Friday, December 31, 2010

I'm not heavy, I'm a sausage made from pork and beef

My brain is turning to pepperoni. I knew it would. And so what?

Heard a beautiful poem earlier, spoken in Gaelic. Made me really sad. Such a big mistake, not learning it, long ago. As it is, just fumbling about, thickly. Relating to the world outside—ostensible, ultimately unproveable—in this alien tongue, unsuited for my processes. Misshapen sounds, imprecise meaning.

Sometimes I feel as though there is a caul separating my selves, constructed entirely from the limitations of my understanding. As if the thing I'm looking for so desperately on that beach at Whithorn is me. And the roiling water between us is the symbol of my inability to reconcile my true self to the things I percieve outside it. It is the slave language I am filled with, it is the Roman idea I cannot abide. It is dissonance.

It is pepperoni, for fuck's sake.

And it, too, is finally me.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Transference, part 2

(click to enhance view. i mean it dammit)

M.K. Brown

I'm a big fan. More here.

This is "Transference" (panel one).

(To enhance your view—in other words, to ENLARGE THE PICTURE, for those of you with unruly minds—just click it)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Back from midnight mass few minutes ago. Watching It's a Wonderful Life, with Paula Jane.

Hope y'all're having a serene and blessed Christmas.

The great Pavarotti, first singing Ave Maria; then, O Holy Night; and finally, Adeste Fideles. Then, the magnificent Joan Sutherland, and her version of Ave Maria:

Friday, December 24, 2010


Had to fire a guy yesterday.

Yeah, I know. Two days before Christmas. Didn't wanta do it—I fucking hated doing it—but I had to. He was a terrible employee. He forced my hand, and it was really the only thing I could do.

Remember in Lonesome Dove, Augustus told the Man-Burner he was the sort it was a "pleasure to hang."

There have, occasionally, been a few that it's been a pleasure to fire. An idiot teenager at the Auburn, WA, Godfather's Pizza comes to mind. I had assumed control of that bloated, corrupt, out-of-control restaurant just a day or two previous. I was in the kitchen, watching her cut a pizza with a pizza knife that hadn't been cleaned since Clinton's first term. She said that she'd prefer I not stand there. I asked her to repeat what she said. She did. I told her she was fired. She said I couldn't fire her (still don't get that one), and I said, Lady, get the hell out of my restaurant before I have a cop drag you out. She pitched a hell of a fit, which was fun, and ended with the Auburn Police escorting her off the premises, and warning her about criminal trespass. So doing, she provided an object lesson for the staff that saved me weeks of time. Must say, didn't mind firing her too awfully much.

Most of the time, though, it's perfectly awful. Like killing someone, in a way, and it takes a hell of a lot out of me. (Doesn't do them a hell of a lot of good either, I realize).

If you're gonna be successful running a business, though, you must have standards. Certain types of personalities are poison. Destructive, to everything you're trying to do. Sometimes—most times, I expect—you even like em, personally. Isn't that fucking awful???


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Maud Gonne: O Love is the crooked thing

Yeats wrote that. Then he said, "there is nobody wise enough to find out all that is in it."

Me, I've seen all kinds of it. A blonde girl black and blue, carrying a tiny yapping rat-sized dog in a purse slung over her shoulder, eating french fries from a paper bag, maundering to an unfurnished trailer on the beach. A lanky, glowering dark-haired guy, undone by his best intentions, and events beyond his control. A small, quiet, chubby kid, who loved to laugh and fish and drink beer, too afraid to ever declare himself. He ran out of time one Saturday, the fast lane of south-bound 45, between Galveston and Texas City.

Seen other kinds, too. Passion enduring for decades, passion that wanes, passion that never was, at least the way we might think of it—there's no recipe, really—lives completed, interrupted, ruined—crushed, beneath gnarled metal—haunted, by ghosts.

Could Yeats have loved Maud Gonne as deeply as he claimed to love her, if she did not reciprocate, in kind? I have always doubted that. Perhaps his love, impossible as it seemed, was merely a tool, an extension of his artifice, like Plath's resentment of her father, or Steven's evocations of human feeling.

I've always thought unrequited love to be an illusion—a projection, i guess—expressing the desire of the projector, and having little to do with the projectee. It is a desire, too, that can come at an oppressive cost.

But what the hell do I know?

Maybe Dante really loved Beatrice—the essence of Beatrice—with a pure and simple heart. Maybe his idealized vision of her was some kind of fucking truth.

And maybe the best thing he could do, loving her so, was to stay the fuck out of her life, so that she could be really loved—good and loved, so to speak—by someone with a pulse.

Maud Gonne was born 145 years ago, today. God bless your constant heart, Maud—for living on your terms. For rejecting objectification. For not permitting the throbbings of the ravening, flailing, desperate sex to define you.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dueling Statues

Okay, most likely you don't give a fuck. I get it.

Still, it bugs me that when people think Statue of a Fool, they think Ricky Van Shelton, with his little pig-eyes and his gynormous head, instead of Brian Collins, who has a much better intuitive understanding of the material, and who really nails that motherfucker at the end, you know? Not fucking fair, is all I'm sayin.

Now, I know what lazy motherfuckers y'all are. Don't bother denying it, alright, cause I'm the one's gotta post all these videos all the time, cause y'all can't be trusted to follow a link—Oh, no, might sprain one of your precious little fingers or something—might not be able to text for a few hours, or twitter your every fucking brain-fart and then where the fuck would the world be, right?

So, yeah. I'm sympathetic. Just this once, though—puh-leeeeeze?—follow this link:

—After you've watched old scrunch-eyes sing it again (below), and then you tell me which one is better. Now, not only do you have to follow the link, you have to scroll down just a little, and click on the song (Statue of a Fool, if your attention is wandering). So, maybe set your cell-phone down, just for a moment or two? Gather your senses. Then, listen, and let the transcendence of it sorta wash over you. Maybe leave ol Brian a note letting him know you recognize the utter superiority of his version, compared to old lantern-head.

You'll feel better about yourself, and the world around you, too.

(Go to it—I can't very well click the fucking thing for you, can I?)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

December 19

(This poem derives from the incomparable sensibility of Edward Estlin Cummings. Known to the lowbrows among you as e.e.)

(And who, no matter what you may have heard, is a poet of great sincerity)

a clown's smirk in the skull of a baboon
(where once good lips stalked or eyes firmly stirred)
my mirror gives me,on this afternoon;
i am a shape that can but eat and turd
ere with the dirt death shall him vastly gird,
a coward waiting clumsily to cease
whom every perfect thing meanwhile doth miss;
a hand's impression in an empty glove,
a soon forgotten tune,a house for lease.
I have never loved you dear as now i love

behold this fool who,in the month of June,
having certain stars and planets heard,
rose very slowly in a tight balloon
until the smallening world became absurd;
him did an archer spy(whose aim had erred
never)and by that little trick or this
he shot the aeronaut down,into the abyss
-and wonderfully i fell through the green groove
of twilight,striking into many a piece.
I have never loved you dear as now i love

god's terrible face,brighter than a spoon,
collects the image of one fatal word;
so that my life(which liked the sun and the moon)
resembles something that has not occurred:
i am a birdcage without any bird,
a collar looking for a dog,a kiss
without lips;a prayer lacking any knees
but something beats within my shirt to prove
he is undead who,living,noone is.
I have never loved you dear as now i love.

Hell(by most humble me which shall increase)
open thy fire!for i have had some bliss
of one small lady upon earth above;
to whom i cry,remembering her face,
i have never loved you dear as now i love

(happy 19th, Paula Jane)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Associations: Gap-toothed strangers, Pink Floyd, etc...

Contemplating one or other
lying noble Roman
searching the bottom of the row
of the history shelf
even less aware
than usually i am

Turned abruptly to my right
not thinking or glancing
not giving a damn
for oncoming traffic
you know

Nearly plowed her to the ground
poor thing
nearly murdered randomly
on a Saturday afternoon
at Waldenbooks
by a book-drunk stranger who
should have had his browsing license
long ago.

A pretty one, she was
kind eyes, brown and wide
with an amused, ironic mouth.
And a smile that graced
even reckless men
who menace chain-store aisles.

