Wednesday, December 31, 2008


And this morning, delight, rising from nowhere, as if my body was a glass of champagne and my blood was effervescent. I walk into a room and into an invisible bubble that silently bursts, carrying a hint of sandalwood, a hint of cold clean air from far away, a hint of ozone. The cat ducks her head into my hand, and looks at me curiously, knowing by my aspect that there are presences here she can't discern. Ordinarily, of course, it's cats who can see things we can't, but every once in a long while we get to turn the tables on them.

Farewell to the old year, then. It folds into the mystery of the past and opens the mystery of the present. This next, I think, will be the year of white roses.

Love to you all. Thank you for walking with me.

. . . lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold companionable streams,
Or climb the air: their hearts have not grown old.
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

This Braided Cord

If I snip this braided cord
it will only bleed a little
and I will float up in the sky
with the dripping end dangling
like a shoelace from my belly.

And below, the other end
will sink like a lopped tower,
spouting gouts of wet red blood
in Jerusalem: in Jerusalem,
the navel of the world.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ask at the Box Office

"There must have been a moment," says Rosencrans (unless it's Guildenstern), with the rope around his neck. "There must have been a moment, early on, when we could have said no."

But of course there wasn't. By the time you understand enough to say yes or no you are already implicated, compromised, and obligated: accessory to murder, affections pledged, mortgaged to the hilt.

Any meaningful yes or no will necessarily look like ingratitude, if not betrayal. It's too late. It's already too late. We start too late. Every human life starts in medias res. We appear on the stage with a script in our hands, already reading. We're a bad sport if we lift our eyes from the script; we show terribly bad taste if we depart from our lines and object that we never consented to play this part. But that's what we have to do. Stop the play. Disappoint everyone.

The show's over. Go home. You can ask for your money back at the box office. (Good bloody luck.)

I understand that now. But I'm still reading out my lines, even if the paper's shaking and I'm slurring whole passages. Everyone on the boards is exasperated with me. They'll be more exasperated, soon. I can't do much more of this.
Another Country


It's part of our hominid heritage,
being able to glimpse the doors:
primates who couldn't see the hungry,
hawkheaded deities slipping in
from other countries didn't last long.

By the time you see an entrance
it's usually too late. You're already past it.
And a sudden swerve, of course, slams
that particular door once and for all.


But sometimes you round a headland
with the wind just right, and a bay opens,
the scent of apple blossom on the light breeze,
and you sail sweetly in. You'll never find this way again.

Once in, you must observe a thousand pieties.
You thank everything you eat. You give a kiss
to every witch that asks. You leave the cup
of wine by the well. You take off your clothes before
climbing into a strange bed, no matter how cold.
You use each gift only as the giver intended.

To live strictly is one of the reasons we come.
We get tired of this world's slovenly half-hearted
consequences, its prudery and prudence,
its cavils and caveats. We want to be
where edges cut.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Silly Spraddled Souls

The raccoon's bright black eyes expressionless
as he lifts his nose to the glass door's outside;
inside, the cat's eyes go wide, ears flatten,
as she lifts a fascinated nose to his.

Silly spraddled souls,
one foot on the gunwale of heaven's boat
and the other on the shore of desire,
watching the wet dark gap
between their legs

The fool has said in his heart:
give me time to think.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Last Year's Rain

The snow falls like white shadows
in slow motion of last year's rain

if I were to let the tears start now
I don't think they would ever stop.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Home for the Holidays

"You again?" he scowled. "What am I supposed to do with you?"

"Isn't there a story about this? They come home. Prodigal sons. And then you kill the fatted calf." I stood there with my hands in my pockets.

He sighed. "Huh. I think you're supposed to bring a contrite heart with you. You got one?"

"Well, I've got a beat-up one."

"Sure, sure, big surprise, bucko. I don't think that's quite the same thing."

"No. No, it's not."

I looked off to the familiar line of the Coburg Hills, with their radio towers. "But I'm stuck, Dad. My heart's not contrite. I'd do it all again. Hell, I am doing it all again."

"Yah. You think this is news to me?"

"No, I guess not. But what am I supposed to do?"

