Monday, January 31, 2005

Astrology, Al Davis, &c.

I've been thinking of Henry Kissinger lately.

It all started with the Pittsburgh loss to New
England in the AFC Championship game. The whole
sordid affair prompted me to start planning
my anti-Super Bowl party. It is impossible
for a MidWesterner to be in a room with a
football game on and not experience an overwhelming
magnetic pull. I don't understand it, but
it applies to around 78% of us. (That is the
male population, though I've known some very
serious female fans.) Hunter S. Thompson's new
book Hey Rube has some very enlightening
thoughts on the Gestalt of the NFL in America.

Some would call my protest bitter. Yes, I am still
holding a grudge for that obscene spectacle
a few years back in which the Super Bowl (and
by extension the playoffs) was obviously
rigged for some self-evident reasons. (Remember
what year it was when the Patriots "beat" the
Raiders in that snow bowl. We can accuse
the NFL of many things, from holding a double-
standard regarding the conduct of advertisers
vs. the idiocy of a controversy regarding Ms.
Jackson to a blatant grudge against Al Davis
and the new Raiders in Baltimore, but one thing
the NFL is completely innocent of is subtlety.)

I still can't get over that Snow Job game. I still
despise the Patriots. And I'm not really a big fan
of Mr. Owens. (Thanks, T.O. for putting the needle
in the balloon early this season. Ravens fans
everywhere appreciate yr. candor!) And I felt
that, yes, I could cheer for Philadelphia. And I
could root on Owens to come back from injury
and burn the New England secondary three or
four times, showing the auld "team" what splendid
joys can be attained from individual achievement.
But then, my memory is long.

You see, were I to pour my heart into Philly simply
in the interest of vanquishing those bloody Bostonians,
I would be repeating November 2, 2004 all over again.

Just like November, I would be putting energy
and good wishes towards a side that doesn't serve
me, even though I have some real suspicion that
there is no way they will be allowed to win (and maybe
they know that, certainly Kerry did-- tosser) and then
to compound the dejection of the bigger evil
triumphing, I would wake up on Monday with a
dirty feeling for getting into bed with the lesser
evil for the course of a campaign. (O, to have my
vote back! Apologies, Mr. Nader!) It seems too soon.

So I proposed an anti-party to a few friends.
On the agenda are the following films:

The Trials of Henry Kissinger
JFK
If I Should Fall From Grace (The Shane MacGowan Story)

Okay, the last one is on the daily agenda. It doesn't
need a special occasion.

Henry Kissinger ties in neatly to another thought
which NPR put into my head today. I believe it will
take hypnotic suggestion to wash it away. Should I
ever decide to quit smoking I'll have to add it to the
list.

Kissinger is an odd study in duality. While his public
life and service is repugnant to a pacifist vegetarian
greeny like myself, his academic accomplishments
lead one to believe that had he stayed at Harvard
some reverence would be required. See his works
regarding Napoleon. Of course, nearly anyone
associated with Nixon (and Nixon himself) is steeped
in duality until the brew turns black.

Which brings me to that thought. Today, January 31st
is the birthday of John Lydon ("No future" indeed).
All well and good. He is 49, and if I could I'd buy him
all he could consume as a debt of gratitude.

Today, January 31st is also the birthday of Justin
Timberlake.

Dear God.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Hoofbeats

Prepare the monasteries and institutions
with flame-retardant sprays...

Protect yr women und chur'n...

Cherish yr Stegner Fellowships...

Stockpile water and canned goods...

Folks, BARPO is riding through the
steppes.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Brief and Early Spring, North Lawrence, Kansas

It is usually around this time of year that I miss
New Mexico the most. Other than the topography
(I'll put Mr. Richardson's state above any other
place on the planet for beauty... and the character
of a New Mexican -- mind you, not a transplant,
a New Mexican -- is without parallel) there is also
the weather.

The Great Plains are generally harsh. An Uyghur
might feel right at home on any given day. I've
seen it go from nearly one hundred degrees to
less than forty in less than an hour. Factor in the
tornadoes which inevitably accompany this and
the bitter winters (which are worse in Nebraska
than Kansas) and one can easily find himself
pining for the Southwest, transplants and all.

This week has offered a respite. It was January
24th, 4 o'clock in the afternoon, and I was sitting
on my front porch with a Samuel Adams (which
was purchased at $11.00 a case! Couldn't turn
that down) and a cigar, Jeffers in hand.

I came across a poem which includes two of
the best lines written in English since Shakespeare,
"Hurt Hawks." The tenderness in Jeffers is contrasted
sharply by Mr. Edward Abbey's take on the
same sentiment: "I'd rather kill a man than a snake.
Not because I love snakes or hate men. It is
a question, rather, of proportion."

