31 December 2010

Hy-Vee #8 Finds Our Hero Sarcastical (Sorta)

Adventures in commerce is exactly what I wanna be doing on the eve of a New Year. Sets the tone, you know.

25 December 2010




The abbreviation "X-Mas" comes from the days of movable type. Looking to save space and time, type setters used the Greek letter "X," which stands for "Chi," to stand in for the first half of "Christmas." No disrespect was intended. (Source: Bob Dylan, "Theme Time Radio Hour")

22 December 2010


Every winter, we drag a tree into our living room and hang things on it. Every winter, I find this fascinating...

And this winter, there's a new generation of squirrels in our backyard. This set is less mischievous than the last one. Instead of raiding the compost bin, they seem more intent upon striking cute-assed poses on our fence posts and allogrooming one another in the slate-grey shades of evening.

20 December 2010

Long Night

Tomorrow night is going to be a long, long night. Longest of the year, in fact. And so it begins...

18 December 2010

Pine Noir

A stand of Chataqua pines, where Janelle's gaze is falling right about now. And last night, while EB slept, I fell asleep reading the words of Johnny Cash as he droned on and on about his Arkansas childhood: "Our cotton was of the Delta Pine variety, so called because its long fibers...reminded whoever named it of pine needles."

17 December 2010

A Blog Post

For a weekend trip, Janelle & the baby are in Boulder, Colorado - the place where J & I first met under a rented caterer's tent. It's also where we went to grad school, rescued certain daffodils from frost & sat in endless meditations...I think it was Cezanne who once said "Life is a rainbow of chaos."

16 December 2010

Snowbound Nocturnalistic

Today, at the odds & ends store, I bought $3 worth of screws. Do you know how many screws that is? A lot. Roughly a pint. With actual money, I also purchased Cash, by Johnny Cash, a roughed-up copy of M. Lesy's Wisconsin Death Trip, the photo-book, & a straight-edge paper cutter - the kind I used in my high school Graphic Arts/Industrial Arts classes. And outside, the snow is beating down the whole suffering hepcat universe.

14 December 2010

Canna Lily

It occurs to me tonight that Nicola Appert was a boy on a far-off shore, tossing message bottles into the surf...except instead of bottles, he tossed cans. And instead of messages, his cans contained food. And instead of the surf, he tossed his cans into time itself. Did you know that the word "can" derives from the Latin word "canna," which means cane or reed?

12 December 2010

Grandfather Lyric

the old man builds model ships / all alone in his living room / reconstructing in miniature / those massive moments of his youth / And he quit drinkin after his beloved died / so now he ain't got much left to lose / he's under his light bulb in Shiloh / Satellites are trackin across the sky / an aging artist in his work boots / mentally polishing old diatribes / & the winter moon is picking up over shiloh / shining on his vexed situation / while he glues together the little pieces/ of a built-to-scale attrition / & he is at death's door/ and I'm in my Converse / jogging out along the county border / as the old man turns out his lamp and retires to his quarters / and the moon is out over Georgia / leading me to my latest epiphanies / and an old man is in Georgia / dreaming the last of his dreams

11 December 2010


I used to collect crucifixes. Birdwings. Postcards. Oatmeal cartons. Bunch of stuff like that. Now I make mobiles, essentially a way to make use of my useless collections. I noticed this many years ago: If you tie a string around something useless, then suspend it above your head, it becomes inherently interesting. I don't understand why, exactly, except for about a million psychological and aesthetic reasons.

10 December 2010

Snowstorm Freedom Experiment

Beverly sez there's a big snow storm comin'. But the real news is that we did it: We upgraded on Pandora. For thirty bucks a year, we now get to listen to music commercial-free. Say what you will about the American plutocracy, this is freedom.

Bird Walk

It is important to know one's place in the order of things. Take last night, for example, when, on the walk home from work, I found myself under a vortex of blackbirds swarming & winging all turvy in the sky. There was maybe a million of them, maybe more, and all of them caw-ing and cheeping and finally filling two great big oaks on Jefferson Street, substituting for the leaves that fell a month ago. As I passed under their deafening bird harmonics and wingflap, I drank a few of the birds into my dumb heart & thought of auguries of yore, before hustling home so as not to indulge flight of fancy and risk of birdshit. I am man, after all, and belong not to the domain of the winged.