"What, you're asking me? How would I know? I gave you the plain road. You go off the map, you gotta find your own way."

"Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense."

"You bet it makes sense. You know, sometimes I think the stupidest thing I ever did was give you a gift for words. You don't just talk yourself into ridiculous things, you talk other people into them too. Plausible, lad. Glib and plausible. And the less you know the prettier you talk."

"Oh, come on. You gave me the gift. It's not like I try to misuse it."

"No. No, I'll give you that. I don't know, bucko, so far you're one of my big failures. I keep trying to make you come out right, but I made a mistake somewhere along the line. There's always something a little skewed, something a little out of true. Tell you the truth, I can't figure it out."

"Oh, great. So much for the All-Knowing."

He made a rude noise. "Not a claim I ever made. I didn't ask for this job. It's like Larkin said. We don't mean to but we do."

"Hmph. You know, this whole thing was a little easier back when it was all a little more formal. Awe and dread, you know. Fear and trembling."

"Piffle. What could ever scare you? You been pig-headed since day one. You always know better than everyone else, oh yes, no telling you anything. You think it was any different back in the days of the tents? Young men, they always know everything."

"Well, I'm not young anymore. And I don't know a damn thing."

"And you'd think" -- he jabbed a finger into his palm -- "you'd think that would make you less pig-headed. But glory, no! If anything, you're worse."

"Look, I didn't come here for insults --"

"Sure you did. That's exactly what you came here for."

I stopped a moment and looked at him. "What do you mean?"

Suddenly he looked very tired and very old. "I think it's time for you to ask someone else. I'm played out, bucko. I've done my best. It's time to move on. My stories won't help any more."

"What do you mean, move on?"

"You come back to me because you know I got nothing more. You come back because I'm familiar. You're scared, you're lonesome, you think: I'll go home and get me some insults. Then I'll feel better. But you're not going to feel better. I got the insults, all right, but they don't work like they used to. You can't nail something to sand."

I stared at him. "So no fatted calf."

"What did the calf ever do to you? Let the poor thing grow up. There's been enough suffering on your account."

"And where do I go?"

He scowled, and then grinned. "Over the hills and far away. That's how her stories always go, don't they?"

I smiled back ruefully. "Yeah. Yeah, except I'm supposed to be a handsome young man."

"Well, don't waste time then. What are you waiting for?"

"I wondered -- I mean, I know it doesn't make sense, but --"

He laughed, then, and shook his head. "I get you. God, what a piece of work you are. Go on, kneel down. Bless you. Now get the hell out of here."

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Second Person Blogular

I learned the use of the second person blogular from Lekshe. She wrote the most poignant, simple love poems, and they were all addressed to "you."

Having always been in more or less in love with Lekshe (along with half the people who know her: it's no distinction -- she's the sort of person who inspires devotion), the effect of these poems was pretty powerful. They were addressed to me, after all.

Now, of course they weren't addressed to drab and unexciting me. But -- they were, too. She would emphatically deny that they weren't to me, or that they weren't to anyone else. The point of them (one point of them) was to leverage all that erotic intensity into getting past the you and me. I have no doubt they were also love poems with particular people in mind. But to Lekshe, what most people take to be the end of erotic love was its beginning. The point of Eros is not to settle your attention on a single person, and to absorb all their energy, while they absorb all of yours. That doesn't make you into little gods, no matter what Hollywood claims: it makes you into a dual black hole, sucking in light and giving none out.

Jarrett wrote in a comment a couple days back:

This is fascinating in light of your comment on my last post, that "what I do is not writing, that I'm not a writer, that I don't know art but I know what I like, that I'm just writing journals or at most letters." Now I understand the second person who creeps unseen through so much of what you write; she's the necessary other that makes this a mere epistle.

That's the other primary use, for me, of the second person in this blog. I need to be speaking to some one person in order to speak at all. The person varies. Sometimes in the course of a single sentence. When I come back to rewrite, she's often not the same person she was when I first wrote the line.

There are plenty of people to whom this will seem just creepy. But it's the way I have always experienced the world -- as a shifting lover, constant only in beauty.

What I have promised, says Eddison's Aphrodite, I will perform.