Two distinct ways of approaching the same
heroic impulse.

I've always been more an Abbey guy than a Jeffers
one. Mainly because of Ed's bombastic personality
and the landscape for which he sought to protect.
When we think of Jeffers, it is impossible not to
hear that green sea splashing against the rocks. (I
haven't been to Carmel, but I suppose it is akin
to Half Moon Bay, so that image is grafted onto
Jeffers for me.) Abbey, in contrast, is the creosote
and scrub brush; the saguaros on Arrowhead 15
just outside of Hermosillo; the movement of the
sidewinder and the pride of his cousin; having a
beer at the Railroad Blues in Alpine just before
making that drive, replete with mule deer sunning
themselves on the highway, into Big Bend.

After hiking the Santa Elena canyon, I encountered
a gregarious Chihuahuan raven. He walked alongside
me, speaking incessantly. The Bard of Baltimore never
entered my mind. Those sensibilities, with one
type of bird displaying a nobility while the other is
a harbinger, were lost... a product of the metropolis,
where people get to be so surrounded by people
they can only relate to that perspective.

He went on speaking, even until I had reached the
car just before leaving the park. What a Kalevala
he must have transmitted! Here I was, receiving
the gift of a lifetime and I found myself unable
to translate his language. (If I could have, FSG
would beat down my door!) I still wonder whether
or not he told me of The Point of Silence and
its iron ore. Would that mountain be a part of
his creation tale or the other way about?



Jeffers and Abbey are those rare representative
men. Each loved his landscape so much and wrote
so perfectly about it that it is impossible to think
about the California coast without the shadow of
Jeffers, likewise the subtler Sonoran without Abbey.
Their temperaments were ideal for their area, and
both men were lucky to have such an awareness.

Many writers no doubt desire to one day be ranked
amongst those Nature Mystics. The trouble is that
Abbey handled the Great Basin and Sonoran (he left
the Chihuahuan to another, though he wrote about
it quite a bit) and Jeffers has that coast. Try again.
Thoreau owns the Maine woods and New England
in general. (One could go north to Aroostook, but
be advised that no typewriter or computer can
survive the godawful cold of an Aroostook county
winter.)

Were my skills as a writer to evolve to the level
of any of the aforementioned, I suppose I would
want to "stick together" with the Nature Mystics.
New Mexico is first love, but the deed is in another
man's name. The Great Plains have their heroes.
One little enclave which I can claim largely to myself
is the hamlet of North Lawrence, Kansas.

North Lawrence (not to be confused with that other
town across the Kaw) has its own mythology. It is
a marriage of man and environment. The river bed
soil is the most fertile for miles. The inhabitants
almost invariably keep a nice garden (sometimes
to the level of farms, in the case of my neighbor Roy)
and one can spot the occasional barn on Eighth Street.
We are susceptible to floods from that river that
gives us sustenance just as we may find 1,000
starlings feeding on the lawn. Those floods may well
prevent any further development, which suits me
fine.

It is just about impossible to maintain that Nature
Mystic fire of an Abbey, Thoreau or Jeffers in this
environment. There is more of a Hamsun vibe,
to be sure. One might experience the gentler
Saint Francis on the bank or while working the
tiller.

The problem with an agrarian landscape is that
romance is a game of inches. If one goes out to
the Flint Hills and encounters a bison herd
grazing on the tallgrass, that expansive romance
enters; but, when the flora and fauna inhabit
square plots it is more a matter of relationships.
Beyond that, these things are under the purview
of an oral tradition. A subdued one at that.

So, rather than seeking out the tragicomedy men
have created in our country and others, the virtue
of North Lawrence, Kansas is one of active
participation with the caprice of the winds. And today,
towards the end of January, it will reach sixty degrees
Fahrenheit. My neighbors will fight the temptation
to dig and lay seed. I'll celebrate the weather and
the solitude with a Bahia, a Bitburger and Burns.
Not incredibly passionate; but, as Randy Newman
once said: "It's alright."

Lamentably, not all of the children are above
average.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Is It Me?

Is it me,

or is it the last six Trumer Pils

or is it that this has been said a thousand times
in a thousand different ways
and I just wasn't paying attention...

Is it me,

or is it that the Language guys are
deconstructing within the framework
of auld constructions?

Repetend isn't a brand new bag, right?

In Progress...

An unedited draft about Ciudad Juarez
and Arrowhead 15.

