Thursday, February 11, 2016

Una Llovizna Fina

Una llovizna fina, una
claridad que se cola
por las rendijas de las nubes:
y la mañana vacila en el umbral,
el día que teme nacer --

And I, I am fine, thanks for asking! Though I am in some political despair: I loathe the politics of personality, and the perennial inability of Americans to grasp that no one is going to save them from themselves. They long for a king, and sooner or later they'll get one. I hope they like it.

Well, I reckon democracy was about played out anyway: it's not well-suited to large diverse populations, and our version never got its experimental kinks worked out before it took on a larger load that it could bear. Data and surveillance were due to change it all anyway. I know all this, and I know that it is not hard to manipulate people, once you have the strings in your hands.

For a' that, and a' that, a man's a man for a' that --

Well, yes, but what's a man? a leaf blowing in the wind, a trout snapping at a fly, a dog rolling with its paws in the air, hoping for a treat.

Enough: no one asked me, anyway. There are amusements enough down here in the servants' hall, and as long as no one objects to me sneaking a book from our masters' library from time to time, I'm content. What for do I want to lay down laws for my fellow trout? I owe them nothing, and they owe me nothing. Even steven. Call it a draw, and go for a long walk of a Tuesday.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

For The Box

After all, you rise from the sleeping bag, and wash your face in the stream: the sky a long unraveling skein of high white cloud, and the day's ten miles easy, well-known, ganz bekannt. Resurrect last night's fire, boil water for coffee -- just dump the grounds in the cup, and scoop off what floats to the top; the rest will settle to the bottom, more or less -- and anyway it's not unpleasant to chew the bitter bits of grounds that don't, while you trace your route again with a finger in the morning light, and your mind turns the green contour lines of the survey map into tactile impressions, so that you'll remember them. All that, we know.

No, the question is: are there really earless dogs, related to seals, that roam the pampas, or did César Aira make them up? "Otarias" his soldiers call them, "sea lions." Or "perras," "bitches." (Why the feminine?) So much I don't know, and the earlier part of my life all folding into darkness. You don't know at first, when you're eagerly moving into the future, that your past is winking out behind you: that very soon you are forgetting at the same easy pace as you learn. But enough. Ten miles today and we're happy. Even an old man can walk ten miles in a day.

As I strode out the door, at work, my left hand fell to my sword belt, grasping the imagined sheath at the neck. Old habit: then you're ready, at need, to draw your sword quickly and surely with your right. How many years since I first imagined that, or imagined it clearly? Yet that, at least, has not faded. Leaving a tent, or an office building, I throw my head back, my nostrils flare, and my left hand falls casually to my belt. Those who trust memory because it's deep and ingrained, take heed: doesn't make it true.

And the inlaid box of memories, can I place these there? I have no other place for them.

Lift my head and look at the moon:
Bow my head, and think of home.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Primarily, In Three Rounds

Every once in a while I get short of sleep, I mean, really short of sleep, to the point that I hallucinate. Once in that dark underworld of consciousness, a voice may say to me: "you really should explain your political views to people."

So hey. (Pause for musical intro.) Round one.

1) In the primary I intend at present to vote for Bernie Sanders.
2) This is primarily (get it? Ha! Pun!) because I expect him to lose. I often vote this way.
3) May. The Oregon primary is in May. We never decide anything anyway. It's all over by the time they get to us.
4) I expect him to lose because leftie white people comprise only about a third of the Democratic party, and we're the people who like him.
5) Conservative and moderate Democrats are not a mirage conjured up by the evil specter of Wasserman Shultz. They exist in large numbers.
6) Especially in states such as Florida and Ohio, which have been known to influence presidential elections.
7) But you know, a man likes to be counted. I think wealth inequality is out of control and rapidly getting worse, and I think it's the main driver of lots of bad things, and a vote for Sanders gets that out there.
8) Besides, if he's going to lose, no harm done.

Round Two. (Pause for complicated intermezzo, quick fiddle work, a little snappy snare drum.)

