Friday, December 25, 2009
the year 1000 was celebrated,
it marked only a century or two
of reckoning dates from the birth of Yeshu
(the Aramaic correlate of the Greek 'Jesus'.)
it was not the year 1000 of course
since Fibonacci had not yet (until 1202)
introduced the Arabic numerals into Europe
(which he at least, having studied in Tunis had
the good grace
the 'Hindu' numerals.)
It was the year 'M'
that being in Roman numerals
the symbol for 1000,
the Latin for 1000 being 'mille'
'mile', 'million', and 'millenium'.
Although it was a Roman
numeral, and the Aramaic speaking Yeshu a
Palestinian subject of the Romans,
that Roman numeral was not the Roman year, which,
(anno urbis conditae, from the founding of the city)
was 752 at Christ's birth
(ignoring an apparent four year error),
and so the year M would have been
1752 according to the
On a recent trip to Thailand
ungenerous to English sensibilities
insist on calling Muang Thai),
I discovered that the Thais,
having generously adopted a twelve month
solar calendar beginning on our January first,
still date their calendar to the birth of the Buddha
(the number of their year being 543
greater than ours ( and dare I mention
the twenty years
from the Indian
by many accounts the most numerous
religious group in the world,
start their calendar with the flight (hegira)
of their great prophet Muhammed
from their most holy city, Mecca,
in fear of his life (not,
of Jews, Christians, Romans, or Persians but
of fellow Arabs from the same clan),
about our year 622
(with the exception that the Muslim calendar
gains a year
on the Gregorian
once every 22 1/2 years.)
Jews in the East had
for many centuries
used the Seleucid calendar
that began in 312 B.C. when,
in the ninth century,
European Jews began dating
to the beginning of the world,
or 3761 B.C. in Gregorian terms.
What was God thinking when,
in his infinite wisdom,
to make the period
of the earth's revolution
a non-integer multiple
of its rotation?
Perhaps he meant it
as a WPA for astronomers.
It was left to the infallible
Gregory XIII (although this does beg
the question about Gregory's XII and XI)
acting on discrepancies found
800 years earlier by the Venerable Bede,
to set things straight
the day after October 4, 1582,
to be October 15, 1582.
up in smoke.
Amazing the things
you can make happen,
if you happen to be Pope.
But perhaps this too is a bit
simplistic, since Protestants,
being what they are,
against a Pope's having the gall
to be accurate.
And so whereas
the appropriate days disappeared
in Spain and France,
they took two years to vanish
in Luthered lands.
The British government,
being what it is,
until, in 1752,
September 2nd was followed by
throwing in the change of New Year's Day
from March 25th back to January 1st.
Recent cosmological data suggest
that the universe is
3 thousand million years newer
than previously thought,
only 10 thousand million years old.
2000 approaches though 1000 never happened.
It reminds of the singer Prince ---
'Tonight I'm gonna party like it's 1999'.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
How will you get there?
In the club car of an overnight train perhaps,
a cup of hot coffee in a cardboard tray,
seeing little but reflections
in the windows made mirrors
by the transient seam of severe light
stitching through the vast drapery of darkness
that is nothing
but earth's shadow.
In the wicker basket of a hot air balloon?
Its garish colors bulging above
rolling hills of shaggy meadows and the occasional elm,
a skein of judgmental geese eyeing
you as they pass, otherwise
the flame-punctuated silence
where you float in the invisible
alone, one giant step
away from solid ground and
fatality. Or perhaps in the industrial
precision of an economy
four-door with a full tank, recent oil
change, tires at manufacturer's recommended
inflation, the continent's roads like root hairs
captured in the folded pages of the atlas,
the broken rear window
defroster sometimes clouding the towns behind,
while rhythmic lost loves and ever-recent
disasters emanate from the radio's electromagnetic
ether, the vibrations of the interstate traveling
up the steering column to your ever-vigilant hands.
And, given how, one wonders, when?
Before or after work, or, might one dream,
during? Will the time be measured in the ink
stamps of alphabetized punch-cards,
the programmed surveillance of keystrokes at computer terminals,
the wrinkles of skin pressing into foreheads,
pit sweat melting into work shirts,
or be transmuted by engineered genetic alchemy
into a softer currency of diapered babies on their backs,
tiny toes kicking air into whispers
of dance? Will it be
returning to a near or distant past ---
buffalo hunts and armor-mounted jousts,
initiation rites in torch-lit caves,
gladiators battling in imperial
stadiums, texts being transcribed
in the solemn tranquility of monasteries ----
or advancing toward a limitless
future, weightless in earth
orbit, never a cloudy day or
a hint of rain where,
standing on our heads or climbing the walls
effortlessly, sorrow is
as forgotten as the blue of the sky
we are outside and above
or the reason anyone ever listened
to Billie Holiday.
And last, the question of where?
Hyperlinked to 10,000 symphonies and
a million sonatas, a mouse-click
away from the entire history
of radio and tv. Or,
escaping the middle
decks of the middle passage, the rank
putridities of slobbered mucous
and the ptomained slime of decaying corpses,
with decks too tight to turn over in sleep,
released onto shores of the first great
democracy, dedicated to the self-
evident ideal of human equality. Perhaps
in some multi-acre casino
where bustiered women with bunny tails
serve around-the-clock intoxicants to patrons
wagering ocean waves of cash in games
where chance is guaranteed
to be against them.
Or, almost too easily,
with no vehicle but the mind,
no time but the present,
no place but what you hold in your hands,
astonished when suddenly,
like a poem, you find it,
coming from inside.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
no limits. Just because
you have strong privacy rights
in your penis doesn’t mean the government,
lab coated and litmus papered, won’t
making you pee in a pot to find out if there’s
pot in your pee.
Even if you haven’t hit 700 home runs,
or won with a sudden, swollen
Dizzy-cheek of muscles, an Olympic medal,
the avuncular chemists of the
piss Gestapo insist
they are not invading,
despite that electron microscope
in your bladder,
Only the well-trained murderers,
fangs out in their
aluminum clouds and brown shoes,
titrated to a go-pill tee,
only they are free
from urination chaperones,
and the mandatory optical catheters
snaking their threads
up your dick.
Who are you
to resent the cameras in your penis?
Or the state supervision of your bodily fluids?
Who are you to resent the invisible tattoo
of retinal scans and DNA dragnets?
As if so much as the ownership of your body,
check for missing foreskin,
would be left to you.
Saturday, December 05, 2009
then we can call it new
just have to torque the talk
don't have to mean it's true
I got my lightnin rod on.
If you need me
I'll be at the Pentagon.
I been printin out twenties
in the back a my car
got a tank full a fossils
and a counterfeit card
I'm wearin armor that rhymes
I'm trackin you down
for a bit part as a partner in crime.
Well there's squatters in the alley
like some squalor spree
but the man in the limo
thinks the mother's milk's free
I'm like the fourth of July
I'm like a thistledown neon of rejection
in a newly fledged sky.
I'm a needle in a haystack
tryin to talk some sense
to the soap bubble tourists
with the luau defense
I'm like a telephone poll
I keep askin people questions
when the world is spinnin outta control.
The guru's in the data
he's divining the sales
of the lapidary notions
by electonic mail
I'm like a poisonous seed
to protect you from the parasites
who'll rob you of the things that you need.
Well the buttocks by the donuts
in electroglide blue
have been fattening for decades
like an elephant stew
I'm like a Rosetta Stone
reading your Mirandas
in a language that you thought was unknown.
The entire constellation
has been dropping its pants
the vacuum hose is nothing
but a temple a dance
you make my molecules sing
I've been searchin for enigmas
and I know at last I've found the real thing.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
NASA got so
pissed off about the Russians selling slots
on the international space station to
millionaires like Dennis Tito and Mark Shuttleworth, that they
promulgated new rules, new
criteria, for just who can, and who can’t be
what people are now calling
dishonest, criminal, infamous or notoriously disgraceful
conduct, (apparently discrete disgrace is just fine), suffices
for rejection. My mind thinks “they’re worried
about OJ.” Can’t you see it,
the tabloids would have an
outer space field day. Low speed
chases in orbit, OJ in a space suit.
