Friday, August 08, 2014

 AT the link, click on the "a" button on the left hand side to see an animated unit circle.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


There's a line I'm rather fond of, by the American philosopher Richard Rorty: "thinghood itself is description-relative."

We have no assurance that our words "cut nature at the joint."

There has been a good deal of international comparison going on of late concerning things like homicide rates, in which case, the United States looks rather dire, provided of course that you restrict the conversation to "developed" countries.

I think it is at least worth considering the possibility that the words "homicide" and "suicide" are, following Rorty, one "thing." (a suicide is a homicide where the perpetrator and the victim are one.)

Looked at through that lens, international comparisons yield a very different picture. Japan, which gets a lot of attention for having a low homicide rate, actually has a high suicide rate. So much so that it exceeds the combined total of US murders and suicides.

I'm not suggesting that this way of looking at things is "true," certainly not uniquely true. But I will suggest that it is worth considering things from this perspective for a while, to so how that world looks.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

I just did some back of envelope rough estimate calculations to get a sense of how much CO2 emissions each of us is in some sense "entitled" to.

With some admittedly highly suspect rules of thumb, I came up with an equivalent of an annual driving distance of 11,500 miles, ie. that is assuming that all you did was drive (no heating or cooling your home, no air travel, or train travel, no cooking o
f meals, no electric lights.)

I started with the assumption that all human beings should be individually entitled to an equal share of CO2 emissions. Also based on a rather optimistic estimate of 50 miles per gallon. This is so rough that I may have lost a factor of 10 somewhere, but this is a kind of tangible estimate that I have not seen before.

Based on the following data/assumption/estimates:

30 gigatons of CO2 emissions in 2011 
3 pounds CO2 emissions per pound of gasoline
6 billion people
5 tons per person per year
2.5 tons target (assuming 50% reduction target)

.8 tons of gasoline (to produce the .8 tons)
1600 pounds
7 pounds per gallon
230 gallons
11,500 miles (at 50 miles per gallon)

Friday, August 31, 2012

Dave Snodgrass

My friend Dave Snodgrass has graciously consented to have me publish his poem about the Golden Plowman.

Dave was a huge presence in the Cleveland performance poetry scene when I first became involved with it back in the very late '90s.  For his own reasons, he has removed himself from it, much to the community's impoverishment.

I don't think Dave ever made much effort to publish his poems, seeing them as more oral/aural and performance events.  But he is/was a wonderful writer.

Hope you enjoy this.

A Hymn of Praise to the Golden Plowman

by Dave Snodgrass

There ain't no life, 'cept the one life you get;
That's what you think about when you sit way up high and it sure ain't July
It resembles December, when the gods have a temper
and your prayers are as empty as your pockets.
Let me be more specific:
The closest approximation to a drunken elephant ballerina on roller skates
in this man's workin' world
is a fully-loaded flatbed on a highway incline
at the point at which H2O becomes H2OOOOOOOOOOOO shit!

Let me tell you from experience:
With ten tons of tool-steel in a top-heavy truck, it's terrifyingly tough,
to tip-toe through the two-lanes with tenderness and tenacity, it tends
to make a man count his sins …
just in case.

For further illustration, an episode:
Halfway home to work I was,
on a December evening when it seemed that Apollo's chariot blew a spoke;
and I'm steering between the flakes...
White above, white to each side,
fightin' twenty thousand pounds of feisty, frisky ferrite,
strapped to the back of a six-wheel toboggan,
momentum my master, inertia my icon,
and Slippery Rock ain't my college, but I'm takin' a schoolin' nonetheless...
I'm like a rat ridin' a rhino
over streets that would skid a spike-foot snowmobile like soap in a shower-stall,

