30 November 2009


Last weekend we traveled to the shores of Lake Minnetonka, ate a turkey, and enjoyed a little time away from the grind. I took a long walk along the lake and watched my mind's discursiveness unravel into looser coils of simple awareness. "Discursive thought accompanies every moment of my waking life," I re-realized, "and it wears down my sensory apparatus, makes me distracted and uptight." There's nothing like a lake for supporting this kind of awareness...

And it's true. Thinking is omnipresent. The constant judging, appraising, deciding, fantasizing, ruminating...it's endless. And when you start to pay attention to your thoughts (i.e. meditate), you start to see how they engulf and flood and even dictate the course of an otherwise serene mind, what Jean Kerouac called Big Sky Mind. Reader, hear me now: I wanna help make peace and goodness in the world, not drunk-on-ego confusion parades.

The thoughts swim in cool, deep waters of a natural human ability to be aware, spontaneous, and responsive to the environment (and that includes the other sentient beings navigating the Meat Wheel of existence). This is so simple, so basic, and so crucial to understand. I think I had forgotten. But, anyway, this weekend I remembered and the remembrance was like manna descending on my coconut-brain all along the shore.

25 November 2009

Nina Kulagina

Another old collage, this time featuring Nina Kulagina (b. 1927), soviet psychic. Back during the Cold War, Nina caused quite a stir, internationally. Photos and films circulated showing her moving objects with her mind. (Supposedly, she even stopped a human heart once!) She claimed that whenever she used her gift, she experienced a sharp, agonizing pain in her spine. This collage sez: Is the world on its side? Has it always been? What use are psychic abilities in the End Times? How does one best channel one's power? Honestly, the world is on fire with suffering. What's a gal to do?

24 November 2009

"He Gave Us This Wine To Drink, Not Criticize"

(1)"The especial genius of women I believe to be electrical in movement, intuitive in function, spiritual in tendency." - Margaret Fuller

(2)"A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on an installment plan." - M.L.K., Jr.

(3)"Wine is the most civilized thing in the world." -Hemingway

(5)"Coffee is the wine of Islam." - Traditional

(6)Ergo, this morning I shall remain intoxicated on the wine of Islam so as to achieve maximum civility, syzygy, and to better divine the Unseen via the feminine. (In other words, I'm drinking coffee and grokking Betty Page. You?)

Inner Woodstock

Betty Page. What fed her soul? What inspired her? What gave her the golden glow of fulfillment? Once, many years ago, I made a collage that asked this question. Sometimes, rarely, my eyes leak during such acts of contemplation. More commonly, I stare at my hands, a waterfall, or pinup girl and sense that, on an atomic level, there is a Trickster at work. It is helpful for me to ask about people's motivations, including my own. It is helpful to send beneficent cops, anthropologists, and trip sitters to one's inner-Woodstock. Yes, indeed.

23 November 2009

A Common Bed Spread

I just got back from the eye clinic (third time in two months). My wait-in-the-waiting-room-in-an-uncomfortable-ass-chair time was three hours. But I had Matt Taibbi's The Great Derangement riding shottie, so the wait was actually a nice reprieve from how I've lately been spending a Monday morning slash afternoon: conferencing with my students (who are now sweating bullets because their final portfolios - constituting 50% of their grade for my class - are due in 2 1/2 weeks) about how to write. I'm actually impressed with where most of my students are, skill-wise. They've, surprisingly, become better writers over the course of the semester (I'm not that great of a teacher). On more than one occasion, they've even made me say "Yeah! Word! Wish I'd written that!" As for my stye - well, predictably, they lanced and drained it (again, third time in two months). Know what's weird? It doesn't even hurt when they do it now. I just automatically man up (i.e. dissociate and die on the inside a little).

"Sir, this will probably sting a-"
"I know. Go ahead. I'm fine."

22 November 2009

Double Meh.

Last night, we rented the latest X-men movie, which - meh. In other news, as of this morning, my stye, which had been slowly healing over the past 4 weeks, is now back in full, flaming, frothing effect. (Which - also - meh.)

