Wednesday, August 16, 2017

from the dept. of have you seen this?

interview with l.a. painter billy al bengston in the hyperallergic series called beer with a painter

Monday, August 14, 2017

a short poem about misunderstanding

i was in the shoe store with nick
everything is young & hip
hip-hop on the soundtrack
two dudes walk pass
i hear
--man, this must be the wrong store, there's an old man here
when we leave i ask nick
 --did you hear what those two dudes said about me?
--dad, i think they said, this must be the wrong store,
there's no vans here

two stories about hands

for john b-r

1.

robert desnos, poet and nazi resistance fighter, was roused from the barracks of the concentration camp and loaded into a crowded truck bed.  everyone in the truck bed knew it was going to the gas chambers.  the mood was dark.  no one spoke.  not even the driver nor the nazi guards uttered a word.

when the truck stopped the condemned stepped in to line.  silence.  heavy.  the universe spun to a tiny point of right now.  there was a noise.  a motion.  an energy.  robert desnos stepped out of the queue.  he took a man's hand.  i shall read your palm, he told the man.  i see you will have a long life.  you will have three children.  you will live in excellent health.  he took the hand of the next man in line.  robert desnos saw a long life, three children, and excellent health.  robert desnos went down the line reading each person's palms.  he saw the same long life, number of children and excellent health in every palm. 

the universe shifted its weight.  the condemned felt, once again, life.  they felt human.  they are human.  the nazi guards couldn't kill fellow humans.  so they loaded them back in the truck bed.  including robert desnos.  and returned to the barracks.

2.

he was used to the smell of the dead.  he didn't think they were human.  they were not children.  they were some other.  the air was always puffy with ash.  it was, he thought, they were things were.

he walked the little girl to the death chamber.  she was three or four years old.  she took his hand.  she looked up to him.  he broke.  by her touch the little girl became human.  she is human.  he broke.  into thousands of pieces.  he felt the warm smallness of her hand.  for as long as he remained alive.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

today's song goes like this . . .

 

a song for the occasion

 

the resiliency/obstinacy of art

i'm on youtube and watching david bowie perform 'heroes' at the live aid [july 13, 1985] benefit concert.  do you recall the reason for the benefit?  famine in ethiopia horrified the world and this concert, held simultaneously in london and philadelphia, was a siren call to wake the world of the horrors of hunger in africa.

arguably the world is in a worse place than in 1985.  famine is still extant.  we know we've seriously destabilized the climate.  wealth inequality continues to metastasize.  AI is a serious threat to our employment.

and yet there are some damn good things that have happened these past 30 years.  LGBTQ rights are ascendant.  women are gaining political, economic and social power, even if they still have to battle for their rights.  more citizens are waking up to the horrors of a destabilized climate etc etc.

i recall a meme floating around the interwebs that read, in my half-remembered mind [i can't find it with a quick google search], 'no matter your problems, or the state of the world, remember you were alive at the same time as david bowie.'

that may read as rather fatuous statement but i think david bowie was a very great artist.  and his performance at live aid, the song 'heroes', is a proof that art is stronger than its making.  the song wass a rebuke to the berlin wall and the cold war.  now the song is demonstration of strength and resiliency no matter the obstacle.

the russian/u.s. poet joseph brodsky was praised for his strength in battling the soviet regime in his verse, and life.  brodsky said, it wasn't strength.  it was obstinacy.

it's the end of the world and i feel fine.  it is the end of the world.  it's always the end of the world.  i'm not to minimize the issues we face.  for they are myriad and harsh.  yet art is the demonstration of being alive at a particular time and place.  art is both an example of obstinacy and resilience.

how do i know that?  i know that because i was alive at the same time as david bowie. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

this woman's voice. . .

 

should my life be reduced to one motto it would be

ABSOLUTE MUSIC

the man in the back row has a question

if not not now when; how many motherfucking lives will you have?

Sunday, August 06, 2017

the rags of age

yesterday was a day of chores.  today too was a day of chores.  but one of the things we needed to do yesterday was get our hair cuts.  nick, and my, hair grows pretty fast.  i tend to wait longer than nick.  i've always liked to grow my hair into long flowing locks.  instead, my hair grows into a puff ball.  maybe it's because i'm chinese.  not really, but last year a lovely older chinese woman cut my hair.  she told me my hair is rather thick and course.  perhaps you are chinese, she said.  perhaps in another life, i replied.

but hair is just a small part of our being.  my hair is thinning too.  when it gets wet, or when i use hair product, you can see my scalp!  even more, when the young woman cutting my hair was fastidiously doing her job my gaze would fall to the floor.  i wasn't wearing my glasses.  so i couldn't see myself in the mirror very well.  just a blurred face.  i could look at the hairs falling from my head to the floor.  those hairs were nearly all white!  okay, i've had grey hair since my 20s.  i'm used to that.  but white hair? 

