickly realize
are the discarded skins of pupae.
Feb. 11, 2017
Feb. 18, 2017
12 knots from the north
T-minus 3 minutes until launch failure
or abort. probably.
the pelicans give zero fucks
there are dolphins and small children
I’m facing the launch pad, I think.
expectations are wonderfully low
people have gathered, but no one
really seems to care. someone leaves
with only a minute to go.
Does he know something we don’t?
Then there’s a centimeter line of improbable orange
at the horizon for two seconds, due south.
we joke and huddle in the wind for a while.
after the inconsequential event so far away,
kisses, cold children, more indifferent shore birds.
Stealthily from the barely perceptible,
a low rumbling, then a crackling surge of power…
tons of something far away ripping itself from the earth.
A volcano behind the clouds.
The deepest, loudest thing. miles away
a discordant override of the pounding surf to the east
to my surprise acting against organs
that normally don’t sense things.
My spleen is an ear
and the sand pipers don’t care:
they’ve seen it all before.
Mar. 2, 2017
Lake Michigan had frozen
in the way that it does
in heaves and fits
We walked out clumsily in the bitterness
carrying her ashes and a candle
we weren’t sure what to do or say
At the edge of the ice where the swells made
mountains out of slush and blocks of lake
we stood for a moment, afraid
My father opened the cardboard box
where her ashes lay in a formless pile
not unlike the sheaves around us
He gave it a toss to the water, over the edge
just as a gust of wind and a rogue wave
took her away while tinging our lips
She no longer tasted like booze and cigarettes
or cigarettes and coffee. And she had lost
the fragrance of Chanel
Dad still had some of her clenched in his fist
he was crying, but to this day, I’m not sure why
maybe he had lied to us about his hate all those years
We walked back to safety near the frozen sand
and set up a little shrine on a block of ice
the last ashes and the candle and ice everywhere
Despite the wind, the candle stayed lit
we looked for a moment and then turned away
something in the air was changing
Back inside, we had a solemn conversation and drank
probably vodka in honor of Barb, but I don’t remember
it was so many years ago
Later we looked out the picture window as twilight came
the lake had changed: the hills of ice were gone
the water had surrounded the shrine and taken it
To our amazement, the candle was still flickering.
Mar. 3, 2017
It's been another day, I can say that.
While I lay here facing the wall on my belly in the cool, moist sand,
there are people outside.
They think it's funny and they keep calling me Gregory. That's fine. Whatever.
The roots I exposed while making this new home taste bitter and smell of pepper.
They make my stomach hurt, so I've stopped eating them.
Tomorrow, I'll head back out when I feel the sun on my toes.
I'll go to where the leaves are closest to the ground and taste better.
I'll eat my fill and then head back here if it's close.
If not, I'll go to one of my other homes.
I just started this home, so it's shallow.
It's a little too shallow for comfort, but it's late and I can't see at all when it gets dark, so I'll risk it.
Maybe that's why I can't get to sleep. Maybe it's my stomach.
I've noticed that there's less rain lately, you know, in the past several years.
The birds are migrating earlier too. It's fine with me, as long as I can find good leaves.
A couple years ago, someone came by and marked the entrances to my homes with flags.
The flags said things like "GT 12-5."
The person had a clipboard and long pants, which was weird considering how hot it was outside.
The clipboard made sense, I guess.
A few weeks later, they built a big boardwalk between my newest home and the home of my nearest neighbor.
She's pretty awesome, but we never hang out, except in April. Or May. She usually ignores me, but that's ok.
The construction was very loud and I stayed in a lot. Once during this troubling time, I got hungry enough to go out anyway.
A workman picked me up and moved me to the other side of the hill. It smelled mostly the same there.
By the time I got back to my territory, the workmen were gone.
People stopped touching me soon after that, they just stayed on the boardwalks. Mostly.
Sometimes I rest under the boardwalks when the sun is particularly hot and I need a break.
It's great. I usually can't eat in the summer sun, but the boardwalks shade me and the leaves under them are tender.
In general, the boardwalks have improved my standard of living.
March 17, 2017
In my dream she sets the apple on her head and smiles.
She’s a manifestation of an algorithm from a situation comedy.
I take aim with my bow and shoot her in the face.
The shot is nonchalant, almost automatic but certain, accidental, and without malice.
She falls to the right and pops up from the left like a carnival target.
The cycle continues until I wake.
What a mood to wake into. Casually and murderously incompetent.
Feet dragging, downcast frowning into the kitchen at dawn to a what’s wrong.
I joke with my wife, but feel like crap. Nothing is real anymore.
None of my actions are of consequence.
Not in my dreams, not in the world.
I knew of Burroughs’ misdeed, but not of Ginsberg’s dream.
I suppose we all have dreams, but it adds to the strange feeling to find out.
Ginsberg visited Joan in a dream and wrote about it:
“…her face restored to a fine beauty
tequila and salt had made strange
before the bullet in her brow….”
As the sun sets, I’m still in the funk or maybe it left and came back as the tangent to
the sun’s intersection with the edge of the earth.
Maybe that line is the only matter of consequence in my day.
