Saturday, December 24, 2011

For a Wild Girl

(on her birthday)

It is not because I killed you.
It is not merely because I killed you.

There are numbers of reasons which justify my intent.
But none closer to the heart of it
(I admit)

To wit:
I have done it again.
Dug you up
and rolled with your bones.

But there is no atonement
or respite
for him who killed
the light.

I feel you, sometimes
behind me in crowds
and you’re on the periphery

of everything I see.
Your vanished voice still echoes
and rings:

Do you still love me?
Then kiss me, ducky.
Finger my wounds
and chase the blues away,
constant one, o constant one.

I had a memory of you,
earlier today. A glimmer of you
from someone else’s face.
That cloudy day on the deserted beach:
You, me. The wind, the sand, the sea
and the smell of rain.

You were reading something.
Baudelaire, I think. Maybe Rimbaud.
You bit your lip, squared your jaw—
that thing you did, when you were deep in thought.
Blowing your hair away from your face
you remembered I was beside you,
gave a start, tilted your head
just a trace, and angled it toward me,
then gave it a teasing, haughty toss.

Leaning over then to me, we kissed—
playfully, at first, then
lingeringly. And I felt the shiver—
the familiar ache—resonate through me.

I wanted to wrap myself in it
to cleave to your shattering
and exist out of time

to fill myself
with the jaggedness
Of your going.

How sharp it was!

But there is no release.
No bodkin, no disease.

No atonement
no respite
for him who slew
the light.

Never forgiven this earth
that gave, then took you away.
Cold, careening rock
that hid you under dirt.

Never forgiven the stupid boy
more in love with love than love could take.
Who for the sake of love and pure
spent your love away.

All was finished, that time ago.
Unforgiven, all we turn and spin
breathe and be
as if you hadn’t been.

What more to say that isn’t said?
Nothing left, but for that I’ve bled
And leave undone—

So sleep, and well, my dreaming one—

And the face of night which is become
the ghost of all your days but touched
will merge to one—one light, and such
as star or sun that heaven’s never seen—
and you will be free.
Of all. Of me.

Dreaming better dreams.

Contemplating one or other
lying noble Roman
searching the bottom of the row
of the history shelf
absently even less aware
than usually I am
turned abruptly
to my right—not thinking
not glancing not giving a damn
for on-coming traffic
you know—
nearly plowed her to the ground
poor thing
almost murdered randomly
on Saturday afternoon
at Waldenbooks
by a book-drunk stranger who
should have had his browsing licence
qualified long ago—
a pretty one she was
kind eyes
brown and wide
with an amused ironic mouth—
and a smile which 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 me
to break my fall
just fell
and fell
and fell
into the place
where’s kept your face
and i reduced
and you were not
and nothing—

nothing was all.
Contemplating Romans at Waldenbooks
nothing was all.

You didn’t see me seeing you
one gray November day
under the old tree
behind your father’s house
as you waited there, for me.

You couldn’t hear
when I spoke your name
under my breath,
not in the way you needed—

no, too reverent and too soft—
like you were Maia,
outstretched in clover and lost
in some reverie of heaven.

When rain began to fall
I wavered before calling out,
trying first to learn the order of it;
leaned back on your elbows,

your left leg pointed at the clouds,
like you were guiding them, I thought;
citizens of that glowering sky
enthralled, by you, as I was.

But you were just a wild girl,
with loops in her hair,
softness in her skin,
and light in her eyes;

no wildness, no softness,
no quality of light
could subdue those bawdy strings,
that pasty elder—

(How thinly,
they throb.
How utterly,
they sting.)

When you sensed me there
Behind you, you cocked
your head around,
And grinned.

I was apple cactus.
You were the moon.
Closed fast in dreaming,
I could only bloom

in your eyes.

I noticed you right away
leaning against a wall across the room,
your long dark hair bound back
but spriggy rings of it dangling free
around your ears, like stray flowers
refusing to adhere to some prosaic gardener’s
sterile decree. Your eyes grew wide
and you caught your breath
just when i did—i swear, i saw you do it—
and you nodded my way, and smiled.

I saw the gap in your teeth.

Nothing could be done, then. I was gone.

You were standing with your back against
a crooked tallow tree.
And your head was raised, just slightly,
anticipating me.

But Zeus was hiding,
behind the hedges;
lethal, profane
and soft, around the edges.

I know a sad case.

A backwards guy.

A sanctimonious God-talker, who grew into confusion.

Long ago there was a girl, with a gap between her teeth, and long dark hair that flowed like tiny wreaths of silky vines over her shoulders and along her back. She smelled like sunlight, and had eyes that transfigured what they saw—they transfigured even him—eyes that glinted possibilities that live even in the meanest of moments, and people.

The darkness knew her name—hated her, desired her. Used her, tried to consume her, to make her part of the its massive, glowering emptiness.
She ran from it, hard and fast as she could, racing for the light that lives in the shining water, and the glittering sky—saw it, in front of her, somewhere down the road—remembered it in her flight, as she tumbled down the hill. Held it close, as she twisted into metal.

(On the flutter of an eyelid, everything turned)

Time froze, and contracted to its beginning. Awareness loitered palely about the edges, hollowed-out and stopped-in-place, while he faltered, reeling; captive to it, undone inside it—before everything unwound again—in a tsunami of gush and ache that remade the entire world. And even him.

But everything was out of synch, when time rebooted, a dissonance which remained; he persuades himself sometimes this has abated, or at least his sense of it has. Deep down, though— where his heart will not beat in common with illusion—he knows it never will.

She was, and must be.

He barely is, can barely be.

Time is an irrevokable moment, from illimitable perspectives; witnessed by stars, which see everything we can and cannot see; possessed, all, by a transfiguring girl, in the arc of her flight, on her crooked journey to a kinder home, and a truer light.

That is what he thinks, at least. It's the only thing that makes sense.

And 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.
Tellable told, 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—you’re wherever the hell you are—
and I’ve grown tired. Really tired.
A dragon, I think. A pyromaniac
gone weary of fire—and of everything
but stars.

And maybe, in the end, that’s all
there ever was.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Ave Maria. Barbacoa tacos, with lime, cilantro, and a wedge of avocado. The 1941 version of The Maltese Falcon. The smell of oak, wet with dew, at 6am. Cactus roses. Prufrock. Adam’s Curse. Peter Quince at the Clavier. Chicken Masala. Lady Lazerus. That Morning. Kindness, whenever it happens. Iced tea. Red Wind. Weaver’s perfume, wherever I may find it. As I Walked Out One Evening. The Ode to Joy. Look Homeward, Angel. The red dirt of home. Cherokee Creek. Spunky Holler. Tamales. When John Wayne holds Natalie Wood up in the air, and says, with gentleness and humanity, Let’s go home, Debbie. The British version of The Office. The Lady Eve. The Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor. Gatsby. La Mexicana. Nessun Dorma. Redemption. Compassion. Red beans and rice. The game afoot. The Royal Tenenbaums. Buffalo grass. Sunflowers. Nothing but net. Love and Mercy. Thunder Road. Noir. That’s how it crumbles. Cookie-wise. Chana Masala. All things Gonzo. The smell of a baseball glove. My wound is geography. Baba ganoush. The Grievous Angel. Crossing the Colorado River, into San Saba County. If You See Her, Say Hello. Batboy. Colonel Blimp. The Big Sleep. Nigel Tufnel. Hey Jude. The Diary of Adam & Eve. Happy endings. The Lubitsch touch. Texas. Uva uvam vivendo varia fit. Mystery Girl.  I recommend pleasant. And you may quote me.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

If Equal Affection Cannot Be—

What is the poet's purpose? The artist's? Varied, I suppose, as the sensibilities of the neurotic human beings who populate the arts, but with some commonality, I hope.

So often—too often, today—art seems exclusionary. Too hip by half, self aware, even masturbatory, created by a select few for the edification of a select few. It is a bitter truth that few poets today can sell their books (beyond the sales imposed by teacher-friends upon hapless underclassmen). Some of these writers are, frankly, those of limited ability and muddled ideas; others certainly have talent, and some notion of something to say, but neither group seems too awfully concerned with the 99% of the world who have given up trying to read their work. Perhaps this is to be expected; after all, there are a number of reasons for the dimunition of the audience for poetry and literary fiction. Because the slide into (relative) irrelevancy began for reasons beyond the control of individual artists, the bitterness I mentioned at the outset is understandable.

However, the attitude of the artist in the wake of that slide has largely been to stop considering any kind of greater audience, and instead to play to the first couple of rows; in the case of some, the aim does not extend, as it were, beyond the lurkers in the wings.

