April 17, 2012
Swoon…

cotton in the air

Your polished back is arched like Saint Louis. 
I can see your fingers pushing into the bricks 
when I lift your hair 
to smell October drain from your neck.

You are cotton caught in the air 
I am unfurling laces in your body.

I move on you steady like a fleet of ships pushing ice. 
I want to break it all.

Your tank top strap slips down the huh huh huh of your shoulder -
and I will not strain meaning from this.

I have to taste all of your shapes with my teeth.

I am waltzing a wrecking ball.

I am wading in the dark felt Tijuana paintings of your hair. 
Molting my bed clothes
uncoiling towards Sahara.

All I want to do is hot lust you 
into dead sweat. 
To watch your legs, those bent sickles, 
to watch them shake 
like poisoned wrens.

I am gnashed and dazzled. 
Smother me in the exhausted thrust of your yes… . 
wet 
as all exploding laundromats.

Darling, may I be the image you turn to 
when you are heaving alone, 
burning like Halloween in Detroit?

I am breathing up your legssssspitting at the hiding nightingale. 
Drift your breasts into my mouth 
and I will be that doped up, spinning victrola. 
La la la la la la.

I want to make love to you while you’re wearing figure skates 
until the hardwood floors are toothpicks.

I want to kiss your throat in a dressing room with my hands 
bound around the slow song in your voice.

I don’t care if you made that dress, hippie,
I will shred it until you look deserted.

You’re as restless as a New Orleans graveyard in a storm 
with the coffins boiling up to the surface.

That’s all this writing is. She is across from me and the 
soup is cooking.

I sit up all night listening to her dental records. 
I will teach her of exorcism and screw the hell out of her. 
I will carry her steam in my mouth.

Daydreaming of the evening of loud struggle. 
Call my name—I will cascade like a suicide. 
I will fall upon you like a box of fluorescent bulbs 
dropped from a five-story building.

I will do anything you ask… . 
unless I have been drinking; then it is opposite day.

I can’t believe you can sleep through all this.

Chunks of brick in your fingernails. 
Mortar on your pillow 
a bomb shelter 
sketched on your skirt. 
Safe.
It says “safe.”

Derrick Brown

February 17, 2012
A Sense Sublime + Negative Capability = Romanticism

The other night, I was working with a student on the foundations of poetry. Though I had spent weeks teaching rhetorical device after rhetorical device (because, really, distinguishing metonymy from synecdoche and trochaic from didactic meter is of the upmost importance), I felt it best to show technique and emotion in action.

After a couple passes through Bukowski and some Beats and Sylvia Plath left us both a little worse for wear, I pulled out this oldie but goodie: Wordsworth’s “Lines Written A Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey.”

Backstory: When I was 16, I had the good fortune to take an Honors English class with an amazing bey

January 30, 2012
Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman'
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me. 


Maya Angelou 

December 1, 2011

AMERICA

By Allen Ginsberg

America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing. 
America two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956. 
I can’t stand my own mind. 
America when will we end the human war? 
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb 
I don’t feel good don’t bother me. 
I won’t write my poem till I’m in my right mind. 
America when will you be angelic? 
When will you take off your clothes? 
When will you look at yourself through the grave? 
When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites? 
America why are your libraries full of tears? 
America when will you send your eggs to India? 
I’m sick of your insane demands. 
When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks? 
America after all it is you and I who are perfect not the next world. 
Your machinery is too much for me. 
You made me want to be a saint. 
There must be some other way to settle this argument. 
Burroughs is in Tangiers I don’t think he’ll come back it’s sinister. 
Are you being sinister or is this some form of practical joke? 
I’m trying to come to the point. 
I refuse to give up my obsession. 
America stop pushing I know what I’m doing. 
America the plum blossoms are falling. 
I haven’t read the newspapers for months, everyday somebody goes on trial for 
murder. 
America I feel sentimental about the Wobblies
America I used to be a communist when I was a kid and I’m not sorry. 
I smoke marijuana every chance I get. 
I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses in the closet. 
When I go to Chinatown I get drunk and never get laid. 
My mind is made up there’s going to be trouble. 
You should have seen me reading Marx. 
My psychoanalyst thinks I’m perfectly right. 
I won’t say the Lord’s Prayer. 
I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations. 
America I still haven’t told you what you did to Uncle Max after he came over 
from Russia.

I’m addressing you. 
Are you going to let our emotional life be run by Time Magazine? 
I’m obsessed by Time Magazine. 
I read it every week. 
Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner candystore. 
I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library. 
It’s always telling me about responsibility. Businessmen are serious. Movie 
producers are serious. Everybody’s serious but me. 
It occurs to me that I am America. 
I am talking to myself again.