08 December 2010


A few days ago,
an old creative writing
student of mine,
"Kiki, from Chicago"
stopped me on the sidewalk.
"Hey, J.," she said,
safe inside her hood.
It was pissing rain
that day, brutally
cold & windy
along the pedestrian mall.
"Kiki, right?"
She: young, brown, & radiant.
Me: distracted, on my lunch break,
head full of ideas that would later
turn into poem-stories.
"How are you? Still writing?"
"Nah. I'm a social worker now."
Her style, I later recalled,
was kind of a hip-hop thing.
Very Wu-Tang, very Nas,
except, you know, feminine.
Her subject matter?
Growing up broke
and fatherless
on the South Side calles
of the city.
Playing house with
baldheaded dolls.
The rape that had happened.
Seraphim on the stroll.
Room full of books.
And then - college, escape.
The years unfurl.
"Cool, Kiki. We need you."
I said. And we both
smiled the smile
of the tenacious -
and this was all on earth,
a million miles
from the angelic realm.

07 December 2010

December Bone Bag

Sleeping in my pages.
A one-man walkabout
in minor chords
as the luck of a snowfall
caps picket & plinth.

06 December 2010


And so it begins.

01 December 2010

buddy holly sez rock

was composed outta the landscape, our dirt daubed corner of time and space, followin its nose & skeetin the bleary-eyed five elements and the one four five sonic cuneiforms lifting their skirts the ten thousand things resultant flowerin that Chet Atkins style eatin white dirt an hoppin up like a shower of procaine to a big baby Texarkana welcome gettin grown into howlin turnaround murderin it electric pickup careenin axe-beat of Les Paul pull offs hammer-onin' the devil back down to the Hades in the crow's eye it sprang from like be-stripmined shanty songs from the domestics in the cracked arroyo before the banjo movement come rainin and hawkt it all down to the dupont certified ol man Mose the original negro Neptune's oleo show dragging its certifications through neon and corporate cantina where it's spitting blood back of the carcinogenic drum an these wings pierced to my back dont seem to ache as much in the nowadays cascade of burnt numerologies married to a greasy chemical compound lilting over your area with the pocket still burnin up my vein like a lost bulletproof gal in a lightnin storm

28 November 2010

Blakean Blake

Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born.
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.
Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night...

27 November 2010


I suppose any song with a refrain is a kind of loop...or spiral, really. (After all, a spiral suggests motion, progress, either into the depths of the abyss or, up, out, above, beyond, towards something higher, whatever that may be.) The Greeks knew all about refrains. So does Bob Dylan. And Laurie Anderson. If a song is the world (i.e. the human soul) - or a piece of it - in microcosm, the refrain can be seen as the crucial touchstone. In the Kali Yuga, American-style, the need for a refrain often manifests as obsessive-compulsive disorder. Or generalized anxiety. Or the weight of the "depressed" psyche sinking. The refrain's a place to catch your breath and recoup awhile, make sense of things. The space between breaths where a crucial nothingness can happen. If something like it isn't found, watch out: a real, true personal insanity (as insanity within an insanity) will bloom within the psyche. Nothing (not even C.R.E.A.M.) can cure insanity within insanity, except maybe a tonic exposure to the Wilderness - someplace far from man's combustible machinations. If this all makes the human psyche of modern man seem delicately poised, well...so it is. I don't know anyone that doesn't seem like they're on the brink of falling apart. You?

Ink, Room, Rain

In our local public library, there's a room called the Typewriter Room. It's just what it sounds like - one table, one chair, one IBM Selectric typewriter. You have to tender some form of i.d. to gain access, but once you're in, you're in. IBM's electric typewriters were/are beautiful things: Gatling guns of ink and instant action. When you're on a roll, one will sound like a Gatling gun, too. I think, therefore, that the Typewriter Room is probably equipped with semi-soundproof walls.