20 November 2009

Basement IV

Once you go recursive it's hard to stop. Must...stop...recursiveness.

Basement Study III: The Recursive Basement

Photo of me in front of a photo of me in front of a photo of me in front of a photo of me in front of a photo of our basement.

19 November 2009


Leroi Jones. Amiri Baraka. Whatever. He's cooked up his share of poems. Some of 'em I like pretty good, too. Some of 'em - meh. I read Preface To A Twenty Volume Suicide Note a long time ago, when I was still in undergrad. It haunted me for months. I couldn't tell what it was doing. That's because I didn't have a handle on the context, history, and culture of American poetry. Nor did I have a handle on me.

In this way, Preface... was like a strange rock formation that I just happened upon in the jutting landscapes of my early adulthood. Now I read it while waiting for my grits to cook and can actually recall a sense memory of when I thumbed its pages on the midnight bus in Portland, Oregon, hidden beer bottle tucked between my feet, rain streaking down. The Willamette River was right at the banks, but nary a salmon to speak of.

Now I can see that "Leroi" didn't have much of a handle on himself, either. The poems here are really struggling to break free of something. So the self-consciousness factor is high. Baraka's militancy hasn't arrived yet, but it's crystallizing, taking its first shapes in the postmodern froth of word-soup cupped up from the Harlem mud puddles of Allen Ginsberg's America.

In a way, the self-consciousness and awkwardness of Preface makes it a bit more interesting than, say, the Anthologized "Howl" or "Kaddish," but less interesting than, oh, Frank O'Hara's beard or The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show in Stereophonic Surround Sound...not to take anything from Ginsy or Baraka - both rightful bards engaged in the Work in this here New World (Order).

"And what's the work?" quoth Ginsberg, "To ease the pain of living. Everything else - drunken dumbshow." Right fucking on, old boy.

18 November 2009

Basement Light Snakes

Another basement study. If you think of these as energy efficient light bulbs, they're not so exciting. But if you think of these as regular light bulbs that came out all twisted on the assembly line, they're somewhat more interesting. (Maybe the guy that pulls the final lever showed up drunk for his shift.) I like to think that they're 40 watts that've been raised by cobras! In the Indian wilderness, a tiny bulb takes in mother's milk at the tip of the filament...with proud, glassy-eyed father staking out a nearby hare. Sssss...

17 November 2009

Basement Study

I get work done here sometimes, underneath the sub-flooring, where the walls leak. There's also a shrine, a t.v., a bunch of story ideas taped to the wall, and weird, unidentifiable Midwestern insects that come out to chitter and confront the space heater at my feet as I type.

When I lived in Portland, years ago, I rented a basement room in an old house. It was infested with large, white lumbering rats. Sometimes they hovered over me as I drifted off to sleep. Underneath my bed I kept a typewriter. I used to get high and type at the page here, in one of the world's darkest corners. Outside, my housemate's Galaxy 500 rusted in the rain...

This basement isn't that basement, though. In fact, much has changed since then, since that basement was the scene. Yeah. And sometimes, I open up the windows (they're at ground level) and an earthy Iowa gale washes through. And sometimes I burn incense and meditate upon Highest Perfect Wisdom. And sometimes Frau Kundalini erupts up from the molten core of earth, flicks her tongue, and slaps Bird Parker on the hi-fi.

16 November 2009

Boys Are Happening

We went to Iowa City's fantastic Colonial Lanes for Janelle's birthday. Janelle bowled solid and won two games. I got lucky and eeked out one. Afterward, we played darts and jukeboxed while two drunk Iowa rednecks told one another bestiality jokes. When Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" came on, one of 'em broke down and started to sob about his ex-wife. About that same time, though we didn't know it, our friend Amy was giving birth to her son about a thousand miles to the west. And back down in Athens, Hope & Jeff were getting ready to say their first hello to their boy, Samuel. Hot damn! Welcome to the world, boys.