1) I like Hillary Clinton.
2) I'm not making this up. I like her. I want to bring her a beer and give her a foot rub at the end of a long day. Sue me.
3) I know she takes money from corporations. I know she thinks corporations are the foundation of American wealth, and that it makes sense to subsidize them, and that taxing their income puts them at a disadvantage against other national corporations. And actually I think that too.
4) (Most corporations are still decidedly national, not global. Did you know that? A lot of leftie white people don't.)
5) So I like corporations, actually. I'm with Sanders in that I think they have way too much political influence. I think giving business entities first amendment rights is preposterous. & I'm with him about breaking up the banks. But I don't think supporting corporations economically, when it's in our national interest, is necessarily Betraying The People And Being Unprincipled.
6) I know she's militarily aggressive, and I don't like that. She basically supports the American domination of the globe, and our fantastic levels of military spending. I hate that. See Round One. I'm voting for Sanders, remember?
7) She's taken incredible, continuous vilification pretty much all of her life, and she keeps working for the public, for peanuts. If you don't understand how much money someone like her could make, do a bit of research. She is not doing this political thing for financial gain. She's doing it out of a commitment to public service that's in her bones, so deep that she doesn't even know how to express it and would sound phony if she tried.
8) So I think she's fabulous. Yeah, I think she's wrong. But I like her.

Round Three. (Somber music. Dying Fall)

1) Nobody in this race is anything like so radical as I am. Have you looked at Sanders' tax proposals? They're depressing. They would not begin to address the inequality of wealth. Nobody seems willing to do the arithmetic on this. Redistributing wealth is not something you do with an upper income tax bracket below 70%. It's just not. And Sanders' most radical proposal (not that any such thing would get through Congress) is fifty-some percent. As is Clinton's.
2) Both candidates are Democrats of sorts we've known all our lives. They both believe in huge centrally controlled and administered government programs to address, well, pretty much anything you might want to address.
3) Both come from the land of Oz (i.e. immediately post-WWII-America, which controlled a staggering 40% of the world's GDP, and all of whose competitors had just spent six years bombing each other's infrastructure to bits.) In Oz, no one EVER has to worry about competition or unemployment, not in the long run.
4) We don't live in Oz any more.
5) Also: neither one of them gets it about the environment, any more than Obama does. They don't understand the scale of the disasters impending. They basically live in the "tweak a little here, regulate a little there" world of their political youth. (see Oz, supra.
6) Sanders has a history of endorsing embarrassing pseudo-science. Alt med, homeopathy, all that stuff. Like Obama. This is a minor point, but (living as I do in the belly of the alt med beast) it annoys me disproportionately. 
7) Not only has no one been able to convince me that Clinton mishandled Benghazi, or her email; no one has ever even been able to give me an intelligible summary of what they allege her to have done, that is different from any other secretary of state. 
8) Oh yeah. That electability thing. I do worry about it with Sanders. Not because of the "Socialist" label, which I actually don't think is particularly meaningful to anyone who might vote for a Democrat any more. But because, if there's a major terrorist attack or international incident in the run-up to the general election -- will he be able to sound bellicose enough to satisfy the American thirst for blood-vengeance? Will he even try? I doubt it. In which case he's toast, and Ted Cruz moves into the White House.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016


The lamb in the womb, the milk in the teat:
three Brigids healing wounds and writing verse
and beating out the shoe on the anvil --

Luck? That's for those who don't believe

in the writing of a cloud on the hill. A spinning coin
is offered to the sky who gives it back

hot with meaning, warm to the touch,

falling this way or that because nothing (but a man)
lands on its edge and stands.

Imbolc, in the milk, in the family way,

even if the lambs came early this year,
gray and unsteady in the wet 

pasture, while the snow was still falling on the ridge;
and even if the white-headed eagles strayed 
from the river to the freeway to attend,

even so, we light our candles -- or say, yet more,

because if this year is wrong shaped or wrinkled
next year will need, even more,

the winking coin spun high in the sun,

and Brigid's shadow written on the hills.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

New Haven

When someone complained to William Morris that his long, bench-like, medieval-inspired settle, though beautiful, was not actually very comfortable to sit on, he was annoyed. "If you want to be comfortable," he said shortly, "go to bed."