Mumbled apologies
so little aware was i.
No problem, said she,
looking up at me,
still smiling
as she squeezed on by.

And i
and i
i looked at her

then began my descent
into my favored hell
nothing beneath
to break my fall
just fell

and fell
and fell

into the place
where's kept her face.
And i reduced.
And she was not.
And nothing


was all.

Contemplating Romans
at Waldenbooks

was all.

(then darkness, again...some's forever, it seems)


For my mom, who's always loved Loretta Lynn (as do I).

This video's a rather remarkable artifact, of Loretta's time with the no-talent and litigious Wilburn Brothers. In spite of their mush-mouthed corn-pone chicken-fried schtick, these guys were hard-asses, who tried to milk Loretta for everything she was worth, and made her life hell when she tried to leave.

She's pretty young here, and seems a little scared. You know Mooney's right there, in the wings. Always liked this song, sappy as it is...

For me, cause I love Chrystal Gayle. And this is probably my favorite of her songs.

For Phillip—the craziest Coon Ass of em all, doing Diggy Diggy Lo

—and the inevitable Ricky Van Shelton, doing Statue of a Fool (the far superior version by Brian Collins is pretty hard to find these days).

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Phillip Alexander, part three (conclusion)

May didn't begin well for Phillip.

The Cleo Johnson family lived across the street from the Titus's. A guy obsessed with one of the blonde, bland, indistinguishable daughters went ape shit on the first Monday of the month. Apparently she had broke up with him, and stopped taking his calls. Something obviously snapped, and he began driving his Trans Am across their lawn at around 5am, sideswiping cars and mowing down bushes and small trees.

When the first collision happened, Phillip looked out his bedroom window, and worried that the guy might hit his precious Cougar. Not bothering to dress, he ran outside waving his arms and yelling at him to stay away, prompting the guy to swerve, whirl around and smash into the Cougar's rear bumper. As Phillip ran toward him, the Trans Am backed up, swerved onto the Titus's lawn, and ran over his foot. It was Phillip's subsequent scream that woke the neighborhood, described afterward as being a cross between the roar of an angry lion and the throaty moan of a febrile, anguished bear. As the neighborhood poured outside to find freshly dented cars, chewed up lawns and two hundred pounds of very pissed-off Phillip clutching his foot and moaning (and wearing only tighty-whities), the guy squealed away. It was later, in school, that we heard that after arriving home, inconsolable and hopeless, the poor sonofabitch shot himself.

Phillip's graduation impended, and it should have been a really happy time, but he was troubled. His foot was okay in a few days (strong Cajun bones) and a friend of his fixed the dented bumper for nothing, but something else evidently was weighing on him, because he wasn't his usual carefree self. I didn't see him for days at a time, and once when I did, he and Mike were huddled together whispering about something. When Phillip left, I asked what was up, and Mike just shook his head, and said it wasn't good.

On a weeknight, a Wednesday or a Thursday I think, just after the middle of the month, Mike and I were hanging around the parking lot drinking beer, when Phillip showed up. He was drinking whiskey from a pint bottle, and was sullen and distracted, not himself at all. He came cruising with us awhile in Mike's truck, and before we completed a single circuit, he became annoyed with a guy driving a truck next to us, some guy I didn't know. Phillip was screaming obscenities at the guy, and telling him to pull over, which the guy wanted no part of. Philip was so angry he looked a little ridiculous—he'd packed his front lip with what must have been an entire can of Skoal, and he was flipping the guy off maniacally, with the first and third fingers uncurled, and flat against his palm.

The refusal to stop caused Phillip to become unhinged. As both trucks navigated the crowded boulevard, he climbed out the open window, and perched atop the cab. Mike screamed over at him to stop fucking around, but Phillip ignored him, and when we were near the other truck, he leapt onto its bed, ran over then and swung neatly, feet first, through its passenger window, and proceeded to beat hell out of its astonished and terrified driver. The truck careened sharply to the right, over a curb and into a vacant lot, before coming to rest about 30 yards in. Mike parked his truck along the road there, and we ran over to where Phillip was pounding the mystery guy, arriving just as a police car rolled in, lights and siren sounding. Several more cop cars rolled in over the next few minutes, and by the time we were permitted to get anywhere near him, someone was tending to the battered driver, while a couple of cops were standing over Phillip, who was hand-cuffed and silent, sitting in the back seat of an open-doored cruiser facing out, with his feet in the grass.

"Goddamn it Phillip, what's wrong with you?"

No response.

"What would your father think?"

A flicker in his eyes, but still no response.

"Well, your lucky the other boy doesn't wanta press charges. We convinced him—understand?—we convinced him—that in the interests of justice—and his own ass—that no harm's been done."


"And do you know why we convinced him of this, Phillip? Do you know why I'm disposed to leave twenty dollars on the table and a nice game of forty-two just to save your dumb ass from going to jail? You think its your dumb ass I'm thinkin of, son?"


"I knew your daddy, boy. And the only reason your going home now instead of under the fucking jail is because I knew him. Comprende?"

Phillip looked up, slowly. In a deliberate, neutral tone, he asked, "Can I go now? Or are you gonna keep jabberin'?"

The cop looked over at Mike and I, and exploded. "Get him the fuck OUT of here! Goddamn it! And don't make me look at him again tonight!"

We gathered Phillip in the truck, and drove back to the parking lot. Mike was pretty pissed. "You're trying to kill yourself, ain't you? Or go to fucking jail. It ain't funny, Phillip. It ain't funny at all."

Phillip didn't answer, or say a word all the way back. As he headed to his car, I told Mike I was afraid for him.

"Go after him, then, " he said. "He won't let you drive, though"

Phillip was just sitting in front of the steering wheel when I walked up. "Mind if I tag along?" I asked.

He actually smiled, just a little, and seemed grateful. "Let's go for a ride."

We made a couple of circuits, and I don't believe he said a word. Somewhere along the way he finished draining the pint, and we headed over to Zackies. I walked into the store side, bought a six pack of Lone Star, and said hello to Cathy Cee. Phillip walked in with a new fifth of Jim Beam in his hand, drinking from it hard.

In the car again, he turned right onto Texas Avenue toward LaMarque instead of left, back to town. After a minute or so, he said, "We're going to see a lady."

A few miles further west on Texas, we veered over to first street, and I realized where we were going. When we parked outside Cherie's apartment building, it was about 9:15.

I drank my beer, and Phillip sipped his whiskey, while we listened to George Jones, Gary Stewart, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Bush. Sometime during the evening, Bryan Collins Statue of a Fool (an inferior version by Ricky Van Shelton Can be heard here) was played, a big favorite with our crowd. Bryan came from Texas City, used to bag groceries at Weingartens, and we'd all been to see him at the Red Barn a few months earlier. The song itself was melodramatic and over the top, and we loved it a lot.

I sang along, and somewhere during the last verse—

"So build a statue/and oh, oh/build it high-i/So-oh, that all/can see-ee-ee-ee (da-da-da-da-da-da)/Then, inscribe it/oh, to the Wor-or-ld's Greatest Fool/And name/it/af-ter/me-ee-ee-ee-ee/after meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee"

—I looked over at Phillip, and saw that his eyes were glistening. I was surprised, and unsure of what to do, at first. Then, the situation sort of dawned on me—I'm slow getting there sometimes, but I usually do finally arrive—and my heart sort of sank. I reached over and put a hand on his shoulder. Phillip closed his eyes for a minute, like he was biting hard, then looked over at me and grinned a little.

"Fuck it, right?" he said, and took a long drink from the Jim Beam. For the next couple hours, we sang along with the radio, and drank, having a pretty pleasant time. It was about 12:30 that we saw the light switch on, in Cherie's second floor apartment.

The windows were large, and we had a really good view. Phillip leaned forward, expectantly, though what he really expected to see, I don't know. Cherie came to the window to close the drapes, wearing a low-cut blue dress, her hair down, over her shoulders. Immediately after, a man wearing an unloosed tie approached her from behind, and wrapped his arms around her waist. The drapes abruptly closed.