They’re trying to nip this publicity stunt
in the bud because everyone knows —
But seriously, the other
factors that can disqualify you
from space-flight include
fraud, excessive drinking, and
drug abuse. And I’m trying to picture this,
thinking of some 800 pound gorilla. Some
madman playing three card monty
with John Glenn. You know they say
weightlessness can cause spacesickness even without
someone’s chasing screwdrivers with
tequila shots while he watches the
moon rise. Imagine it, way up
there above the continent-sized
lacey galaxies of cloud, luminous
spiral white fluff poised against
the blue-glowing ocean, a
giant opalescent, marbled jewel
sprawled against humanity’s
intensely arbitrary conception of
is. Imagine that scene
wasted on someone in orbit
before he even
arrived at the launchpad,
some moron too high on
himself to notice the glorious
beauty that surrounds him
queasier and queasier by the minute,
until the swollen weather balloon of his
zero gravity stomach starts to collapse, eject, and
catapult-spew the vile, putrid Mulligatawny
stew of his chemically-ridden,
industrially irradiated, and
genetically modified diet of
ever-so patriotically American
No. Now I’m seeing him in a space station
that’s become a gargantuan
of his own making,
because if he is weightless then his vomit
is weightless too. And it is sloshing and
bouncing and rebounding all around
the cabin. It’s got nothing
to stick to, what with all the
precision-machined metal and plastic
surfaces designed to repel it. And just then,
imagining this intersection of progress
and malnourished disgust, what do I see
but the balding domed septuagenarian pate
of John Glenn, and he’s flushed with all the
senatorial outrage he can muster —
and dodging puke, and I think to myself:
wait . . . WAIT.
This is perfect. This, is,
perfect. I think
“what better place can there be for all the
nauseous politicians in the world?” Every
president, prince, king, pasha and potentate, every
emperor, czar, dictator, and shah,
every grand mufti, premier, and papal nuncio
each vice chancellor, senator, and MP,
even the representatives of the Icelandic
Althing — load them all onto some
international space station.
After all they like to think of themselves as
above the fray, ten feet tall.
Loftier minds, concerned
with the big picture.
Upper class. High
brow. If they want to
look down on us why not
let them? Why not make them do it
from a place high enough so they can
piss all over everybody in the world,
— but where their piss,
won’t fall? Where they’ve got to live with their own
predigested messes which won’t
trickle down. Where people drunk
on power have to dodge their own
projectile vomit. And like the poverty and war
they make for the rest of us,
there’s no escape.
I wonder how long it would take before they stopped
concentrating on their own emissions, bodily
secretions and ex-
cretions for long enough to notice
that there are no borders and no skin colors
painted on the land and sea
down below. Wonder if the mid-day sky,
black as Texas crude
might not wake them up to that thing so near,
and impossibly far, the news
they hold in the palm
of their hand, like us,
the rest of their victims,
the reality that we’re all equal,
the miracle of the life
Friday, November 20, 2009
Well the terror alert had been raised to high,
so our F-15's were patrolling the sky.
Keeping us safe, keeping us free,
protecting the homeland security.
Every day of the week, every week of the year,
we're armed to the teeth so we got nothing to fear---
The kids were asleep all snug in their beds,
while visions of Predators shot through their heads.
They were slaughtering badguys like you wouldn't believe,
with their Hellfire missiles there on Christmas Eve.
They were pint-sized heroes in an army of one,
and for Jesus's birthday all they wanted was guns;
guns for Jesus,
and fear itself.
Guns for Jesus,
and fear itself.
Well the terrorists are always around,
so you better never lower your guard.
So while we celebrate the baby Jesus,
you know they're trying extra hard.
It was just after midnight and NORAD radar
showed that something big was coming in fast.
There was no time to think, and no time to argue,
act now or it might just be your last.
And they mighta thought twice,
and they mighta thought better,
but the terror was already so high,
well that was the night that the US Air Force
blew Santa Claus outta the sky.
We blew Santa Claus outta the sky.
And it was raining bits of blown up reindeer
for hours and hours on end,
and none of our jets,
and none of our missiles
could put Santa back together again.
And though fear and hate,
may keep you safe,
from everything the enemy sends,
the problem with answering fear with guns,
is that you're gonna end up killing your friends.
The trouble with answering fear with guns,
is that you always end destroying your friends.
With nothing to fear,
and nothing to love,
Saturday, November 14, 2009
'When did God make men? When she realized vibrators couldn't dance.'
Leave it to mathematicians to invent something called a
countable infinity; a contradiction
in oxymorons to the lay ear. What they mean
to convey is that whereas infinity is something you know
you can't count to, nonetheless, if you have an infinity
of integers at least you know which one is next.
If you reach 3,458,753 you proceed to 3,458,754.
6,400,079,010 leads immediately to 6,400,079,011.
But then again if you start trying to count what they call real
numbers --- it could be something quite small, 15 perhaps,
you don't know what the next number is. In theory
if you just step to 15.000000001, there are still
uncountable millions of fractions in between. In the
case of 'real' numbers you don't know what the 'next one'
means. In both there is an infinity of numbers
but in the latter case an infinity between each step towards
infinity. It's like the difference
between not having a prayer of getting
where you're going but at least knowing the next step,
and not having a prayer of getting where you're going
and being clueless
about what the next step is.
Almost like two different types of people.
A countably infinite person looks down on
an uncountably infinite person for lacking direction.
The uncountably infinite contend that the countable are,
regrettably, not very deep.
I was reminded of these two different types of infinity when I was trying to imagine the total number of times in history
women have faked orgasms. I figured it was such a large number
(probably one or two for each grain of sand on an ocean beach)
that you might as well call it infinite
in that same poetic imprecision one lets slide with sand.
You see I've been reading about the evolution of vibrators
and medical douches and I've been,
let's see, it's hard to find a word for it….
flabbergasted? (Really, more like gabberflasted? ma-zazed?
fumdounded? sta-monished? pur-srised?
stump-jarted? ) to realize not just how often women fail
to achieve orgasm from plain old vaginal
penetration, but also how long this has been going on and why.
How often, throughout history, they were told this was because of something wrong
with them and they were frigid. That if they tried to satisfy themselves they'd only be made
more frigid, perhaps infertile. And so women would become
physically ill from unsatisfied sexual desire, diagnosed as
hysterical. Up until 1952 hysteria was one of the most commonly
diagnosed illnesses in hystory. What an amazing thing that the social
construction of sexuality can get so close to a person, so far
inside her head, that it could stand between a woman and her own
The prevailing treatment for women
diagnosed with hysteria? Go ahead, guess.
Would you believe me if I said
genital massage? Yes, 'genital massage'. As far back as the second
century A.D. the leading physician of the time, Galen,
provided a detailed description of how to bring a woman to what he called, 'hysterical paroxysm'; his description complete with
vaginal contractions and release of vaginal fluids leading to
'relief of symptoms'? As Rachel Maines (the author of
'The Technology of Orgasm') observes
doctors have had their hands full throughout history
satisfying the sexual needs of
women otherwise unmet by their husband's penises.
She calls the term 'hysteria' social-
camouflage for 'sexually unsatisfied'.
'Hysterical paroxysm' camouflage for 'orgasm'.
Historically then, doctors have functioned
as (albeit socially prestigious) sex slaves, or,
given the differentials in pay, lucratively
I imagine there are those who think such pursuit
the stuff that dreams are made of, but medicine
even then being a volume business, and paroxysms often
requiring up to an hour of devoted physicians' attention,
doctors were quite eager for any technique or device
that could save them labor, increase turnover
so to speak. This explains what might otherwise
strain belief, at the end of the nineteenth
and beginning of the twentieth century, the wide
dissemination in doctor's offices
of that new invention, the electromechanical
vibrator. Responding as it did to a need both
urgent and widespread it nonetheless proves a little shocking
to twenty-first century sensibilities
that the medical vibrator was patented
fully a decade before that
other great labor saving device, the vacuum cleaner.
Achieving regularly in five minutes what men's penises often failed
of for years, and which even a skilled surgeon's fingers might
only succeed at in ten-fold the time, the technological imperative
of such a machine is clear. But
as so often happens in materialist culture what begins
as curiosity soon evolves through convenience to household
necessity, and an earnest and thrifty market learns
to bypass the middleman. So it came to be that
medicinal electromechanical vibrators were widely advertised
in the sorts of ladies journals read by knitting circles
and elderly spinsters, and even the Sears-
What then? Shall we call it revealing
or call it odd, that nature (or was it God)
should design a woman's genitalia
in such an inappropriate fashion
(or at least unflattering to the male anatomy?)
That the act of procreation should so often fail
to satisfy feminine lust or (truth be told) masculine
ego? And once this fact concealed
how quickly the healing profession, dominated
by men, should substitute its agency
for prostitution, which because invested with social
prestige, could never be perceived
for what it was? But more again how a
foreign hand should improve on a lover's
virile member, and how a hard, dead, anonymous
vibrator should, at least functionally, improve
We sound these nether regions imperfectly
with the mind --- finding our egos
always there arrived
of us. But such creatures as have conjured
incubus and succubus alike
to explain what they, neither male nor female, can
comprehend, should only pretend certainty --
with caution. Beneath the skin such turbulent
purposes contend with reason
we both must, and cannot begin
to fathom. Resigned sheerly to function,
our technology has surely rendered us already
superfluous; once the markets
demand it, vibrators will undoubtedly
dance. But these shall sooner coax stars out of the sky
than entrance, whoever the fool and however foolishly,
or achieve the starry devotion of a lover
in the uncountable infinity
of a beloved's sparkling eye.