And, just as I'm about to lose it entirely,
go ass-under-tailpipe into an unscheduled and unavoidable road-side rest stop,
wait …..............
In the rearview mirror, a flashing light,
a keel of steel, a wake of white, and Salvation,
like I'd ordered it from a good-luck menu …
The Golden Plowman, and his Yellow-Queen Limousine,
comin' to chop a foot off the top, and give the rest a hefty dose
of the salt of the earth,
I drop down two gears, tip my hat as he passes,
and slide in ten Toyota-lengths back for respect;
Respect, because he (or she, who can say) is my king, my savior, and my best
and I will follow him everywhere.
I will buy every coffee, fix every tire,
suck-siphon every spare drop of diesel from these tanks, because without him,
it'd just be me, and my air brakes,
Those Westinghouse wonders that only work three ways:
Every which way,
And no way at all;
No more jokes about ODOT being the Ohio Department of Taking our Time,
No more cussin' the extra lane-closures,
I'll buy him a brand-new shovel to lean on nine months out the year if he wants,
I'll leave a box of fresh donuts on every orange barrel
from Willoughby to Westlake, and Maumee to Marietta,
for he gives me the road, to have and to hold,
'til dock do I park.
No, there ain't no life, 'cept the one life you got,
and the Golden Plowman helps you keep it
when no one can even get out their own front door
So, Respect,
to the drivers of ODOT, and their Yellow-Queen Limousines.
May the roads rise well to meet you,
until the plows come home.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Maj Ragain

My friend the poet Maj Ragain has been a huge influence on poetry here in Northeast Ohio. It occurred to me the other day that he is under-represented online. So I asked him if I might publish one of his works here, and he graciously consented.

This is an old favorite.

Grab a Giblet/InaMae Bagwell

by Maj Ragain

In Olney, Illinois, the hillbilly ghetto, about a four block square, is named Goosenibble. Everybody in town knows the name; nobody knows where it came from. Except that the area, just south of the B&O tracks, has always had to do with poultry. The Kralis chicken processing plant was there for years, up through the late '70's, shipping noodles and broth to Campbell's. The plant moved to Arkansas, and Goosenibble slid a little closer to the edge. Most folks went to work down on Boone Street. That's where the unemployment office is. Say where you workin'? Down on Boone Street. For 26 weeks or so. Sign up every two weeks. Money comes in the mail.

But now there is hope in Goosenibble. A new turkey processing plant is open this week in the old Kralis building. And everybody knows turkeys are a step up from chickens. Truckers will haul thousands of turkeys into town, whole cities of Thanksgiving stacked crate on crate. The local poultry joke is that when they get someone new on the killing line, the old timers, washed in the blood themselves, pull this one: Now, the best way to make money here is to work fast so when the plucker gets done and hands you the turkey, you take your bare hand and shove it in the turkey's behind. It won't feel like it'll go, but keep tryin'. Run it all the way through 'til you get ahold of his neck, then jerk him wrong side out. Just dump the guts in the bucket and hand the turkey on down the line. Used to be a one-armed man here named Clint who could make a hundred dollars a day just like that, piecework, and never drew his knife. The whole plant would shut down to watch that green boy do his first turkey.

These aren't your Honeysuckle, all breastmeat, primetime turkeys, with the built in little red flag that pops up when they're done in the oven, not the one the rosy cheeked, smiling grandma serves at the Thanksgiving groaning board. These are what they call spent turkeys, too old to lay, too tough to bake, too gone to celebrate with. These are the ones you find in your bowl of soup, the noodle, the dumpling, the meltdown they call broth. This is where the turkey stops.

I did know a woman who worked at the Kralis plant. She'd walk up the tracks, two blocks, to the South End Tavern and drink Black Velvet. Usually she woudn't wash up either, wore her blue rubber boots and hard hat and long green killing coat. She was six feet tall, skinny enough to walk on air, ski footed, a voice that clanged. InaMae. One word. InaMae Bagwell. If I were making this up, I'd go ahead and say that she wrote poems in chicken blood on the restroom walls and that she carried a coatpocket full of chicken hearts and dropped them in the drinks of the unbelieving. But I am trying to tell the truth here.

She had an old man, a real old guy who rode a bicycle with a rusted wire basket. He leaned it against the front of the South End Tavern. He couldn't get his InaMae to come home after work. Every night, he'd have to go to the bar and haul her skinny butt home. It was a scene nobody liked. One night, he'd had enough. He drug her out of there and because InaMae was too drunk to go any further, he left her on the back steps of his house. He went and got a shovel and a fifty pound bag of Sakrete concrete mix. He dug a hole, stuck her feet in up to her knees, mixed the Sakrete with water and poured it in. He went to bed with a satisfied mind, the concrete was setting hard and InaMae was passed out, a prisoner of sweet love.

When he checked on InaMae an hour later, she was gone. He tracked her as far as the South End Tavern, peered through the front window and there she was, wearing twenty pound concrete boots and trying to dance with a glass of Black Velvet.

He didn't even bother to go in. The war was over for him. I heard that he passed away a year or so later. I haven't seen InaMae in a while. If she is still in this world, she'll be working at the turkey plant in Goosenibble. On the line.