All the breath seemed to leave Phillip, that moment. He slumped in his seat, and gasped for air. When he jumped out of the car, I followed, as he stood under the moon, holding his head in his large hands, and bowling over, as if he was stricken, by bullets or lightning, or something even more terrible—his eyes told the rest, and the light was fled from them, and I feared, greatly, not only for him, but for the two people upstairs who had hurt him.

After a few minutes, when he began to breathe normally, he began walking toward the front door of the apartments. I followed after him, unsure of what to do, or how to stop him, if the worst began happening. "Are you sure this is a good idea?", I asked, lamely, as we started up the stairs, but he didn't answer, just began climbing faster, and at the top of the landing, I saw him clench both of his fists. I stood beside him when we arrived at the door, praying silently that no one would die.

Phillip rapped loudly on the door. After a few moments passed, I heard stirring, inside, then muffled voices. Finally, just the other side, voices again. A slight pause, and the door gingerly opened. Cherie was in her bathrobe, and she looked blankly at us, not sure what to expect, I guess.

More moments passed, and a large tear formed in one of his eyes, and then in the other, though he tried hard to bite them back. As they streamed down his reddening face, I saw him clench his fists again, tightly. "I was gonna marry you," he whispered, letting the words hang in the air a spell, before turning away, and headed back to the stairwell.

I stood there a moment longer, a little stunned. I thought I saw Cherie's face change, saw pain and sadness replace the feigned indifference. Tears were welling up in her eyes, as she closed the door.

Hurrying after Phillip, he seemed to be walking dead. Back in the car, he worked the last of the Jim Beam, and began beating his head against the steering wheel. He looked over at me, his eyes glazed and bewildered, like a wounded kid. "Why didn't she love me?" he asked, earnestly, nearly imperceptibly.

I reached out and touched his shoulder again. "Brother, I'm the last one to ask about that. Nothin they do makes any Goddamn sense to me."

He laughed a little, and eased his head against the wheel. He looked at me again, sidewise, and said once more, wonderously, reverantly, ever so softly, "I was gonna marry her."

About a half hour later, he attempted to start the car, but thankfully, he was too drunk to find the ignition. I waited another half hour for him to begin snoring before beginning the monumental task of removing him to the passenger seat. It was about 2:30am when I finally got him back to the Titus's. Lew and Phyllis, Scott and Mike's parents, helped me get him from the car into the bed. They hovered over him like they were his parents, Lew roughing his hair, and Phyllis kissing his cheek, as we left the room.

Next day, Phillip was his old self. It was like nothing had happened, and I don't remember him mentioning Cherie, or what happened that night, ever again. He graduated, a week later, and was working as an operator at one of the plants a few weeks after that.

Phillip wound up marrying a terrific girl named Rhonda that summer, a girl who I think he was undoubtedly better suited for, anyway. I hope he's plant superintendant, and I hope they have a passel of kids, just like they wanted.

Cherie, though, I wonder about. Screwing her bank president boss may have seemed like a percentage move at the time, but I kinda doubt it worked out well for her, even if he divorced his wife, and married her. Could be they deserved each other, but if I had to guess, I'd bet she lies awake nights, wondering about Phillip. Ain't all that many guys know how to love that deep and clean, and it seems to me once you've known one, you'll notice the difference, always.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Phillip Alexander, part two (a little back-story)

(Please read the first installment, immediately preceding this one—makes no sense, if you don't, and there's a point coming, promise)

Phillip originally came from some swamp-parish in Louisiana, though I believe his mother grew up in Texas City. His father was some kind of lawman there, and it was common knowledge that he'd been shot to death on the job, though he rarely mentioned it. He and his mother had been on their own after that, no help offered or given by the parish, or anyone else. Eventually, his mother made some choices that he held against her; during all the time I knew him, he did not speak to or of her.

There were, though, two things he loved passionately, one being his two-toned (green and white) Mercury Cougar, and the other being his girl-friend, Cherie.

The car was a major pain-in-the-ass. Seemed like there was always something wrong with the damn thing, usually relating to the transmission. Can't count the number of times I came by to see him, and he'd be underneath it, sometimes balancing the transmission on his chest (he was so strong he could remove it and replace it alone, without using a jack).

Cherie was nice, and very pretty, but she seemed older than us—she was Phillip's age, I think, but she seemed like a lady, not a girl, and her attitude towards us was a little condescending—Oh, aren't you too too cute—though we rarely saw her. She lived in La Marque, where she was secretary to the president of the bank she worked at. Phillip had left school after he and his mother fell out, and took jobs working where he could. At Cherie's insistence, though, he went back after Christmas that year. Since he could no longer work full-time, he moved in with the Titus's, a terrific family who lived down the block from me.

Scott and Mike Titus were both really good friends of mine. Scott was my age, and spent most of his time working on cars. He owned two El Caminos and a Dodge Charger, all of which he had bought cheap and restored. He was solid and conservative, and though he often went out with us, he rarely stayed out long, because he tended to be an early riser (he required every hour of daylight to tinker with his vehicles).

Mike was probably opposite as a brother can be. He was Phillip's age, and basically unambitious, satisfied filling his days with sleeping and his nights cruising and drinking beer. His vehicle was one of the most famous in town—a 1954 deep-blue GMC Pickup...Truck. He'd bought it from some Jesus-Freaks for $100, covered with rust and painted-on Jesus-Freak symbols and sayings, a blown head-gasket, a ripped up floorboard, and busted out windows. He'd spent the better part of two years fixing it up by the time I knew him, patiently sanding away all the rust, bondoing where he had to, tracking down glass, dropping a reconditioned 286 engine into it, somehow managing to save the original upholstery and dash. After getting it painted, buying new rims, and installing a new white bed-cover, it looked pretty sweet, and Mike began what was basically a 2 year vacation.

David's girl-friend—his fiance, excuse me—lived in LaPorte, about 20 miles up Galveston Bay. Consequently, he was often away, hanging out with her, and he worked in his family's plumbing business during the day. He'd show up now and again, and we'd hit the bars or cruise and pick up some races, but after the first of the year we saw him less and less.

I saw Phillip every day, though, and he was out with us most every night, after Cherie went to sleep.

Being his friend could be complicated. He was always broke, between fixing that damn money-pit car of his, entertaining Cherie in the style to which she was accustomed, and staying in school (she said she wouldn't marry him until he earned his diploma). You'd be in a store with him, and if he needed oil, he would put a quart beneath his jacket under each armpit, and walk out like he didn't have a care in the world. Once, after his car-battery fried, he asked me to drive him in my Impala to get another one. I thought we were driving to the auto parts store, but when we passed Jack Lane's car-lot (the evil bastard who sold him the Cougar), he told me to pull over. It was about 7 in the evening, so no one was there. Phillip walked over to the newest looking vehicle he could find, popped the lock, and the hood. Then, producing wire-cutters from his pocket, he severed the wires connecting the battery, lifted it out, shut the hood, and placed it on the floorboard in the backseat of my car. Redepositing himself in the passenger seat, he looked over at me casually, and said, "Okay, I'm good."

He was a hell of a good friend to have, though, funny and engaging, and always up for a good time (he did not countenance cheating, though—he never ever cheated on Cherie, or put himself in a situation where he might cheat on her. He chewed me out, more than once, because of my ways). His reputation could be valuable, too, for his friends. Can't count the number of times I've seen tense situations diffused just because Phillip showed up—he didn't have to do anything. "What's goin' on over here?" he'd say. "Ever'buddy doin' alright?" He would be smiling, and his eyes gleaming, garrulous and happy and ready to strike. Previously hostile personages would suddenly be unable to make eye-contact. Previous appointments would be remembered, regrets offered.

Once, though, after some freshman kid we knew had the hell kicked out of him by 3 or 4 guys from Santa Fe, he beat one of them so bad I was afraid he would kill him. The kid had talked to someone's girlfriend, and they jumped him when no one was around. We saw the kid for a few minutes, before someone drove him to the hospital. His face was bloody, eyes swollen shut, and he was doubled over, in pain, from what were probably broken ribs. When Phillip saw him, he didn't say anything, but his face tightened up, and he became very grim.