She has not promised constancy. She has not even promised love. Her only promise is that she will always, always be beautiful. She promises to break our hearts.

And that's enough.

So when I refer to "you" in this blog, I mean exactly what I say. I mean you.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Blogroll Addendum

Long, long ago, in the dark backward and abysm of time, I added a blogroll from That sidebar to the right. At the time this was a rather cutting edge thing to do, and I was one of the cool kids. For months, however, my blogroll has been frozen in space: the blogrolling team protests weakly, every so often, that they're working on it, but one starts to lose heart after the third "we're almost ready!" update followed by a couple weeks' silence.

So I have been unable to add Clumps and Voids, Peony Moon, Northern Wall, Box Elder, and Ouroboros to my sidebar. Probably others too that are escaping my sieve-like brain at the moment.

I'm not a patient man. If this goes on another six months -- I swear, I may do something about it!

Sunday, December 21, 2008


We asked the sun to return, but she's walking in the skyfields far to the south, and ignores us. Her secretarial staff tells us we've made our request in due form, but there's no telling gods what to do: she'll come back in her own sweet time.

The waitress in the restaurant up the street hikes up her skirt and sits astride me to take my order, rocking absent-mindedly while she writes it up. Dismounts and pats my chest affectionately. To her I'm ancient, harmless, an old dog gone in the teeth. I find to my horror that my voice has gone high and quavery, and my hands shake. I'll never do massage again.

The sky goes iron-gray, then darker, darker, to ice-black, and the snow hisses, blowing in my face like fine white sand. It stings my face and my eyes horribly, but it does melt, after a moment, and runs down to clot in my mustache and beard. I shamble home in the dark.

The snow lies in thick drifts over the furniture and the books and the piles of paper. I lie down on couch, which stirs it up: it swirls high above me. I am tiny. I'm lying at the bottom of my grandmother's snow-globe. Of course. We've come to Grandma's for Christmas. A fire roars in the hearth of her big, square-built, Illinois house. Slowly the snow settles back down on me, in huge, comforting flakes. Warm. Getting warm at last.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Borrowed Time

Snowing hard, after a night of rain. The ground sucks up the snow, silently breathes it in.

You are standing in the sky, wrote Diane Ackerman. When we say that our distant ancestors crawled out onto the land, we forget to add that they really moved from one ocean to another, from the upper fathoms of water to the deepest fathoms of air.

Light seeking light doth light of light beguile, says Berowne. Which is as close a summary of the uneasy Buddhist account of the Fall as I can think of.

I have your bio in hand, and I am more perplexed than ever. But really it is only the old mystery over again. "Why are we conscious at all?" asked Martha last night, back from a day with her aged parents, whose health is dwindling. "and why do we stop being conscious? It seems like it ought to be one or the other, not both." All this light and complexity ought to come from somewhere more mysterious than the industrial north of England. And the snow shouldn't just vanish into the ground.

All night I walked in the dingy linoleum tunnels under the hospital, looking for you. Little withered things with gray skin labored in dim cafeterias along the way. Making body parts, you'd said. When I finally found my way up into the upper levels, and located you, you were asleep in a chair. I covered you with my coat. Took off your shoes and socks, and warmed your icy feet in my lap. Then I tucked one under my shirt, between my left arm and my heart, and rubbed the other with hot cinnamon oil, which had a reddish tinge under the florescent light. Om mani padme hum, I murmured under my breath, over and over. It was so cold I could see my breath. It was a long time before your feet began to warm. But when they did your whole body suddenly flushed, the light came back into it, and your sleep changed. Your skin radiated heat. I fell asleep then too, propped against the wall, your feet warming my ribs and thighs.

Sometimes one of us comes to the fountain, and the other isn't there. We go and look at the cold dark river, and watch the water move into the uncertain North.

Just who is this lender, from whom we borrow time? He never lays out his terms. It's beginning to make me nervous.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Boring alert! Talking about my diet again. Feel free to skip.

My diet is quite simple. No more than 80 grams of carbohydrates per day, and no more than 5 grams of refined carbohydrates.