I believe this is sad, for everyone. For the restive many out there yearning for the solace of art, many eroding, piecemeal, beneath the wheel of off-the-rails radical capitalism; and for the artists who never come to full realizations of their talents or themselves, because they never locate their identities within a larger context—the zeitgeist, or whatever you want to call it—the place where their identities and those of the poor slobs at the People of Walmart blog, who hipsters love to ridicule, are the fucking same—because face it, they are the same, we are the same, we are equal in our humanness, occupying the same spaces in time, regardless of what the Dumbass Idea Worm may tell us. Our differences matter far, far less than our sameness—our commonality, to sound banal, but the idea is far from that. In your soul, you know this is true. And like one of the most humane of souls once told us, We must love one another, or die. This is so, now more than ever.

We must not lose our love. Not only for our families, not only for our friends, but for all the people out their estranged from our senses of community by the blurred nature of modern perspective—we must not set ourselves up as being so different, because in every crucial way, we are not (do not be so dense as to ask which way this is—you know, and I know you know—we share senses, we share fears, and hopes, and desires, we share skin and blood and bones—we share death, for crissakes).

At a conversation during lunch, the topic concerned protesters of an ilk not much sympathized with among many I know. It occurred to me that I know of the sincerity of each side in the struggle at issue—the struggle itself having no bearing on this thought—and how fucking sad that is. The vitriol, and the rage, invested toward people who share far more than they differ, separated by imaginary walls, set upon one another by often cynical forces, beyond their understanding or control. It made me tired, and melancholy, desirous of another way of relating—can you understand what I mean? I am sick, thoroughly sick, of bitterness, and venom, and acrimony.

These lines occurred to me then, from the same poet I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, coupled with the title of this entry: Let the more loving one be me.

This is how we should live our lives, how I want to live my life, by that credo. Is it possible, do you think?

Let the more loving one be me.

And is it possible that poets, like Auden, can once again speak to us with humanity and love, and teach us how to live?


Here is the poem, once again, in its entirety—from a time when poets had a thing or two to say. The More Loving One, by WH Auden:

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total darkness sublime,
Though this might take me a little time

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ralph Emery

go see for yourself


The Thing Redux

(from last year)

Watching one of those chicken-fried hoe-downs—"Pop Goes the Country", hosted by Ralph Emery, who has this enormous dead animal on his head (very disconcerting, and it feels like its staring at me). I dvr'ed a bunch of these shows from the RFD channel (quality programming like this is obviously the reason everyone should have dish network).

Ronnie Milsap came on, few minutes ago. I used to like ol' Ronnie when I was in high school, and it's kinda nice seeing him again. Now he's sitting at the piano, singing a medley of pop songs (originally sung by women, a strange, curious choice). "You're No Good", was the first one, now "Let Me Be There"...and I really can't tell you how good it is, cause Ralph Emery is sitting next to him on the piano stool, and that damn thing on his head is hypnotizing me. There are mean beady little eyes inside that thing somewhere, I'm sure of it, and I think it has somehow burrowed into Ralph Emery's brain, because when he was talking to Charlie Daniels a few minutes ago he called him "funky" about 3 times, and I swear, at one point he reached over and stroked Charlie's hair—could he be planting one of those things in Charlie's head, too?

So, now, like I said, he's sitting next to Ronnie, and Ralph is casting these furtive glances his way, and, you know, Ronnie is vulnerable...'Cause he's fucking blind, you know? And even though this ostensibly happened in 1975, I feel sure it's happening right now—I think Ralph Emery winked at me, man! Jesus!!!—Although, intellectually, I know this can't be so—

Reaching for the remote...Must somehow destroy this thing before it...telepathically... reaches across the decades...and though i can tangibly feel a force trying to induce me otherwise...I have turn

Silence now...I can feel...the thing's influence...waning... My God, what was it? Did it infect Ronnie? Charlie? This is impossible to know... i just googled Ralph Emery's current image... He has to be 80 now...And there is a different thing on his head now, a sleek gray animal which appears to be dead. One thing I feel pretty sure of, though--if I could peak beneath it, and see the top of his natural dome—something I expect no one has seen in many, many years—at the very least a slight indentation would be revealed...Most likely, though, it is a crater...

And Ralph still has furtive, crazy eyes...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sexy Film Scenes—I Know Where I'm Going!

(from last year)

The scene I'm posting (and the movie it's taken from) is a favorite of both mine and of Paula Jane's; after seeing it again the other day, it prompted a discussion of the sexiest film scenes we know, especially those which don't show sex explicitly (and while you may disagree, I think that's a disqualifier anyway). She thought it would make a good topic, and I agreed—obviously, because here we are—and hopefully she'll have some things to impart, as well. I'm gonna choose my top ten, and post em in no particular order over the next few weeks, beginning with the scene in question, from I Know Where I'm Going!.

The Film was a production of The Archers, a legendary British film unit led by director/screenwriters Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, and consisting of a remarkable group of actors and crewman who collaborated to make some of cinema's best and most criminally under-seen masterpieces, among them The Life and Times Of Colonel Blimp(1943), The Red Shoes(1948), Black Narcissus(1947), A Matter of Life and Death(1946), and numbers of others, including of course, I Know Where I'm Going!, in 1945.

Similarly, the films stars are actors not much celebrated these days, but far superior to legions who are. Pamela Brown plays Catriona MacLaine Potts as though she was both a person and an element. Seeing her in the film for the first time, climbing a grassy hill with the easy grace and earthiness of a Celtic Goddess—clutching a brace of rabbits in one hand, a rifle in the other, and leading a yammering pack of hounds—she could've been Danu, in the flesh. When she enters the house a few frames later--rather, bursts into it, free and large and passionate as any man or god—she rather takes one's breath away (watch the stunned reaction of Wendy Hiller—mirroring the audience). She and Michael Powell were beginning a life-long love affair, and it's easy to see how he fell under her spell; and although her role is a supporting one, it is vital. The strength and authenticity of her character, as well as her odd, disquieting beauty, reflect the place, its people, and the way of life they hold to.

Roger Livesey is a key actor—perhaps the key actor, considering the vehicles he starred in—in the annals of Archer films. His performance as the title character, Clive Candy, in The Life and Times of Colonel Blimp demonstrated his astonishing range, conveying deep humanity to a character only seen as caricature to that point. It is a performance for the ages, one I encourage you to see immediately. A Welshman of lumbering appearance, and soulful aspect, there is a bit of Prufrock about him, ostensibly; deeper investigation reveals an actor whose gentle masculinity is more genuine (to me) than a dozen Clark Gables stacked together. In this film he plays Torquil MacNeil, the Laird of Kiloran. He is a naval officer on leave, and has leased his property to a rich London industrialist. He has done so from necessity, because he cannot afford to maintain it. If he leases it for 2 years, he reckons he can live on it for 6.

Wendy Hiller plays Joan Webster, the singularly determined young woman (she knows where she is going) engaged to be married to the industrialist. Hiller was George Bernard Shaw's favorite actress, and she is among my favorites, too. Brilliant in everything, she acted primarily on the stage, and is probably best known for being the original, and most compelling, Eliza Doolittle (on both stage and screen) in Shaw's Pygmallion, as well as the idealistic heroine of Shaw's Major Barbara. (Additionally, Anne of Green Gables fans undoubtedly remember her as the difficult and invalid Mrs. Harris, from Anne of Avonlea.) Not conventionally beautiful, with perpetually surprised eyebrows, insolent lips, broadset eyes, and little visible softness, she bore the more credible and genuine attributes of talent, intelligence, and luminescence to great effect.

In the film, Hiller’s Webster is in a hurry to join her fiancĂ© in Kiloran, where they are to be married. It is a small island in the Irish Sea, off Scotland’s western coast, and it is often inaccessible, because of the fierce seas surrounding it. When she arrives at the little hamlet where the ferry to Kiloran is located, it is during one of these periods of high winds and dangerous waters, and she is compelled to wait for days at Mrs. Potts’ house, in the company of Livesey’s MacNeil, who is waiting to cross over, too. He is immediately and unabashedly drawn to her—as she is to him, although she fights it for all she’s worth. The scene that follows is a depiction of a typical Celtic Ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee), in particular a Clan Campbell celebration of an elder’s 60th wedding anniversary. The people are vivid, and unaffected in a way that is unfamiliar to Joan, but nearly as magnetic to her as MacNeil is. They watch the action from outside, she on a ladder, to get a better view, he directly beneath her. When the pipers—her pipers, hired for her wedding, stranded on the mainland just as she is—play My Nut Brown Maiden, MacNeil quotes a verse:

Ho ro my nut-brown maiden,
Hee ree my nut-brown maiden,
Ho ro ro maiden,
You're the maiden for me.