Yet the highways are littered with the dead, littered
with the scraps of flesh and occasional bone
from those unable or unwilling to negotiate the corners
and into these brown hills become one with the rats and vultures.

Into these brown hills are buried women with the iron ore
who were walking home from work to the tune of Chihuahuan
ravens in the flotsam. Taken by someone, whom we won't mention
by name necessarily, because there are thirteen families.

Because there are thirteen families, and under them their surrogates
which number in the hundreds, and under them enforcement
and under them the shopkeepers, and below that the vultures
and below that the rats and worms and under them the workers
We must show some deference to that particular villain.

Yet the highways are littered with the dead, forgetful
of the stewardship promised by Mother Church,
adoptive mother of conditions. Mother of Purified Water which
prevents the lungs from becoming coral in the heat.

                                                            Adoptive Mother
of those families, who prostitute her simply from avarice,
whose thighs show bruises and whose lips purse in the arid
mountains without assistance. Whose flowers are laid
in small square shrines whose tributes belie the tragedy of accidents.

Then, the deliberate dead, penetrated and stabbed while carhorns
sang shanties into the night which finds cattle warming themselves
in the potholes. We'd erect a shrine. But the whereabouts of the body
are anyone's guess.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

A Very Minor Technical Note

Sorry. I am not particularly astute at technical
matters. Even on arguably the easiest format
to date!

That being said, Karga now allows anonymous
comments. Being a lover of medieval verse, I am
a bit ashamed that it hasn't had anonymous
commentary before now.

(I think "registered users only" or what have
you is the default setting. Consider it a "t" not
crossed.)

So, there it is.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Some Fresh Air

For what it's worth, don't hesitate to pick up
the January 2005 Poetry. There's a great write-
up on The Iowa Anthology... by Danielle Chapman,
which echoes many of the sentiments we
barbarians grunt and piss about in our monologues.

Also, Michael Hofmann appears. What a wonderful
world it would be if Hofmann was given some
dictatorial control over the American poetry
landscape for just one year. Or so it would seem.

One must remember Snowball.

Monday, January 17, 2005


Your sweetness from the bleachner/ You're spunkier than tea/ Ah, whisky you're my darling/ drunk or sober.

Sport

The question begs. What does it mean to drink?
To put on a bowtie. To put money on dogs,
horses? To pursue a career in the arts. To become
a sailor, a soldier, a farmer, a poet?

The old songs can haunt and cheer,
if that answers the question.

And what is the use of language? Transmission
of ideas, of course; but, it is it anything
beyond proving the mind behind
physical prowess?

So, what does it mean to drink?
To have one's feet move beneath him to Muirshin Durkin.
To fall down in the back of a carriage
in Falls City, Nebraska only to have horses carry him home?
Well,
if I could answer that...

Sammy, Horned Lizard, Shark Island Serenade, From Langland's Hypothesis... Poems 14-17

Sammy

Ahhh, how can I stay mad
at you? You've given me
all the comforts that come
with fluorescent lighting and
natural foods. The cats

happily devour a meal
from Petaluma poultry, drink
bottled water, and this house
came equipped with air conditioning,
humble as it may seem.

Let's forget the occasional slaps
and insults. I was considering
a halfway house abroad at one point,
just so I'd be spared the indignity
of looking at you.

Sometimes I've wished you'd drink yourself to death.

But, look what you've done for me,
this place I call home.
Even after being marginalized, after
exclusion, after
coming to terms with being servile
just to stay alive,
I enjoy amenities beyond the dreams
of independent men.

Surely, you'll kill me and everyone I love.
You'll finally entreat us to that rampage
you've been hinting at for years,
and the cops will have no choice
but to drop you with a single shot
amid the carnage you created.

Until then, what's a little abuse
between friends? Give us a kiss, then,
you big strong man.


Horned Lizard

The trick behind plundering
Otero Mesa lies in
the impracticality of getting there.

From Carlsbad, a cursory glance
would have you there quickly;
but this is a trick the highway department plays.

When planning a trip to Otero Mesa,
it is soon discovered that the route
(which would be due west by horse or foot)
goes through Salt Flat, Texas and
the outskirts of El Paso, before heading north
and into the Promised Land.

Few have made the trip
to check out how things are going
on our little ranch. The Bureau
of Logging and Mining prefers this.

It is likely that a relief of this patch
will contain black scars like Hobbs
and Artesia. At which point,
we can go ahead and rename
The Sacramento Mountains.

Shark Island Serenade

The Spanish came to save souls
and teach the Seri farming
The British were content with pearl beds.

Lacking the proselytizing vigor
seeking simpler needs, while
The Spanish were busy saving souls.