By "refined carbohydrates" I mean sugar and corn syrup and fine-milled flour: I also throw honey and molasses into this category. Any sugar. And anything that gooses your insulin levels. White rice. Potatoes. I'm also, for the moment, avoiding most fruit.

I don't bother counting and measuring most vegetables. Technically they're carbs, but in practice they're harmless when they're not sugar-delivery systems.*

In practice what this comes down to is meat, eggs, and fish, a couple slices of whole wheat bread, and a big salad every day, with all the balsamic vinaigrette I want on it. (that's where I spend my quota of refined carbs.) Some cheese and nuts. Cream and butter are fine.

If I'm hungry, I eat. It's been about two weeks, and I've lost nearly two inches from my waist. This is faster than I wanted to lose -- I'm shooting for an inch a month -- but it tallies with my experience of carb-restricted diets before. The weight goes really fast, at first. I haven't been weighing myself: too much of a bother, and either my weight fluctuates too much, or my scales are not accurate enough -- there are weird ups and downs -- that I find it more of a distraction than an encouragement. And anyway, I don't care what I weigh. I want to get rid of the belly. So I measure my waist every few days. I started at 47", and I want to get it to 32".

Here's my expectation: basically, refined carbs and sugars have to go out of my life forever. Fruit may or may not be possible -- I found last time that I could tolerate grapefruit, but not oranges; and cherries, but not bananas. If I'm lucky, when I get to 32" I'll be able to maintain just that way, and I won't have to count anything. But it may be that I'll have to restrict the carbs forever. I'll just have to experiment.

I'm expecting the weight loss -- or maybe I should call it the inch loss, since that's what I'm measuring -- to follow some kind of tail-curve. Six months of an inch a month, six months of half an inch a month, six months of a quarter-inch a month, and then years to get the last inches off. But that's wild speculation. It'll be interesting to see what the actual curve looks like. A lot steeper than that, if it's like last time, and bending more sharply to the horizontal at some point. And of course there's zero chance that I won't monkey with the parameters, in that long a time. If I can lose ten inches, in a year and half, I'll be a happy camper.

I know some of you -- very sweetly! -- are worried about my health, since there's a lot of fat, and a lot of saturated fat, in this diet. So it may or may not be reassuring to you (confession time! the delicately nurtured may wish to skip the rest of this paragraph) that I think I'm eating considerably less fat, and less saturated fat, than I was. When, for instance, I binged on toasted bagels with butter, I could easily, easily eat a whole stick of butter at a sitting. Without even blinking. Now, although I can eat all the butter I want, there's simply no way I could face eating that much. On what? On my chicken? On my salad? I could eat really staggering quantities of oil in a bag of potato chips -- what, half a cup, maybe? But even at my most prodigal slopping of salad oil, I'll never do anything like that with a salad. And of course cookies, cakes, muffins, and candies have simply disappeared. You have to understand that in a just world I would have been dead long ago: my body's capacity to withstand abuse has been remarkable. Even by the (in my opinion) misguided FDA guidelines, I'm eating better now than last month.

In any case, my doctor's watching my blood lipids every three months. If the triglycerides and LDL shoot up, I'll quit. I'm expecting them to drop, dramatically. But I'm Mr Empirical. If they don't, then it means I'm wrong, and I have to change what I'm doing. This would not be a good time to die, and I'm going to try to avoid it for the moment.

*peas and corn are the big exceptions. They pack a big carb whallop.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Your skin is made of light,
Your eyes glow like the sun seen through
a glass of ale, in sleepy summers
ten thousand years ago, before MRI's,
before mortgages, before hesitation.

Your ribs settle into my palms,
flexible as a girl's. You twist and laugh
and nuzzle like an otter.

Death tried to hold you, but he got greedy:
he pulled too hard and lost his grip, and
you were out of his hands.

We are marked where he seized us.
We are burnt, fragile, stretched out of shape
like a wet-dog sweater worn in the rain
by an obese cousin;
and of course
Death gets us in the end. But not yet.
Not now.
When you kiss me
you stick your tongue out at him.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

How the Neighbors Disturb Me

Morning comes, in a patched white robe:
the smell of coffee and bacon and newsprint;
wet earth exhaling its last deep breath
before the snow comes.