The pay-off is his delivery of the last line—the audacity of it, as he looks directly at her, with sudden, smoldering, unapologetic intensity. Cheeks blazing, her alarm and excitement are palpable.

Enjoy it (and watch the damn movie, if you haven’t seen it):

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Maud Gonne: O Love is the crooked thing

(Too tired to post. This is a retread from last year. I stand by it.)

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.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Cool Sign

Saw this sign Monday night at the parking lot on the SE corner of Seventh & Congress, going to poetry at The Hideout with George and Steve.

They interrogated everyone on the scene, and no one fessed up to being the Imposter, though I guess it's kinda doubtful the Imposter would ID him or herself, isn't it?

Cool sign, though.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

R.I.P., My Dangerous Beard, December 10, 2009—June 8, 2011 (or, In Memoriam TMB)

It was a happy beard.

It loved good food—Madras Masala—and beer.

Thankfully, before it died, it learned the pleasures of tamales and tacos. And experienced the golden rays of the actual sun (Senor Macho) upon it, after knowing only the timidity of its weak-ass brother (Carlos) up north.

I'd like to say it died a gentle death, but that would not be true. It died screaming, clawing for life. Accusing me, as it circled the drain.

It knew that its life was little, and would be extinguished, and that only darkness was immense, and everlasting. And it knew it would die with defiance on its lips, and that the cry of its denial would ring with the last pulsing of its heart into the maw of all-engulfing night.

(Thomas Wolfe wrote that, presumeably about his own doomed beard)

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to The Beard Foundation.

Now, please enjoy this selection from Mozart's Requiem:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Sunshine and Tacos

As some of you know, I've been working on a manuscript for awhile now, and am actually nearing completion, a proposition which has been demanding a lot of my free time recently. I've been somewhat energized, being home and all, which is good, though it hasn't left much time for this blog. The ideas are sort of swirling round my head, cause now's time to create some of the anchors, thematically—mainly, a short story tentatively titled Adahy's Testimony, which is assuming a life of its own. All the poems—around 70, in all—are tied together by this story, and its ideas are the bedrock of what I believe, and what I am. Heady stuff, and a little daunting, and I'm questioning a lot of what I thought I wanted to say. This is not to say that I'm gonna change it—may not change an iota—but I think it's important to examine it, closely, before I commit the heart of my project to it. I'm sure I'll be writing about some of these ideas soon—though I've written of many of em already, since this blog began, a year ago—but just so you know, that's where I'm at.


I love the way of life here, in Austin. Our culture's filled with many things, none more than sunshine and tacos. And how much more do you need, really???

You know about Austin's sunshine already, I'm sure—like my friend Christopher was saying the other day, the difference between Austin and other sunshine cities is how we fucking embrace the sunshine here—we don't groan about the heat, we take joy from it, design our lives around it. It's part of our identity, and we wouldn't change it, for anything.

A few words about tacos, though, cause I know many of you are fucking gringos and gringas (which isn't your fault, don't get me wrong—you are still entitled to enjoy our amazing tacos). Taco wagons are everywhere here, and most of em are pretty fucking good, plus there's Torchy's, Taco Deli, Taco Maria, El Chilito, et al—you could have tacos every meal here, easy. And it would be great.

Just one thing, though: a taco is made from a soft, warm, corn tortilla. That's it. This can be extended, by the unsophisticated among you, to included tortillas that have been deep-fried, into a U shape. However, if it's made with a flour tortilla, it is NOT A TACO. It is a burrito, no matter how you fucking fold it.

So, you find yourself at an authentic taco stand, don't embarrass yourself. Don't embarrass the taco, for God's sake. Order it right, eat it right. You'll be glad you did.

Now, they'll serve it to you on a flour tortilla, alright—when you walk up, they may even assume you want it that way. Remember, they serve dumb white people all day—but believe this: When you're walking away, clutching your little bag of misshapen burritos, they're thinking, Dumbass.

So, yeah, don't be a dumbass. Ask for corn.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

had tamales again today, and they were killer

never ever ever take tamales for granted.

i did, once.

then i went to michigan.

so, yeah, consider this is a public service announcement...

because i care, man...

you ever find yourself the, um, great state of michigan...and you're hungry, whatever...and only mexican food will do...

evacuate...flee—by plane is best, or locomotive, car, if you must, bicycle, on foot if you have to, just get the fuck out as fast as you can...but do not—under any conditions—no matter what the bastards tell you—or how much you think you need your texmex—

do not ever ever ever ingest what they claim to be texmex there...

evereverever, alright? those poor deprived bastards, what does it matter? they don't know any better—but to us, we of the faith and the heritage—we, who have eaten of mama ninfa's cheese enchiladas and golden rice and lard-laden refried beans—it is a twisted and immoral joke...

it is more than an affront, it is an is a murderous rampage on our expectations—fuck that, on our texans, dig???—

and the memory of it can linger, for years, in our psyche's...and even stain the sacred store of our tex-mex Collective Memory—

and when that's gone, what the hell is left???

seriously—i ask you—what can be left???

(so, yeah, don't try it)...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


We achieved Texasness on May 12, at 4:33pm.

After spending several days in San Saba, Austin City Limits occurred at 11:17am, May 16.

The past week has been spent finding a place to live, and seeing friends. Our duplex won't be ready until the first, or thereabouts. Probably will wait till then to re-start our internet account, so access is restricted to coffee houses, temporarily.

I'll begin posting again then, I suspect.

In the meantime, it's motherfucking good to be home. They took pretty good care of the joint while we were away, I'm happy to report. The Dobie Theatre is gone, which is really, really fucked up, and that weird bookstore next to Central market is gone, too, as is Wok & Roll, and Dots. And Pronto Mart is a shell of its former self. Austin City Limits moved off-campus, downtown next to City Hall. But—just as First Street is named for Cesar-fucking-Chavez—Second Street is now called Willie (fucking) Nelson Boulevard (and they got a statue and everythang) and I approve. Plus, we got a drive-in theatre now, and a food trailer downtown called Garage Mahal, plus East Side Pies opened up another location off Airport, west of the freeway. And we got here just in time for the Paramount's Summer Classic Movie Series, and this year they're showing The Apartment and Cat People.

So, yeah, Austin is Austin. I'm typing this from the back window at Quacks, and the sunshine is abundant, as it is 300 days a year here. God is in His heaven, and The Dude abides.

See y'all soon.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Love and Mercy

Every spring, there is a day when the clouds seem to lift; a single day, a specific moment, when the gray has given way to spring.

In Texas, this usually happens late-February, early-March. Here, in the God-forsaken yankee tundra of Michigan, it happened this past weekend—on Sunday, to be exact. Paula Jane and I cruised round Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti most of the day, reveling in the warmth of the sun. Listening to Brian Wilson, as we always do in the spring, especially on this day, when the world begins again.

As some of you know from other posts, I wasn't always a Brian Wilson fan (beholden as I was to the dumbass Idea Worm, til my friend John set me straight). It would be difficult to entirely express how much I love him now; his music symbolizes so much of what is positive about living, and what is best about human beings, a thing I am apt to lose sight of. And beyond that, Brian's music makes me happy. His simple, child-like optimism is entirely unaffected, and affecting.

Examples of this are represented by the two selections I have chosen, the first being the incredible ballad—the first ballad Brian ever wrote—Surfer Girl. The lyrics are remarkable enough—I'm giving you credit here, reader, for being sophisticated enough to realize that while a song about a surfer who is a girl can be beautiful—as this one is, even at that level—this song is larger than that, and more encompassing. It is written in the language of the person expressing it—perfectly so—and represents to me as perfect an artifact of longing, and for the desire for human intimacy, as I've ever heard.

These are the first lyrics:

Little surfer little one
Made my heart come all undone
Do you love me, do you surfer girl
Surfer girl my little surfer girl

I have watched you on the shore
Standing by the ocean's roar
Do you love me do you surfer girl
Surfer girl surfer girl

The language is simple, the idea sentimental—unapologetic, and straight-forward. The idea of one's heart coming "undone" is stirring, the recognition of feeling as being comprised by one's history, sort of an amalgam of unfiltered sensory perceptions surrounded—girded—by the pain of experience. A mechanism permitting us to feel and function simultaneously, protecting us from hurt—undone, on the instant, by longing.

If you feel this song is maudlin, or hokey, or crude, I pity you. Brian's great gift is to give poetry to the feelings of millions of awkward people, and their deepest, truest, most tender moments; and to do so without irony, or cynicism, or any negating conceits. It is deeply beautiful, I think, as is the crucial bridge:

We could ride the surf together
While our love would grow
In my Woody I would take you
everywhere I go

Brian delivers those first two verses in the breath-taking falsetto he made famous (at the end of the song, the refrain little one, little one is entirely Brian); the bridge, however, he switches to his "regular voice" (as in Wouldn't It Be Nice? or Help Me Rhonda); after the first 3 lines of the bridge, though—on the lyric everywhere I go—he changes back to falsetto, and the effect is glorious. It sounds like nothing less than desire, pent-up and segregated from possibility. Too sublime for anything better than approximation.