Next time some smart guy pulls my sleeve to tell me that Love is two solitudes protecting, touching and greeting each other, that Love is the drama of completion, I'm gonna nod and say you got that right, brother. I'm not gonna try to tell him about InaMae Bagwell, spent turkeys, concrete and how hard it is to hold onto a woman.

(This poem was published in the "Fresh Oil, Loose Gravel", by Maj Ragain, Burning Press 1996.)

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Hitting the Hegel on the Nagel

I vaguely recall reading somewhere in Hegel "There is no freedom from law, only freedom through law."

I can't find any sources for this, but it sounds very Hegeley. (I know Hegelian would be more orthodox, but I'm aiming for a little more intimacy.)

An interesting sentiment whatever the origin.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Rhyme as Metaphor

Galton marks.
Print dust.
Chalk dust of 10 million algebra classes.
White cliffs of Dover.
The late cretaceous.
Crispy critters.
Critical theory.
Critical mass.
Mass defect.
Lie detector.
She was watching the detectives.
All along the watchtower.
Jimi Dylan.
Dill pickles.
Don Rickles.
Hammers and Sickles.
Armand Hammer.
I’d rather be a hammer than a nail.
Anvil breaking a hammer.
Her water broke.
Broker than the 10 commandments.
Stock broker.
Hammer lock.
Lock box.
Boxers of briefs?
Amicus brief.
Brevity is the soul of witlessness.
Witless protection program.
Protection racket.
Racketeering prosecution.
Elocution lessons.
Execution by electrocution.
The body electric.
Anna Karenina.
Cary Nation.
Cary Buck.
Buck v. Bell.
The Bell Curve.
“You can ring my bell.”
The chimes of freedom flashin’.
Flash mob.
Flash in the pan.
Glossal stop.
Full stop.
Full frontal.
Weather front.
Weather underground.
Worm food.
Crude oil.
Animal, vegetable, or mineral?
Twenty questions.
Questionable call.
Call of the wild.
American Idlewild.
Ugly American Gladiator’s aviators.
Quadrumanous gladhanding Gladstone.
Casting the first hand that Rockefellers the cradle.
Diego Rivera hangin’ round Orson’s inkwell.
All’s well that ends wealthier than Orwellian.
There is no wealth but a life sentenced to death taxes to please love and be wise-ass.
Mandatory health insurance agent 007.
I double-owe my soul to the company’s double-blind double crossing double-indemnity enmity.
The committee to re-elect the president really creeps me out.
While my guitar gently weeps its willowy brook trout.
Moldy bathroom tile grout and shower-curtain grommet rust.
Chrono-synclastic trust-fundibulum.
Somnambulant funambulist’s ambulance’s mirrorshrift.
Queer theory getting queerer and queerer theory and practice on a blind date.
Date rape.
Scene of the crime.
The myth of fingerprints.
Galton marks.

Monday, December 12, 2011

An Uncountable Infinity of Orgasms

My chapbook "An Uncountable Infinity of Orgasms" was published a few days ago by NightBallet press.

Many thanks for the diligent efforts of my publisher, Dianne Borsenik.

NightBallet is one of the few places you can get a copy, they are located here

Friday, August 19, 2011

Following post

The following post is just a bunch of links to Google image pages for different kinds of flowers referenced in a poem by Philip Levine, "Keats in California". You might want to read this in one tab, and then go to the flower links in another.

Levine flowers

Wisteria, plum trees, almond blossoms, iris, rose, tulip, poppy hillside, lupine, gorse, wild mustard

Friday, August 05, 2011

Annual Vietnam

At its peak it was an annual Vietnam in America: 50,000 dead. In a year.

And on an exponential growth curve. I think the hardest thing to recover now is that sense of the exponential growth. One had reason to be frightened over where this thing was heading.

There are people in their twenties now who have no idea.

And everyone who got it died, and died quickly, and nothing seemed to help. Nothing. There was one poison (and yes I'm talking about AIDs) AZT, that seemed to slow the descent ever so little, rather like holding an umbrella when you've fallen off a cliff. And that was it.

And then somewhere in the mid-90s, protease inhibitors came along. In a two year period, the number of deaths was cut in half. The epidemic ceased. The disease stopped being an instant death sentence.

This came about six months too late for Robert.

My partner's brother, the nearest person to me to ever have or die from the disease.