Windchimes from next door.
A girl named Sweetwater sits on her porch
snug in her parka, smoking a cigarette,
watching the squirrels leap

from wire to branch. The last maple leaves
shiver. I clench my interdigitated hands,
sore knuckles taking painful comfort each from each;
force myself not to look at her.

She's native, and I have a notion
she doesn't like to be looked at casually.
She warms slowly, like a carefully tended fire
you nurse in the woods. It might not catch.

I've seen her fully alight only once
on the night Obama was elected,
her black eyes passionate. "I can't believe it,"
she said. "I can't believe it."

She looked directly at me then, and I thought
what fools we are to squander that first
direct look on ranging shots, instead of on
a deliberate smashing broadside.

I come home at night, lugging my folded table
and my duffel full of linens and oils,
climb sideways up the stairs; I see her
and her boyfriend smoking on the steps.

Sometimes during the day he plays the piano
masterfully. "Do I disturb you?" he asked once,
anxiously. (Everything beautiful disturbs me.)
"Of course not," I said.

Friday, December 12, 2008


You can hear the throb of the falls,
the river moaning as it loses purchase,
the endless spatter of water-brains on rock.
So many things drift and slide like this.
Stately, inevitable: toward headlong
pitches into empty air. Rafts. Lovers. Prayers.

Fingers over the side, trawling:
pale green spiders pulsing in
the diffuse syrup of the sun.
I am in no mood for repentence.
I don't look for portage. Having expended
my last, like a spawning salmon, I am content
to let the river take me.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


This crowded geranium
supplies its own understory
of brown and crumpled tissue;
Dead intermixed with vigorous,
white-outlined thrusts;
straight lines ending in little curves,
fifty cocked penis stems ending each
in an orgasm of leaf.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

What My Time Is For

To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
All pray in their distress.

-- William Blake

The crows come tumbling
out of the treetops and chase a redtail
high up into the shifting airs,
raccoons pull the slats out of porch louvers,
and the cat paws curiously, delicately
at the moving images on the monitor.
They do all this moved by
the love of God and in the hope of
His mercy.

I will never apologize for loving you.
I will never think it was the wrong thing to do.
If it is complicated and difficult
that makes it like calculus
and knitting and programming computers
which are other things
I am not ashamed of.

I will never apologize for loving anybody
I will never stop loving anybody
I will never say my heart stops here.

Love is not tidy. It does not color
inside the lines. It gives money to beggars
whether they are going to buy
a sandwich or a bottle of wine.

I do not ask for justice and I do not offer it.
I ask for love and mercy
which are what I am willing to give
and what I hope to receive.

They say that if we don't hold people
to a standard then there will be no telling
the difference between a bad person
and a good person. And I say yes,
you're right. You're exactly right.
And we'll be forced to love the one
as much as the other: which is
what God told us to do.

You apologized for taking my time.
You don't understand, I said. You
are what my time is for.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Ouroboros Review

I have some poems in the first Ouroboros Review. What a gorgeous piece of work it is! I'm delighted to be in on the first issue, among so many wonderful poets & artists.

(PS: while those of you well-read in early fantasy fiction might suspect a connection between someone who goes by "Koshtra" and a publication called "Ouroboros," -- since "Koshtra" derives ultimately from E. R. Eddison's novel The Worm Ouroboros -- I had, alas, nothing to do with the naming or inception of the magazine.)

Friday, December 05, 2008

Four Poems


We are ancient, crippled with sin,
our knuckles swollen with fear:
our dowager's hump of resentment
keeps us from lifting our heads.
We hobble through the green world muttering
indistinguishable imprecations.

The Moon Behind the Door

High half moon at dawn:
cobweb clouds, full of dust, cling
to the furniture of heaven.

Strange Coin

You were a girl a year ago. And now
womanhood has come to you:
large leaking breasts, battle-scarred
belly, plum-colored
shadows under the eyes. You have become
beautiful and mortal,
robbed of sleep, drawn by us
into the company of death.
You have given hostages
and are at the mercy now of newspapers,
insurance forms, conscriptions. You will never
be free again. Belittled,
vulnerable to every worldly power,
bound to pettiness. A little greedy sucking mouth
owns your nipples: she will never love you
as you love her. You have given everything,
and you've been paid in strange coin,
not recognized as currency.