A few days ago, I visited the typewriter room and, as I was tendering my i.d. to the svelte Typewriter Room maven, realized that I recognized her from the Poetry Workshop. I said "Hey, how are you?" She said she was good, but that this was her last day working for the library. "How come?" I asked. "Because," she said, "John Q. Public is largely comprised of creeps and tactless weirdos." I looked over at her young co-worker, a zaftig Chicana in hornrims reading a biography of Robert Lowell. It wasn't raining yet, but it would be soon.

26 November 2010


Money is weird. Because it exists, I don't have to go trying to barter my skills for wild Alaskan salmon or an oil change for my Jeep. I can just throw down the cash - bam! - no questions asked. Money is a language, really. And also a kind of deity. Increasingly, people are utilizing credit/debit cards instead of folding money, which is sort of like using a symbol for a symbol for a symbol (for a symbol). These are the things I think about at 7:29 on a Friday night. Meanwhile, the DOW fluctuates...


We've been dogsitting "Mister," beloved companion of one of our Iowa City friends. Mister chases refractions of light. He is also a natural herder. I guess you could say that, when he tears off after a reflection, he's actually trying to wrangle light itself, put it in its place. He's an older dog, so having him around really reminds me of our old dog, Stella. Yesterday Eleanor pointed out that dogs don't have arms. "That's right," I said, "but they have a double-dose of legs - so it sort of balances out."


"Hammerin'" Hank Aaron was born in Mobile, Alabama in 1934. "The thing I like about baseball is that it's one-on-one," he once said. "You stand up there alone, and if you make a mistake, it's your mistake. If you hit a home run, it's your home run." In 1974, he broke Babe Ruth's record for home runs despite having received numerous racist death threats in the mail, most of them postmarked from northern cities.

25 November 2010

Arcane Compost Roundel Medicinal Rag

The abracadabra of ashes and life's return to dirt...incidentally, no one knows the precise origins of the word abracadabra, though the first, surviving written record of the word is within the Latin poem "De Medicina Praecepta," by Roman poet-physician Quintus Serenus Sammonicus (c. 200 A.D.). Sammonicus wrote that in order to get well, a sick person should wear on a string around their neck a piece of paper inscribed as such:


The triangular shape blooming into the mystical phrase would, he wrote, act as a funnel to siphon sickness out of the body. Still, there are a number of theories and conjectures as to older origins of the word, including Aramaic, Hebrew, and Chaldean sources. Whatever its magical, medicinal origins, abracadabra is now used primarily as a shorthand way of signifying arcane, mystical gibberish.

24 November 2010

Holiday and Her Mobile Debuted In 2010

Mabila was the Indian fortress-settlement of yore where Chief Tuskaloosa and his army of braves fought Hernando de Soto and his conquistadors - and lost to them - in a bloody maelstrom on October 18 of 1540. De Soto lived another two years before dying from a fever on the banks of the Mississippi. Present day Mobile, Alabama takes its name from Mabila and the Mabilian language - a Choctaw-based pidgin used as a lingua franca for trade and general communication amongst various tribes in and around the Gulf of Mexico. The "mobiles" of the art world, however, derive their name from the Latin movere, meaning "to move." Alexander Calder built his first mobile in 1931, the same year the Empire State Building was completed. Marcel Duchamp coined the term.

23 November 2010

12-Bar Shoestring Mobile Hanging From A Tree Blues

The term "lynching" is generally regarded to be a derivation of the surname of Charles Lynch (1736-1796), a Virginia-born son of Irish Quakers who would grow up to become a justice of the peace (a post that cost him his status as a Quaker). Lynch became known for his vigilante anti-Loyalist actions, later seen as a kind of peculiar, American antecedent to the white supremacist lynch mobs that sprang up in the South, fueled in the late 1800's by such organizations as the KKK.

22 November 2010

Sweet Black Angel

"There is often as much heterogeneity within a black community, or more heterogeneity, than in cross-racial communities. An African-American woman might find it much easier to work together with a Chicana than with another black woman whose politics of race, class, gender, and sexuality would place her in an entirely different community. What is problematic is the degree to which nationalism has become a paradigm for our community-building processes. We need to move away form such arguments as "Well, she's not really black." "She comes from such-and-such a place." "Her hair is..." "She doesn't listen to 'our' music," and so forth. What counts as black is not so important as our political commitment to engage in anti-racist, anti-sexist, and anti-homophobic work."

