FRESH FROM THE NOTEBOOK

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I just finished transcribing poems and stuff from a notebook I finished back in September. (Notebook number 34, in fact.) This is part of my writing practice – I keep a notebook by my bed, another one by the chair where I veg out watching DVDs or listening to stuff with headphones late at night stoned, and another little one I carry around in my knapsack … and I constantly jot down thoughts, streams of thought, blips of ideas, images, memories, dreams, and poems. It’s a well-worn rut of writing practice, dating back to my very first notebook, given to me as a gift by an artist back in 1983. In fact, my first notebook predates my first ‘serious’ poetry (of course there was the ‘non-serious’ joke poetry before that, and school assignments), and just having it probably prompted me to start writing that form.

I generally wait until the notebook is full before I transcribe the poems. By then they’ve ‘cooled’; they’re not still coruscating and crepitating with the emotional / psychic energy that originally kicked them out into the textual universe. If they’ve ‘set’ properly they’re already hard-edged, gemlike, even before I start knocking off the false starts and lame endings. However, I do occasionally transcribe a poem before I finish a notebook – if I’m particularly taken with it, and decide to use it in a poetry performance or post it on a blog right away. Several from this batch made it out that way, including ‘Wild Life,’ ‘Cottage Country’ and ‘My Icelandic Grandmother.’ A few others managed to get themselves published (or self-published).

Themes that crop up chronically in this batch of poems include Jack Kerouac and the Beats in general – because I was reading some heavy Kerouac stuff like Some of the Dharma and the scroll version of On The Road; old flames – because old flames are better than no flames; and the book store where I work part time.

Anyway, I thought it’d be fun to put a few of these ‘new’ (newly transcribed) poems out on a blog entry. Here they are. (Unfortunately WordPress and other blog programs seem to hate poetry – I cannot figure out how to format this so that a) it doesn’t wipe out my indentations, and b) most annoyingly, why it takes out the spaces between the poem entries. If you have any editing advice I’d appreciate it!)

I unroll a liminal blanket
Down the damp dark smelling
street slope to
Sand sparkling carpet of
crushed glass
Twinkling in velvet dawn shadow
at hill’s foot
I can pretend, in the muggy
old port summer morn
That it’s ice and snow sparkling
And it’s fifty below

– 7 Jun 07 –

INTERROGATION

Do you ask questions of others
In order to learn
Something about them
Or something about yourself?
What do other people
Mean to you?
To what degree are you curious
About other people
About their belongings
Their secrets, their treasures?
When you’re in their rooms
Can you read them by their
accoutrements?
Are they an open or a closed
book?
What do their gestures mean to
you?
Their habits, their tics,
Their nervous repetitive actions?
Is there something about
Their voices? Or their words,
The words they choose?
Are you more concerned with
This one over that one
So that this one and his things
Form a whole constellation of
fascinations
While that one
Leaves you indifferent?
So it seems to me
In this imperfectly perceived
world
Lit as if by guttering candles
The tiny flames
Of our distracted and
distraught
Consciousnesses.

– 29 Jun 07 –

I look at her self-portrait
And questions arise.
Where is the beach
The sand and water backdrop
To her staged self?
What is the expression the shades
Hide from our eyes?
Why does she wear white?
Where does the bridge behind her
Lead?
Why that moment?
That moment in a wind
Strong enough to send strands
Of her long, red curls
Caressing her cheek
At the very instant
She held out her camera
(Her cell phone)
And shot.