There was an argument going on about how to handle the situation, when one of the guys pulled up in his car, across the parking lot. I heard someone say There he is, and several people pointed in the direction of a hopped-up Mustang. The guy had his window rolled down, and was talking and laughing with a couple of rednecks I didn't know.

Phillip was there quickly. Smiling, he ignored the guy's salutation, grabbed him by the collar using his right arm, and with one tremendous jerk, pulled him out of the car through that opened window. He held him in the air, seeming amused for a moment, while the guy thrashed and cussed and kicked, before slamming him hard onto the Mustang's hood, with a crash that could be heard for blocks. Then, he began banging his head repeatedly, and slapping him, visciously, with the front and back of his opened hand. The guy's mouth started bleeding, and once the blood touched Phillip's skin, he picked him up again, and holding him upright, tried to shake the blood off, before wiping it on the guy's shirt. "Goddamn it, boy. You got blood on me," Phillip said, almost merrily, before hauling off and hitting him in the nose. The impact sent the guy sideways, onto the hood of another car, and the guy's nose sort of exploded blood. Phillip took a step toward him, and it was then that me and a couple of other guys intervened. I grabbed Phillip's right arm, and someone else grabbed his left. "C'mon, Coon Ass," I said, trying to settle him down (he really liked it when we called him that). He jerked free, but stopped walking. He was kind of teetering there, and I could hear him breathing heavily. There was a little smile on his face, so I wasn't sure if the danger had passed. Looking over at the Santa Fe guys, who were gathering their friend together, I hissed, "Get him the fuck out of here!", which they did, with dispatch.

When the excitement died down, and it was only Mike and Phillip and I sitting on the tailgate of Mike's pick-up sipping beer, I caught his eye, and said, "Goddamn it, Phillip. That was scary."

He looked embarrassed, and looked down at his shredded knuckles, and at the bloodstains on his shirt. "Boys, sometimes I scare myself. And that's a fact."

(part three tomorrow, i reckon)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Phillip Alexander, part one

The cruise in Texas City was a four mile circuit down Palmer Highway, from Sonic on the west side, past the high school and the stadium, to the Weingarten's parking lot, where everyone turned in, either to park and make the scene, or to turn around, and make another loop. There was a semi-riot occurring the early November evening when this story begins. Some guys from Dickinson were acting stupid, as they were apt to do, and there was intermittant fighting going on—one guy said he intended to kick every Texas City ass, one at a time. His knees buckled the first time he was hit, though, and that was the last I saw of him, though some of his friends made up for his noisesomeness.

Understand, I'm not a fighter. Been in my share, I guess, but the idea has never appealed to me—always seemed so embarrassing. So, you know, undignified. On this night, though, I was very, very drunk. A couple of those Dickinson guys were talking smack about David Connor, who I did not know, had never even heard of, but who seemed that moment very much the idea of a person worth fighting for. I rushed toward them, ready to rumble. "David Connor? David Connor?" I screamed. "I'll kick your fucking ass motherfucker!!!" (This was, perhaps, my first organic use of the prized muh-fofo epithet, inverted though it was).

I felt a large hand pull me backward. "Hold on there, cowboy," the guy said. He was about 6'3" or 4", must've weighed 200 or so. "I appreciate the offer, but I got this." David walked up to the guys, who immediately began to hang their heads and eat their words, especially when Phillip walked over. Him, I had heard of, as had the backtrackers from Dickinson, I'm sure. He was only about 5'10", but was built sort of square, and solid; he wasn't fat at all, but he was very, very strong. He had a shock of curly blonde hair that hung in front of his face, and was usually smiling, which contrasted with David's dark long hair, and glowering nature. They were each 19 (I was 16).

After the Dickinson guys departed, David turned to me and said, "You're riding with me." Thus began our friendship.

I formally met Phillip a few days later, when he came cruising with us in David's white Torino. Phillip was pretty drunk, this time, and really pissed off at the manager of the MacDonalds for firing him, several weeks before.

Phillip: I was the best employee there!
David: I know you were.
Phillip: They called me the french fry kid!
David: I remember that.
Phillip: That piece of shit had no right to fire me!
David: Piece of shit.
Phillip: Let's go rob 'em!
David (grinning, to my horror): Let's rob the shit out of em.

On the way to MacDonalds, I was kind of freaking out. Leaving home that night, armed robbery was about the last thing on my mind. While Philip had climbed half out of the passenger window, telling the pick-up beside us what he aimed to do to the MacDonald's manager, I attempted to talk some sense into David.

Me: David, what the fuck?
David: You're afraid we're gonna get caught, ain't you?
Me: Caught? No, David, I'm afraid we're gonna get fucking killed.
David: Nah. I'm not even sure it's illegal to rob a fuckin MacDonalds.
Me: I'm pretty sure it is.
David: Well, even if it is, not enough to get shot over. Not like robbin a bank or something.
Me: That's reassuring.
David: Prison, maybe. You're not afraid of the joint are you?
Me: It's not high on my list of things to do.
David: Well, don't be afraid—me and Phillip'll take care of you.
Me: Wow. That is so great. How many friends will take your slack when you go to prison together?
David: Fewer than you'd think, buddy. Fewer than you'd think.

When we pulled into the MacDonald's parking lot, I nearly pissed myself. Everything started going in slow motion, like I was in a really bad dream. Phillip and David became grim and determined-looking. They nodded at each other. "Let's do it," David said.

I jumped out of the car. "I'm goin in with you."

David stared at me. "You don't gotta do that."

"I ain't waiting in that car."

"You're not even packing heat, are you?" Phillip asked.

"I ain't waiting in that car."

"Well, come on, then, you crazy sonofabitch," David said.

When we walked into the lobby, David walked to one end of the counter, and began furtively checking everyone out. His right hand was hidden inside his jacket. From the counter's other end, Phillip did the same. I was busy looking for something to use for a weapon, once the shit went down. I wondered if we would have to go on the lam. If I'd ever see Teri again.

Finally, Phillip strode to the cashier, a tall rail-thin geek with acne and Elvis sideburns. "H-H-Hey, there, Ph-Phillip, " he said. "What's h-h-happenin?"

Philip's empty hand exited his jacket, and banged on the counter. "I wanta see that sonofabitch," he said, pointing at a pot-bellied bald guy in back of the store.

The geek took a few steps back, and called out: "Hey, J-J-Jim! Ph-ph-phillip wants tuh see you!"

When Jim approached the front, he looked nearly as scared as I was. He didn't say a word.

"Give me my check," Phillip said, quietly. "You piece of shit."

"Piece of shit," David nodded.

"Piece of shit," I agreed, tossing a napkin-holder between my hands.

After Jim returned, and handed Phillip his check, Phillip stuffed it in his pocket. "You shouldn't have fired me," he said.

"Piece of shit," David glowered, turning toward the door.

"He was the French Fry Kid," I said, setting the napkin-holder on a table. "Let's get outa here, boys."

Solemnly, we filed out. In the parking lot, Phillip punched me in the arm. "You're a crazy motherfucker, boy. You were gonna rob that place with a napkin-holder." David punched me in the other arm, and grinned.

We drove back to the parking lot, and bought a few six-packs of Lone Star. Some point in the night, I looked at Phillip, and laughed. Phillip understood, cocked an eyebrow, and smiled. "The important thing is," he said, "We coulda robbed the motherfucker if we'd wanted to."

"Damn right, " David agreed.

"Damn right," I said. I told them the story of how I was fired from working at Jack-in-the-Box, because of a party we had on the roof one night that ended with some of us throwing eggs at police cars.

"Oh, I used to work at Jack-in-the-Crack, too," Phillip said. "I was the best worker there. They called me The Taco Kid."

As he began to enlighten us with his observations about dumbass managers and the intricacies of taco-making, David leaned back against the driver-side headrest, and smiled. He'd obviously heard them before.

Stupid just keeps on coming, don't it?

From Raw Story:

WASHINGTON — Americans overwhelmingly think that WikiLeaks is doing more harm than good by releasing classified U.S. diplomatic cables, and they want to see the people behind it prosecuted, according to a new McClatchy-Marist Poll.
"Clearly people are very unhappy with it," said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., which conducted the national poll.