16 November 2010

2 p.m.

I am tired. Slept only a little last night & still have many requisite hours of steadfast wakefulness ahead. Outside it's a mild cool rainy sunblown afternoon. My shoes are off, stockingfeet on desk, resting between sessions. Don Quixote & his faithful Pancho digging time.

This morning there was a massive gathering of prayerful Iowa muslims in the lobby of this building, spilling out of the ballroom on the 2nd floor - men, women smiling, hands on hearts and shoulders - Eid children shrieking, clambering on the staircase & eating hard candy, laughing. I glided through them, Son House in my earbuds, and an idea for a poem in my cerebellum.

15 November 2010

Cans, Wars

This Wednesday is the birthday of Frenchman Nicola Appert, pioneer of food preservation. A confectioner by trade, in his mid-forties Appert began experimenting with ways to keep foodstuffs airtight - and to thereby preserve them. This was in the late 1700's. His method was eventually patented and he went on to open & operate the world's first bottling facility. This bottling plant was later burned in the war. The use of tin cans as a means of keeping food from spoiling wasn't really widespread until the mid 1800's, along with the invention of the can opener. Roughly a century later, during WW2, the U.S. military invented a pocket-sized can opener, the P-38. The P-38 folded and fit easily in soldiers' pockets. (The P-38 can opener is not to be confused with the Walther P-38, a WW2-era German handgun, or the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, a WW2-era American fighter airplane.) At 38mm in length, it is regarded by many as the essence of military concision.

12 November 2010

Peafowl Need Companions

Peafowl need companions. When isolated, they become depressed. Polygamous by nature, peacocks usually have a harem of 2-5 peahen. Peachicks can walk, eat and drink all on their own, within the first 24 hours of life. Peacocks are colorful. Originally intended to represent & market the then-new color television technology, the peacock symbol has been the logo for NBC since 1956. (Before that, the logo had been a snake.) An actual peacock's feather trail changes colors depending upon the angle from which viewed. And in real life, peacocks can kill and eat poisonous snakes. "Pavo," is a peacock constellation. It can be found in the southern sky, right next to "Indus," the Indian. The national bird of India is the Blue Peafowl (Pavo cristatus). Peacocks are omnivorous. If you have one as a pet, you can feed it dry cat food.

11 November 2010

The Pump

"Peggy Sue" is a loop, lyrically speaking. A very simple structure, but also a heavy one, because the idea substrating the poppy, boppy lyrical confectionism is the notion that direct experience (knowing) of the prized Peggy Sue will answer any question the listener has about the narrator/singer's "love" for her. Of course, this can be construed in more detail at least four different ways: (1) The narrator (Buddy Holly) is aware of his medium and assumes the audience does not know Peggy Sue, girl of his dreams, personally; (2) The narrator (a kind of Socrates addressing a chorus) is assumed to be speaking to an audience in particular - one that might know Peggy Sue personally (but not nearly as well as the narrator) and therefore knows her to be not-especially-desirable (for whatever reason - she has poor personal hygiene, overuses the word "basically," she has thick ankles, etc. - whatever); (3) The narrator is assumed to be speaking to an audience that knows Peggy Sue personally/conversationally but doesn't know her in the Biblical sense, as does the narrator, effectively making the song about the power of carnal pleasure; (4) in a combination of the first and fourth scenarios, the narrator, Buddy Holly, is pretty sure you, the listener, don't know her, but this chick named Peggy Sue gave him the best skronk (the I love you / I need you / I want you progression throughout the refrain underscores this nicely) of his life.

Of course, the song became a hit because it works on all four levels at once. The kiddos could gyrate along to its poppy, anesthetized sexual current. Their parents dug its innocence. The tweenie middle schoolers could sing-song the deceptively nursery-rhymesque hypnotic refrain. And the rockabillies know the song is all about a sex goddess that don't even have time for a rock avatar like Buddy Holly. Everybody wins...except the tune's poor, woebegone narrator.