Saturday, November 07, 2009
copy in the stars tonight.
Copy jungles, tiger bright,
burning twinkles, mind delight.
Money profit, forest laws,
copy right the conscience clause.
Own ideas, patent genes,
money nose what money means,
and when the lamb in molten wool,
lambent shines its starry spool,
the lawyers in their tiger suits,
announce the rules that time refutes,
and bankless loves in left bank flesh,
apply the fingersong touch caress,
for better terms on love's tontine,
disdaining tender's legal green.
Like fools with hearts they reeve their gauche,
while kingly brains make fools reproach,
and tight as drunken souls bereft
leave copyright their copy left.
Friday, October 30, 2009
We all have our existential moments. Those times when we confront our demons head on, and stare straight into those truths we spend most of our lives denying, times when the three laws of thermodynamics refuse to be silent; you can't win, you can't break even, you must play.
For some people those facts are relentless as daylight, overwhelming as a newborn child; the sense of futility never leaves them and any attempt to evade or ignore the sheer pointlessness of human life is for them worthy of mockery and derision.
But other people go through their lives with the unmitigated enthusiasm of a family pet; you know the one, that Labrador retriever when you come back from the grocery store, its tail wagging a mile a picosecond, butt wiggling faster than a debutante's fan, front paws prancing in half-audition for bipedality, that little eh, eh, eh, eh, eh squeal that says it is pure joy, to be alive.
Now the question for me is, is it possible that these two attitudes represent two fundamentally different types of intelligence; one that is anxiety ridden and constantly depressed, and the other with a bouncing bliss at the mysterious fact of being itself, refusing to see the half of certainty that is more certain than taxes.
The issue is, suppose these two different types of intelligence are themselves amenable to evolutionary natural selection, that each group has a different fitness, a different ecological utility. Which one do you think is more likely to survive?
Or, putting it a different way, suppose you lived in a dictatorship where the state police routinely came around and pointed a gun at your head and asked if you lived in a country where everyone was equal and free. Everyone who says no is executed immediately. Everyone who says yes is left alone to do what they want for another week, as long as they don't challenge the privileges of the dictator, whose Christian name is Democracy.
Imagine now the situation after several generations of this. Everyone who has managed to survive this long has gotten the habit of saying the system is fair and that all are free --- but perhaps some due to some fluke of genetic mutation do this almost reflexively. They support the dictatorship without thought or effort --- they tell their lies, as it were, genetically.(inadvertent) But others (it is difficult to say how many) may lack this genetic adaptation and find that they have to lie if they want to keep on living. They are tortured by the absurdity of this, and depressed both by the required repetition of hypocrisy and the enthusiastic compliance of their genetically 'adapted' brethren.
Finally, suppose that among these depressed, anxious, and existentially obsessed people there arises an exquisite irony that depicts the situation much the same way as I've just described, and that this irony provides them with a joyful humor that comprehends both the happiness predicated on the genetic lie, and the angsty depression of those who are too intelligent and too honest to celebrate hypocrisy.
What will such a person say when asked if the system is fair and free?
Now if you would just put down that gun, I'll tell you.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
while loneliness quivers
with being. The sun plies
the ripple with conjecture,
the wind with quarrel,
the shimmer with
quarantine, while plumes of question ask,
if frosting can be revoked once they've eaten
all the cake, if telescopes
can resolve childhood, if microphones
can amplify memory. Coals glimmer with messages
of warmth and
death, samovars of tears, parades
of fossil music,
of acid reign.
There are pills for almost everything,
and we caulk much while waiting
for eloquent mushrooms, and bulldozers
with human skin.
When the invasion comes,
books will be thumbed
like sex acts --- only truth
the commute will be free
to last forever, where
trespass is history,
and war remains
Friday, October 16, 2009
are getting caught,
and blaming it on you,
if you can trust in even those who are paid
to tout you,
while reneging on their fees for touting too,
if you can raid, and not get tired of raiding,
or stealing prizes not give back the prize,
or feeding hatred, escape from others’ hating,
and flaunt your looking good while making wise,
if you can scheme – and make those schemes
if you can scam, while making scams your aim,
if catastrophic success is the label of your disasters,
and though you are an imposter
not be called so by name,
if you savor hearing all the lies you’ve spoken,
proclaimed by scum to bait a trap for fools,
and watch the frauds you earned your wealth from, broken,
and still be asked to pen revisions’ rules,
If you can talk to crowds and repeal their virtue,
and walk with kings, while serving as their crutch,
if even the idea of having friends can hurt you,
if nothing counts with you, or nothing much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
with sixty seconds worth of bullshit slung,
yours is the World Wide Web, and all that’s in it,
and, which is more, you’ll be the toast
(Props to Rudyard Kipling)
Friday, October 02, 2009
The word 'green' when spoken is quite
colorless, and so colorless green is just
the idea of the word
'green'. But rational
minds sleep to the idea
of a colorless green. Unaware of
this sleeping ambiguity reason seeks
furiously to control by a means it does not...
Furiously pursuing domination,
sleep to the idea
'green' is quite colorless.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
a dog stretching his
limber neck through a speeding
car window, jabbing his snout into the
aroma-feast of the world’s passing
velocity breeze, wet nose
perusing the Sears catalog of its living
scents, nothing in nature
(and, yes, isn’t this nature too)
appears more orgiastically
self satisfied than a
McNeill River grizzlybear.
Think of the river
as a Southern California freeway
for fish: but this isn’t a Hollywood movie, and
the bear isn’t Jackie Gleason,
and none of the salmon even remotely resembles
As fast food goes,
McDonald’s has nothing
on this: wriggling silver-scaled missiles
of saliva-stoking flesh just a
It is a church
of sorts, their house
of worship, and they populate its banks
at standoffishly respectful distances,
like a small congregation of furry
Episcopalians in a remarkably
mammoth cathedral of unstained glass.
Admittedly, there is no Bear-
naise sauce, no cole slaw,
no french fries, not even
tartar sauce or mayo,
and the wine cellar,
sans sommelier, is distinctly
sub-par. But the bears are nonetheless,
inordinately full of
themselves, and strangely aware of the
luxury of not having to carry
hardhats, or lunchboxes,
or even to stuff brown paper bags into
leather attache cases, or to worry about
shattering the silvered linings
of Thermos bottles. The exceptionally
white noise from the rolling field
of the water’s ornately scalloping surface,
the glimmering spears of shine
flashing from its liquid
mirror, the grizzlies appear to have such a
refined awareness of this
you could be forgiven for imagining them
devotees of Rousseau.
For them a mouthful of fresh fish
is something radically foreign to us,
the jawlocked death throe of twenty pounds of
squirming, ichthyous, blood-squirting thrash-flap;
and though they can make do
without the chirping hi-tech beep
of barcode scanners in the checkout line,
and perhaps do not miss the convenience of having
someone else to clean and bone their fillets,
there is a kind of clumsiness in the
bulk of their supersized morsels, as if
a bear’s reach was destined always to exceed
its mouth’s grasp, a fact that
conveys a faint longing
for better tools, some silverware or at least
a butcher’s cleaver
to reduce this nourishment
to more digestible
proportions. Like the words of a language,
rendering the stuff of fantastic appetites
into manageable, fork-sized
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Bessemeres the night
with the tattoo of death's galloping
bills for borrowed time come due in
typeface without serifs, mandays
brimming with camouflage,
and the craniometric vainglory of
dead Dakotan presidents.
No Ariadnean thread
escapes this callousing labyrinth,
where the canonized smokestacks
scathe the boreal winds,
cold as flamethrowers. Miles of
flanged steam rivet breath in
portable green oxygen bottles of
Without a living-
will, bureaucracy demands
Without a living-will bureaucracy
translates the soul into narrow-gauge plastic
catheters, and bedpans.
Without a living-will bureaucracy
expands to fill the last scrag of leathery hide,
and bodily fluid.
Squirting from behind the
bulletproof plexiglass and
the bootless burglarbars on the nursery,
patched from the moonshine
of belt-fed, air-cooled, semi-automatic
placebos, perfused by the
aquatint of in-habited scrip
the crash of the rote we touch,
imbibe the foam of the rift.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Who would Jesus rape?