The survey found that 70 percent of Americans think the leaks are doing more harm than good by allowing America's enemies to see confidential and secret information about U.S. foreign policy.

Just 22 percent think the leaks are doing more good than harm by making the U.S. government more transparent and accountable, the stated goal of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

So, seventy percent of Americans want WikiLeaks shut down, Assange prosecuted, for telling them the truth about their government.

It is apparent, then, that 70% of Americans are dumb-asses.

And you may quote me.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Laundry list

Obama caved to the Republicans, the bankers, the billionaires, the worthless monied classes, yet again. This time, he not only signed off on giving trillions of dollars in tax-breaks to the wealthy, he in effect gave his blessing to increasing taxes on the working-poor.

If he is not himself corrupt—a possibility I am starting to doubt—he is ineffectual and weak to the point of cowardice.

It is cold and gray here, and filled with people I don't understand.

The Cowboys are 4-8. Don Meredith died.

I think maybe I'm beginning to doubt the efficacy of my devotion to poetry. I cannot live in it, cannot justify myself from it, cannot assign it supernatural powers. Having seen it up close, I can tell you it has been abducted by forces of largely mediocre ability. No ransom can save it. And hardly anyone gives a fuck about it anymore, even when it is good.

Good people, smart people even, don't like Keats. How can I understand a world like that?

Jonathan Franzen reigns atop fiction's shit-heap.

Thomas Wolfe is seldom taught anymore. Harold Bloom is licking his lips somewhere, thinking obscene thoughts about Sylvia Plath, while Camille Paglia metaphorically fellates his stingy, clammy whiteness.

There's a shitty poem stuck in my head. It won't shut up.

My fucking gym is starting to piss me off.

Is my brain turning to pizza?

Don't get me started on the snow.

Here's a fragment from another shitty poem.

...It comes, I think, to this:
All's been done so many times
and nothing's left to say.
Desire, need, possibility—
just words, anyway,
and they've all been said.
do-able done, thinkable thought.
Saleable sold, buyable bought—
and what has changed?
Not a fucking thing.
'Cause I'm still here
and she's still there
and you're still wherever
the hell you are
and I've grown tired—really tired.
A dragon, you said.
A pyromaniac— made weary of fire—
and of everything
but stars.
And maybe, in the end,
that's all
there ever was.

So, yeah.

Shitty line-breaks. Shitty poem.

No irony at all. Going on about stars, again. Still, maybe they are all there is. Or will be. Or ever was.

But maybe they ain't here, neither.

Maybe all that's real is this feeling.

Or maybe I've been asleep, since September 24, them years back. Or maybe I passed out in Mark Kimbrough's car, after drinking too much PBR. Or some other time. And I'll wake up back of a green Chevy, and hear a cheesy 70's song playing on the radio. Cathy Cee will be stroking my hair. Danny and Steve and Don (his head in tact) dancing with their girls, under the gentle Texas moonlight.

Or maybe I'm a vagrant thought, ghosting the dream of a girl with dark wavy hair and a gap in her teeth, who is crushed beneath the ruin of a 1972 Sprint. Maybe I am the gall she's been given with the vinegar that agitates her waning moments.

Or am I a figment originating with you?

Soon as someone knows, tell me, okay? Motivation is a key component of The Method. Wouldn't want to fuck it up.

Monday, December 6, 2010

So Long, Dandy

One of my favorite all-time football players, Texans, and all-around human beings died Sunday night.

Don Meredith was more than just a damn football player, to me. He exemplified something of the Texas character that has currency. He was smart, cocky, generous, courageous, and funny as hell. He reminded me of my Dad.

At right you can see him with Coach Landry—God's original quarterback, and God's coach—and at bottom, at work, his notoriously skinny legs and spindly frame twisting and squirming to escape a viscious pass-rush. He knew, though, what a silly game football was, at best. Half the reason I care about the damn game at all is because of Joe Don. I still hurt for when they booed him, still wince from the beatings he took, and ache for the rings he never won.

I doubt he gave any of that much thought, though, after he left the game behind. He just turned to a better page, and moved on.

Goddamn...I just can't believe old Dandy is gone.


You can read Galloway's column here. It's a good read.

We'll not be seeing Dandy's like again.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Lover's Lullaby

Damn, damn, damn...Townes Van Zandt is so fucking good it's just wrong, ain't it? This is probably my favorite of his songs, written not long before his death...

(The Austin Music Channel logo in the corner of the screen makes me feel really sad...Finally killed a few years ago by the "pragmatic" white pseudo-liberal types (i.e., Will Wynn) who talk progressive while simultaneously selling out everything Austin stands for)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

If Glenn-effing-Beck went hunting with Gus and Vedder, the world would be a better place, and I'd write a poem for his bullet-ridden ass, too

i.e., while it's not always about the hog, sometimes it is, indeed, about the hog.

(Y'all just think on that a spell, okay? The written arts sometime require the active participation of the written arts-partaker)

(Meaning you. Dammit.)

I told y'all a story in August about a big feral sow I ran over a few years back late one night at Spunky, while transporting a couple of drunken psychopaths back to their deer-camp. It's pert near the anniversary of that dark, dark night of the human soul; so, in honor of Gus and Vedder and drunks with firearms everywhere—in other words, this is for Texas—here is the quartet of poems I wrote memorializing what they wrought.

Red Wind in the Holler

At the bottom of the holler is a joining
of springs, within a wood so dense
and low seasons come and go in tiny

increments. The black soil is cool, and carnal,
and the grasses sparse, and even the cedar
is stanched by the gushing arc

of oak, pecan, and ash that blots out the sun.
The water's pure and cold, and every season
the busy slope is littered with the bones

of those who coveted its sweetness, lulled
against their senses by whispers in trees
among the smell of damp earth, and ruse

of night, when the moon induces fevers
on the willing, and the tender.

The North Wind

Long drops of rain were streaking the clay road
a deeper red when the wind shifted from the west,
a crazy, rudderless whirl at first,

shaking free dried leaves and acorns and stirring
them with dirt, swirling into tiny gyres that fluttered,
short-lived and euphoric, along the holler's edge

leaving ghostly plumes of scattering dust in their wake.
The damp smell of oak and creosote and juniper
loosed in the air, once the first surge of north wind

cleared the tree-line, blue-black sky looming,
wind gradually bolder as it rolled overhead
'til the Norther ripped in as if the Judgement

had come, rain changing sideways, gushing drops
suddenly an angry stream that skipped across the big spring's
surface like furious stones, sun giving full anarchy upon earth,

dream kingdom winking from its crevices.
With evening came calm, and a brittle wind; and at least one lane
that opened for the dead. And everything in the pasture

lay still for awhile.

Dead Sow

Gnarled and split, she is opened and emptying
Given beneath a graceless code
Chrome and steel, dirt-riven and glistening
Ruptured order, sudden as fire.

Boned and blooded, her meat to the nightmare
Her wound a dark river that snakes in the dirt
She lunges with teeth gleaming red under tail-lights
Wavers, and sinks nearer this cactus-land.

A supplication come from the high grass
Leaded chamber, and then wider, mean feral eyes
A strangeness that looms just over her shoulder
Erupts in an instant and craters her sky.

She cannot tell the worm from the root
When she swoons to find the shivering light
Just wakes to summers dripping with acorns
Blood-drunk, under an indolent moon.

The Brood

They were on the scrawny side
her squalling rat-sized orphans
and the moist heat of her sanctuary

was already dim in their memories
when the last of her was suckled.
She was twitching, but gone

and even all of her was never enough
for the blunting of their hunger
insatiable in their panic

sharper than the bristles that mimicked
the contours of their soft spines
or the spindly tusks that budded

eagerly toward half-formed snouts
and now it was all they could remember
because she was milk to them, if she was anything.