– 17 Jul 07 –

Insanely hot and head like a rock or a bleeding light, bootlegging Patti in Ukranian village distant village grove and thatched trees, the Myriam presence, the high Genevieve and the Genevieve onstage. I have been sick – sick from too much espresso and two Tylenol tablets doing their worst – nauseous, zonked in bed before concert and all the ill effects of life in procession, on parade – paranoia, hate, fear, sleeplessness, accusation, trembling – trapped in consciousness, out of body floating through the park at night … with two Patti Smith books, a tape recorder and water. A concert, a head like a stone-rock – concert – people I know up there. People I know down below. Set photographer from the Dylan shoot. Patti hacks away at the stone, faces of youth, her rock stance one foot on the monitor, careful (remember her broken neck), ageless, she is a million miles away beyond a headache, a feverish heat I’m sweating bullets, I’m out of my body – she’s talking about a boy with an umbrella – I walked (too fucked to bike) with umbrella through rain park so so out of it … and the subtle ‘click’ of the end of 1st side of tape a revelation of time, I hadn’t realized 45 minutes had already passed – I was too lost in trying to climb out of my pain into the music – too lost in trying – I finally did it. Eyes closed through first long poem, first long poem and swirl of Silver Mt. Zion strings, then more intensity, more, more …

I don’t know why I’m awake again at dawn. It keeps happening. I’d like to rest. I don’t know, I don’t know.

– 4 Oct 07 –

Grick.
Wed paper.
Come forward come forward
There’s a dream woman
In the air
A nose I remember
Lips, eyes.
O if I could wed paper
The mary mild mother love of
Many pretty books in rows
The material falls away to
Mind shapes, corridors
Where ‘I’ wander
In contentment rare
Rare in daily waking life
But in dreams
Nocturnal or waking (reading)
dreamlands
Contentment rare.

– 16 Oct 07 –

Ruminations upon the mysterious Kerouac photo. Mountain climber or railroad worker? Flanneur or grease monkey (with book under arm it looks like) floating in serious young man eternity.

The young lovely psychic who knows not she’s a psychic. The maybe Lisa with mascara eyes in the black hat morning rain. By the curb. By the fall leaves tree and I’m locking my bike. I’m all green, green, green, d’you get me?

What a store. People come in and try me on for size. Karen feeds me crêpes and talk. Customers buy books. Owner sees what he sees. Crazy street person wants a whole scenario so I let him build it for a while – artist, film-maker, writer – crazy – no money, Hard Rock Café hoodie with pot pipe in pocket.

Shawnda said something the other night about how she only looks good in photos taken by people who know her / love her … that night she looked really good to me (she was sick, and yet) – couple nights later at the store (what’s a store) she’s gaunt, nervy, skinny, haunted-looking …

Biking home in green, in a spray of rainfall – late October not cold rain yet. I’m in a studious state – reading, sound editing, writing (hurray!). Something’s super-beautiful about all this. Something, something …

– 28 Oct 07 –

The wet crunch crunch of
Ocean tide rock smooth rock beach
The wool and cloth clad women
Crunch crunch the smooth rock beach
The overcast, the cold
But bracing, there by the
Great grey sea

And stumbling over dunes of ashes
And wrapping a scarf twice
Thrice around my mouth
Shouting muffled shouts
As we stumble and clamber
Up and down great black
Dunes of ashes

– 30 Nov 07 –

Like before only worse
The intrusion of your jawline
Yes, and the shape of your eyebrow
Into my dream, insistent
Day after day
I cannot seem to forget
It’s not a question of
lack of goodwill
Somehow your absence is worse
than your presence
Although your presence is
terrible enough
Your passing sends a wake
Through my existence
Regardless of your intent or
your total ignorance
And even the thought of you
– the thought of you as a person
as alive, acting, being
transfixes me.
Certainly I’ve experienced
such a state
More than once
But just as certainly
This is as bad as it gets.

– 21 Dec 07 –

JOHN GIORNO

I’d give him eighty,
If he wondered about mortality
In the second of eye contact
As he must, occasionally
Going about as he does
In his aged self.
Although I don’t really understand
Why vitality must ebb away
As it does,
Why the mighty vessel must
Begin to break on the waves
Which began as nothing
A zephyr, a sunny morning
And end as a killer storm
Tearing him apart
Plank by plank.
I look into his eye
And in that second
Go forward into my own death.
Knowing myself in his humility
How many nights, now many places
With dazzled faces
That rise and fall like
Bubbles in cooking porridge?
It’s wonderful and it’s terrible
Despair is always an option
As is joy.