Morris is very much on my mind, this weekend. I woke a couple mornings ago from an intense despairing dream of New Haven: I was half drunk, and trespassing, wandering into the houses of people who actually had lives: all their furniture was handmade and lovely, all their books were interesting, the drawings and paintings on the walls were so beautiful that you caught your breath. Everything was vivid and alive. These were people who knew how to live. You knew without seeing them that they dressed beautifully, without giving a damn about what was in fashion, and that they knew how to do make and repair all sorts of things. They were people who would sit down anywhere on anything and attend to the conversation intently. "Comfortable" would never enter their heads. 

Last night I was not cold enough to get up and get another blanket; not warm enough to sleep well. I wander through my past. The atmosphere of New Haven lingers: I was never quite good enough; I could never pass for native there. I was never careful and industrious enough to be a scholar, or adventurous and intense enough to be an artist. I never quite made a life for myself. It was a long time -- five minutes maybe -- from the waking from that dream, to realizing that I no longer lived in New Haven, and that I no longer had a dissertation to avoid: that no one but me still carried that failure around with them. 

Really, of course, New Haven was an ugly, dirty little city, full of dispirited people who didn't give a damn about their work. I don't know where the people who value beauty above comfort really live. Perhaps they've all gone to bed. It is, after all, getting dark.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Braiding in the Dark

I'm finding odd success with a simplistic shift of mask: when I'm tempted to shirk or procrastinate, I say to myself, "I'm not the person who does that any more. I'm this other person, the person who just gets it done." It's not a question of what I'm going to do, it's a question of who I'm going to be: and it's like flipping a switch. The tug of the other personality is very small: I just walk away from it. 

It is not so simple as that, I'm sure: there is a huge invisible infrastructure supporting each of those persons, and what has really happened is that some critical piece of the get-it-done foundation is finally in place and bearing weight. But it feels simple.

I am braiding something in the dark, my fingers working quickly, skillfully. But I don't know how I learned to do it, and I don't know what I'm making.

I take a few deep breaths, and I feel the oxygenated blood washing to every shore of this vast body of mine. I am so glad to be alive, to feel the numbness of the last few years wear off. I am older and grimmer, in some ways, but I'm as fierce as ever. And I care less than ever about keeping up appearances. There's no time for that. I may be rich: but not so rich that I can afford to throw good money after bad. 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Children To The Last

Full moon, filling up the house with light, and unexpected news before bed: so I'm awake, tip-tapping at my keyboard, listening to my tinnitus sing its song, and wondering if there's time to become a good person before I die. Soberly deciding there's not much chance of it. The years ripple by, but my personhood -- though my religion says me nay -- seems more permanent than the earth and its seasons. I will be me, apparently, to the end, no matter how fantastically this new Oregon sky builds its towers of cloud. 

I carry my bag, my table, my folding stool, my extra pillows, over wet ground in the dim light. A sodden Douglas fir cone or two challenges my footing, but they roll half-heartedly and stop: not really treacherous. And the wet brown needles clump like the coagulating agents of some giant circulatory system. Other places I've lived, you might have to watch your step: here, not really. Everything is watching out for you. Push slows down to leave room for Shove to change lanes on the freeway: and the moon, the full moon, rose between the outlined buildings this evening, with a cloud thrown carelessly over her shoulder. What have we to do with grown-up things? We are children, coddled, if neglected; children to the last. 

But still, there is a smell of tannin on the rain. The heart of this country is not tame, and it remembers other things: fishermen singing on the river; girls carefully stripping cedar; women holding onto their canoes, neck deep in the water, digging the wapato from the mud with their toes. The moon brings them to mind, on a night like this. They lived here far longer than we have: but now even their ghosts have given up walking. All the land is empty under the moon: and if the trees whisper, it is only to each other. Other children, other times.