Why would Jesus murder?
Who would Jesus hate?
Who would Jesus carpetbomb?
Why would Jesus shoot?
Who would Jesus waterboard?
Who would Jesus slander?
When would Jesus rob?
Who would Jesus subjugate,
in the name of a merciful God?
Friday, September 04, 2009
if the butterfly in the ozone
of a billion exhausts,
if the butterfly, craving love as it
transmits its desperate
anterior to thought,
isn’t it at least
that the executive director of the free world,
armed with ten thousand million tons
of dynamite, armed with two and a half million jail cells,
armed with 300 million
television sets, could,
menace a teenage mother
with hunger and loneliness,
prostitution and broken teeth,
drug addiction and the livid,
tattooed insignias of a
Can I even say
that the butterfly is
the leader of the free world,
am the butterfly.
That I have no wings,
that my lips and tongue have become
and that there is no
Motionless, reserved, reticent,
basted in the fly ash of fossilly-fueled
smokestacks, perfumed by
the imported bayonets of most-favored-nations,
the butterfly's unflapping wing,
the butterfly's lifeless wing,
the butterfly's recklessly indecisive wing,
and breaks into
smile like a summer breeze
on the skin of a dozen lovers
in Central Park.
And I without wings am the butterfly's inability
to decide. I am the cascading catastrophes
of the unsaid. The hidden clauses of amorous
fraud, the needless
loneliness of love whose words have not stolen
The supply of disaster forever exceeds
The hurricane will build
As many wings as tongues.
And I read the night sky like a newspaper,
but one with no advertising,
the spectacular arrival
of the past, forever
Saturday, August 29, 2009
On this TV the war is on every channel,
the war is on every channel
because the war is nowhere to be found
on any channel.
This war is not one war because it is two wars,
this war is not one war, because it is all wars.
This war has been
because when they show war
there is no war
and the real war
is between channels
The real war
is channel surfing
give me your restless, your tired
and your Taliban heros
your Taliban heroins
injected into the veins
of your heroic soldiers.
This war has been brought to you
by a word from our sponsors.
This war has been taught to you by a word from
who art in board rooms,
hallowed be thy trademark.
This war has been brought to you
by the War President,
this war has been brought to you
by the Peace President
This is the perpetual war for perpetual peace,
it goes on in the bright lights of nightvision,
in the manufactured darkness of televised day.
This television has been revolutionized because
this revolution has been revolutionized.
The revolution will not be tweeted.
The revolution will not be Facebooked.
The revolution will not be electronically
But the revolutionized revolution
The revolutionized revolution texts in darkness,
the revolutionized revolution exists
The revolutionized revolution thinks that nobody knows
your IP address.
The revolutionized revolution is the
white noise on every channel
of an analog TV set without a digital converter
blasting its one message loud and clear:
from now on you will have to pay for your own
What, you think this shit is cheap?
Friday, August 21, 2009
--- William Blake
The glass is half full or you die.
Optimist shmoptimist. Pessimist shmessimist.
Anyone who isn’t brain dead recognizes that the glass is both half empty, and half full, and that you could even say it is half empty because it is half full, or verse vica.
But what about when the glass is 90% full: is it just as valid to say that it is almost empty as to say that it is almost full?
At some point imprecision slips in: 92.67%? 86.9817%?
At some point, you generalize.
I once read that less than 10% of Americans owned slaves before the civil war.
A slightly higher percentage of blacks were free.
If this were true, it would be as accurate to say that blacks were free as to say that whites owned slaves.
My point here is twofold: if we are “forced” to generalize, we should prefer the generalization that is 90% true and 10% false to the one that is 90% false and 10% true. Both are true (in part). Both, false. But one of the two (optimistic or not) better approximates our sense of truthfulness and honesty.
You can speak conventionally, and you can speak truthfully, but you can’t speak bothfully (I note that my spell-checker does not like this last word).
Take another example. Mathematicians define a “manifold” as something that is locally flat, but globally curved. This is the way living on earth feels. When a carpenter tries to determine whether something is flat or not, he compares it with the flat ground. It does not concern him that the planet itself is curved. People on both the political left and right call their adversaries “flat earthers”, trying to imply that they will not admit the “truth”. But the truth is that the earth is flat. And the earth is round. Bothfulness again.
In an odd obverse of this, consider the human habit of referring to “sunrise”, and “sunset”. More than 400 years after Galileo, you might expect that people would no longer believe, or at least utter sentences that sound like they believe, that the sun revolves around the earth. Are people who use the words “sunrise” and “sunset” “flat earthers”? Think here also of “moon rise” and “moon set”, and recall that the moon really does revolve around the earth.
Revolution, rotation. It’s all so confusing.
The problem is that the problem is always at least two problems. Consider the (non)equations:
2 + 2 = 79
2 + 2 = 4.000001
We want to say that one of these is more right than the other. But asked whether each one is “right” or “wrong”, we feel compelled (for the most part) to answer that each one is wrong. They are both “100% wrong” even though the first one is wrong only by some small fraction of a percent.
We want the fact that the glass is 99.999% full to count for something.
I would be remiss were I not to mention that whatever the case may look like, the glass really is much more than 99% empty since atoms themselves are mostly empty space; atoms themselves are fantastically empty. Should you doubt this ask yourself this simple question; why do x-rays work?
Even the glass part of the glass is more than half empty (more than 99%: light does, after all, pass through it.) The emptiness (or is it the extreme concentration) of matter caused the discoverer of the nucleus, Ernest Rutherford, to wax poetic. Of his early experiments with gold foils he observed it was "as if you fired a 15-inch naval shell at a piece of tissue paper and the shell came right back and hit you."
Another way of describing the situation is as the universal synecdoche (rhymes with Schenectady) of words, as the American Heritage Dictionary defines it: “A figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole (as hand for sailor), the whole for a part (as the law for police officer), the specific for the general (as cutthroat for assassin), the general for the specific (as thief for pickpocket), or the material for the thing made from it (as steel for sword).” Note that to restrict the definition of synecdoche to any one of its parts would itself be, in part, synecdoche.
We may want William Blake to be right when he observes that “to generalize is to be an idiot”, but we note that Blake himself is generalizing.
Nor is this fact restricted, as might be concluded from my examples, to scientific situations.
When the United States in an act of naked aggression invaded Iraq thereby committing the supreme crime under international law, many Americans, myself included, were horrified. Many sought ways to make this crime palpable to their fellow citizens, in order to counteract the massive propaganda campaign conducted by the military-industrial media. One group called “Iraq Body Count” sought to collate press accounts of Iraqis killed by American force. Their methodology was such as to err entirely on the side of undercounting Iraqi dead. This was understandable since they wanted to have thorough credibility. But, this had unintended consequences.
When, in 2004, the American researcher Les Roberts published a study of Iraqi mortality based on cluster samples he and his colleagues had conducted in Iraq, he found a number about ten times the size of the number published by Iraq Body Count.
The glass was 90% empty.
Iraq Body Count’s numbers were used to dispute Roberts’ results although the two were measuring entirely different things by entirely different methods with entirely different types of errors (note in passing that an ungelded horse is called an entire.)
With the glass, the sunrise, the flat earth, the x-ray, the nature of error in arithmetic, free blacks, white slave-owners, 15-inch naval shells, Iraqi body counts, we, in order to speak, are compelled, like William Blake, to generalize. To synecdochize.
Maj Ragain writes that we are all f**ked tomatoes.
He may be half wrong.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Friday, August 07, 2009
With statisticians nor commit
A social science
----- W.H. Auden
ours is by far the wealthiest age in history, but
we have less land per person, less green space, and dirtier
air and water.
that our phones are ineffably sleek and sexy, that we have more of them, make more calls, with cleaner connections, and do it for less money, but
we say less, forget it faster, confuse more, and abandon commitments sooner.
Statistics show, life expectancies increased by twenty years in the past seventy, and so you'll only age 45 minutes in the next hour; that if you're not already dead you could live to be 300 --- but only if you were born yesterday.
Statistics show, July is warmer than January
and that January is warmer than July --- if you happen to live in Australia.
Statistics show, that every square inch of dry land on the surface of the globe will soon be submerged in wriggling sinuous human flesh, and
that all of these wrigglers will own bigger starter-mansions, and flat-panel TV sets, louder Dolby with less harmonic distortion, posier shock-absorbing mountain bikes, and that they all will have more, healthier, and better-engineered food.
