Thursday, June 25, 2015


Cornrows, braids,
close-written texts rising from the scalp;

cuneiform hair gleaming on the wet clay
of a Sumerian morning:

weeping, weeping, long ago.
Did you ask, were you told,

why your fathers took spear and shield
and walked away with the dust between their toes,

and their soles already cracking?
It was the long tallies in clay,

bushels of grain owed and not delivered,
and now woven into your hair as the debt

of your skin and your people:
justice must be served, they say.

The counting of coup will never end,
and the doves are shot with the olive in their mouths.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


Spin backwards till the whine of the centrifuge
rises to a shriek, then cut the fuel line. Down
fly the red and white streamers: down
fly the tinged drops. Above 
you see what you want to see.
Down here, it's all the glass and the quick poison.

Look, just because it's one thing doesn't mean it's not another.
The day sank in smoke and a sweet sour smell
like a wound gone bad. The stars missed their footing:
Someone cranked the wheel
and shook them down the shabby front of heaven.

Look, even now some one is lying
as they lay out the big squares: orange,
the night-dark of eggplant or avocado,
a deep-stirred red to call for justice.
In the end 

a quilt lasts because the woman who sewed the backing
knew or didn't know what she was doing: some quiet lady
in a small Midwestern town,
willing to meet any power of the Kingdom of Hell
armed only with her sewing machine and the right color of thread.

You laugh, but the devil doesn't. He has not 
had a good night's sleep since the last time 
she threaded in the bobbin. Who'd be the Lord of Darkness?
All work and no play. With the rise of Arcturus, and a hint 
of the Borealis, the ground will shake,
and every bridge will fall into its river.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Tidal Flats

I'm dimly aware of not being my own master, that the words I'm saying are funneled through me. Echolalia. Not just the words; the thoughts as well. The longing for freedom as well as the longing for self: it's so deceptive. Neither is what I want: what I want is other people in subjection. Which would be all very well, were it not that holding people in subjection was my final answer, in the game of "let's define evil!" Which might still be very well, if a feeble and scatterbrained old man had any chance of subjecting anyone. As it is, I get to watch everything I've built and heaved up out of the wrack sliding down into the sand again. Wrong again.

And so I try to put the pieces together another way. Suppose I had been building out of love, rather than out of the desire for domination? Well, one is surely a distorted image of the other -- but which of which? And how would I know? And who has time to find out? Because we're far out on the flats, and the tide is coming in.

This absolute conviction that I am wrong is one of the few constants of my life. It is a psychological phenomenon, not a philosophical one. Of course I am convinced of my wrongness: I always have been, and presumably I always will be. Gnawing on that is not going to yield any marrow.

No, I have to turn, and breathe deep, and open my hands. This is the shadow of a day of idleness, that's all. It means nothing. It is sending me no message.

Turn seawards. Let the tide come. Since when have I been afraid of the sea? Not my worst enemy could accuse me of that.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Milk Witch

"TaraxacumOfficinaleSeed" by Greg Hume - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Blowball, cankerwort, doon-head-clock;
I always took dandelions the wrong way.
They were beautiful, I thought. Fierce.
Tougher than the tame grass;
more extravagant. Splinter-headed suns
drooping one day, and the next
(witch's gowan, milk witch)
lifting perfect spheres of white aeronauts,
ready to take to the reckless breeze.
Weeds: they grow where they're not wanted.
Yellow-gowan, Irish daisy, monks-head, puff-ball.
Well, so did I, and I plan to go on
wrecking the lawns of my betters, scattering my seed
wide as the wind will take it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Five Tips: What To Do If You're A Person Who Can't Save Money

Well, you're not a person who can't save money. But leave that aside for now. For the moment let's think about the problem this way: there are two people wearing your body and living your life and making your decisions. One of them wants to save money and one of them doesn't.

Tip #1: Treat both of these people as fully rational and intelligent. Because they are. There are lots of excellent reasons for spending money. There are good reasons (though fewer) for spending money you don't have. Your spendy self is not a willful unteachable brat. She's a human being with deep and important reasons for doing everything she does. Find out what they are. Find out why she thinks these things are more important than saving money. Honor her intentions. She's not going anywhere. Your solution is going to involve either enlisting her, or tricking her. Enlist her if you possibly can, because it's not as easy to trick her as you might think.

Tip #2: Trick your spendy self if you can. If you have an employer with a savings plan, which lets you save your money before you ever see it, and makes it hard to take the money back out once it's in, then do that.

Tip #3: If you're self-employed, or in debt, that won't work. You're going to have to enlist your spendy self. Get her on your side. Find the moments when she spends too much, and interrogate her about them. Why does this expenditure seem so imperative? What's at stake? Don't treat her like a naughty child. Treat her like an adult. She might be right, after all. But it's likely that you can persuade her that whatever end she's trying to achieve by spending this money -- generally, making somebody happy -- can actually be better served by NOT spending it. Saving that money rather than buying a treat -- that is the treat. You're buying them, and not just yourself, financial room to maneuver. You're buying freedom. You're buying treats to enjoy later.

Tip #4: Realize that they're out to get you. I don't ordinarily encourage this frame of mind, but in this case it's totally appropriate. They are out to get you. The marketers and credit card companies and banks, the media, often even your friends, are all trying to manipulate you into spending money. If you feel like the target of a plot, its because you are. Cultivate paranoia and even a little hatred. This economy is, by design and with full intent, a machine to manipulate you into spending so hard that you have to work ever harder just to keep up, so that you never have time to pause, never have time to think it over, never have room in your life for art or God or love or contemplation. Push back. They'll nickle-and-dime you into submission, if they possibly can. Screw them. That's not what life is for.

Tip #5: Remember, when you're scrimping: you are already this poor. You are not pretending to be poor in order to be rich later. You really are this poor, and by saving twenty percent of what you make -- the bare minimum, for most people, to set up a comfortable retirement -- you are simply facing the facts of your poverty. Face them boldly and fiercely. Be proud of being a person who understands reality and is willing to be real. Do it for yourself, and do it for the people you love. They need your example.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

A Facebook Translation

Enorme tronco que arrastró la ola,
yace el caimán varado en la ribera;
espinazo de abrupta cordillera,
fauces de abismo y formidable cola.

El sol lo envuelve en fúlgida aureola;
y parece lucir cota y cimera,
cual monstruo de metal que reverbera
y que al reverberar se tornasola.

Inmóvil como un ídolo sagrado,
ceñido en mallas de compacto acero,
está ante el agua estático y sombrío,

a manera de un príncipe encantado
que vive eternamente prisionero
en el palacio de cristal de un río.

------Jose Santos Chocano, EL SUEÑO DEL CAIMÁN

Dream of the Caiman

Enormous log dragged by the wave—
caiman beached on the river shore:
backbone a broken cordillera,
formidable tail, jaws an abyss.

The sun wraps him in a dazzling aureole—
a seeming mail-coat and heraldry,
a metal monster who shimmers
and whose shimmering lays a sheen.

Unmoving as a sacred idol
girt in a mesh of compact steel,
he lies against the still, dark water

like an enchanted prince
who lives an eternal prisoner
of the river’s palace of glass.

See four other translations, with a wonderful introduction, at Via Negativa.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Asking To Be Born

I did not ask to be born, she said.

But then I thought, that might be expecting too much
even of God. How can He know? Maybe more like

a confirmation when you reach the age of reason.

What age is that?

Well, I guess that's the trouble, she said.
As far as God's concerned, I'm not sure
we ever reach it.

She kissed my arm: her wrist so thin
my thumb met my fingers
at the radial pulse.

Man is born to trouble, she said,
as the sparks fly upward.