This morning I woke up with a profound ennui mixed with gratitude. It weighed my soul down like it was tied to earth's core. It made me wanna set the day free and recover everything that's been lost. I looked out the window and saw an infinite grey... "This is November."

15 November 2009

Axis: Bold As Love

Sometimes I wake up in the early morning and, just as it begins to happen, I can hear the sun rising up on the horizon. It sounds like:

My red is so confident that he flashes trophies of war,
and ribbons of euphoria
Orange is young, full of daring,
But very unsteady for the first go round
My yellow in this case is not so mellow
In fact I'm trying to say it's frightened like me
And all these emotions of mine keep holding me from, eh,
Giving my life to a rainbow like you
But, I'm eh , yeah, I'm bold as love
Yeah, yeah
Well I'm bold, bold as love (hear me talking, girl)
I'm bold as love
Just ask the axis (he knows everything)

14 November 2009

Janelle's Birthday

I made her a diorama and wrote a short story-poem to go along with it. Alice Coltrane also got involved...

13 November 2009


Well, I finally finished my master's exam, dog tired, stye wagging out across the finish line. It's the poorest excuse for scholarship I've ever penned. Interesting at times, maybe, but completely pointless and fairly affected:

Deeply imagine Charles Mingus (1957), one of Glave’s musical analogues, responding to redistributions of social power in Haiti with his “Haitian Fight Song,” a polyphonic tour de force, an idiom-driven narrative utilizing standard harmonics and scales, but to the effect of a new mezcla of sound and significance at once personal (for Mingus) and of social relevance. Cymbals clash, whistles screech, horns flush mightily and bass lines lay down a substrate for complexification that unwinds out across a landscape of aural excess and multidimensionality. This kind of meaning is beyond genre, beyond New World, beyond jazz. It’s the realm of the subjective voice, metabolizing and alchemizing one gestalt after another.

Half-assed but sincere shenanigans like this (linking fiction to Jungian analysis, free jazz and Afrofuturism, for ex.) were the only way I could write the thing. We'll see if it passes...

10 November 2009

Nude Artist

(She's got everything she needs. She's an artist. She don't look back.)

08 November 2009

Brief Representative Excerpt From My Master's Exam

"...Try & and imagine Coltrane, in fact, catching vibes on extended, down-the-rabbit-hole solos, which is causing Miles some grief. So Miles gives 'Trane down the road for such grandiosity. Coltrane, per legend, then admits that he blows long because he doesn't actually know how to end his solos. Miles, nonplussed, responds 'Take the horn out your mouth.' (We might say that Coltrane's primary problem was excess. He wanted it all - a 'universal sound,' a totality of tonalities, a back-to-Africa-the-origin-of-our-species holism in his compositions. He solved it, yeah, by being excessive and, for my money, putting the nail in the coffin of jazz-as-analog-music-you-can-actually-dance-to. Goodbye be-bop, in other words, hello Hallucinogenic Toreador in aural form.) Like Coltrane, I am looking for a universal sound. But I think we all are. It's at the heart of what 'creative' writing is. (At least, that's what I tell my students.) In search of this sound, I put the horn to my mouth, ink to paper. The actual meets the imaginal. Fiction emerges. This is the case, but it’s also just a way of looking at the creative endeavor. Language falls short ('I am looking for a universal sound'), so we settle for provisional distinctions. Ink and paper are pretty easy to distinguish, but we call one set of phenomena 'internal' and another 'external,' when, often, we're conditionally unsure about which is which."

Visions of Chichenitza

And so the gig working for the rock star didn't pan out. I mean, it did for a while. But I quickly learned that the rock star was surrounded by three types of people (1) famous auteurs/superstars/models (2) depressive Townies, and (3) the on-the-verge-of-a-psychotic-break Townies (my immediate supervisor fell into this camp). And so the pay was decent, the work interesting and unique, but the actual experience of working an eight hour day almost destroyed my psyche. I don't need this, I said, then slumped jobless down Grady Ave.