And this time, when the milk dried up,
they felt the frigid north wind at the end
of their suckling, felt it blow across the clay road

over their bodies, but into their mouths
from her, until they were inhabited
by nothing else. They began running

back to the tall grass, then over the red clay,
trying to outrun the immensity of it,
to thaw just enough to be hungry again

but colder every stride until they reached
the briars on the edge of the holler
and felt its warm red breath rise up

inviting them home.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Irony v. Sincerity

Paula Jane and I had an interesting discussion tonight, prompted by a video we saw of Olena Davis, Jericho Brown, Tina Chang, Meghan O’Rourke, and Mark Wunderlich discussing the topic alluded to in the title of this post, the perceived oppositional relationship between sincerity and irony in poetry.

At the outset, I should explain that reflexively, I associate irony with mockery, perhaps because that is a deficit I tend toward, and have learned to guard against. I have not wished to become one of those that Yeats admonished:

Mock mockers after that
That would not lift a hand maybe
To help good, wise or great
To bar that foul storm out, for we
Traffic in mockery.

Never let it be said that I traffic in any such thing. I am a dabbler, if anything, and not a very confident one; Irony is a thing I have learned, a detachment I have formed to counter the puzzling phenomena I encounter when I venture outside myself. It is, therefore, a natural development, in kind with the century from which I come, yet often times antithetical to my professed values. At my core, I am convinced it is a device belonging to those who are not fully formed, a symptom, perhaps, of dissonance between one's internal and external worlds—a crutch, favored most by those who have become part of that dysfunction, and discord.

Therefore, in this, as in all things, I am at opposition with my several selves; yet I must trust the still small voice that lives at their center. I must believe that sincerity matters. Not truth—while I do believe, instinctively, in the reality of it, I do not pretend to have any better fix on what it might be than anyone else, and recognize the multiplicitous variations on that theme affecting these complicated vessels, containing the tics and stammers which make life bearable, for all of us. But the recognition of truth's being, and the desire to be, somehow, among its component parts—to be, while trapped within the cell of ourselves (as Auden described it) a creature of light (as did Ted Hughes) is strong within me, certain as the coming of a new day, reliable as the beating of my animal-heart, and more succinct than the need to construct new metaphors. It is there that sincerity lives, in that space between sensation and the fallacies by which my senses apprehend the external, and the infinity within me that abides in a state of separation-anxiety from infinity without.

So, understand, it is from here that I come to this debate; curious, but convicted.


Brown initiated their discussion by positing Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman (as well as Phillis Wheatley, less obviously) as progenators of American poetry, and being constructors of verses that were a “very good mixture of ironic and ecstatic.” As an example, he read (quite badly, I'm afraid) Phillis Wheatley’s perspicacious, exquisitely wrought On Being Brought from Africa to America:

‘Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
“Their colour is a diabolic die.”
Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain,
May be refin’d and join th’angelic train

Chang's assertion that irony in modern poetry is a “tool to deal with the sentimental or sentimentality” was, I thought, rather superficial. Poets have come to fear the sentimental, doubtlessly, and similarly disdain the idea of single truth; yet it seems obvious to me that just as irony is a symptom of some greater cause, this fear and disdain are mere overuses of whatever it is that irony cures.

Olena Davis is the reason I watched. I'm a big, big fan of her work, and I was really curious about her persona—which, I'm happy to report, is entirely consistent with her poetry (and I gotta say—in all honesty—damn—she is a beautiful woman). According to Olena, sincerity is problematic because it so often results in poetry where the lines show—work that is not only too earnest, and which is too explicit, but which also suffers from inherent preachiness—expressing the poet's truth as fact.

She also said that she requires a great deal from language, extending even to her love-life, citing the failure of her last relationship as example. "I can't believe somebody when they just say the thing. I need it to be modified in a million different ways, and all those admissions to be made, and as a poet that's what I do, and as a person." (This troubled me, as I shall come back to later)

Meghan O'Rourke had a lot to say—I thought her distinction of irony as being “situational,” “tonal” or “feigning ignorance” to be interesting, and her admission that sincerity seems today to be "like a dirty word” instructive. Her contention about “doubling” sounded slight, but more perceptive was the idea that sincerity has morphed from the truth-seeking of the Romantics to a convoluted effort to attempt truth, an effort which she mistrusted. Likewise, her analogy of irony burgeoning in the 90's, when bands like Pavement popularized a mode of saying cool was spot-on. Like Chang, she cited Plath as among (relatively) recent poetry's best irony practitioners, effectively using the proto-poem for Ariel (titled Whiteness I Remember) to illustrate her initial sincerity, buffered finally by ironic intent.

Wunderlich probably came closest to expressing my own beliefs.. He read off a list of bullet-points, most of which I accept, among them:

* Sincerity is a desire to state the truth, in some fashion
* Irony is the effect of romanticism vs. modernism, of feeling vs. thinking
* One of the things that's hardest for us to take today when reading the romantic poets is their ultimate sincerity
* The world has become a more grim and complicated place. (It) seems larger, individual experience is dwarfed by the city, by the war, by large governments, by forces that are beyond their control. Therefore, one begins to employ irony as a tactic to ward off the world.
* Irony will always be subservient to sincerity (I like this one best, I think).
* Irony is a shield to protect the vulnerable self.
* Sincerity should not be confused or conflated with sentimentality, even though they are first-cousins. Likewise, sincerity should not be conflated with the truth.
* All good poems are sincere, even though they employ irony.
* Irony is a minor planet, orbiting around that which is sincere
* Irony is a tone. Sincerity is a fact.

He also claimed that when Ted Hughes rearranged the order of the poems in Ariel, he took from Plath an ironic distance she had created in order to "tear it down", which had the effect of creating something "more true"—creating, by use of irony, an artifact that was finally sincere. His observation regarding "the ironic self as a created persona", and Plath's "mediated relationship between feeling and poem" were first-rate—I'm gonna read this guy's poetry.

Later, as everyone on the panel took potshots at sentimentality—sincerity's "first cousin", remember—Wunderlich rode to its defense. "You have to risk sentimentality in a poem," he said. "You have to risk crossing over that line—if everything is kind of ironically coded in the poem, it can become dead on arrival." (Obviously, I was impressed by that).

The discussion that followed between Paula Jane and I was driven mainly, though, by my discomfiture with some of what Olena Davis said—the idea that some poor bastard is wandering around somewhere muttering her name and having malt-liquor for breakfast because he wasn't able to express his love for her in a way that suited her creative temperament.

I have all kinds of problems with that idea; obviously, she is free to sabotage her relationships all she wants, but the implications of what she said—that what he felt for her was subordinate to its expression—seemed (and seems) really, really fucked up. Like the relationship between life and art and language has become perverted into something that celebrates the constructions of the artistic imagination as being superior to life itself. It's like Yeats' allusion to "the artifice of eternity" in Sailing to Byzantium. I wrote a post alluding to it a few months ago, in which I point out that the idea that intellect supercedes nature is one that is inevitably hostile to not only nature, but to all of what is perceived as external creation, and to the humans who populate it. It is the belief of one who is not convinced of the reality of those around him or her, and it seems to me to be a poetry that somehow celebrates narcissism, and does not accept sincerity as being legitimate for obvious reasons.

Paula Jane patiently tried to explain to me her ideas of poetry, which are closely aligned, I think, with Olena's (they are similar in more aspects than their work); how language is a thing which has a life that is real as as a beating heart, and how its expression is as important—perhaps more?—than what is being expressed.

Perhaps she will comment, and better explicate these ideas. It is as though I have a blind-spot here, as regards this possibility. I cannot imagine anything more important than what is said, and its intent, and the thoughts and feeling attached to it; it seems to me that language is merely a device that serves expression, and too often serves it poorly. And that the value of poetry—the magic of it, as Auden has said—derives from its ability to communicate more acutely than ordinary language is able to.

This post has grown long enough, but I want to conclude by giving you David Foster Wallace's take on the Irony/Sincerity dynamic, from his essay E Unibus Pluram:

The next real literary ‘rebels’ in this country might well emerge as some weird bunch of ‘anti-rebels,’ born oglers who dare to step back from ironic watching, who have the childish gall to actually endorse single-entendre values. Who treat old untrendy human troubles and emotions in U.S. life with reverence and conviction. Who eschew self-consciousness and fatigue. These anti-rebels would be outdated, of course, before they even started. Too sincere. Clearly repressed. Backward, quaint, naive, anachronistic. Maybe that’ll be the point, why they’ll be the next real rebels. Real rebels, as far as I can see, risk things. Risk disapproval. [...] Who knows. Today’s most engaged young fiction does seem like some kind of line’s end’s end.