Asia is rising against me. 
I haven’t got a chinaman’s chance. 
I’d better consider my national resources. 
My national resources consist of two joints of marijuana millions of genitals 
an unpublishable private literature that goes 1400 miles and hour and 
twentyfivethousand mental institutions. 
I say nothing about my prisons nor the millions of underpriviliged who live in 
my flowerpots under the light of five hundred suns. 
I have abolished the whorehouses of France, Tangiers is the next to go. 
My ambition is to be President despite the fact that I’m a Catholic.

America how can I write a holy litany in your silly mood? 
I will continue like Henry Ford my strophes are as individual as his 
automobiles more so they’re all different sexes 
America I will sell you strophes $2500 apiece $500 down on your old strophe 
America free Tom Mooney 
America save the Spanish Loyalists 
America Sacco & Vanzetti must not die 
America I am the Scottsboro boys. 
America when I was seven momma took me to Communist Cell meetings they 
sold us garbanzos a handful per ticket a ticket costs a nickel and the 
speeches were free everybody was angelic and sentimental about the 
workers it was all so sincere you have no idea what a good thing the party 
was in 1835 Scott Nearing was a grand old man a real mensch Mother 
Bloor made me cry I once saw Israel Amter plain. Everybody must have 
been a spy. 
America you don’re really want to go to war. 
America it’s them bad Russians. 
Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen. And them Russians. 
The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia’s power mad. She wants to take 
our cars from out our garages. 
Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Reader’s Digest. her wants our 
auto plants in Siberia. Him big bureaucracy running our fillingstations. 
That no good. Ugh. Him makes Indians learn read. Him need big black niggers. 
Hah. Her make us all work sixteen hours a day. Help. 
America this is quite serious. 
America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set. 
America is this correct? 
I’d better get right down to the job. 
It’s true I don’t want to join the Army or turn lathes in precision parts 
factories, I’m nearsighted and psychopathic anyway. 
America I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.

October 11, 2011
In honor of tonight’s full moon, here’s some Rumi:
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.

In honor of tonight’s full moon, here’s some Rumi:

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.

Don’t go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want.

Don’t go back to sleep.

People are going back and forth across the doorsill

where the two worlds touch.

The door is round and open.

Don’t go back to sleep.

September 29, 2011
"I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
By the false azure in the windowpane;
I was the smudge of ashen fluff -and I
Lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky."

— John Shade, by way of Vladimir Nabokov.

September 25, 2011

Q: How fucking awesome is it that Shel Silverstein wrote A Boy Named Sue

A: Sofa King awesome.

Q: How fucking rad is it that Shel Silverstein’s birthday is the day after Jim Henson’s?

A: Sofa King rad.

Conclusion: Extraordinary people who create extraordinary, beautiful, sometimes subversive, sometimes misunderstood, universally loved works of art that appeal to children of all ages are born on September 24 and 25.

This evidence is so substantial that my little sister, who also celebrates a birthday today,  should quit her internship with the Scottish Parliament and not head to Washington to work next year and should instead become a culturally-beloved creative genius whose works will contribute substantially to the canon of American children/family entertainment for generations to come. 

September 25, 2011
Happy Birthday, Shel Silverstein (and my little sister and Catherine Zeta-Jones)! 

Where the Sidewalk Ends
There is a place where the sidewalk endsAnd before the street begins,And there the grass grows soft and white,And there the sun burns crimson bright,And there the moon-bird rests from his flightTo cool in the peppermint wind.Let us leave this place where the smoke blows blackAnd the dark street winds and bends.Past the pits where the asphalt flowers growWe shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,And watch where the chalk-white arrows goTo the place where the sidewalk ends.Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,For the children, they mark, and the children, they knowThe place where the sidewalk ends.

Happy Birthday, Shel Silverstein (and my little sister and Catherine Zeta-Jones)! 

Where the Sidewalk Ends

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.


August 22, 2011
The Waking

So, the transition back to Los Angeles from San Francisco has been a bit of a mind fuck…not that I don’t love L.A. in a manner similar to that of, say, Randy Newman, but it’s just been an interesting transition between two very different ways of life.

It’s times like these, when I really have no clue what the hell is going on in life, that I turn back to comforting things like wine, 80’s pop music, and poetry…and not Beat poetry. I can’t get all William S. Burroughs when I’m already in a state like this. No, I need the wisdom of poets who could double as drunken and depressed grandpas who can somehow reveal to me the meaning of life and assure me that it all gets better. You know, like W. H. Auden. He’d make a great drunken relative at Thanksgiving, me thinks.

Regardless, this poem, by Theodore Roethke has always made me feel better, more inspired. It’s kind of like having Maria Von Trapp sing you “Raindrops on Roses” during a thunderstorm…but, you know, way more existential…not that this is the most uplifting poem, quite the contrary. But sometimes I find comfort in having drunken poet grandpa tell me that life’s short but beautiful and the fragility of every single day is the beauty and the tragedy of being alive. 

The Waking

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me, so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

I learn by going where I have to go.

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