A few days went by, with rent looming - and the Athens, Ga. job market was as bad then as it is now - before I called up Old Sinister. Old Sinister was an Aryan ex-high school football star who managed a landscaping crew. I had worked for him in the past and swore to never have anything to do with him again. But whatever. Rent was due, so I went back and - unlike Kahlil Gibran's overprudent dog - got what I needed: a paycheck. He paid as well as the rock star and "valued" (exploited) my bilingual skills. "Yeah, man, I got work for you," he laughed. And so, the next Monday I drove out to his suburban home, where he was already getting high on genetically engineered yayo in his garage.

On the side steps of his house was an Aztec-lookin' hombre. We rapped. He said his name was "Victor." I gestured to Old Sinister, deep in his cloud, and said "este tipo es un mamon...no, un pendejon." We became fast friends, me and Victor...a friendship rooted in my horrendous Spanish, his bad English, and a fair amount of Spanglicized pidgin.

And so that was eight years ago, almost to the day. Victor is now married with two kids & now they're all in the shadows of ancient Chichenitza, meditating on what comes next...[The above photo was taken shortly before I left Athens for Colorado (about six months after signing back up with Old Sinister). We were at The Globe, where we used to drink Guinness, write poetry, and smoke hand-rolled smokes into the nochebuena.]

07 November 2009

Luminous Voidoid

Some weeks are just off. This past week or two, I've felt consistently like the guy on the left, pictured above. The guy on the right? Oh, that's the University of Iowa. But you know what? The week's over. I look around...I see my bookshelf. The Qu'ran sits right next to Claudia Rankine. A couple of Honda operating manuals are next door. And one 1948 Wolf Scout Rule Book away is Hunter Thomspson, Carson McCullers, and the Tathagatas. It's all right.

06 November 2009

05 November 2009

No Praise, No Blame

I've been looking back over my shoulder lately. I keep seeing these old journals...this is a page from a Naropa journal that lived and died seven years ago. I was the age, then, of the average workshop student here at Iowa now.

04 November 2009

The Necessary Steps

In preparation for winter snows, I built a small set of steps into the little hill out back of our house. "This will keep us from slipping, falling, and breaking our necks!" I said to the robin, who watched and waited for the squirrel to leave the metal feeder. But Mr. Squirrel answered back! "I ain't going nowhere, Robin. You hear me? Nowhere."

02 November 2009

Looking Out My Back Door

What is the unit of measurement for the distance between thoughts? Some old man adrift in the Sargasso Sea rolls a smoke and casts his line into the murk. What is the most honest way to say "We are all trying to find a cure for lonesome?"

01 November 2009

Music Helps Us Feel The Presence of the Unseen

This is our Day of the Dead altar. Our Day of the Dead playlist? See below. [Lo, and the door between two worlds hath swung wide open...]

Hesitation Blues - Janis Joplin
Blue Frenzy - Freddie Hubbard
Buckets of Rain - Neko Case
Everybody's Gotta Live - Love...With Arthur Lee
Bluebird Wine - Rodney Crowell
Sail On, Sailor - The Beach Boys
Happy - Jenny Lewis With The Watson Twins
Trouble in Mind - Janis Joplin
Envelope - A.J. Adams/John Miley
Shimmy She Wobble - Othar Turner & The Rising Star Fife & Drum Band
Georgie on the IRT - Dave Van Ronk
But Not For Me - Chet Baker
Whitey On The Moon - Gil Scott-Heron
Way Down in the Hole - The Blind Boys Of Alabama
Shooting Star - Bob Dylan
Philosophers Stone - Van Morrison
Hambone - The Phillips Wonders
I'm Gonna Unmask The Batman - Sun Ra
Abidan - Bill Frisell
A Small Package Of Value Will Come To You, Shortly - Jefferson Airplane
The Little Prince - Kate Morrissey
Chipi Chipi - Gustavo Santaolalla
Bird Of Prey - The Doors
Zambita - Gustavo Santaolalla
The Body of An American - The Pogues