Punctuated by digitized images of the looming apocalypse.
Maybe I gather my speed as the sun dips and I can troll the depths of my misery
with another visitation from the selfless, smiling bot.
I can reap another thousand lifeless murders, then start the day anew.
March 24, 2017
I’m walking into the tumult
the avalanches of water deadening the chatter
perhaps giving me a brief respite from the memory of a deed:
I saved her and she never let me live after that.
I’m being buffeted by the gale, it pressing against
the borrowed grey sweatshirt, and me, and the sand.
it feels like a cold hug and a shove.
I don’t want to remember the anger I saw, the sense of betrayal.
I skip and dodge a foamy line that threatens to soak me
and hop over the bloated corpse of a lake perch.
I scream at the wind and the death and the polluted water.
Bile and charcoal stained her words, “you should have let me die.”
The catamaran rigging wires are ringing loudly in the laminar air.
The steady force of 40 knots playing braided stainless against the aluminum masts.
It’s a chaotic rhythm marking the slow undoing of the world we make.
She hardly spoke to me after that day, except to help me move away.
I’ve reached The Outlet, where the turbines dump eighty eight degrees
every hour of every day. I can see the flash of giant carp scales between the steel girders.
I can hear the monstrous machinations of the blast furnace over the surf’s explosions.
I feel puny and pointless next to the scale of her self destruction.
It’s getting dark and I’m hungry, so I turn into the storm
to a slap in the face and the sting of sand on my ankles.
For the next two miles I have to lean into it with my childhood frame to keep my balance.
I’m exposed and am about to be cast out.
As I step up onto my grandmother’s deck under the acacia tree
our bent and thorned silhouettes merge for a moment against the familiar conflagration.
The furnace opens far behind me to engorge itself on a railcar of coke.
I turn and smile at the second sunset of the day, grateful I’m upwind.
March 31, 2017
Even lousy cats show ecstasy and ire.
Dog’s, which I despise, seem to love me.
I don’t really hate dogs for their sake,
it’s more about the shit you have to do to keep them.
You have to give them work and be in their pack.
You have to pick up their crap and they break your heart.
I have kids for that. I know that sounds harsh, but I don’t want more kids.
I love my kids. I made them and they’re making me.
If I wanted more kids, I wouldn’t get dogs.
Snakes, you can see it in their eyes.
Unblinking, uniform and expressionless.
Reptiles breathe, eat, shit, locomote, fight, flee, and fuck. That’s it.
Cuttlefish are calculating and cunning.
When I walk though the aquarium, they are the only ones that notice me.
What are they are doing with those vibrant, electric skins?
Maybe they’re emoting over my head.
Waves of purple and green might be excitement. Or contentment.
Or probably some squid’s fantasy
pushed through the circuits
and played on the photophores
to an internal song we’ll never guess.
Cephalopods can express in texture too.
Imagine if you could change your skin
to be as brittle and as coarse as malice tinged with jealousy.
What if you couldn’t control it?
How maladaptive to look like a pine cone
instead of just blushing a little, pupils dilating.
Maybe that’s why octopodes only live a year or two.
They’re too embarrassed to live long enough to remember it.
April 7, 2017
Again, at the booth in the corner of the bar,
Jane unwittingly stirs a memory while regaling
tales of mild peril in her backyard.
Mrs. Patmore the chicken has been terrorizing her coop mates.
Jane wants her dead.
I had to be five.
Yes, it was right after my father left home.
Dad and I were at Pierre’s:
A burly Hungarian chef (I had always thought to be French)
who sang my theme song every time he saw me.
Years later he would be tossed by bulls as a rodeo clown.
His house was familiar—we had rented it before him.
From Baba. It was pale blue, surrounded by oak forest.
I had watched Thunderbirds and Batman on TV there.
I walked comfortably down the porch steps
onto the unruly lawn, peppered with dandelions.
The sun was warm and the grass cool and damp.
Batman had my back.
She saw me right away, a goose easily my size.
At first, I thought she was coming to say hello
but she wasn’t slowing down and she was furious.
I turned and ran.
She was screaming and gaining.
The lawn was running out
to meet the gravel driveway.
The off-limits driveway.
Terror filled my ears with ringing and my vision blurred with tears.
Just as she reached for my ankle, a muscular arm
hairy like a neanderthal’s thrust into view.
Pierre’s hand deftly caught the soft white neck.
I turned at the edge of the limestones
to see the body rise and whirl about his head
like a wet towel.
Pierre lay the body on the grass and knelt to comfort me.
He laughed as I started to grin.
April 14, 2017
Charles Olson fey
once broken toy of the elder bear
pondering the fate of the Blue Note—
merchild newly minted green.
Her anchor still, under coiled ropes
as the silent cold and empty stove
and now-drowned mementos
some things barely valued, now trash
blurred and crying under the pre-dawn low tide.
Tiger rides on an orange-bottomed crane
to take the web fingers hold
delivered by selkie, oil-skinned Charlie,
under the belly of the Note, still listing
on harbor’s polluted mud black wrack.