that's reserved for old folks!  to further make me feel like an old man, i had to rearrange some shit in our shed.  to do this arranging i had to get in to the shed.  as soon as i squeezed inside the shed door it was blocked by a fair number of area rugs.  i was trapped.  the shed was hot.  the rugs were heavy.  and for hte next 20 minutes i was lifting some serious weight so i could get out of the shed.  anna worried that i would have heat stroke -- it was very hot -- and/or a heart attack.  i poo-pooed her.  i've done a very many rearrangements in our shed before, to no ill effect.

today was different.  i was pooped.  i got out of the shed but had to take several minutes to sit down and catch my breath, my bearings.  i wrenched my shoulders and lower back.  the face that looks back at me in the mirror thinks he is 25.  my body is telling me i'm 50. 

and that's what frightened me.  i'm at the age to have a heart attack.  many of my lodestar poets died at earlier ages.  dylan thomas died at 39.  i used to think of 39 as an advanced age.  i must've been high to think that! 

well, i survived.  i did take a long, luxurious nap.  images and thoughts were inchoate.  i even had a couple of sexy images dance thru my hypnogogic state.  my white hair is still my hair even if it is thinning.  and if it is true that you are only as old as you feel then i am 25.  but not really.  i am an older u.s.american man.

i'll take something my father told me as gospel.  to grow old is a privilege.  back pain and white hair is lucky.  stop my bitching.  i'm alive, for the short time being.  i will do my best to enjoy the fuck out of it.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

one day your gonna have to look in the deep dark truthful mirror and tell your self to calm the fuck down

it is august

you know what that means?

halloween is just around the corner!

quote unquote

In contemporary poetry and poetics, split as they are between traditional epiphanal narrative and self-fulfilling avant-garde gaming there has been and there remains on the edges of each territory men and women for whom this Story, for whom the search in Language -- despite its form -- is a life, central activity of being.

--michael franco ['landscape with small dog: (f)or william corbett']

Monday, July 31, 2017

sam shepard [1943 - 2017]

do you recall john donne telling death, 'thou shalt die.'  when i was young i believed donne.  not only would i live forever but those whom i love, my friends and family, and my favorite artists.

george romero's death two weeks ago surprised me but somehow i thought of him as mortal.  he looked like a favorite goofy professor who still lives in the working class neighborhood where he grew up.  romero looked old even when he wasn't.

sam shepard looked old even when he was young and beautiful.  when you look old all your life you seem immortal.  i mean shepard in early films like days of heaven [1978] and the right stuff [1983] was seriously handsome.  he looked and sounded like a late 20th C gary cooper.  and yet, his youthful good looks were weathered, his expressions were earthy.  and yet shepard's eyes were that of a poet.

so i knew him as an actor first.  but when i got to my late teens and discovered poetry i became an addicted reader of shepard's plays.  perhaps it was because of the rollicking music of the language.  perhaps it was because of the themes of isolation and desolation.  it could also be because i grew up poor, rough, and had a crazy family like many of his characters in his plays did.  perhaps it was because i identified with shepard himself, an artist pupped out of the rock&roll chaos and shimmer of off-off broadway where experiment was the rule rather than the exception; a human being who was raised in chaos.

hell, there are many reasons why i fell in love with sam shepard as a writer, and as an actor.  i remember in the late '80s he was on the cover of interview magazine [a warhol publication] where you could see a crescent tattoo etched on the webbing between the thumb and pointer finger on his left hand.  i was fucking amazed because i didn't know writers were tattooed [it wasn't long after that i fell in love with thom gunn's poetry, another early inked writer].  i was inked too.  i didn't have much going for me at the time.  i knew only one thing: i wanted poetry.

i remember reading shepard's play true west and when i took an undergraduate course in theater at the local junior college i took a chunk of that play for part of an in-class assignment.  my partner and i watched the filmed play starring john malkovich and gary sinise.  i can't act worth shit.  but i had a lot of fun in that class and with that play.

oh, so many plays!  geography of a horse dreamer, cowboy mouth, curse of the starving class, fool for love, buried child, la turista etc etc.

and of course there are the movies.  sam shepard was just as prolific as an actor as he was a writer.  the most recent movie i watched with him in it was jim mickle's brutal cold in july [2014], a wonderful film of blood, gore, love and betrayal.

i will end this piece by declaring my fondness for another sam shepard film that co-starred diane keaton, baby boom [1987].  shepard plays a veterinarian who falls in love with keaton's hyper-business woman.  a slight film of late 1980s yuppie-dom about having it all but it is a delight just the same because of shepard's good natured cowboy instincts and keaton's great comic timing. 

well, fuck me.  death shall not die.  we die.  i thought sam shepard would be one of the few to live forever.  i thought his face became more beautiful as the years etched more lines in it.  alas, he died.  we all shall die.  i don't know if his art will live forever.  who cares.  what matters is the love you make while you live, including the love for your art.  we are lucky.  we have his writings.  we can watch his films.  perhaps that might be enough.

[i'm not going to edit this piece.  let the grammatical and spelling errors stand!]

viva la muerte!