True story about this song: Paula Jane and I saw Brian in Seattle about 10 years ago, on one of his first tours after his comeback. If you know anything about him, you know of his battles with drugs and depression. I believe he suffered some kind of a stroke some time in the eighties; part of the result is that his falsetto is nearly gone. His regular voice is good as ever—maybe better—but one of the Wondermints (his touring band) handles the falsettos. Which is okay—the guy is very good—and Brian does most of the singing.

I knew this, and was resigned to it, when we saw him. It was a great show, and when Surfer Girl came up, I was prepared to hear the other guy sing it, so I was shocked when Brian appeared to sing the lead. Of course, with the harmonies, it was difficult to know exactly whose voices we were hearing. Then came the bridge, which he sang perfectly. I was sure he wouldn't sing the transition—everywhere I go—alone, in falsetto. How could he? Although I admit that as the lyric came near, I gripped the edge of my seat with anticipation. And when it happened, and when Brian did indeed sing it, alone, and fucking nailed it, it was probably the most beautiful moment I've ever experienced at any show, by any artist.

The next song is Love and Mercy, from his self-titled LP in 1988. Context is necessary to fully appreciate this song, I think. By that year, Brian had been departed from the national stage for a long time, lost in a maze of addiction and mental illness. Everyone thought he was gone for good. I'd been reading for months and months that he was back in the studio, working. There were lots of rumors, some true and some not, and a helluva lot of buzz. When the record finally came out, and Brian had our ear again, the first thing he chose to say to us is expressed in this lyrics of this extraordinarily beautiful, odd, frightened, humane, and deeply hopeful song. I listened to it over and over, weeping, and glad to be alive in any world with Brian in it.

Two versions. First, of my favorite recording of Brian singing the song, before his voice had really recovered. He sounds just a little wobbly, and damaged, and it breaks my heart.

Next, from the Kennedy Center honors a few years ago, the British group Libera's salute to Brian, which must be seen, and heard, to be believed.

If you can watch these, and still feel no love for Brian, you perplex me.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Who? (an existential parenthesis)

Who lives under the rock
(inside the hackberry bush)?

Who creeps about the wash-house walls
(hiding in the crevices)?

Who clings to the underside of the porcelain
(dreaming of juice)?

Saturday, April 2, 2011


Sometimes, it seems a little hopeless (see right), like the relentlessness of the fascist is too much to overcome. But I have to believe that a tide is turning; and that history is on our side.

In a time when progressive ideas and values are being assailed like no time since the 1930's, it is good to read John Donne—even if you've read it 1000 times, it helps you remember the essense of what we believe—it is a cornerstone of our thought, I think—and it always makes me feel better about the future:

"No man is an iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee...."

Friday, April 1, 2011

Another poem, for yet another cold night

The poem is Auden's The More Loving One, and it is a thing to aspire to.

Though the idea of loving the starless night is dubious, at best. Seem to remember reading somewhere that we are buffered by stars. It is an idea I will hold to, to the last.

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total darkness sublime,
Though this might take me a little time

—W.H. Auden

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Si, se puede!

In my home, growing up, Cesar Chavez was a hero. We didn't eat lettuce or grapes for two years, in support of the United Farm Workers.

This was, of course, before the Christ-in-Concrete crowd took hold of my Mom, and turned her into a Republican automaton, along with most other white people.

A testimony to Cesar's significance is the effect his name has upon the monied classes; what little pigment they possess is drained instantly from their faces, and spit-flecked apoplexy inevitably follows. They fucking hate him. Where I come from, there are streets and schools named for him, and it's like a little stab in the heart every time they see it. Which is great.

Cesar Chavez oughta be 84 today. The labor movement needs his kind of leadership—and determined optimism—now, more than ever.

Finale: Ted Hughes explains Crow

This is the final portion of Ted Hughes reading at Adelaide, explaining his take on the Crow myth.

I will write more about it later, but from my perspective, having read it again after setting it aside for awhile, I can tell you that it makes me very sad, indeed. Very sad.

Perhaps I'm too invested in the characters involved, or perhaps my interpretation is skewed by other factors, but right here, right now, the brilliance of this poetry, and the imaginitive narrative sewing it all together, is rather overwhelmed by the human implications; in this telling, no one gets out alive, and that's fucking too bad.

Isn't it?


"This is another of (Crow's) little plays. This is just notes for a play, since apart from when he just writes a song about what happens, he just writes notes for a possible director or producer. Just the notes that you might base a play on - no dialogue, no anything else, but the same two characters that he's stuck with:"

(Notes for a Little Play)

First — the sun coming closer, growing by the minute.
Next — clothes torn off.
Without a goodbye
Faces and eyes evaporate.
Brains evaporate.
Hands arms legs feet head and neck
Chest and belly vanish
With all the rubbish of the earth.

And the flame fills all space.
The demolition is total
Except for two strange items remaining in the flames —
Two survivors, moving in the flames blindly.

Mutations — at home in the nuclear glare.

Horrors — hairy and slobbery, glossy and raw.

They sniff towards each other in the emptiness.

They fasten together. They seem to be eating each other.

But they are not eating each other.

They do not know what else to do.

They have begun to dance a strange dance.

And this is the marriage of these simple creatures —
Celebrated here, in the darkness of the sun,

Without guest or God.

"He goes through all his trials and eventually he comes to a great river. Beyond this river is the Happy Land but sitting beside this river, on his bank, is a horrendous woman, an enormous, grotesque and gigantic woman, who forces him to carry her across the river. By one means or another, she gets up on his shoulders and he enters the river. And he wades out over the gravel and the current deepens, and as he gets deeper into the water her weight begins to increase until he finally has to stop. But her weight goes on increasing and drives his feet down into the gravel of the bed of the river, and the water rises to his mouth, runs past his mouth, and at that point she asks him a question. He has to sing the answer and he has to have the right answer. He begins, and he sings and, as he sings - as he gets a little bit of rightness here and a little bit of rightness there - her weight lightens. He keeps on trying to chip a bit of her weight off with little rightnesses until, finally, she's back to the weight she was and he's able to climb out of the holes and go on across the river. But as he goes on across the river, her weight begins to increase again and the whole thing happens again. She asks him another question.

"All the questions relate back to his encounters and his experiences with this being that he's been looking for. So they are all questions about the relationship between man and women - or Man and Woman. So they're all really love questions. And they're all dilemma questions, because they don't have an answer. So, this is one of his answers. And the question is "who paid most?". So he begins with the river running past his mouth. And he's only a half creature, so he's completely unmusical. He begins to try and chip little bits of her weight off him:"


He loved her and she loved him.
His kisses sucked out her whole past and future or tried to
He had no other appetite
She bit him she gnawed him she sucked
She wanted him complete inside her
Safe and sure forever and ever
Their little cries fluttered into the curtains

Her eyes wanted nothing to get away
Her looks nailed down his hands his wrists his elbows
He gripped her hard so that life
Should not drag her from that moment
He wanted all future to cease
He wanted to topple with his arms round her
Off that moment's brink and into nothing
Or everlasting or whatever there was

Her embrace was an immense press
To print him into her bones
His smiles were the garrets of a fairy palace
Where the real world would never come
Her smiles were spider bites
So he would lie still till she felt hungry
His words were occupying armies
Her laughs were an assassin's attempts
His looks were bullets daggers of revenge
His glances were ghosts in the corner with horrible secrets
His whispers were whips and jackboots
Her kisses were lawyers steadily writing
His caresses were the last hooks of a castaway
Her love-tricks were the grinding of locks
And their deep cries crawled over the floors
Like an animal dragging a great trap
His promises were the surgeon's gag
Her promises took the top off his skull
She would get a brooch made of it
His vows pulled out all her sinews
He showed her how to make a love-knot
Her vows put his eyes in formalin
At the back of her secret drawer
Their screams stuck in the wall

Their heads fell apart into sleep like the two halves
Of a lopped melon, but love is hard to stop

In their entwined sleep they exchanged arms and legs
In their dreams their brains took each other hostage

In the morning they wore each other's face

"Finally, this is a song taught to him by an eskimo guide that he meets, who teaches him a lot of little stories and songs which become his defence. This eskimo shows him how to adjust himself to the circumstances - in a series of little childish stories. This is one of them. 'How Water Began to Play':"

(How Water Began to Play)

Water wanted to live
It went to the sun it came weeping back
Water wanted to live
It went to the trees they burned it came weeping back
They rotted they came weeping back
Water wanted to live
It went to the flowers they crumpled it came weeping back
It wanted to live
It went to the womb it met blood
It came weeping back
It went to the womb it met maggot and rottenness
It came weeping back it wanted to die

It went to time it came through the stone door
It came weeping back
It went searching through all time and space for nothingness
It came weeping back it wanted to die

Till it had no weeping left
It lay at the bottom of things
Utterly worn out
utterly clear

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


It's Eric Clapton's birthday. Reckon he and Jimi are my favorite guitarists.