A few shouts pass, o’er the solemn Note.
the rear deck kisses the surface!
then the fore, water parting in a thick, cold sheet
tunicates making way for the four inch pump
and its grey snake disgorging the greasy bilge
onto the sun and salt torn dock.
The Note also rises
blue footed boob, cowed, untrustworthy.
It’s time to pickle the Atomic Four
clear the decks of jetsam
to wait and see if something
other than forty nights rain
was to blame
for Olson’s Blue lagan.
Compiled drunken meanderings
April 21, 2017
A place unto itself.
An opus of lo.
And behold stanzas of Cliffe-faced astrolabes
in gingham sweaters and Gucci toilet paper.
Wastrels rhombus’d and cavorting
all ribbed in rancor
cranked up in sanitized oceans.
Underlings and unpinned, orphan freaks.
It’s alright. They know their lot.
They smell loss and victory just like the rest of us.
It’s an absolute pockmark
an unctuously reaped pleb in his undies.
There it is, a life un-lived
An unsavored passing of characters & figures,
sums, losses, and martingales.
Thrombosing private anguish.
Umber overages. Cavendish wilting in my arm.
But I won’t give him the other one.
That one, I reserve for thee.
Myself? Hisself, Mr. Nirvaña.
His paginations are pastimes and underpinnings.
His words are stumbling ruminants
the stuttering of this beaten pen
held by a fool. A tool,
O’toole’s old school.
Sleep and fast
pile on the relevant dreams
muster nothing more
and be gone.
April 28, 2017
Mom’s over the sanitarium wall.
She’s fleeing the torture of electro-shock.
There’s a wall, bare feet, and a gown open in the back.
A million tiger swallowtails flutter outside Bowling Green.
Two nice boys in a blown Barracuda give us a ride to town
to get a thermostat for our overheated Ventura.
Grandma sashays down a Roman Viale.
Skin tight jeans, turquoise bangled sandals,
a silver concho belt, pink lips and toenails, and a white K-Mart blouse.
She somehow lands the Ethiopian ambassador to Italy.
We shot Hunter S. Thompson’s guns.
Juan had the 12 gauge, I had the twenty two.
We plucked them out of the umbrella rack.
“Don’t shoot too many rounds, that ammo’s fucking expensive.”
William F. Buckley Jr. on the T.V. in the kitchen,
the color is turned all the way to green.
Swimming with sharks.
Swimming with sunfish.
A million moon jellies in Boston harbor,
while Judy Garland clicks her ruby slippers on the big outdoor screen.
A pile of bricks in the driveway.
That, and a pile of kindling.
The cardinal couple are courting in the neighbor’s dead peach tree.
May 1, 2017
There is no note or inkling
rich with festooned language.
I’m fasting or reaching for more
than my loss can overcome.
Parables are lost on most now, it seems
and maybe that was always the way.
Feasting on the notes,
cantankerous, rippling untidy chords.
Empty facts too, dropped carelessly
like how-do-you-dos and glad hands.
May 12, 2017
Raised in a matriarchy in Indiana
beauty was expressed as
the color of soft, pink-white things
or yellow things and blue things
Pollock, Lautrec, Holiday, and Simone.
It was sexy young men, bronze and streamline
while breasts were statements of power
curves not beautiful
cosmos flowers on airy green mist
pale petunias in boxes withered and renewed
Beauty was just past the peak of a lightning storm over the lake
when the thunderclaps counted seconds later, and later
the deep sky flashes illuminating immense pillars of vapor in the black
The smell of lamb roasting and ash smoke on autumn air.
New potatoes glistening with butter and chive
the taste of cold sour cream with hot baked yams
* * *
A sense of spirit sometimes infuses me
I feel a lack of self, I stretch into a lightness
nothing matters but this moment
in minutes or seconds there is nothing
and yet I receive a wider realm
it is beautiful
May 19, 2017
I needed a table
a place to sit and work
sturdy to hold me up
low enough to feed me
rough and plain
as big as a bed
The bastard landlord
as he introduced himself
taunted me halfway
said I could be painting,
"unless making a table is
what you want to do."
My reply was," this isn't my day job."
The feeble things he showed me,
small, tall, rickety
good to hold a pallet
and a few jars of paint
Now I have a table
where I sit and work
a sturdy place that doesn't
sway or creak
It holds the burden
of my thoughts
It taunts the bastard
and welcomes all others
to turn ideas real
and to share repast
May 24, 2017
It’s not often that I get
to drink Green Heads with the rabbi
while he sings Joe’s Garage.
There isn’t much left of me
after a day like today
this day of information
too much too poor
doled out in reams
stacked and chained to me.
Who are all these other mages?
They creep in from the margins
carrying tempest-born scrolls
charting the unwitting undoings
their mannerist rants intended
to beseech our vilest tendencies.
Rabbi Steve reminisces
about the Stratocaster
with the whammy bar
or ponders the honest work
of his atheist neighbors.
He offers up uncluttered observations
he gets and gives in equal measure
while on his quiet amble home.
May 29, 2017
It’s been a long standing
a dream of mine to have a little
place that is made by me.
Something stands in the way
time or money or the will
then I remember that the
little place is always, has
Longing is the act that
makes it dearer.
We forgot to adjust the thermostat