Statistics show, that the average SUV will soon be bigger than the state of Minnesota, and need the total oil reserves of Saudi Arabia just to drive the mean distance between Walmarts (about 50 feet), that computers will soon be so fast you'll be able to calculate tomorrow yesterday, and store the Encyclopedia Britannica, the entire archives of the New York Times, the complete works of the Marquis de Sade, and the film library of MGM in something smaller than a drop of mosquito spit, but
you still won't be able to find your car keys or wrist watch when you're in a hurry.
Statistics show that if present trends continue, children will only be born
to unmarried parents, but only married parents will have kids who are educated,
that statistics lie.
we all know this.
Statistics show, that nothing is growing faster than the use of statistics compiled by governments to increase the profits of transnational businesses.
Statistics show, people choose their statistics to fit their prejudices, they show you should never think with your heart, never act imprudently, never ignore your own benefit, and never ever ever do anything statistics warn you against.
What statistics won't show is how or why to love another human being, cherish the beauty that hasn't been spray painted, strip-mined, industrialized, or urban-sprawled out of existence
demand that the poor and weak receive the same respect and dignity as the rich and the powerful, or deride the mathematical fraudulence of assuming all humans behave as identical, independently distributed random variables when they are in fact
(I've been meaning to put this poem on the blog for a couple of months, but have run into problems with line breaks. What exists here is just the best I could do for line breaks using the blogger editor at the moment. I thought this would be fun because of a recent NY Times article about statistics, and note, to follow the link you will need to be a registered user of the Times, which doesn't cost money, but does cost a certain amount in releasing marketing info, which is probably not worth it if you are not already a Times reader.)
Friday, July 31, 2009
hell, some people get away with mass murder,
and others go to jail for just
opening their mouths?
That is what they’re doing in Pakistan,
and Afghanistan, mass murder. Guy in an office
10,000 miles away in Langley pulls the trigger
and a dozen people die in a Hellfire missile attack;
DA, judge, jury, and executioner.
And then there was the guy who was the head of
the central bank in New York. He got caught not
paying his taxes for five years. Know what they did?
They promoted him. Now he runs the money department
for the whole country. And his loan shark pals are busy
knee-capping people into the streets for being late
on their mortgages. And then there was the woman
who was arrested for just wearing a T-shirt;
the shirt just had the number of US soldiers who died
in Iraq written on it. And they arrested her because they
didn’t want people thinking about that.
There was a children’s book one time called Animal Farm,
where they said “all animals are created equal”.
The pigs stayed up all night rearranging that to say
“but some are more equal than others.”
Saturday, July 25, 2009
a children’s book of Hindu deities,
and a book about Browns’ tailgating.
What randomness assorts itself
in our lives,
and how. ‘Deity’ reminds
me of telling Mary,
just yesterday, that ‘Jupiter’ is a slurring
of Zeus Pater (as in deus
ex machina.). Two tremendous
-ly foreign words melding
into another we both know,
and don’t: obvious
and obscure. How the planets
have given their names to our days,
and the gods their names to the planets:
Saturn’s-day, Wotan’s-day, Thor’s-day.
How just this morning I’ve been teaching
the planets to Jackson.
“Life’s nonsense pierces us with
strange relation.” How, at the tailgate
of a hearse, I was reminded of
Browns’ Sundays. It was the funeral
of the book’s author’s mother.
(The title is a line from Wallace Stevens’ poem, “Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction”.)
Friday, July 17, 2009
with melt and lick. Fingertips
cradling fresh waffle cones
in the January scorch,
as the flesh of tongues
the gelid slick. Everywhere
the hands. Hands
and arching necks
lapping attention: she is there, she is there, she is
there as afternoon becoming morning, jumpcuts
farandnear, abovebelow, upfrontbehind,
latticed shadows, knuckles crumpling
the silky universe between index and thumb,
taste and lip. White as the rush hour of
promiscuous gulls in their swirling commutes,
the esplanade laden with the identical song
from ten thousand different radios,
they are all her hands. The pendance
of her breasts as she bends to invade
the five gallon tubs
with her benevolent scoops,
the belt high eyes craving
through the refrigerated glass,
this bucket brigade of redemptive affection
where heroism comes in chocolate.
I see from within the heads of ten thousand
total strangers, her hands are my eyes
and my eyes are her breasts, and we are
all of us, licking
at the same sweetness.
I wear the far side of the Pacific on my skin,
as close to far away as I can ever get,
where north and east and south and west,
where even down points closer to home.
Her hands are fresh aloe
for the sunburn.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
“Intellectual property is theft.” 3,650.
“Property is murder.” 170.
“Intellectual property is murder.”
“Theft is the intellectual property of the Wall Street Banksters.”
“Government is a conspiracy to commit theft.”
“Government is conspiracy to commit property.”
“The fewer the hits, the truer the statement.”
“The truer the statement, the fewer the hits.”
Friday, July 03, 2009
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
--- T. S. Eliot, Little Gidding
Eat enough poison, build up to it
slowly enough, and you too
can become poisonous. At least
if you’re a snake-eating newt.
Call it a business lunch, concerning the
hostile takeover of the snake’s
toxic assets. If it can be inherited,
self defense may itself be
an incitement to meal-icide, each end,
a new beginning.
as Janus and the newt make clear, a place
for both arrival
With the tailgate open I couldn’t help but notice
the roller-wheels (they reminded me of the
supermarket merchandise conveyor tracks
of my childhood) in the bed of the hearse,
the way they eased the slide of her casket
into the bar-grabbing hands of her pall’s
bearers. “Someone has done this before,”
I thought to myself. “Many times.”
And with the news of GM’s impending
bankruptcy dominating the headlines,
I mused whether or not we’d be able to die any more,
without Cadillac. Talk about
And I thought of the sky burials
of Parsis in India: the way they leave their dead on towers
for the vultures to eat, the way they are
re-in-carn-ated (consider here the term ‘carnivore’),
how quickly, as vulture-meat, they are borne
to the sky. How, like Cadillac,
the vultures have been going extinct.
How it’s been traced to the remnants of
pain killers in the carcasses of beasts
of burden (they work longer in the fields
when they’re given pain relief.)
An even bet whether the vultures,
or Cadillac, will dance
on the other’s grave.
Ever since I took that Aeroflot flight to
Bombay I’ve been captivated by how
interhemispheric telephone calls can’t take place
at the same time. Come to think of it,
time can’t even take place
at the same time. It is all hours
of the day and night, always.
And they say when someone asked Yogi Berra
what time it was he asked,
“you mean now?”
Sometimes pain killers are just killers.
And sometimes poison keeps you safe, and sometimes
poison gets you swallowed, and sometimes,
at the tailgate of a bankrupt hearse,
it is all of those times
Friday, June 26, 2009
the swifts are not as fleet,
the straight line not as true,
the cherries are less sweet.
The grapefruit is more bitter,
the lemons much more sour.
The sparrows less atwitter,
the minute lasts an hour.
In your shadow more
is so much less,
and less is so much
and failure reaps such great success,
the keening’s so much keener.
Friday, June 19, 2009
my father's memory has become,
the brittle anorexic husk of a once
Cremonan instrument, so much of my life is now
nothing more than
frog song and fly buzz:
the white noise of
the resisted temptations of jailbait
lip-gloss, the sight rhyme of white caps caught
in a beam-reach jib-belly basked in
Adirondack sun, everything
that once promised this prison inmate
his heart transplant, everything
that gave these Fourth of July
sparkle sculptures their
And I, a busker of words
tag the air with this
sheerly to wax the apple
that's already been eaten.
Friday, June 12, 2009
I love you clothed.
I love your tummy.
I love your toes.
Fat or skinny.
Scrunched-up or tall.
I love you sleeping.
I love it all.
There's nothing in this world I don't love about you,
that's the only thing I know that is totally true.
I love your shimmy.
I love your strut.
I love you shaking,
your bubble butt.
Love you in panties.
Love you in bed.
Love you in jammies.
I love your head.
There's nothing in this world I don't love about you,
that's the only thing I know that is totally true.
I love your butter.
I love your jam.
I love you mustard.
I love your ham.
I love your coffee.
I love your cream.
I love you frothing,
There's nothing in this world I don't love about you,
that's the only thing I know that is totally true.
I love your shower.
I love you wet.
Love to remember,
when you forget.
I love to read you.
I love your book.
Love when you give me,
that santé look.
There's nothing in this world I don't love about you,
that's the only thing I know that is totally true.
Saturday, June 06, 2009
it's a fine and rapturous day.
I've just given my donation
to the common good,
and the brotherhood of all,
and I've got
nothing to say.
But the sun is kicking the wind up,
speaking in licks of waves
on a gin-clear lake while I've still got
nothing to say.