I strongly believe in the healing powers of rock and roll. It restoreth the soul.

Doesn't get better than Cream, does it?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Tyler Rose

I've always been a Cowboy's fan, which often as not the past decade has been like hitting myself in the head with a two-by-four once a week, come autumn. Never gave a damn about the Oilers (and give less than a damn about the Texans).

And as much as I loved Tony Dorsett and Emmett Smith, and respected Walter Payton and Barry Sanders, the greatest runner I ever saw was the Tyler Rose, Earl Campbell (who is 56 years old today).

And though I never saw Jimmy Brown or Gale Sayers play, I don't think it possible that they were better than Earl; though his career was brief—perhaps it's just not possible to play with that kind of intensity over a long career—for five seasons or so he was as good as anyone who ever played the game.

He was pretty damn good at the University of Texas, too, of course, winning the Heisman Trophy during a time when it still meant a little something. Barry Switzer (a total fucking wanker, who knows a little about football) said Earl was the only 18year-old he ever saw who could've gone straight to the NFL, and been a star.

I never saw a guy who punished opposing players like Earl did. Though he was just under six feet tall, he weighed nearly 250, and ran a 4.5 forty. He had 34 inch thighs—fuckthink about that!—34 fucking inches, man. That's just scary. And saying he ran a 4.5—which is fast—is still deceiving. He had another gear, that only great players have. When he needed to be, he was the fastest guy on the field.

The first video is a highlight reel. At around 2:50, watch him headbutt Isiah Robertson—an all-pro linebacker—and knock him on his ass. Earl did that kinda stuff all the time. Next is video of the culmination of his famous Monday Night Football performance against the Dolphins, an 81 yard sweep, that caused Howard Cosell to vibrate. No one did bombast quite like old Howard; what Earl was to grace and power, Howard was to hot air.

More Crow, more explication

This is part three of Ted Hughes' 1976 reading at Adelaide, in which he interspersed a number of his Crow poems with a pretty detailed account of Crow's origin.

These poems were begun a few years after Plath's death, and from what I understand the last was completed during the week prior to Assia's suicide (and Shura's murder).

Make of that what you will.


"As (Crow) goes along and has many adventures, everything that he meets tells a different story about what he does or what happens to him. So these are just various little episodes from it. This one is about the Black Beast:"


Where is the Black Beast?
Crow, like an owl, swivelled his head.
Where is the Black Beast?
Crow hid in its bed to ambush it.
Where is the Black Beast?
Crow sat in its chair, telling loud lies against the Black Beast.

Where is it?
Crow shouted after midnight, pounding the wall with a last,
Where is the Black Beast?
Crow split his enemy’s skull to the pineal gland.
Where is the Black Beast?

Crow crucified a frog under a microscope, he peered into the
brain of a dogfish.

Where is the Black Beast?

Crow roasted the earth to a clinker, he charged into space -
Where is the Black Beast?

The silences of space decamped, space flitted in every direction - Where is the Black Beast?

Crow flailed immensely through the vacuum, he screeched after the disappearing stars -Where is it?
Where is the Black Beast?

"A certain question begins to trouble him more and more and more - a fundamental, simple little question, "Who made me?". This turns into a quest for whoever it was that made him and he's quite successful in this quest. He keeps getting very close to whoever or whatever it is that made him, and whatever it is that made him always appears, or nearly appears, in some female form. So his journeys are a continual adventure or recurrent adventures with the Female in various forms. He has a series of encounters, and his misfortune is that he always bungles the encounter. He never understands that this is what he is actually looking for. This is just an account of one of his bungles:"

(A Horrible Religious Error)

When the serpent emerged, earth-bowel brown,
From the hatched atom
With its alibi twisted around it

Lifting a long neck
And balancing that deaf and mineral stare
The sphynx of the final fact

And flexing on that double flameflicker tongue
A syllable like the rusting of the spheres

God's grimace writhed, a leaf in the furnace

And man's and woman's knees melted, they collapsed
Their neck-muscles melted, their brows bumped the ground
Their tears evacuated visibly
They whispered 'Your will is our peace.'

But Crow only peered.
They took a step or two forward.
Grabbed this creature by the slackskin nape.

Beat the hell out of it, and ate it.

"God, who was first of all indulgent to him, becomes worried, because he sees that this is an alert little beast. So he begins to try and frustrate him. And the more he frustrates him the more able this creature becomes - the more obstacles infront of him the stronger he gets. So he becomes wiser, cleverer, stronger, and he becomes involved in all the cultures, intrigued by all the possibilities and the interesting tales. And early on, he encounters the literature of Oedipus, since he's so involved with his own search, and he reads Sophocles, and he reads Seneca, and he reads Freud. He sees, obviously, that this is open to everyone and he makes his own version. And by now he's begun to produce his own literature but his own literature is very crude. He produces plays and stories but he can never get more than two characters into the plays and stories - always the same two characters. So when he comes to deal with the Oedipus theme, he's stuck again with these two characters. This is a song from one of his plays - presumably the play is mimed while somebody sings the song - and, as a matter of fact, he steals the entire thing from Seneca:"

(Song for a Phallus)

There was a boy was Oedipus
Stuck in his Mammy's belly
His Daddy'd walled the exit up
He was a horrible fella

Mamma Mamma

You stay in there his Daddy cried
Because a dickeybird
Has told the world when you get born
You'll treat me like a turd

Mamma Mamma

His Mammy swelled and wept and swelled
With a bang he busted out
His Daddy stropped his hacker
When he heard that baby shout

Mamma Mamma

O do not chop his winkle off
His Mammy cried with horror
Think of the joy will come of it
Tomorrer and tomorrer

Mamma Mamma

But Daddy had the word from God
He took that howling brat
He tied its legs in crooked knots
And threw it to the cat

Mamma Mamma

But Oedipus he had the luck
For when he hit the ground
He bounced up like a jackinthebox
And knocked his Daddy down

Mamma Mamma

He hit his Daddy such a whack
Stone dead his Daddy fell
His cry went straight to God above
His ghost it went to hell

Mamma Mamma

The dickeybird came to Oedipus
You murderous little sod
The Sphynx will bite your bollocks off
This order comes from God.

Mamma Mamma

The Sphynx she waved her legs at him
And opened wide her maw
Oedipus stood stiff and wept
At the dreadful thing he saw

Mamma Mamma

He stood there on his crooked leg
The Sphynx began to bawl
Four legs three legs two legs one leg
Who goes on them all

Mamma Mamma

Oedipus took out an axe and split
The Sphynx from top to bottom
The answers aren't in me, he cried
Maybe your guts have got em

Mamma Mamma

And out there came ten thousand ghosts
All in their rotten bodies
Crying, You will never know
What a cruel bastard God is

Mamma Mamma

Next came out his Daddy dead
And shrieked about the place
He stabs his Mammy in the guts
And smiles into her face

Mamma Mamma

Then out his Mammy came herself
The blood poured from her bucket
What you can't understand, she cried
You sleep on it, or sing to it

Mamma Mamma

Oedipus raised his axe again
The World is dark, he cried
The world is dark one inch ahead
What's on the other side?

Mamma Mamma

He split his Mammy like a melon
He was drenched with gore
He found himself curled up inside
As if he had never been bore

Mamma Mamma

Monday, March 28, 2011

Crow explicated, part 2

Ted Hughes, at Adelaide, continued:

"But this world he appears into is a world where everything is happening simultaneously, so the beginning and end are present, and all the episodes of all history are present, as in all the different rooms of a gigantic hotel. And God, having come down into the world to see how this creature is going to size up - he, first of all, seeing what a wretched, black, horrible little nothing it is - he's rather indulgent toward it and tends to show it the beauties of the creation, and let it look on whilst he shows the marvels of the beginning.