Two things seem worth holding onto at this remove: how suddenly the fatalism of the situation vanished, and how suddenly the euphoria over its vanishing vanished as well. And a third thing: how the happy ending is less than perfectly happy.

Even though it had really only entered mass consciousness in the early 1980s, AIDs had taken on the aspect of permanence we associate with cancer, or Alzheimer's. How swiftly learned helplessness is learned! Which is what impelled me to write this: to capture how suddenly the unchangeable, can change, and how quickly people accept something as unchangeable.

The most relevant analogy in my own life at the moment is my father's confrontation with Alzheimer's. I am like a lot of people I think in gradually resigning myself to the irreversible course of his disease.

But there is nothing to prevent the next protease inhibitor (or the next Salk vaccine, or the next penicillin) from arriving, miraculously, tomorrow.

It is very easy to mistake the unprecedented for the impossible.

My point is David Hume incarnate.

But we would be far more proficient in anticipating the remarkable were we to linger on the history of the remarkable. The sheer joy of the Salk vaccine, how seldom we recall it: the joy of parents, the purposeful columns of exuberant school children awaiting salvation in a sugar cube.

Nearly everyone old enough to remember Nixon has had abundant opportunity for the concrete of their cynicism over the war on cancer to solidify. Appropriate to the metaphor of war, vastly inappropriate and expensive weaponry has achieved only the most illusory of progress, while an aristocracy of vampires has entrenched the existing order. We resign ourselves to what 'must' be. But we cannot know that things cannot be otherwise.

Which brings us to the reality of happy endings: for more than a decade after the discovery of the remarkable healing powers of penicillin, it was hugely expensive and so, hard to come by. After decades of widespread use, it has lost much of its effectiveness.

With protease inhibitors it has been much the same, as vast numbers of people with AIDs in lesser- developed countries are unable to afford them.

We do well to remember both that the impossible is often possible, and that it is always short of Utopia.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Thank a LIBERAL philosopher

"Christians" like those of the Westboro Baptist Church should recognize they are allowed to spew their hateful anti-gay rhetoric only because some 18th century liberal philosophers of the enlightenment first recognized that freedom of speech was a freedom worth having.

LIBERAL philosophers.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Permanent Magic

gone the days of your childhood,
almost gone,
the wonder-eyed youth,
when each minute reveals permanent
magic, and nothing but fails
to improve.

The stardust that blesses your slumber,
and guards against waxing concern,
runs low as the days start to number,
filled with lessons you'd sooner unlearn.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Rushmore, Reagan, and Mary Shelley

They want to put Ronald Reagan on Mount
Rushmore. Ronald
on Mount Rushmore.
Ronald Reagan on Mount Rushmore?
I mean, isn't that like
just exactly the opposite of what
Mount Rushmore is there for? I mean,
isn't Mount Rushmore supposed to be reserved
for the Greatest (think here of Muhammad
Ali) the Greatest of presidents?

People like George Washington, the father of our
country, and Abraham
Lincoln, the freer of the slaves, and Thomas
Jefferson the father of our Independence
declaration, and Theodore Roosevelt, the father of the,
the father of the,
OK well,
so I'm not so sure what he's even doing up there, but Ronald

Reagan? Ronald Reagan?
Why do you want to honor the guy who sent Donald Rumsfeld to make
nice nice with Saddam Hussein? Why do you
want to honor the guy who created Al
Qaeda by getting the CIA to train
Islamic fundamentalist terrorists in
Pesha-war to go fight a terrorist war in
Afghanistan? Twenty years later
and we're still cleaning up the big old messes he left us,
the two Great Frankenstein's
monsters he created in
Saddam and Osama.

Which is not to mention the people hacked
to bits in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua,
the thousands and thousands of people raped,
beaten, tortured, dismembered and mutilated
all with the training, assistance, and "material support"
of the Boland-Amendment-violating CIA. Or the way he
dismantled the constitution so he could sell
missiles to the terrorists in Iran, or the way he
helped Nicaraguan terrorists to smuggle
cocaine into the US --- like starting a crack
epidemic was some kind of urban
enterprise zone for South Central LA. He was
so horrible, so-o horrible, why would anyone want to
honor him? Why would anyone want to put him right
up beside Washington,
and Jefferson,
and Lincoln and Roosevelt?
And that's when it hit me.