With the sun and the lake
singing their invisible duet
my only regret is
having eaten that fajita before I found
this bodega with its mound of
as a tropical sunset's threatening
watermelon sky. Feel like I
fell off a cliff, drifting off
El Capitan, a mammoth fluted
riff of granite, fell off
El Capitan like Yosemite Sam
on a hang-glider, and I'm riding the thermals
of that duet like a top forty hit. Got more
airplay than I'm equipped for,
more airplay than my
flight training prepared me for.
Got all my true possessions gripped tighter
than my fannypack: gut-sense enough
to stay the hay out
of the coal mine.
No caged canary in bituminous darkness,
no graduated dipstick
in swampgas isolation,
I have just left the blood bank,
and my heart is coursing through
the veins and arteries of my
fellow man, my
fellow woman, I am in
red commerce with the world,
like a hang-glider in the mango sky
carrying all the life insurance there is.
Somewhere over the eye-rope,
the tongue-wire, over the glass-fire
fiber optic, there is a chain-gang
getting rich. There is a chain-smoking,
trading stocks on insider tips,
leveraged buyouts, like bodybuilders
in a graveyard. Somewhere beyond my
El Capitan airplay there are fiberoptic bodybuilders
getting rich in a graveyard,
and I don't know which one of us is right,
me, in the spiraling sky blue in green leaf duet ride,
or them buried in their wealthy bituminous fossilized
night. Can't decide which one of us is
waiting on a mail-order miracle,
waiting on love like some
mail-order, freeze-dried miracle
you just add water to.
Like the perfect blow-up doll.
And as you ask what is the point,
the chiselpoint of my gin-clear
Beaujolais duet, I say,
I say, I say, I am not
the bouquet. Not even
I am just walking downtown today
on my way back from the blood bank
of daylight savings and loan,
where my only true donation flows
through the circulation of men and women
I will never know.
Could a metaphor explain
that I am the flake-feathers of snowbirds?
Not the spun metal fiber of lamé burial clothes.
That when the escape-wheel of fate's timepiece gets
you won't find me on a
golden chain gang,
you won't find me revenging myself
on no brain-eating flies,
you won't find me in the world's
biggest shopping mall,
frantically scanning my GPS device
for some kind of way out.
But, like a kinetic sculpture,
you might find me hangin around
a museum: cresting the champagne powder
of a Bitterroot ridge. Goo-goo eyed for some au naturel
water nymph swimming the swells off the cliffs of Negril,
or thrilling in the crepuscular image-arpeggios of poetry,
jazz improvisations for my home,
working my idea jujitsu against the Mafia patent
on dreams. Working
25/8 to vaccinate children
and Eurocrats, and their
android progress. Spray painting
fluorescent tie-dye on their blinders,
a reminder, a reminder, a reminder that
blood bank is redundant,
Without flight coursing through the
sky-blue veins, and sunset arteries of our sisters and brothers
we would be nothing
but chain-store body builders
in an autumn graveyard.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
and water from blue seas,
warmth from winter suns,
and cool from summer's breeze.
I've stolen thoughts from purling streams,
and sleep from thieving time,
shade from bosky greens,
it’s sure I've led a life of crime.
I've stolen mist from cataracts,
and views from mountain climbs.
My gold's from autumn leaves,
my diamonds all from rime.
Such wealth though stolen’s never grudged,
though some of virtue be,
who'd never steal an hour from toil,
to steal what's had for free.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
through my vertebrae,
remembering that first time,
and with me now bold-hued in the
of you, there's nothing,
nothing, I wouldn't say
or do. I'd
dogpaddle across the foamstorming
whitewaters of Iguacu Falls,
drink all the frog spit
in the Okefenokee, lip-skimming
thick algal mats like the froth off
freshly brewed lager-wort.
I'd bobsled clearcut old-growth redwoods down
Cascade lumber flumes,
through the middle
of an EarthFirst skeetshooting range.
I'd front unedited jeremiads
ghostwritten by Salmon Rushdie
I'd go angling for cavefish
in Tora Bora after
taunting Norman Schwarzkopf
and Donald Rumsfeld,
and stealing all the warlord baksheesh
in Peshawar. I'd field Barry Bonds
line drives with my teeth. Memorize
the collected works of
Carl Jung, Leo Tolstoy, Iggy Pop and Sting,
Noam Chomsky, T.S. Eliot, Henry Miller and
Yahyah Ling. I'd amble barefoot
across Saharan runway tarmacs.
Pucker for Rottweilers.
Dicker with aircraft carriers.
Flutterkick through lava flows.
I would milk a menstruating grizzly.
I wanna be your veejay,
my liquid crystal display
dancing in opaque patterns to you like
an electric sandwich.
I don't wanna be no roué,
lecherously dissipating my
dwindling years away,
no human shield
protecting the coward
inside of me.
I don't want to live my life
like a grammar teacher in a ghetto high school,
correcting spelling errors
on suicide notes.
I would rather flatline
than be a concierge
in the overeducated concentration camp
of a world without you,
gnarling like a bonsai in a
Without you I’d be so empty
you'd need a scanning tunneling electron microscope
to find the purpose in me.
Besides you there is no solace for
shambling through this boomtown whorehouse,
no matter how much cheap whiskey
you chase it with.
This activated charcoal only gets
one chance, and being without you is like
being swaddled in wasps and eating bees.
Save for the moveable feast of you,
your eyes bluer than all the bluebonnets in Texas,
save for the chance of my fingers
dancing the macramed geography
of our shared embrace,
my biography would be a
diorama of a bread line.
A landlocked navy.
When the picked bones of my
fully procured cadaver lodge
beneath six feet of the ultimate DNR,
I don't want to be remembered
as an eponymous invective
for impacted bowels,
or toothless smell-bitten
And that is what has made me
Bazooka-mouth who is
trying to bolt the here-and-now,
to your vervetrumping
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
recant it. Finding enchantment in the recanting,
enchained by the refrain,
circumscribed by the reprisal,
the lines of the round
decline defining, as if definition were an
end instead of a worm in the beak
of a mother robin whose nurture
proceeds from clutch
to brood. Verve,
to vibe, tremble,
to quake. Minuet to march,
as the end-systole s-s-s
syncopates to the enthralling chanteuse
of gothic romance, a pas-de-deux with the
last or the next diastole, the four-chambered
hypocrite vetoing the proclaimed intentions of truth,
while diction evaporates like fire the strawmen logic erects,
and rues. If water were ink
then oceans would publish,
and if time were music then air
would sing. Final vocabularies
riff and string. Skep and skeptic,
lavish and perish
Like water making light of fire,
and murdered beggars defining kings,
this worm-like word is death and hope,
love and need, child
Bait and purpose,
earth and flight,
nest and office,
gloom and sprite.
In a tongue upheaved
by unspoken sins,
all ends are quickly ended,
and the means of words begin
to mean, where words are found
Monday, May 04, 2009
high paying manufacturing jobs:
thing of the past. There's still
manufacturing work to be had but
only for the same wage they're paying
the illegals. Healthcare is growing, and not a bad option
as long as you don't mind denying services to the mothers
of poor children, or taking away the houses of frail
elderly grandmothers, filling out
thousands of pages of reimbursement forms
and you aren't too upset by the people who die
while yer preoccupied with all that timbertrashing
topsoil depleting flash flood paperwork.
Working with children's another fastgrowing
career path because after all,
the children are our future. Course the goin rate
on the future's a bit shy of minimum wage, truth-be-told,
and then there's all those licensures and regulations they're imposing now
cos you can't be too safe with our kids.
And ya'd better not be above a fair bit
of pokin and proddin, needle's wortha blood here,
vial a urine there, battery of psychological profile tests,
maybe a few questions round to the neighbors, FBI,
local police, fingerprints, maybe even a polygraph…maybe.
Not that all that sophisticated testing'll keep people from lookin at ya
sideways, like yer the biggest pederast since Father Geoghan.
Careers in TV, now that's the job ta be had if there's a having any.
Pay's like you wouldn't believe, and all the notoriety and celebrity
and there's always plenty of the opposite sex eager for a taste of fame
if you know what I mean. Course there's a thousand unemployed for every
liposucked, botoxed, blowdried, rhinoplastied tribute to good grooming
that gets their face up on the screen but that's no reason for not
following your dreams. Which is the least of your problems
since if you have any talent well that's the
meanest aspect of the whole thing, the way you have to watch
people who sing like gorillas, act like cardboard, and think like fleas
rise to the top cuz their one true genius is for getting the tongue
in deep when it comes time for some serious --- career climbing.