– 2 Feb 08 –

O let me fail
In this simpleton cosmos of
Fabulous winners.
Let me wear my failure
Like highest military honours.
Let me parade my failure
Before the dazzled eyes
Of worshipful youngsters.
I’ll say
“You might fail,
But it takes more than luck
To fail as completely, as utterly
As I have failed.”
And I’d show them
The secret, the burning, radiant secret
That will immediately plunge
This overstuffed, oversuccessful world
Into a bottomless void
Into total disaster.

(Where it always already is.)

– 6 Feb 08 –

Having renounced family, that whole route, for the scribble, the text, the idea, the archive, the story, the book, the ideal, the dream, the dream-life, the ethereal realm, Heaven, Nirvana, inspiration, poesie, and the mindful, soulful, heartful transcription of daily existence, I (I!) shall shed, now, all my regrets. It requires no effort to go out into the world and gather new twigs and logs by which to warm my house and light my night. Even now, I find comrades in this beloved quest.

– 21 Feb 08 –

It’s a leap year.
Various things
That are curled below ground
Are yet quick
Waiting
Ready to grow
To put down roots
To greedily seek the sun.
Outside, the snow’s piled high.
I accumulate words on a page,
Sounds on a disc
My notebooks sound like bells,
Birdsongs, thunder, midnight.
They seem somehow to
Face the world boldly, squarely
Their open flower faces

(I second-guess my own
Choices of words here.
Note the careful,
Sparse lines, thoughts
Set down in rows
Like cards.)

– 1 Mar 08 –

The flying –
Lip ring pie face open face
Empty illusions unaware of
Their own essential emptiness
Drifting through tatters of
Yesterday’s triumphs
Looks today like
Custer’s last kiss-off

The face of Caine
The happy face of the
Green dress nominee
Shining, hopeful, empty
Drool of nothing is shocking
The streets reel in white
Beautiful, beautiful storm wrack
The alley is more welcoming
Than the neglectful pissoir
And where’s her cat’s eyes today?
What a rubbish bin of a night
A rumage of lostness
Of fools competing for
Another kick in the teeth
Or of me, not even paying attention
To my own poetry.

I scrawl it in the alley
With my piss, in the snow
The white, white snow
The long lonely snarl of
Distant snow plows
Metal door, dumb metal
The falling away of people
And the falling apart of
Constituencies, commonalities
It’s like the sour, brackish
Metallic piss taste of
Bad beer in my mouth
I want to spit it out
Quit drinking, not for
Health or any feeling of sickness
Just sheer disgust
At how bad it can get.

– 1 Mar 08 –

WATCHING PORTISHEAD’S ROADTRIP

Everybody’s trying to
Buy their way in
But it’s a mug’s game

If you had all the
Money in the world
Still, you’d only get
The newest, the most
Up-to-the-minute
Long after their creators
Had grown bored of them
Moved on.

– 17 May 08 –

If I don’t have time
Then there isn’t any time
If I don’t have time
Then there isn’t any time

(repeat as often as necessary)

– 30 Jun 08 –

There’s not much to say. Outside, the city makes its mysterious noises and flashes its mysterious lights. Engines roar, other things crepitate, as if endlessly damp, dripping. Godard goes on about film like the worst possible nerd, an obsessive, desperate to express a passion too unruly for anything but film itself. Mucus insists upon crusting in the corner of my eye. Vague dream memory – of a – of some – of – so vague – but it recurs and it has left me nervous, it has disturbed my slumber in some obscure fashion. I consider friendships that are like distant constellations in a night sky, or, like poor shortwave transmissions, “You’re breaking up,” like – it’s how wars are lost, really.