Didn't Washington send out what he
himself called "scalping parties" during the French
and Indian War back when he was still fighting
for the King of England? Didn't he
deploy them with explicit
orders to kill
civilians? Wasn't the father of our
country really the founding father
of American terrorism?
Didn't he steal colossal
tracts of land from native Americans,
and foster a climate of genocide against them?
Didn't he own a lot of slaves and so,
wasn't Abraham Lincoln really
at war against him?

And didn't Jefferson, wasn't he not only
the owner of slaves but a slave
Didn't he rape Sally Hemings?
I mean, seeing as he owned her,
seeing as she was a piece of his property,
she didn't really have any right to say no,
and so isn't it rape where the
thing you are
fucking does not give
her consent because she has no consent
to give?

And as for Lincoln, didn't he
start the bloodiest war in American history,
didn't he shut down the press and, sans
habeas corpus jail his
own people for voicing dissent? And didn't he
support slavery if it preserved the union?
Didn't he continue
slavery, in the very text of the Emancipation Proclamation,
didn't he continue slavery in the four so-called
border states, the slave states that never joined
the Confederacy? Which then leaves

TR. The
star of San Juan Hill, back in a war we
for empire. The man who continued
the slaughter in the Philippines: 200,000 dead in a war of
imperial conquest. 200,000 dead in a racist war for white

And so looking at Mount Rushmore with its
quartet of murdering, raping, conniving, torturing,
genocidal terrorists and thinking about the real
Ronald Reagan, I came to realize
he belongs there just fine. It's just
we need to change the way we
see the place, from a place of heroes,
to a place of demons; maybe by changing
the name from Mount Rushmore
to Mount Frankenstein. Mount Rushmore to Mount
Axis of Evil.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Consolations for a Cleveland Winter

What would I do with all that
prodigal sunshine,
day after changeless day, and the way it
bleaches unliving colors
to pastel? Far better to
dwell here,
in wired concrete igloos,
parked in the arctic precincts of a
supposedly temperate
climate, where the dense gray
perpetuity of cloud
supersedes shade and curtain, where
no luminous nuisance trespasses in the sky,
opacifying the lenses of your eye with the
glare of film noir third degrees.
Where you can sleep for weeks without missing a single
shadow. How reassuring,
not to have to worry about the cat
exploding in the unvented four-door.

And then, there are the economic benefits;
the costly, sloppy stickiness of the
sunscreen you won't be needing,
the money unspent on the darklensed
fashionstatements you won't sit on
entering the car, the superfluity of
bikini waxes beneath layer upon layer of
goose down, wool, velcro, Gortex and Thinsulate.
None of the wastefulness of frozen-drink
parasols: instead, the allegory of marshmallows
melting in hot cocoa, the music of
whistled steam gossiping about the impending
arrival of scalded pots of tea.

Who would knowingly trade the
palping rapture of cashmere
coiled in gentle neck-snug, for the
goo gunk of tropical crotchfunk, and
pitstench? And then there’s the boon
to marital fidelity, the erotic temptations
of fishnet nymphettes
preempted: the very thought of provocative textiles
foreclosed by the horripilant chill-threat of
bristle-hair gooseflesh. No apocalyptic water bugs
skittering eerily from
unknown places, just a preternatural
feeling of brotherhood
for the lonely burdens of prehistoric
glaciers, and sympathy for the fate of naked
graveyard statuary.

Far better to start each morning with the discourse of
shovel's-edge rasping flagstone or blacktop, even
the cranky percussion of twostroke engines chuting
geysers of crystal into driveway-lining
ridges of freeze-dried sky-squeeze.
Listening to the sizzle-hiss of woodfire, its
narrative about the liberation of stored
sunshine, how preferable this to the trademarked
thrash-ratchet of idling middle-aged stockbrokers.

Needless to say,
mountainside fiberglass waterslides
rank a very distant second to
the doorstep thrill-ride of each morning,
as, improvising your way along the
newly arrived canyons of spontaneous
car-devouring roadcrumble, you
fishtail through slushstreeted
rush-hours. And there can simply be
no moral comparison between the
generosity of the snowplow rock-salt
that leaves the entire northeast
corner of the state saltier
than a frozen-margarita rim,
and the isolating managedcare selfishness
of tinted-power-windows and factory-air.

There is nothing in the radiant scorch
of hot sun on tanned skin
to make you desire anything
but escape; nothing that
remotely begins to compare with the way that,
numbing your extremities, a Cleveland winter
lectures about how you have stopped
feeling, and long
to feel