Tuesday, November 30, 2010

walker percy waxeth poetic on moses

"Explain why Moses was tongue-tied and stagestruck before his fellow Jews but had no trouble talking to God."
--Walker Percy, Lost in the Cosmos

Monday, November 29, 2010

the courage to be

"The courage to take the anxiety of meaninglessness upon oneself is the boundary line up to which the courage to be can go. Beyond it is mere non-being. Within it all forms of courage are re-established in the power of the God above the God of theism. The courage to be is rooted in the God who appears when God has disappeared in the anxiety of doubt."

- Paul Tillich, from The Courage to Be (1952).


I'd say -
Damn those plans I've made,
those ones I keep trying to make.
If I could wake up with you
for years on end I'd try and live
through this rain -
Damn that inward cowering,
those screeching-metal guts
tearing and wheeling
through my blood.

Damn it!
Bless this!

I'd grow something new.
You'd be the gardener,
I'll try to be the dew.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

policy makers, election edition

You (who are mostly) guys
are much like (or worse than)

men shearing
(ripping, tearing)
the ears off

small, large, red,
yellow, brown
poor, pale

(often friendly) dogs

for what do you call it,
life insurance,

the (phallic) (power)
of possession?

Blue ears and red ears,
makes the same
sounds . . .

this quixotic soup
tastes just as awful
by any other name.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

winter dance

God, I love the crispness of these winter days
when the sun cracks blonde chinks in the clouds,
sharply defining the edges of tree limbs,
howling to the trembling buds:
Sleep well, I'll be here awhile.
I love when the dancing branches
tremor against the sky
so pale with its fighting to be blue, when
I see each object truly -
each twig itself, performing each step
for this moment of my watching, this movement,
in the wind's harsh yelp and cry,
where I am finally allowed to be:
I suddenly exist, pulling my coat around myself,
the wind a knife
cutting the ears from my head;
I watch the dance and am one with the wind,
listening to what is the invisible.

Form is a father: when I looked for form,
I found a leaf, and on the leaf a worm.

- Theodore Roethke
from Straw for the Fire, pg. 89

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

the first section of a poem i'm currently working on

In the light of a blood-red madrona,
beneath a murder of crows holding forth like politicians,
my thoughts cower beneath what I feel,
in the place where the cut bleeds
beneath the bandage, a flowering of crimson life
flooding over dry, grey skin,
—I am, and I’m squirming.

My cell walls are thinner than wire threads,
the color of copper-flavored capsules,
without mediators or helpers.
My self, awkward as it may sound,
is like a sperm helplessly swimming
in hopes of an unknown
(but much thought-of) egg,
an intuitive disaster of a being.

Each day, now, seems like a blow to the head.
I can barely reach the end of my own sentences
before the crows call out their ridicule:
There's a red pleasure
in grim laughter.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

she who is named donna

Through the satellite lens
of my cellular phone I spoke
to she who is named Donna,
mother of my mother.

I picked up on the scent
of my granny's fresh-washed
skin, right before she turns
in for bed. A touch of baby shampoo.

(This was from over 2,000
miles away.) I smiled
as she said for me to enjoy
my youth and its vitality.

"Got a bit of rain, lately.
When you bringing that girl
of yours down here, Nate?
You excited?"

Trying to say Laura like
"or" instead of "are" was quite
a challenge. I murmured
a laugh and imagined

the smiles I've had at her
expense. Being a grandchild,
however, covers up
a multitude of sins -

she's forgotten all of them.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Ralph Ellison say:
Opalescence, contrition
that's all that lies upon life's way.
Do you, sullen poets, agree?

I feel, do not think, to be:
They're two such very odd
and natural
ways to be.

I'm diminished
finishing, finishing,
something of a polish,
a lacquer, a veneer, sacked
by salient divinity.


You sweat coal,
and I'll get sold:
growing less cold, we'll use the proceeds
to procure waste-paper baskets
for the heavy-but-well-set,
the shakers who put the salt on the table -
still insisting on silver -
and the movers in love with the meaty,
the thirsty, and the able - the ones 'got skills'
and 'got time' of day and no need
for time of sleep 'cause they got
someone workin' on that too, what's more,
don't they not know it,
got weed.

Dig it up, sweety-pie.
I'll not deny you no pleasure or pain.
But the one's got my name
has got me running.

for theodore roethke

Writing about the rabbits
caught in the mower,
their guts torn up
by the unfeeling
yet not quite consciously
cruel blades, he walked
through the high yellow grasses,
feeling the heads of grain
glowing gold on his nicotine-stained
fingers, sifting the seeds, heading for the waters
that rippled clear as the glassy stones
beneath the surface, he walked
and listened, waiting to feel
death's hands cutting the bright
green flower-stems, waiting
to feel those hands
wrap their long fingers
around his swaying body,
singing in the wind.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

jim harrison on sentiment in fiction

"I like grit, I like love and death, I'm tired of irony. ... The novelist who refuses sentiment refuses the full spectrum of human behavior, and then he just dries up. ... I would rather give full vent to all human loves and disappointments, and take a chance on being corny, than die a smartass."

- Jim Harrison

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

when art becomes religion

"I hate when art becomes a religion. I feel the opposite. When you start putting a higher value on works of art than people, you’re forfeiting your humanity. There’s a tendency to feel the artist has special privileges, and that anything’s okay if it’s in the service of art. I tried to get into that in Interiors. I always feel the artist is much too revered--—it’s not fair and it’s cruel. It’s a nice but fortuitous gift—like a nice voice or being left-handed. That you can create is a kind of nice accident. It happens to have high value in society, but it’s not as noble an attribute as courage. I find funny and silly the pompous kind of self-important talk about the artist who takes risks. Artistic risks are like show-business risks—laughable. Like casting against type, wow, what danger! Risks are where your life is on the line. The people who took risks against the Nazis or some of the Russian poets who stood up against the state—those people are courageous and brave, and that’s really an achievement. To be an artist is also an achievement, but you have to keep it in perspective. I’m not trying to undersell art. I think it’s valuable, but I think it’s overly revered. It is a valuable thing, but no more valuable than being a good schoolteacher, or being a good doctor."

- Woody Allen, interviewed by The Paris Review.

Read the whole interview here.

Monday, November 1, 2010

a long soak

Watching you weep today
quietly made me
hurt for you. Me looking
at you caused your water levels to rise,
and I laughed softly at the absurdity,
and wanted to smile at you, hold you,
to whisper:

You'll be on time again, love.
Missed appointments are inconvenient
to both those who missed them
and those that got missed
but your head doesn't need such shit
in it. You need a break. A rest:
A long soak in a tub
with a view of the colder waters
of Puget Sound, not to be in them;
and for an hour
not to think of sin, or of
falling face-first into the ground.
The warmth of being
held, for a whole day
of not getting
ran through the rain.