"So this is an episode from the beginning, where God has created Man's and Woman's bodies and he's trying to get souls into them. The Talmudic legend is that, when God created Adam and Eve, he took soil from the four corners of the Earth, so that Man shouldn't feel lost whenever he wandered on the Earth. He moulded these two beautiful people but then he couldn't get the souls into them, because the souls out in the gulf - being just souls - were completely clairvoyant and knew everything that was going to happen to them. They didn't want to go into the bodies. So the great problem, before anything can happen at all in Talmudic literature, is how is the soul to be got into the body? God has this problem - a permanent problem - and Crow sees a short-cut (a very obvious short-cut) which has great consequences in the story later on. So this is what happened:"

(A Childish Prank)

Man's and woman's bodies lay without souls,
Dully gaping, foolishly staring, inert
On the flowers of Eden.
God pondered.

The problem was so great, it dragged him asleep.

Crow laughed.
He bit the Worm, God's only son,
Into two writhing halves.

He stuffed into man the tail half
With the wounded end hanging out.

He stuffed the head half headfirst into woman
And it crept in deeper and up
To peer out through her eyes
Calling it's tail-half to join up quickly, quickly
Because O it was painful.

Man awoke being dragged across the grass.
Woman awoke to see him coming.
Neither knew what had happened.

God went on sleeping.

Crow went on laughing.

Crow, explicated

This is from a reading Hughes gave at the Adelaide Festival of the Arts, in 1976. None of this was ever committed to the page, though he talked of it publicly many times. I think it's safe to say that the story is as remarkable as the poems themselves.

Ted Hughes, at Adelaide (part one):
"I'll read some poems from a long children's story that I wrote which concerns a character who I called 'Crow'. These are just poems from along the way of the story.

"The story begins in heaven, where God is having a nightmare. The nightmare appears to God as a hand. And this hand, in his nightmare, is also a voice - so it is a voice-hand or a hand-voice. And this thing comes the moment he falls asleep. This thing arrives and grabs him round the throat, and throttles him and lifts him out of his heaven and rushes him through his universe and pushes him beyond his stars and then ploughs up the Earth with his face and throws him back into heaven. And...whenever he drowses off and falls asleep, this hand arrives and the whole thing happens again.

"God cannot understand what there can be in his creation which - (after all he is responsible for every atom in it) - he can't understand what there can be so strange to him and can be so hostile to him. So there's a long, long episode in heaven where he tries to get this nightmare to divulge its secret. Eventually, the voice which is the hand speaks. And the speech of the voice which is the hand is a terrible mockery of God's creation, particularly of the crown of his creation, which is Man.

"So this begins a great debate in heaven between God and his nightmare - about Man. And God is very defensive of Man. Man is a very good invention and a successful invention and, given the materials and the situation, he's quite adequate. The voice just continues with its mocking that Man is absolutely hopeless.

"It so happens, that while the debate has been going on, and even before, while God was continually absorbed in his nightmare, Man, on the Earth, had sent up a representative to the Gates of Heaven. This representative had been knocking on the marble gates and God had been so preoccupied with his nightmare that he hadn't heard him. So this little figure was sitting in the Gate of Heaven waiting for God to hear him. And now the voice which is a hand, as the absolute last, triumphant point of his argument, asks this little figure to speak - this little representative of Man. And it so happens that Man has sent this little figure up to ask God to take life back because men are fed up with it. God is enraged that Man has let him down in this way infront of the demon, so he challenges the voice to do better - given the materials and the whole set up - just to do better - produce something better than Man.

"This is what the voice has been negotiating for. So, with a great howl of delight, he plunges down into matter and God turns Man round and pushes him back down into the World. Then God is very curious to see what the production will be when this voice has produced whatever it is he wants to produce. Anyway, the voice begins to ferment and gestate in matter, and the little thing begins to develop - a little nucleus of something or other - a little embryo begins. But before it can get born, it has to go through all manner of adventures, which it goes through and, finally, it gets to the point of being born. Then, just before it can get born, there's an examination.

"This is his examination at the womb door - and it's a sort of vocal examination. So, I give you the question and the answer. And because of all the adventures he's been through, he's a very canny embryo - little figure now. So his answers are circumspect. And the first question in the examination is, 'Who owns these scrawny little feet?'. And he thinks - and thinks he's going to be outflanked in some way - so he thinks long thoughts, short thoughts, and he answers - 'Death':"

(Examination at the Womb-Door)

Who owns those scrawny little feet? Death.
Who owns this bristly scorched-looking face? Death.
Who owns these still-working lungs? Death.
Who owns this utility coat of muscles? Death.
Who owns these unspeakable guts? Death.
Who owns these questionable brains? Death.
All this messy blood? Death.
These minimum-efficiency eyes? Death.
This wicked little tongue? Death.
This occasional wakefulness? Death.

Given, stolen, or held pending trial?

Who owns the whole rainy, stony earth? Death.
Who owns all of space? Death.

Who is stronger than hope? Death.
Who is stronger than the will? Death.
Stronger than love? Death.
Stronger than life? Death.

But who is stronger than Death?
Me, evidently.
Pass, Crow.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Typical Plathian brilliance...

...especially impressionable upon dumb asses who happen to be awake (for no fucking good reason) at four ayem.

This poem scares the crap out of me.

Death & Co.

Two, of course there are two.
It seems perfectly natural now—
The one who never looks up, whose eyes are lidded
And balled¸ like Blake's.
Who exhibits

The birthmarks that are his trademark—
The scald scar of water,
The nude
Verdigris of the condor.
I am red meat. His beak

Claps sidewise: I am not his yet.
He tells me how badly I photograph.
He tells me how sweet
The babies look in their hospital
Icebox, a simple

Frill at the neck
Then the flutings of their Ionian
Then two little feet.
He does not smile or smoke.

The other does that
His hair long and plausive
Masturbating a glitter
He wants to be loved.

I do not stir.
The frost makes a flower,
The dew makes a star,
The dead bell,
The dead bell.

Somebody's done for.

—Sylvia Plath

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Poem for a cold, cold night

Today is the birthday for two poets I admire, A.E. Housman, and Robert Frost; and the centennial for another kind of poet, Tennessee Williams.

Not in the mood for any of them though, just now, great as they were. Having awoken, and found the dawn... gray....

Being therefore...desolate...and all that follows

Thomas Hardy, instead.


Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me,
Saying that now you are not as you were
When you had changed from the one who was all to me,
But as at first, when our day was fair.

Can it be you that I hear? Let me view you, then,
Standing as when I drew near to the town
Were you would wait for me: yes, as I knew you then,
Even to the original air-blue gown!

Or is it only the breeze, in its listlessness
Travelling across the wet mead to me here,
You being ever consigned to existlessness,
Heard no more again far or near?

Thus I; faltering forward,
Leaves around me falling,
Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward
And the woman calling.

Friday, March 25, 2011

He wasn't always ridiculous

There was a time when he was known for more than catfights with Lady Gaga.

It's Elton's birthday. He is 64.

He is so young, and sincere in these videos, you can forgive him anything. I think Mona Lisas & Mad Hatters—the second video—is my favorite of his songs, but just about everything up to Madman Across the Water was superb. He was a great artist.

U.S. woman drugged banker husband with milkshake, then beat him to death

Can this be the beginning of a socially responsible trend?

Read about it here.

Perhaps her motives weren't pure—it's results we're interested in.

A little Yeatsian nightmusic

Remorse for Intemperate Speech

I ranted to the knave and fool,
But outgrew that school,
Would transform the part,
Fit audience found, but cannot rule
My fanatic heart.

I sought my betters: though in each
Fine manners, liberal speech,
Turn hatred into sport,
Nothing said or done can reach
My fanatic heart.

Out of Ireland have we come.
Great hatred, little room,
Maimed us at the start.
I carry from my mother's womb
A fanatic heart.

—W.B. Yeats

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The 400

As Michael Moore pointed out not long ago, 400 families in this country control more than half the wealth—closer to 60%, actually. They use this wealth to influence—fuck that, control—every branch of government, as well as the news media. Not merely to maintain their wealth, but to create more of it—they are voracious, without conscience.

And yet, they are relatively secure in their persons. Walk among us, as if they hadn't a care in the world. Go to restaurants, theaters, ballparks—stroll down our streets—with seeming impunity.

Why is it, I wonder? These Attilas and their families have wreaked devestation upon us, stolen our prosperity, right from under our feet. Ruined families, bankrupted nations, even led us into needless wars, killing and maiming thousands—you'd think they'd need armed escorts wherever they went, wouldn't you? How can they enjoy a meal at a public restaurant, unmolested—O.J. Simpson couldn't. How much worse are the Koch brothers, or Donald Trump, or Richard Mellon Scaife?