What To Take With You

I'm pretty sure that on our flight out
we're allowed only a carry-on bag,
and that our personalities
are too big for it. But I hope
we get to pack the sun and the moon
and a few favorite stars,
the rose-stained eggshell cloud
snagged on the mountain,
the rain lifting on the morning wind,
and the brightness of our lovers' eyes.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Bury Me Tenderly

It is only a hypothesis, Taubes says repeatedly, and it needs to be confirmed by empirical studies: the idea that what's behind diabetes, obesity, and most cardiac disease and cancer is the huge amounts of sugar, corn syrup, white flour and potatoes that have swamped the human diet, throwing the metabolic processes slightly out of kilter. But it's a hypothesis that explains the epidemiology of all those new, chronic diseases of Western Civilization. I am only suspicious of it now, because I so much want it to be true.

Most of my life I've been forty to sixty pounds overweight, and I've been told all my life that my inability to control my diet puts me in line for all these diseases, and that if only my will were not defective I would be healthy and lean. The metabolic hypothesis turns all this upside down. What if, as Taubes puts it, we don't get fat because we overeat? What if we overeat because we're getting fat?

At first that sounds like pure nonsense. But if the fat tissue is getting first dibs on the fuel coming in, and releases it only reluctantly, the body will respond by getting hungrier, and by decreasing its energy expenditure. We'll be hungry and reluctant to move. Which is precisely what is seen in the couch potatoes we love to ridicule. The correlation between overeating, sedentary habits, and obesity is obvious: but corellation is not causation. And the spectacular failure of programs of calorie-restricted diets and exercise to change the condition, despite huge and aggressive public health campaigns, and the fact that such basic vices as Vanity, Envy, Pride, and Lust can easily be rallied to their support, leaving only poor lightweights like Greed and Sloth to try to hold the line, should make us wonder if, after all, we've really got it right.

A theme I return to again and again is my skepticism about how much of what we do is really under the control of the storytelling part of the brain. A lot of that skepticism was born of my experiences in trying, and failing, to eat as people told me I should. My commitment to a diet would be as complete as I can imagine, my intention focused, my resolution of a sort that I've brought fruitfully to bear on all kinds of other things -- and within a few days I would have caved in completely. Perhaps I am a deeply defective person. I have many reasons to think so. But perhaps I was engaged in an endeavor that made no sense.

Picture a world in which all the medical authorities told us that our health problems and our unattractiveness were the result of taking in and storing too much oxygen. (Oxygen, after all, is a highly toxic substance: look what it does to iron!) If we would only breathe more moderately, then we would be healthy and attractive. You can picture what would ensue. All kinds of people would offer ingenious methods of breath-control. Learned authorities would get up in front of television cameras and tell us that of course the breath is under voluntary control, and it only wants discipline. People would invest enormous amounts of emotional and financial capital in controlling their breath. We would see psychologists investigating our pathological emotional commitment to overbreathing. And the sum total of oxygen consumed would not change a bit.

Because, despite the fact that yes, you can in the short term decide whether or not to breathe, in the long term you cannot. The body simply doesn't trust the conscious mind to run that process. If you don't do what it wants, it will take over and override the conscious mind entirely. The hypothalamus was here first. What it says goes. The cerebral cortex can sit lordly on its throne and issue orders all day, and as long as its orders don't contradict the hypothalamus its delusion of autocracy can remain intact. But put them in direct conflict, and you'll soon find out who's boss.