This has begun already, of course. It is described as being the "New Sincerity" (like the old sincerity, only it comes with pinstripes or something), and since someone somewhere thinks it's rebellious and hip we'll undoubtedly see more of it.

Thus it has ever been, right?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Red-Headed Stranger

Hoot used to say that it was impolite to ask a stranger where he was from. "Never do it," he said. "If he's from Texas, he'll tell you soon enough, and if he's not, there's no point in embarrassing him." Still, it's occurred to me that some of y'all reading here are probably Yankees—don't be embarrassed, everybody can't be from God's home-state—and as such, don't really know who Willie Nelson is. I mean, you have an idea, of course, but you basically think Willie's the guy who sings that piece-of-shit song To All the Girls I've Loved Before, and who butchers Pancho & Lefty. While you would be factually correct, you would be 180 degrees away from knowing the truth (it'd be like judging Elton John by any music he made after Madman Across the Water).

For the uninitiated—or the underinitiated—or the initiated who just love the fucking tunes—here is Willie's masterpiece: Red-Headed Stranger, from 1975. This was a great achievement in American music, among the best ever. Hear it, and know the real-deal genuine article Willie, and know too why he's so fucking important.

(And if you're not from Texas, take heart. The great Jerry Jeff Walker did not originate in Texas either, but he's by-God made up for it. There's a bumper-sticker you'll see time to time that attests that its exhibitor was not born in Texas, but got there as fast as she or he could. So, there's hope. Just don't move to Austin. San Antonio and San Marcos can certainly use your burgeoning Texas spirit, and both are plenty close to Austin to drive up and visit. But there's too damn many people in town now, so unless you can induce some of the more frightful transplants to replant themselves elsewhere (I think most Californians would be much happier in California, personally), just add your name to the waiting list. We'll let you know when your number is called, promise)

Shotgun Willie

Willie Nelson was busted for possession of 6 ounces of reefer today. He is 77 years old, and like all right-thinking Texans, I am goddamned proud of him.

And if you're not from Texas, it may be difficult to understand how much we do love him. Venerate him. He sort of represents the best part of us, I think. If you want to know who we are, don't think of the petty meanness and stupidity of Rick Perry or George Bush, or the simplistic jingoism and anti-intellectualism of the morons comprising our state board of education. Don't think of the hypocrisy of any number of self-righteous patriarchal white men whose spit-filled invective causes others to misapprehend the true nature of my home.

If you would know the Texas I love, the Texas I would die without, look into Willie's clear, kind, dilated eyes. You'll find us there, laid-back, compassionate, romantic, and marching to our own tune. Sentimental and funny, and often profane, we have a connection to kin and place that is unbreakable. Mirroring Texas, a place of big skies and sunshine, at our best we are a people of expansiveness and light. Like Willie.

First video is Gary Allen's doing (Austin's own) Bruce Robison's What Would Willie Do. Next is Toby Keith's I'll Never Smoke Weed with Willie Again.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Paula Jane thinks I shouldn't tell y'all about the tears (in the previous post)...says it sounds hyperbolic. I say it's not hyperbolic cause it's fucking true (how can something literally true be hyperbolic?). She counters that perception is all that matters when you're writing. I say I don't give a fuck, but that's not really true. I do give a fuck, don't want y'all thinking I lie to you. I don't.

And I don't think y'all think less of me cause I'm moved by the sight of poor Jake Spoon swinging from a rope—if you do, you're way too fucking cool for me, cowboy, so you're probably in the wrong place. Round here we think and feel in equal measure. And we don't generally do snark—sorta hold with Yeats, on that score. Mock mockers after that.

Lonesome Dove represents the mythology of my people, and I consider it to be merely an extension of that which began with the sacking of Rome in 387 BC. There are complicated feelings involved, beyond mere affinity for my kin. There is a way of relating to the world that is at issue, and at the end, we lose. As we always do.

The last scene, from the greatest western ever made, beginning with Captain Call burying Augustus, and ending back in Lonesome Dove. Helluva vision.

Happy Birthday, Rangers

Sometimes the lines blur, no doubt; so easy to cross em, when you're not paying attention, lost in some fever or shrunk inside the blinders of yourself.

When they hang ol' Jake, it knocks the hell out of me, every time. I get a little weepy, just thinking about it.

The Texas Rangers (not the goddamn baseball team—the Rangers, you dig?) are 175 years old today.

My ancestors Milt, Joe, Jake, and old-man Jack all rode with the Rangers, in their day, out of San Saba county, Cherokee village. Joe was with em the day they rode to the top of Baby Head Mountain, and found the infant's head affixed to a Comanche spear. Milt was with em when they rode south to the Pecos, searching for poor Alice Todd.

Adios Boys. You won't hold it against me. I never meant no harm. Yeah, I got tears streaming down my face now, watching poor Jake dangling from that tree. That's some tough country, you know? Watch the video, and see for yourself:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Law, Like Love

I'm tired, and need to sleep. No time for a proper post, and I haven't had an opportunity to write poetry in days. Which is bullshit, cause I need to write 15 more poems, and finish a couple stories to complete Pink House. And I spend so much of my day lost in my head, or worse (like reading sports blogs—the Cowboys win a cuppla games, and I lose every bit of my resolve to give that fucking game up).

Paula Jane's been reading some of Auden's sonnets, which has caused me to think of him in my few lucid moments. I've been set in a Wallace Stevens-place for a month or so (which can be exhausting, by the way), and now I think maybe I need a little Wystan to even me out. Smooth off the edges. Balance me out. I have no idea, really, what I just said.

This is among my favorite of his poems. It's called Law Like Love. Read this poem, then read it again, aloud. It is immensely pleasureable, as nearly all his poems are.

Law, say the gardeners, is the sun,
Law is the one
All gardeners obey
To-morrow, yesterday, to-day.

Law is the wisdom of the old,
The impotent grandfathers feebly scold;
The grandchildren put out a treble tongue,
Law is the senses of the young.

Law, says the priest with a priestly look,
Expounding to an unpriestly people,
Law is the words in my priestly book,
Law is my pulpit and my steeple.

Law, says the judge as he looks down his nose,
Speaking clearly and most severely,
Law is as I've told you before,
Law is as you know I suppose,
Law is but let me explain it once more,
Law is The Law.

Yet law-abiding scholars write:
Law is neither wrong nor right,
Law is only crimes
Punished by places and by times,
Law is the clothes men wear
Anytime, anywhere,
Law is Good morning and Good night.

Others say, Law is our Fate;
Others say, Law is our State;
Others say, others say
Law is no more,
Law has gone away.

And always the loud angry crowd,
Very angry and very loud,
Law is We,
And always the soft idiot softly Me.

If we, dear, know we know no more
Than they about the Law,
If I no more than you
Know what we should and should not do
Except that all agree
Gladly or miserably
That the Law is
And that all know this I
f therefore thinking it absurd
To identify Law with some other word,
Unlike so many men I cannot say
Law is again,

No more than they can we suppress
The universal wish to guess
Or slip out of our own position
Into an unconcerned condition.
Although I can at least confine
Your vanity and mine
To stating timidly
A timid similarity,
We shall boast anyway:
Like love I say.

Like love we don't know where or why,
Like love we can't compel or fly,
Like love we often weep,
Like love we seldom keep.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

When that sun is high in that Texas sky, I'll be freezing my ass off in the northern tundra

Just back from a trip to Chicago. On the road home, listening to one of my several trusty Texas-music cd's, heard one of my favorite songs, at precisely the right moment—know what I mean? Like the story I told y'all about Cathy Cee and Dancing in the Moonlight, or a story I haven't told you about Walden Books, a gap-toothed girl and Wish You Were Here. Times when a song you like (as in the former case) or love (as in the latter) registers its maximum potential on the emotional register.