If you don't mind lying and beating the crap out of people for
demanding a fair day's pay for a fair day's labor,
firing rubber bullets that are only
occasionally lethal into people demanding peace, or freedom,
or whatever nefarious cause the case may be, well, there's a
pretty good future if you want to join
the police. But if you can keep your smile
when all about you, are losing their jobs,
and blaming it on those silly little pink slips
yer handing out by the thousands, and the oinking
multi-million dollar stock option stocking stuffers
you use to grease the political campaigns for
regulatory reforms that turn grand theft into
aggressive offshore accounting irregularities
well yours is the high skills high tech
job market of the
free trade agreement future.
Yours is the career path of unlimited
prosperity, the path that assures this great land will always be
number one; the path of rewriting the rules and
controlling the biggest guns.
A titan of industry, an entrepreneur, a CEO,
teaching a lesson they don't teach you in school,
that if you want to make it
in a neo-liberal, fascist state economy:
the thing that matters most is
who they fear,
not what you know.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Shoot your wad.
Merchant of Venice.
Mutual of Omaha.
Mutual of Tokyo.
Gypsy Rose Lee.
Natura non facit saltum.
Skin of our teeth..
Hydrogen bomb-test Bikini.
Raed in the Middle.
Passage to India.
The goddess Kali
Paris is worth a mass.
Mass energy conversion.
Consent without consent.
Commodify Your Dissent.
Descent of Man.
Decent respect for the opinions of mankind.
Cost of living allowance.
Collateralized Debt Obligation.
Famous in the neighborhood.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
above the distortion,
work hard at ignoring it as we
shout to each other competing for love,
but mostly attention.
One television, the big game.
Another, the latest war,
and in the back the pool balls
break. On stage the singer who has
sifted his life for importants, finds nothing
but love mislaid, greed
unlanced, hearts betrayed
by hearts forever unknown,
chances forever past,
undanced. The quivering
petals of blue-bells in spring,
the taut skin of youth brushed by feather-soft fingers,
linger only until the refrain
skirts to a minor key
we neither will nor dare attend,
as shouting over the band
we ignore, and become
Monday, April 13, 2009
all of the fiat
money in the world,
all of the watermarked, counterfeit-
protected, silver-threaded floating currency
fiat money in the world couldn't buy a simple
transistor radio. Not
for all the money in the world.
Before there was
And you didn't know
what you were missing.
much the same as now,
which is to say
you couldn't feel a thing.
Even when, like right
now, a hundred
or a thousand stations
bathe you in music and urgency
you can't hear. Soft.
Electromagnetic vibrations in the ether,
you can't hear.
Even homeless people can afford them now,
even homeless people are richer
than the transistorless kings
of yesterday. Living in used
factories, in subway
tunnels, and under urinous highway
the homeless are richer than yesterdays'
We call this
Wealth, once inconceivable,
And grimy, unclean men,
patrol the streets devoid of shelter and saturated
paroled straight from mother's womb into this place
of placental predators.
And I wonder,
once you put down that TV guide,
just how well do you know
your next-door neighbor?
Saturday, April 04, 2009
Bogart said to Faulkner “hey man,
pass me some of that single malt.”
Then turning to Ernest Hemingway he asked,
“do you think I’ve got a shot with Lauren Bacall?”
Well the story’s set in Cuba
but we can move it all to French Martinique,
It’s got these terrorists from al Qaeda
but in the screenplay they are much more elite,
In the novel it’s a “Not” you know, but
reality is a photo-op war,
for the base the point’s not having,
the point is just to have and have more.
Could be freezing, could be burning,
could be starving for just one bite of food,
you can stow them in a hell hole
with jailers all lascivious and lewd,
from the Bremer-walls of Baghdad
to troops murdering a 10-year-old in Ni’ilin,
making a living is illegal,
making a killing is not even obscene,
the rich are always covered,
but convulsing for an hour on the emergency room floor,
the uninsured discover what it means
for them to have and have more.
What to do about the poor,
“let them eat yellowcake,” she said.
Then Marie Antoinette Paris Novak Hilton,
she handed her her head.
Well Barack was such a rock star
in Berlin when his jelly donut moment came,
even though he wasn’t Gable,
everyone said he also wasn’t John McCain,
and where there’s blood on the tracks, you know
you just might find Al Gore,
‘cos when your country’s lost in the bushes,
all that matters is to have and have more.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
On the day you were born, 24 American spies were captives on Hainan Island in the South China Sea. Their spy plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet that crashed, and killed its pilot. No one anywhere knew how this would turn out. An embargo, or worse, a war? Imagine how their families worried about them, as your mother would go nuts if it had been you, as the Chinese pilot's mother must have rung in agony, the bell of her heart peeling in her chest, the sound of her keening unheard, mute in the American press. You should ask yourself what those Americans were doing there, 10,000 miles from home, what freedom they were defending there. Consider how the word defense is contorted when it refers to military action on an enemy's doorstep, and what the word 'freedom' means when neither you nor I have any right to know exactly what information those spies were after, and how, or why. Some will say they were protecting our freedom but you should note it is only our freedom to be ignorant of the activities of the rulers of our own country.
On the day you were born the Nasdaq stock market had lost nearly 70% of its value from the preceding year and people were very concerned about an impending economic collapse. Before that the Nasdaq had gone up and up and up, as if it were in earth orbit and no longer had the ability to fall. Companies that had never turned a profit were worth many millions of dollars and the only people you could hear on radio and tv were telling you how the internet would revolutionize everything. Many people disagreed with this but they were not let anywhere near the radio or tv for fear that stock prices might go down. Mass media had become the marketing branch of the electronics and computer industry. From this you should note that the fact that everyone is saying something, especially if they are rich and famous people who have a financial stake in what they are saying, does not make it true. Also note the implication that rich and famous people do not become so merely by telling the truth.
On the day you were born a 10 month old Jewish baby was injured by a Palestinian mortar attack, and 77 Palestinians were wounded by a 'retaliatory' Israeli helicopter rocket attack. Lying there barely sentient, you could make very nearly zero sense of this; I could make little more. For the record I think you should pay very close attention to the use of the word 'terrorist', and how often people speak as if 'arab' is just a contraction for 'arabterrorist'. When one group of people uses rockets, tanks, and helicopters to fire on another group of people who have only slingshots, stones, or are completely unarmed, I propose that you think of the people with the tanks as the true terrorists.
On the day you were born the thousandth victim died in an epidemic of meningitis according to reports from the Burkina Fasan capital of Ouagadougou. Most people I know couldn't begin to tell you where Burkina Faso is, or what Ouagadougou. I have always thought that just the sound of the word Ouagadougou was kind of funny. You should ask yourself if people's lives are worth less because they live in a place that sounds funny to your ear. Before answering this you should consider whether or not Washington might sound funny to a Ouagadougan.
On the day you were born a man named Jason Massey was executed by lethal injection in Huntsville, Texas. Despite the fact that all civilized and educated people condemn the death penalty, executions happen nearly every day in America. Note that you were not born into a country ruled by the civilized and educated.
On the day you were born your mother was reminded that human blood is not always red, but rather is blue when deprived of oxygen (note the blue of the veins in your wrist.) The particular source of this reminder was the color of your face when you were but seconds old; the placenta had wrapped twice around your neck and you were born blue in the face. What I take from this is how very precious human life is, how it seems to be made more so by being always so very close to death. You, are, what you choose to make of this.
I wish I could say it was a day unlike all others or at least the end of an era; no more provocative and pointless spy missions, no more bubbles of irrational exuberance in the business world, no more provocations and massive retaliations, no more disdain for unfamiliar peoples, no more savage state-sponsored revenge. The most notable difference between the present and that fateful day of your birth however, in my estimation at least, is the way that your face is no longer blue.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
different, and the same. Without
difference, we'd meander
through the city streets of a placeless
homonym, a single zip-code
where everyone's phone rings
simultaneously, while over undecipherable
food, we'd puzzle how to share
the multi-million page bill
from Mastercard. Without
similarity, the characters
of the alphabet would need to outnumber
insects, and the excuses of politicians.
Then we'd be absorbed in the tongue-
babble sound-mimicry of
toddlers struggling to master the endless
palette of phonemes in a lifelong preparatory drill
for a skill that had outlived all
As for this dif-sameness
of naming, it costs
us a pas-de-deux of nuance and
ambiguity. Creates a world
foot doctors, the unabridged
legacy of educational method, and the sexual
abuse of children. Where diamond
weights pass for rabbit food, or the purity
of gold. Chintzy or chancy,
whimsy, fancy, mansion or shanty, rhyme
impossible or endlessly
Even if reach
may exceed metaphor
as might may right,
we, in the same both
hear and name
near and there.
Named, unnameable and naming
neither anto-, hom-, nor synonyms
awkward, we juggle as if
nearonyms, recognizing alike
surprises. Embody in-
consistency, distance in proximity
convey both fact and impossibility
who create sound and meaning
the same with difference.