We hear all about the great victories but what about the ones we just walk away from in disgust or despair? There needs to be more examples of abject failure and what to do with it. After all, we all rise up to grapple with an implacable enemy and we’re all cast down by it in the end. The colonies – we eventually have to abandon them, the flavour of someone else’s flesh and blood in our mouth must eventually get to us. Stray bookmark. Foot’s better, but fear awaits a new emblem from which to hang itself like an unhappy self-portrait.

(I always have moments of doubt about writing poetry – as if it is just impossible to say / write anything – and the gesture itself is often enough to rediscover the hidden music.)

– 1 Jul 08 –

MEDIA POVERTY

If I had more money
I could escape more.

– 12 Jul 08 –

Plane crash in Madrid today
Becca on my mind
Momentary womanly blonde
Thong toes
Her demeanor or my sense of it
It somehow frames or reflects
Something of my lonely and yet
Not lonesome time of late
In this hobbity hole of an apartment
The cheerful woman of flowers
At my window now and then
My success at dusting with
Dollar store implements
Triumphant clean for bro and his gal
Not precisely happy but
At least I remember happy
And you see, Becca was there
Was witness to one such time
And, in unmeasureable moments
Of gazing into each other’s eyes
Of a call-and-response
Unexpected and so all the more dear to me
We were plumbing
Depths of feeling, certainly sadness
And more, not sure what, but more

In this apartment, sometimes
Lost, happily lost in memories
As I trace this thread, then that
Audio ghosts whisper old tales anew
I turn them this way, then that
Like pale crystal spheres
In bright, bright moonlight
Starting to find pearls
Deep down
Starting to bring them up
To daylight
To present moment.
O beauty, O beauty
Don’t fail me, don’t leave me
O beauty
O beauty
O beauty …

– 21 Aug 08 –

It was slow, very slow
Whether or not the fans were
High or low
Where was the fantasy girl
Out riding helmeted in the dark
Dark trumpet woman
The cry of Japanimé woman
On radio on movie soundtrack
Southwester woman your
Fine fine wrinkles
Chart a course for lost sailors
Breath, water, wood, engines
It’s a dense world
A tightly woven world
A world of people coming, going
My name is shouted in
The hollow echoing acoustics
Of the biblio entry hall
A face that knows me!
Joy is a face.

My giant boss man on his couch
In the sweltery store
We banter books, but I work
I work at the bookstore
I work at the books.
There’s all kinds of crazy politics
The right wing is making fists
Out of women out of Minnesotans
And smashing the arts up
And always the fake smile and
You know the shit’s going down
Behind the scenes
I’m afraid of them
Afraid of their fear and
What they might try to do.

My fear militates
My fear posits a
Terrorist stance or
Nonviolence or
Some Messianic movement or
Regime change or
Dissolve the Pentagon!
(Fireworks in the streets tonight)
Forget about wars!
Downgrade money!
Upgrade air, water, earth!
Fire your imaginations!
Stoke them like steam engines!
Feed your heart!

– 5 Sep 08 –

You bring me happiness
In a song, song, song
In the middle of the night
I hear your song, song, song
My mind meets your mind
In a song, song, song

You come in and
Colour everything with your
Quick intelligence
And so everything I am,
Everything I hold dear
Glows in your gaze
And I am turned
Beautiful in your eyes.

– 9 Sep 08 –

FOR TOWNES VAN ZANDT

It’s too easy to do nuthin’
Though looking at life through
A whisky bottle lense
Has a certain amber charm
The crushed cowboy hat
The long lean legginess of it

But it’s easy
My days pass in their dailiness
And at the end of each one
I’ve got nuthin’ to show for it
A few bucks to spend
A new record or book

I can kill a night
Having my ear chewed off
By some lonely motormouth
But not every night
I don’t have the stomach
For that much whisky

– 19 Sep 08 –

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