10 November 2010


Charles Mingus was into Andres Segovia, who never had much to say about rockabilly. Sam Philips did, though: "If I could find a white man who had the Negro sound and the Negro feel, I could make a billion dollars." And Buddy Holly never recorded at Phillips' Sun Studios, but Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley & Johnny Cash did. In fact, there's a 1956 Sun Studios recording of an impromptu session (now the subject of a Broadway play) featuring Lewis, Perkins, Presley & Cash all jamming together. That same year, Mingus recorded Pithecanthropus Erectus for Atlantic Records. Also in 1956, John Wayne starred in The Searchers, which the AFI has since nominated as "greatest Western of all time." Wayne's character, "Ethan Edwards," is an Indian-hating racist. The refrain of Buddy Holly's song "That'll Be The Day" was inspired by dialogue spoken by the Ethan Edwards character. Saxophonist Buddy Collette never said much about Segovia, but once remarked that Charles Mingus "was always a disaster to have around. I loved him, but he was worse than a child. He didn't know how to clean up behind himself. He could cook, but there would be eggs on the floor and the ceiling. Couldn't find his shoes when he had to go to work, didn't have a white shirt, couldn't write a check. All he could really do was play the bass and write." Collette, who died on Sept. 19 of 2010, once organized a concert in support of politically-conscious actor Paul Robeson. In 1956, Robeson, who had visited Russia and admired the racial equality he witnessed there, was called to appear before the House of Un-American Activities. At one point, a senator asked Robeson why he didn't choose to remain in Russia. His reply: "Because my father was a slave, and my people died to build this country, and I am going to stay here, and have a part of it just like you. And no Fascist-minded people will drive me from it. Is that clear? I am for peace with the Soviet Union, and I am for peace with China, and I am not for peace or friendship with the Fascist Franco, and I am not for peace with Fascist Nazi Germans. I am for peace with decent people." Andres Segovia was sixty-three years old at the time.

07 November 2010

Shoe Mandala

I asked my mother could I have an instrument. She said, 'Well if you go out and save your money.' So I went and got - I made me a shine box. I went out and started shining shoes, and I'd bring whatever I made.
-Ornette Coleman (god of free jazz, 1930- )

A man cannot make a pair of shoes rightly unless he do it in a devout manner.
-Thomas Carlyle, Scottish wordsmith (1785-1881)

The cobbler's children run shoeless.
- traditional English saying

Sometimes I don't even pull my shoes off for six weeks at a time, except, you know, just to take a shower. I just take breaks between 24 hours a day, just a break now and then, it don't take me long to rest; maybe 20 to30 minutes sometime, or maybe an hour.
- Howard Finster (visual artist)

You can play a shoestring if you're sincere.
- John Coltrane (saint)

05 November 2010

Swaddled In Plastic

Big hoarfrost last week, so I began sealing the windows for cold weather...which is a drag. Fortunately, this chore only has to be done once a year, but it's always a big ol' hassle, as it involves double-sided tape and broad sheets of a thin plastic film, both probably carcinogenic and a pain in the ass to work with. It works, though: Once that action goes up (along with the R-value & ambient temperature of our home), our heating bill goes down - as outside, the landscape sinks into a wintry coma.

03 November 2010

Bicycle Superior

From the pine cone-like shape of the cluster, the grape family we call Pinot derives its name. Noir, of course, equals "black." Black as night. Black as crude oil. And I don't know about you, but to know that a phrase-coiner of yore spied a cluster of grapes on a bright vineyard day and imagined a pine cone dipped in night's oil is poetry enough for me to last the rest of the week.

02 November 2010

Deliver Me

In song, bound by it, I stood in the back - a bedeviled fool melting into a cast of bedeviled fools. And our voices rocked each cornice of the parlor, now beginning its spin of stupefaction & deliverance. Songs ancient and covered in dirt rose up from the Mesozoic. Hymnals of blood and placenta. Yalping dirges of extinction & survival. "We cool?" the duende seemed to ask.
"Yeah, mami. We real cool."

01 November 2010


The rental property next door to us is owned by a somewhat older couple. On weekends, the wife comes out to mow the lawn, rake leaves, pick up broken beer bottles, etc. I think Beverly said that the husband has a terminal illness of some kind...very sad. Yes, and winter looms.

30 October 2010


Tomorrow is

our wedding anniversary.

Today we carve

pumpkins and dig