Agrarian motives aside, one band
of Pure Bloods refusing civilizing fought the Spanish while
The British were happy with pearls.

"Heaven doesn't need any more
brown skins than it's got," so say the British while
The Spanish labored with eschatology.

"Reducios a nulidad," a journal entry,
1780, Friars were busy bloodying their hands while
The British counted the bills.

The Mexican Marines guard Tiburon jealously, while
Two hundred Pure Bloods look out at the island whose
Soul the Spanish sought to save
While the British were saving pearls.


from Langland's hypothesis
Jesus came to pay the bills,
to do all those things that differentiate
God's intellectual foci
and on-the-ground facts.

We consider the Cross:
and all the bitterness, we're told; but,
the Cross was small,
and dispassionate.

God in Man as Man is God as
we came to know him,
had to deal with plumbing,
the aqueduct,
shirts and shoes and sunburns,
trying to convince tribal minds
to listen to reason.

And in so doing,
God came to realize
just what it is to navigate the rivers of the tribes,
with sandbars of complacency
popping up
like the wide Missourah.
Just what it is to try and get through the temple
without having to deal with
that fucker.

Just what it is to be on bread and water
(even God couldn't do that.)
just what it is, brah.

Jesus came to pay the bills
and deal with petty trifles
and by doing this, created
Mercy in the new deity.




Friday, January 14, 2005


One evening as I was lying down by Leicester Square/ I was picked up by the coppers and kicked in the balls/ Between the metal doors at Vine Street I was beaten and mauled/ And they ruined my good looks for the old main drag.

Concerning Mr. MacGowan

Regarding poetry in the late twentieth and
early twenty-first century, one topic always
seems to jump to the front.

To put it in the words of our insurance adjustor
laureate (Mr. Gioia) here in the States, "Can Poetry Matter?"

To parse it, I would ask "Can there be a 'popular'
poetry?" That is, one of the people. Probably the
most common criticism of the contemporary
landscape is that recognized versifiers are
composing for their peers. Beyond that,
aspiring poets are following suit. The aspiring
poet is the person who buys the quarterlies,
obsesses over new schools and forms, and
provided s/he's lucky (read: wealthy) enough,
goes off to a wanker's camp to ply craft. Name
ten people you know who regularly read
Poetry or New Letters. Would there be four
who have not at one time considered publishing
their own poetry?

Though much blame could be laid at the feet
of the poetry establishment (The Clan of
Right Good Elbowpatchers) there is also
a dearth of critical thought within society
at large. Is Kay Ryan to blame that a large
swath of the American public borders on
subliterate? It seems we have a perfect
storm: apathy on the part of the public
at large (warm front) meeting apathy on
the part of the Poetry Establishment (cold
front) who doesn't seek the approval of
those rustic cads that have the temerity
to live west of the Hudson.

I am forced to consider Shane MacGowan.
Here we have a natural-born poet. Had he
been born in any century previous to the
twentieth, there is no doubt he'd have been
included in the schoolbook anthologies with
Langland and Donne. But he was born in
the twentieth, and not to an established
family. His father Maurice was convinced
he'd be a writer, and Shane did not disappoint...
other than the fact that it was the "sound"
form rather than the "book" form.

The question I ask: Could it have been any
other way? Say Shane spent the last thirty
years scribbling away and submitting to
quarterlies. Would any of us know his name?
In what obscurity would he toil?

The big question seems more and more artificial.

Is it just the case that a "popular" poetry can
only be transmitted in song? The iconic Poets
of the People, such as Burns, were songsters
first and foremost. Is the vocabulary of
poetry as we understand it simply the
vocabulary of the monied class? With few
exceptions, the prism through which Established
Poets view the world is one that doesn't
have space for late rent or overdue bills or
in any event working a straight (one in which
one's e-mail address isn't tagged .edu) job.

The question becomes: Can poetry that does
not conform to the vocabulary and conditions
of the well heeled be relevant at all?


Disclaimer: By "poetry" I mean specifically
English poetry in America in printed form.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Advice

Heard a novelist today on Morning Edition use
a contemptible word formation. Thought of Orwell.
I'd like to relate one of his best writing tips:

"There is a long list of flyblown metaphors which could...
be got rid of if enough people would interest themselves
in the job; and it should be also possible to laugh the
not un- formation out of existence,* to reduce the amount
of Latin and Greek in the average sentence, to drive out
foreign phrases and strayed scientific words, and, in general,
to make pretentiousness unfashionable."

* - "One can cure oneself of the not un-
formation by memorizing this sentence:
A not unblack dog was chasing a not
unsmall rabbit across a not ungreen
field."