Sunday, March 01, 2009
James Brown, Paul Brown, Jim Brown,
Marlon Brando, Florida Marlins,
Richard Florida, Keith and Renee Richards,
Richard Keith, Rene Descartes,
Cartes Blanche, Blanche Dubois,
W.E.B. Duboise, DW and Andy Griffith.
Andi and Roddy McDowell, Sam
MacDowell, Sam Mayday Malone,
Malone, New York, Mary Doyle,
Doyley Carte, Gilbert and Sullivan.
Higher Ed, New Hire, Nude Painting,
Newt Gingrich, Gingham tablecloth, red tablewine,
Red Foxx, Michael J. Fox,
Fox News, Fox Chase,
Chase Manhattan, Salmon P. Chase,
Salmon Run, Milk Run, Iran Air Flight 655,
USS Vincennes, USS Stark, David Stark,
Pete Stark, Peat Bog, Bog Man,
Isle of Mann, Mann Act,
Thomas Mann, Death in Venice,
Benicio del Toro, Che Guevara,
Gael Garcia Bernal, Martin Bernal,
Black Athena, Hugo Black,
Hugo Boss, SS uniforms, Boss Tweed,
Tweetie Bird, Charlie Bird Parker,
Robert Parker, Maceo Parker,
Burt Lancaster, Cynthia Plaster Caster,
Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes,
Hugh Downs, Downs Syndrome,
Syndrome X, Malcolm X,
Malcolm Ten, Tintin,
Rin Tin Tin, Howard Zinn,
Zen Buddhism, Pali Canon,
Bali bombing, Balm of Gilead,
Gilligan’s Island, Fantasy Island,
Voted off the Island, Vote early
And vote often, often a bridesmaid,
Brideshead Revisited, All out Waugh,
Elinaw hates Waugh, Leo Tolstoy,
Crimea and Punishment, Raskolnikov,
Rasputin, Vladimir Putin,
Put-in Bay, San Francisco Bay,
Sydney Harbor, Sydney Greenstreet,
Easy Street, Easy money,
Chicks for free, I want my MTV,
I wanna hold your hand, the hand that rocks the cradle,
Tim Robbins, Baskin Robbins, the Emperor
Of Ice Cream, the naked emperor,
Hans Christian Anderson, Mr. Christian,
Captain Bly, Captain Queeg, Humphrey Bogart,
Lauren Bacall, Key Largo,
Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner,
The Importance of being Earnest,
Oscar Wilde, I knew Oscar de la Renta when he was just
Oscar Renta, Veal Oscar,
The Academy Awards, Plato’s Academy,
Platonic relationship, Nambla,
Allen Ginsburg, Ruth Bader Ginsburg,
Badr corps, Marine Corps, Semper
Fidel Castro, Reinaldo Arenas,
Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men,
Cormac MacCarthy, McCarthy Hearings,
Bobby Kennedy, Arthur Miller, Rebecca Miller,
Daniel Day Lewis, Cecil Day Lewis,
Cecil Rhodes, Rhodesia,
Rhodes Scholar, Bill Clinton,
Bill Bradley, Bradley assault vehicle,
Omar Bradley, Omar Khayyam, Khayyami Vice,
Jalali calendar, Gregorian calendar,
Gregorian chant, Rule of Saint Benedict,
The good words of St. Benedict’s dictionary,
Benedict Arnold, Arnold Palmer,
Palmer raids, Mario Buda,
Mario Andretti, Barney Oldfield,
The purple dinosaur, the purple pill,
AstraZeneca, Astro the Jetson’s dog,
Hanna-Barbera, Hannah Montana,
Miley Stewart, Miles Davis, Willie Davis,
Davis-Bacon, Kevin Bacon, Matt Damon,
Casey Kasem, Ben Affleck, Jesse James.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Today is Maj Ragain’s 65th birthday celebration.
65. The age of traditional retirement. The age at which, in a culture obsessed with youth, in a culture of Jon Benet Ramseys, of prepubescent high-gloss crotch-shot magazine-fashion allure, the age at which one becomes, old. Officially, old.
My wife Karen tells me he is a remarkably young-looking 65. I make a mental note not to mention this, or the next thing I know he’ll be painting her toe-nails, and once a man has painted a woman’s toe nails, his lips gently blown the wet tight-bound reflective lacquer-sheen to dry, there is no telling the levels of sensual podiatric intimacy that may ensue.
What does it mean to be old in a country where people routinely poison their faces into wrinkleless masks, where the natural history of expression, the skin-seams of laughter, smiles, tears and worry are so avidly erased by injections of botulin toxin, botox, one of the most poisonous substances on the planet, as if one’s life could be improved by being unlived? What does it mean to be old when the storm surge of electromagnetic multi-national corporate propaganda only targets demographics with pimples or in pampers, because their elders are living inside particle-board starter mansions for which have been mortgaged their next 30-years of discretionary spending? When that storm surge scrims the horizon of manufactured desire like the surf of a broken giant bonsai-pipeline wave, the awesome psychic spumante of televised national consumer demand, whose froth we live inside?
These are not the days of Anthony the anchorite, the Father of All Monks, the Coptic Christian who was born in 250 A.D., and who lived to the age of 105. That was an era of self denial, a time when men engaged in a kind of “austerity Olympics”, when stylites lived for years on tall fingers of desert rock, when men such as Anthony could not hear of a feat of deprivation without aspiring to surpass it, when greed had been turned inside out, and as if anticipating Thoreau by over a thousand years, men sought wealth in proportion to the things they could live without.
It is a myth of our own making that old age is a recent phenomenon. It was high rates of childhood mortality that reduced the life expectancy of ancient times, and those who lived simply and who were not taken by epidemics, or killed by the fraudulent cures perpetrated by doctors, often lived beyond their allotted three-score years and ten. It is men like Anthony in his 105 years who remind us just how little life progress has brought us, how simplicity and privation suffice as tonics not improved much by peroxide, insulin, Prozac, Viagra and all the poison a face can survive.
And so, however officially old you may be my friend, I know in your heart you are still a toe blower, and that no one has or ever will genetically engineer your spirit. I know your face is untempted by the latest poisons.
I know that you see the world for what it is and not for its masks; the blood-smeared killing coat and the Christmas unemployment line, the ruby-throat blown across an ocean, the vast luminous light that fills eternity, and bathes our lives in the shadow of God.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
In it, Brigid refers to her parents as tubby, or, if you will, "tooby."
I wrote this piece as a response from the perspective of Brigid's father.
If you want to know more about Katie, check out her web site.
You can find there an audio version of her poem about Brigid, which will help a great deal in deciphering the following.
James Stewart Mulrooney to his Daughter Brigid
“...don’t want ta be tooby like me ma
or me da...”
I’ll give the jung missus tubby?
“Paht yer hond on em anywhere”
Paht yer hond anywhere on me
and the next thing outta yer mouth’ll be a
stump speech, I guarantee thot.
Jung missus invitin’ the whole neighborhood to be
paht-in their honds on me.
Blamin’ me “gray whiskers and gray ways”
on me gray food. I got news for ya me darlin’.
There’s nuthin’ fer gray whiskers like a moonth fool a
past-midnights of cholicky screamin’ fer hours, and hours,
and hours on end: thar’s a revolutionary for ye,
snot nosed wailing and screamin and shriekin
from the moment she hit her crib.
And me gray work. Who’s she think poots the
mango orange and champagne booble spangles on her
dinner table? Think it cooms from the Gawd’s honest graces
of Mrs. Thatcher, and Mr. Major, or that free-trade poppinjay
Mr. Blair? There’s nuthin’ in Ireland for an honest Catholic
save work that’s grayer than Cleveland November.
Who exactly is it Brigid, who is it pays for those records by the
Beatles and Stevie “shooby-doooby-do-dah-“ Wonder?
What do you reckon its like for a collier working the graveyard
shift, with a daughter who’ll throw back her head
and unfurl her tongue for every Tom, Dick, and Harry
she mistakes for the second revolutionary coming
of Jaysis? For Charles Stewart Parnell’s sake,
the gair-rel would make luv to a Black and Tan.
No, Bridgy dear, it’s nawt Jaysis, but the where-ld ‘at has
“a tittilatin bit a nuthin draped across its altogether.”
It’s called childhood.
It’s called family.
For all we know, you could be at some trook stop datin’
Osama bin Laden, you could be George W. Bush’s private
circus tutor, and when the hurt cooms
we’d still be here waitin for ye
to pick ye oop,
and hug ye in the softest, toobiest, lovingest arms
this side of Paradise.