Perhaps this is the last weapon in our arsenal, outside of a Michael Collins-type resistance (bringing war directly to their front porches). Perhaps if people would respond to them with catcalls and disgust, along with various projectiles, some behavior modification might be accomplished. Maybe if little Buffy or Bitsy regularly came home from a night on the town wearing tomato-stained clubwear, or if Skippy or Biff was to lose a molar or two every now and again just for the hell of it, a tempering might occur. No one wants to be a pariah, not even sociopaths like The Four Hundred. And really, who deserves it more?

I dunno, just an idea. In any war, one must use the weapons at one's disposal. When the game is fixed everywhere you turn—when even the so-called Change President turns out to be an employee of Goldman Sachs—every form of resistance is on the table.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


No special reason, just cause I love her.

This is from a guest spot on the fucking Cavett show.

Her vulnerability kinda breaks your heart, doesn't it?

Ten ways to protect your home from Zombies

One can't be too careful, these days. Glenn Beck gets em all riled up, before you know it they're all over your front lawn.

From Weekly World News:
1. Build your home in a remote area: on a mountain, in the woods, in the desert or on the moon like MJ did. Zombies concentrate in areas with large human populations since human flesh is their source of sentience, so living in a remote area with few inhabitants with increase your chances of survival.
2. Tall Fences: Building a tall smooth surfaced fence will prevent zombies from entering your property. Muscle tissue deteriorates in the transformation process rendering zombies incapable of scaling walls.
3. Pit traps: Dig several large holes in the ground and cover them with big tree branches and leaves. If a zombie finds a way to breach your perimeter, the pit trap will provide the same defense as the tall fence.
4. Build all doors out of solid wood or metal: Zombies do not have a great deal of strength due to the muscle deterioration as mentioned above. The strength of a zombie will be no match against a well enforced door. Windows should also be reinforced in the event of a zombie invasion.
5. Well water vs. public water: Have a well on your property, in the event of a zombie outbreak you cannot rely on public water supply. The workers at your local water treatment facility might be zombies and everyone knows that zombies have absolutely no work ethic.
6. Generators and fuel: Knowing the work ethics of zombies, or lack there of, it is best to have a generator at your residence in order to maintain your preferred quality of life. A hearty supply of fuel will be needed as well to insure continued use of your generator.
7. Sound diversions: Zombies have an acute sense of hearing. If your property is large enough, install speakers at the perimeter of your property. If a perimeter breech occurs play loud sounds to lure the zombies away from your home and loved ones. Your generator will come in handy here.
8. Weapons: If you find that you have no other choice but to fight, a sharp long machete or a scythe are good weapons of choice as you will be able to maintain a distance whilst decapitating your undead assailants.
9. Own a mobile home: The best way to evade a zombie attack is to constantly be on the move. A mobile home is a good option as it allows you to flee from an attack of the undead without sacrificing the comforts of home.
10. If you can’t beat them, join them: You might end up eating your first born but at least you won’t have to pay for their college tuition.

Number ten is obviously a joke. Better to douse yourself with lighting fluid, and ignite.

Friday, March 18, 2011

"Bumper-Sticker Hate"

Just when you think you've heard it all.

Moon-faced white men in Minnesota have proposed making it a crime for families geting government assistance to access more than $20 a month.

From FightBack!NEWS:
Minnesota Republicans are pushing legislation that would make it a crime for people on public assistance to have more $20 in cash in their pockets any given month. This represents a change from their initial proposal, which banned them from having any money at all. On March 15, Angel Buechner of the Welfare Rights Committee testified in front of the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee on House File 171. Buechner told committee members, “We would like to address the provision that makes it illegal for MFIP [one of Minnesota’s welfare programs] families to withdraw cash from the cash portion of the MFIP grant - and in fact, appears to make it illegal for MFIP families to have any type of money at all in their pockets. How do you expect people to take care of business like paying bills such as lights, gas, water, trash and phone?”

House File 171 would make it so that families on MFIP - and disabled single adults on General Assistance and Minnesota Supplemental Aid - could not have their cash grants in cash or put into a checking account. Rather, they could only use a state-issued debit card at special terminals in certain businesses that are set up to accept the card. The bill also calls for unconstitutional residency requirements, not allowing the debit card to be used across state lines and other provisions that the Welfare Rights Committee and others consider unacceptable.

Buechner testified, “We’ll leave you with this. It is not right to punish a whole group because of the supposed actions of a few. You in this room could have a pretty rough time if that was the case. It is not right to stigmatize and dehumanize women living the hard life of trying to raise children while living 60% below the poverty level. It is not right to use racist, bumper-sticker hate to inflict human misery for political gain.”

What can you say? Another day, another outrage. Or 2, or 3, or 5.

They are relentless, and incapable of shame.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

More Harlow

Jean harlow is TCM's Star-of-the-Month. This is the video they constructed to promote it. I love practically everything they do over there, but this sorta knocked my socks off—demonstrates such a keen understanding of who Harlow was, why everyone who loves movies should see her's. Included, also, is a short video tribute.

TCM is class, all the way.

This month is the centenniel of Jean harlow's birth. To learn more about this great actress, click here. She's one of a kind.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Jerry Jeff

Summer's nights in Texas City were usually thick with heat and fireflies. Mosquitos, too, if there was rain, recently, and there usually had been. One such night, and into the early hours of morning, found Mike Titus, Bobby Hendrix, and me drinking beer in my pick-up, parked in front of the library, on the cruise. We were listening to Waylon, and Willie, and Jerry Jeff, like always, when the subject of Luckenbach came up. Jerry Jeff was always talking about Luckenbach—he was big friends with Hondo Crouch, the Imagineer who owned it, and had recorded "Viva Terlingua" there—and Waylon had made a song about it that we were all very impressed by. It seemed like the epicenter of everything—next to Austin, of course.

It was nearly August, and we were feeling a little jaded, and a little disgusted by the scene; sorta bored with everything. About 4 am, it was decided that we were gonna meet up at Mike's at 7, and head up to Luckenbach.

Bobby never showed. We waited till 8 to call, and his mother said he was sleeping, and that she couldn't wake him up. We didn't wait.

Luckenback is located a little ways off Hwy. 290, in the hill country, about 80 miles due west from Austin. Near Johnson City, if you know the territory. Neither of us had ever been there, though it's not all that far from Cherokee, which is my home town.

Took us about 6 hours to make it there, so we rolled in about 3 pm. It was dusty, and hot. Lots of grasshoppers, working real hard at becoming locusts. There were two buildings, that I can remember, a post office and a general store. We didn't see the dance hall. There wasn't a soul around.

We walked into the store, which looked something like the pictures from Jerry Jeff's record jacket. Npbody there, either, except an old lady with stringy hair, perched on a stool behind the counter. She was reading a romance novel, but set it down when we walked over. "Howdy, how 'y'all?", she said, sounding interested in thr response. We tipped our hats, said we were doing pretty well. Made a little small talk.

Finally, I asked, "Has Jerry Jeff been around?"

No, she said, she didn't know anyone by that name—she knew someone once named Jacky Joe, but no Jerry Jeff.

"What about Waylon?"

She scrunched her eyes. "No, I don't think—Oh, you mean that big-shot singer? What would he be doin here?"

As we walked away, we could hear her laughing to herself. "Lord, I had all his money, I would'n be nowheres near this ol place."

We didn't know that Hondo had died, the year before. Place was sort of in limbo, I guess, But we'd believed if we played our cards right, we'd run into Jerry Jeff, and/or some of the boys from Lost Gonzo Band—or Waylon or Willie, at least—just hanging around. Picking guitar, on the porch. Like on the record jacket. Well, maybe we didn't completely believe that—but we sure thought we'd find more than just bugs and stringy hair and romance novels.

We headed back to Austin. I'd heard Jerry Jeff lived somewhere near Convict Hill, southwest of town. We'd just cruise around and ask, listen for him playing—no one sounds like Jerry Jeff. We did party in town a few nights, and had a pretty good time. On the third day, we found Jerry Jeff's car.

It was at a filling station right next to convict hill, where 71 West makes the turn to Llano. A '57 Chevy, I believe it was. And the sign on the windshield, big as life, said: FOR SALE BY JERRY JEFF WALKER.

The guy in the station said Jerry Jeff had dropped the car by that very morning. Said he didn't know where he lived, though it was nearby, and that he would be stopping by again some time, though he wasn't sure when. "You never know, with that feller," the man laughed.

We were running low of money, but did the only sensible thing we knew to do. We camped in the parking lot of an empty building across the street, and we waited. Two days, and Jerry Jeff never showed. Beginning of the third day, Mike tried to turn his truck on for a little AC—cause it was hot—and all we heard was the solenoid clicking. The damn starter was out, which cost us forty dollars, which was most of our cash. The guy at the station lent us some tools, so we replaced the thing that evening, when it cooled down. Around midnight, Jerry Jeff still hadn't showed. After gorging ourselves at Whataburger, we weren't sure if we had enough gas to make it, but we headed home.