The song was George Strait's Amarillo by Morning, a pretty straight-forward story about a guy who's lost everything—or maybe, thought he had—and realizes that nothing or no one can deprive him of hope, or of the essential joy of being alive, unless he permits it to happen. And he won't. Let it happen, I mean.

The tempo changes throughout the song, as he's thinking to himself, alone on the bus, heading to his next rodeo. Lonesome at first, melancholy, the last verse is decidely upbeat, as his spirit rises. He is undaunted, and engaged with what happens next, whatever that is, unwilling to compromise the coming day by dwelling on the past. The fiddle music, at the very end, though—mournful and true, and doggedly hopeful, but still recognizing the essential loneliness of self—is remarkable.

Paula Jane was sleeping when I heard the song in the quiet of this early morning, after being on the road awhile, with the sun just peeking over the horizon. Just as I imagine the cowboy in the song, which made the moment perfect.

As an aside, when he delivered the line, When that sun is high in that Texas sky, I nearly fucking cried. Went straight to my heart, you know? If you're from Texas, you do—how can the sky appear to be so big? It's the same size everywhere, of course. But dammit, it feels a helluva lot bigger there. And I miss it.

Anyway, give it a listen. A real Texan, singing a real Texas song, about something of the human condition that is very real.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Not much more to say than that.

If you're aware of who he was, and what he represented, just utter his name, and feel the ache of everything that should have been, but isn't.

The first video is a collection of several of his speeches, and a snippet of one of MLK's. The first, announcing his candidacy for the presidency in 1968, is rather halting, and his message is not altogether formed. Next is the famous summation of MLK's I Have a Dream speech. Following that is the reason I posted this—probably my favorite of Bobby's speeches. He was scheduled to speak at half-time of a basketball game in inner-city Indianapolis, before a predominately African-American crowd, just after Martin was shot. Several of his aides wanted to whisk him away, concerned for his safety; many cities around the country were well on their way to burning that night. Bobby chose to deliver the horrible news himself, and delivered an impromptu speech that revealed what I think is the essence of who he was. I love how he searches for his words, reciting the Aeschylus, in the way of one who reads and remembers poetry often.

Indianapolis was among the few cities in America that was quiet, that awful night.

The second video is Ted Kennedy's famous eulogy at Bobby's funeral.

Don't know what else to say, cause it still hurts thinking about Bobby's murder. Let us still hope for what he asked us to dedicate ourselves to, that night in Indianapolis—that the savageness of man might someday be tamed, and that we might somehow make gentle the life of this world.

(Not bloody likely, but it's a great thought).

Bobby Kennedy should be 85 years old today.

Once in a (very) blue moon

Just cause i feel like it...Nanci's homefolks, and I really love her voice (both singing and talking)...
And damn i love this song...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lizzie Siddall

Above is a depiction of Elizabeth Siddall as she is painting, created by Dante Rossetti. I mentioned her in my previous post, of which he was the subject. Which is the way she is remembered, in the main—that is, by her association with him.

She was, however, a remarkable person in her own right.

I learned more about her because of the representation above; I noticed it while searching for his paintings. I admit I thought it to be ironic at first—kind of funny sometimes when one is slapped across the head by one's own preconceptions and latent prejudices, isn't it?

She was the daughter of a tradesman (her father was an ironmonger), one of seven children in a family that was poor, although not dirt-poor. She received no formal education, though she did learn to read and write. According to wiki, she happened upon a scrap of Tennyson from a bit of newspaper that had been used as butter-wrapping, which thrilled her imagination, and set her way. I like this story very much, and hope it's true—Tennyson (another poet much loved by me) achieved his first real success in 1842, when Lizzie was 13.

Six years later, while apprenticing in a lady's hat-shop, the artist Walter Deverell accompanied his mother to the shop. Struck by Lizzie's odd beauty, he induced her to model for him, beginning the career for which she is best remembered. Deverell was associated with and influenced by Rossetti's Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, though not an official member (apparently membership was finite and closed), and through him, she came to model for Pre-Raphaelite artists like Hunt, Millais and, of course, Rossetti himself.

Their association erupted rapidly into a passionate affair. Recognizing her talent, Rossetti gave her lessons in art and poetry. Although Deverell, too, was in love with her (as were, doubtless, others), by summer of 1852, she was no longer sitting for artists other than him.

Lizzie blossomed, these years. Rossetti was obsessed with her, drawing and painting her endlessly, thinking, in the way peculiar to tediously romantic young men, that she was some realization of his greater self, in this case that she was his Beatrice (the equally tedious device of his idol, Dante Alighieri) . To his credit, though, he came to as passionately believe that she was a genius, and introduced her to John Ruskin, who was also much taken with her abilities, and became her patron, endowing her with the sum of 150 pounds a year, and buying nearly everything she produced.

Rossetti's obsession, though, gradually waned, and his eye wandered. There were affairs with several other women, leading to her conviction that he was trading her in for someone younger. Her subsequent depression, along with the lifestyle of the young, urban, ultra-hip crowd they mixed with, led to her addiction to laudanum, and to a number of physical ailments. After Rossetti finally married her, she became pregnant the following year, giving birth to a stillborn daughter, in 1861. This was the end for Lizzie. Inconsolable, she became deeper into her addiction. In early 1862, after discovering that she was pregnant again, she took her own life.

The rest—Rossetti's discovery of her body, his destruction of her suicide note so that she could receive a Christian burial, the romantic gesture of burying his poems and their gruesome retrieval, his descent into self-pity and addiction and finally madness because of his guilt—don't really concern us here.

The work Lizzie left behind was buried surely as Rossetti's poems were, beneath what I can only regard as the disinterest of the critical elites—couched, I'm sure, within any number of critic-speak justifications. Which add up to nothing, of course, more substantial than the fact that she's not supposed to be good. She is Beatrice, after all. She is an object which contains the projected yearnings of a man. She is a muse, a creature made from the bathetic pixie-dust fueling the fantasies of the (male) artist who glorified—objectified—her. Beyond her innate goodness, her natural beauty, and her essential simplicity—the blander the better—she does not matter. Because she is not, beyond that, beyond which the artist imagines, beyond what swells the heart (and nether regions) of the patriarchal critical establishment.

Lizzie was not a typically beautiful woman—heavy-lidded, skeletal and severe, with thin lips and an angular figure. Beneath the brush of painters of her time she became something else, a thing scarcely related to her at all. It is a hard thing to be the container for the dreams of others, especially when the vessel containing the possibilities of your own desires is not only infinitely smaller, but exists only at the pleasure of others. Her self-portrait, at right, must have been representative of something important to her—her actual depiction, removed from the manipulations of self-gratifying dreamers. How deep must have been her desire to be received on her own terms—how could it not have been?

As I've said, Lizzie had no education. No Eton, no Cambridge, no Oxford, nor even any public schooling. The only instruction and training she ever received was begun at age 23, at Rossetti's knee (so to speak). Several more of her paintings can be seen at bottom, and numerous others seen here, and here. Her poems can be read here. You be the judge.

I will say this, though. I suspect that if Lizzie had enjoyed the same background and education as Rossetti, the master-teacher relationship would've been reversed. I'm rather ashamed that I did not know more about her, that I was in effect among those who objectified her—several of her images have hung in our home for years—without even a glimmer of curiosity regarding who she was, beyond being an appendage to a poet and artist I admire. Whatever it's worth, when I remember this story in the future, it is Lizzie who will come to my mind. For me, Rossetti has become subordinate to the legend of Elizabeth Siddall.

I like a number of her poems, but this may be my favorite. It's called Dead Love (do look though at her other poems, and her paintings and drawings—they are remarkable):

Oh never weep for love that’s dead
Since love is seldom true
But changes his fashion from blue to red,
From brightest red to blue,
And love was born to an early death
And is so seldom true.
Then harbour no smile on your bonny face
To win the deepest sigh.
The fairest words on truest lips
Pass on and surely die,
And you will stand alone, my dear,
When wintry winds draw nigh.
Sweet, never weep for what cannot be,
For this God has not given.
If the merest dream of love were true
Then, sweet, we should be in heaven,
And this is only earth, my dear,
Where true love is not given.