The only time I've lost weight easily -- almost spookily easily -- was on a version of the Atkins diet, a few years ago. Without any attempt to cut calories, without any portion control, without any attention to whether I bolted my food or ate slowly, and without any hunger, I'd lose a couple pounds a week. The rate at which I lost weight, in fact, concerned me: I'd been told that weight loss that rapid was unhealthy, and I tried to slow it up a bit. What concerned me even more was that I was eating a diet which medical authorities told me was horribly unhealthy. I assumed, at the time, that they had an empirical basis for this. I've learned since never to assume that about nutrition. For some reason nutritionists feel that they are exempt from empirical demonstration. After seeing authority after authority solemnly state that high-protein diets caused kidney damage, I decided to go look for myself and see what the studies were that proved this. It turned out that if you force-feed rabbits huge amounts of animal proteins they develop kidney problems. This was the only empirical basis for the supposed toxicity of high protein diets. The rest was all speculation, speculation which accounted rather badly for the good health and longevity of human populations which traditionally eat almost nothing but meat and fat. Why the Inuit and Masai weren't all on dialysis by age thirty (not to mention, why they weren't all dying of scurvy after three months of their animal-only diets) was left unexplained. furthermore -- and this is typical of nutritional "science," at least until recently -- no one even seemed to feel that it needed any explaining.

So. I had been planning to wait until after Christmas to undertake my new eating program. But I'm so excited about it that I think I'm going to do it now. It's not proven yet, but the weight of the evidence seems to me to indicate pretty clearly that refined carbohydrates are, at least for some people, metabolic poison. And Taubes' review of the evidence has convinced me that dangers of high protein & fat diets is purely speculative. (And the fact that it is still speculative, after so long a time as a ruling ideology of diet, is itself a sort of negative evidence. There's been plenty of time and opportunity to demonstrate this empirically. Why has no one ever managed to do it?) Likewise, I no longer believe that the supposed nutritional indispensability of carbohydrates has been demonstrated, or even proven to be likely.

So I'm off to undertake a fad diet. Bury my atherosclerotic body tenderly, next year! It's all Taubes' fault.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

45th Parallel

On the highway to the beach is a sign marking the 45th parallel, solemnly announcing that this place is halfway between the North Pole and the Equator. As a child I was thrilled by the obscure magic of this spot. As an adult I find it comic, to gravely mark a spot of land whose importance is that it corresponds to a mark on a map made to represent that land. I picture a map with the signpost marked on it, and a further sign affixed to the post to mark the mark of the signpost.

A curve of sandy-shouldered road snaking through the high salal.

You sat up on the table, holding the drapery to your chest, reminding me sharply of The Nude in Art. I rubbed the excess oil off your back with a towel. We are still friends after all these years.

A wind-torn flight of strange birds.

I got a cell phone. The last person in America to get one. A prospective client was angered, upon calling me, to find that it was my home phone and that my son answered. It was unprofessional, she said, in an email. I suppose so. I mostly felt defensive about my son. He's not always very fluent on the phone, but he does his best. But anyway, I did get the phone and now my business communication is not tainted by the existence of my family. That's professional, I guess.

The wind came across the pitching salt water. You fell on the seaweed-covered rocks, and I wasn't there to catch you.

Higher still and higher
from the earth thou springest
Like a cloud of fire
The blue deep thou wingest
And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.

I'm afraid I will never hear a skylark. Never see the Southern Cross.

Even in this absurdly fortunate life, sometimes grief rises like floodwater.

I have two favorite oils, both of which I buy at a local shop, Escential Oils, on Hawthorne. One is infused with oil of lavender, and the other goes by the name of Egyptian Musk. I have never managed to find out what is in Egyptian Musk, so I can't use it on anyone who has skin sensitivities of any sort. I trust Escential Oils not to put anything noxious in it, but everything is an irritant to somebody.

Even though I ask them to go light on the lavender, they never go light enough. I end up cutting it with unscented oil, half and half.

Many, maybe most therapists have switched to lotion. And I carry some with me, because you get the occasional client who really dislikes oil. But to me there's something sweetly luxurious, a biblical sensuality and prodigality, to oils. In some kinds of Indian massage they practically bathe you in warm oil.

I couldn't tell you exactly what guides me in choosing between my favorite oils. If it seems to me that someone needs to be calmed and soothed, I use lavender. If it seems to me that they need to be woken up and stimulated, I use the musk. But gender plays in it too: other things being equal, I tend to use the musk on men, the lavender on women. But I don't know until I reach into my bag which I'm going to choose, and I often don't really know why.

Dear readers, do you all have any favorite scents I should experiment with?