We made it as far as Alvin, before the truck limped to the gas pump of a convenience store, around 5 am. We had fifty cents between us, and we were emptying out Lone Star bottles so that we could return the empties for gas (we still had nearly two cases of beer on ice—at least our priorities were right). We'd poured out a couple of six-packs when this old guy walking by started laughing like hell. He asked just what in hell we thought we were doing, and we explained our dilemma. Our trek to find Jerry Jeff. The dust, the heat, the grasshoppers. The '57 Chevy. The starter. He handed us five dollars. "Will that get you home?" he asked.

We offered him the rest of our beer, but he declined, but did give us his address, so we could mail him the money (which Mike did, the following week). He said he didn't drink Lone Star, and he didn't know who Jerry Jeff Walker was, but figured he must be pretty important, for us to go to all that trouble. And, of course, to us, he was. We may have been stupid and naive, but we loved Jerry Jeff, with hearts that were relatively pure.

We were back on the cruise that evening, a Saturday. By 2 or so, we were at the parking lot again with Bobby, drinking beer and complaining, about the sticky heat, the mosquitos, and the waning cruise.

It's Jerry Jeff's birthday, celebrated in Austin by a night at the Paramount, and another at Gruene Hall. Wish we were there.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Paula Jane posted a link on her facebook to Rufus and Chaka Khan doing a couple of songs—including the incredible Tell Me Somethin Good—and it reminded me of the first time I saw em—it was on Soul Train, which I watched faithfully on channel 39, every Saturday at noon. I was pretty young, but I gotta tell you, Chaka had quite an effect.

Don't get me wrong, I loved Rufus—they seemed like about the coolest motherfuckers on the planet—I loved how the guitarists dressed, their Panther-like personas—you know? This badass Bobby Seale kinda thing, tall and defiant, using their guitars like weapons in the social revolution we all imagined was happening around us. And that sound—it just sorta cut right through you. They could fucking play.

But Chaka.

Oh, Chaka.

Chaka moved me.

Chaka affected me in a special way—the kind of way that my football coaches had warned me about.

Understand, I am the son of a beautiful woman. All my friends had crushes on my Mom. I didn't like having them over to my house, cause they would construct reasons to be around her. They would sit at the kitchen table, and stare at her. Wherever we went, I would see men gawking at her—winking, whistling, surreptitiously ogling. It was sickening, and I hated them—hated that leering, wet-lipped countenance that would transform them, from Jim, the produce manager at the Texas Super, or Cooter, the smiling half-wit who bagged our groceries, into disgusting, degenerate assholes. "Not me," I would tell myself, in my most earnest, aggressively certain inner voice. "I will never be like that."

And it was true. I was not like that. Until that day. And Soul Train. And Don Cornelius—the real Godfather of Soul, with apologies to James Brown—telling us about a new band. And Chaka beginning to move, and sing, and move some more.

I felt a tremor. What was that?, I asked myself, perplexed. How odd. Hope I'm not coming down with something—Coach won't like it if I miss practice. Chaka is writhing, though. Thrusting her hips a little, on the chorus. The room begins feeling warm. I feel another tremor—then another. Then it was like the scene in The Wolfman where Lon Chaney Jr. watches himself, helplessly, and in mute horror, as he becomes something else. Something monstrous. I felt my face burning, my lips become dry as ash, my eyes narrow into a pathetic approximation of a leer—and I realized: I was becoming like them.

I had previously been affected by Laura Petrie and Emily Hartley—though my attentions were, in comparison, vastly more chaste. Coach Green wouldn't have condoned my furtive admiration, but he would've let it slide. Not this, though. Not in a million years.

Just looking at Chaka could cost our team 2, maybe 3 wins. And I didn't care.

I was no longer pure, of heart or mind. And body was operating on borrowed time.

When she finished, I sat there awhile. I resolved to do more sit-ups, more push-ups, for the next week. Run a few extra laps. I would avert Coaches look, the next few days. Maybe he wouldn't be able to tell. Maybe everything would be as it was. Maybe we could still win district.

But deep down, I must've known better. We didn't win district. And it was never the same.

Two videos, for your perusal. First, the very recording I told you of—Rufus and Chaka Khan, premiering Tell Me Somethin Good, on Soul Train. I'm sure you'll understand, after you see for yourself. And please—for God's sake—hide the small children and the Republicans.

Next, Soul Train line-dancing to Love Train. My Mom told me line-dancing came from the fifties—said they did it on American Bandstand sometimes, to songs like CC Rider, and The Stroll, which was actually written as a line-dance. I fucking loved it when they did it on Soul Train—it was just so damn cool.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Late Show

My love affair with the 1940's began with Raymond Chandler, pages and pages of prose as lyrical as anything you'll ever read, filled with sentences so gorgeous and evocative that the pleasure of reading them might conceivably take the top of your head off (if you're greedy, and don't pace yourself). It is work grounded deeply in its place and time. Human nature may be changeless, but the digs in which it occurs can be catalyst for the best and worst of its expression; the new urban landscape that birthed Le Fleurs du Mal drove Eliot to despair, Yeats to the artifice of eternity, Pound to the artifice of the fascista, and poor Hart Crane, who desired to create something bright and new from a cultural vacuum, to the very real depths of the Gulf of Mexico.

This new reality was confronted directly by numbers of new American writers in the latter days of the (first) great depression, writers untroubled by the mythos of some unrealized shining city on the hill, who scarcely acknowledged remembering the existence of other centuries. Chandler was best of these, by far, and not only because of his poetry. His detective, Marlowe, waded into the corruption, and did what he could; and though he girded himself with sarcasm, irony, and cynicism, he could be counted on to confront the inhumane with every bit of humanity he can muster. It was usually enough, though not always—yet another example of how Marlowe—whose name is an allusion to one as morally ambiguous as as the mean streets of prewar America that Chandler's hero travelled—was a man for his time.

Oh, and Chandler could write!—paragraphs like this:

"There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge." (from Red Wind)

I just finished re-watching a film that is criminally underseen, and underappreciated, Robert Benton's The Late Show, starring Art Carney, and Lily Tomlin. Though it was made in 1977, it captures every every essence of what I love about the art of the 40's.

Carney plays Ira Wells, a sixty-something retired PI with a limp, a flowering belly, and an ulcer that's kind of like Mt. St. Helens. While he doesn't exist mainly on heat (like General Sternwood in The Big Sleep), he does make do on vanilla ice cream and canasta, along with the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. It seems that everything about Ira is passe, in late seventies LA, from his rumpled suits to his square-cut neckties, his hard-boiled sensibility, his inviolable moral code. He is an anachronism, and that's okay with him; the world is a stinking place, and Ira's reached a stage in his life where he's just waiting it out.

When his partner from the old days shows up at the door one day, with a .45 slug in his gut, and a death-stunted boast of a grift on his lips, Ira is moved to action. He discovers that his friend was working on a penny-ante cat-napping case for Margo (Lily Tomlin), a thirty-something new-age hippy-type screwball, introduced to him by an information peddler from the old days, Charlie. He agrees to finish the job, thinking that it will lead him to the murderer. Which, of course, it does.

I should mention that in spite all of the noir elements I spoke of, this is a film chiefly about human relationships, about Ira and Margo, two misfits adrift in an era too pleased with itself by half. Along the way, they find one another, in a way that is surprising, screwy, and tender, maybe the best commentary one can make about these zeitgeist-addled times: There can always be hope, if you will look for it.

Everything about this film works, from the funny, stylized, literate screenplay, to the superlative performances, beginning with the two leads, Carney and Tomlin. Ii's well worth your time, and I urge you to see it (available, on DVD, from netflix).

Occurred to me, as I watched the last minutes of this picture, that it might be seen as a swan song, of sorts, for the 40's, all those great films, those great actors and writers—Chandler, Hammett, Bogart, Bacall, Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, Dick Powell, Claire Trevor, Mike Mazursky, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Elisha Cook, Jr., John Payne, Ella Raines, Brian Donlevy—so many more. And it's rather moving, the way the best of an era can be epitomized by the best of its pictures—even when they're released 30 years late.

So, yeah. Like Ira said, there's too damn much talk in the world as it is. Put this picture in your queue, you'll thank me later, I promise.

One more Chandlerism, the way out the door:

"What did it matter where you lay once you were dead? In a dirty sump or in a marble tower on top of a high hill. You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that. Oil and water were the same as wind and air to you. You just slept the big sleep, not caring about the nastiness of how you died or where you fell. Me, I was part of the nastiness now."

Yeah...*sigh*...Now on to the The Late Show trailer....