Dinnering at my fave sushi place, I have the great fortune of being seated next to a family with a tiny infant. If you know me, you might think this an unusual reaction, since I’m more a fan of quiet, thoughtful meals than ones imbued with squall and bluster. But this is a particularly peaceful child, small for his age – four months, they say, I would have guessed half that – and just at the point where his brain is really turned on and soaking in everything intensely, pure and ontological, just seeing and seeing and seeing what is that? what is that? what is that? what is that? what is that? Look at those eyes dart. And here’s the treasure that I got to keep. As they finish their meal, the mom takes the baby, who’s starting to fuss, and holds a slice of orange up to his lips. She says to her parents (who’ve been adoring like mad the whole time), “So far he’s only tasted watermelon.” I just happen to be looking, perhaps drawn by the fuss, and just happen to be looking directly into his eyes, and he into mine, as the taste hits – and I see it: I can see right into his brain as it lights up, nerves jump open, taste buds open, eyes widen, face opens up, his whole aspect, whole body opens with awe as he experiences the orange, the piquant sweet pleasure of the orange, for the first time. All my hair stands on end.
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ANNOUNCE :: EVERYONE knows that I have a show of text art, Parallax Poems, opening on April 8 at Nomadic Press in Oakland, so why am I announcing it again? Because that’s why! In celebration of National Poetry Month, the show includes three new blinklists and two older ones, a big angry palimpsest, a number of the calligraphic glyphs from Poems for Teeth (which have never been shown before), a big illustrated poem, an augury, and a super special installation created just for this event. Several other pieces will also be available for viewing only at the opening (hint, hint). I’ll read from the artwork itself, some on display and some just there for the evening. Helping to celebrate will be sublime Oakland poet James Cagney and maker of most fab musics Annelyse Gelman. So stop on by and get yourself covered in pretty words. The show will be up at Nomadic through the month of April. Deets on the Events page.
ANNOUNCE :: In coordination with the Parallax Poems show, I’ve added three videos to the Performance page documenting a crazy reading from the original chapbook Influx Blinklists from July of 1990. (Yes, we had video then.) It’s a super-cool (if blurry) performance produced by We Press publisher Christopher Funkhouser. Chris and I read and perform the work from the chapbook, along with music by Steven Taylor and Angela Coon, and additional wording ranting yelling by Angela Coon, Victoria Wieners, Darrin Daniels, Janey Bittner, and George Forget-her-last-name-opolous. Check it out for a rare piece of weird performance history from Boulder, 1990. Allen Ginsberg was in the audience! Plus you get to see me slim and shaved completely bald.
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Up from underwater you emerge into a party and the jangle sweeps you up and into festive interacts, chatting, dancing, laughing, ranting, building passion for the hour. So easy to slip back in it startles you, having been glooping along in inner world for what seems ages. But are you really springing out, or simply letting the party in a moment, which might be why it seems so relatively effortless. And there it is, that letting, the secret concourse of existence. So often we throw up walls, and doors, and locks, as if we can actually keep out what’s already inside, what we’re part of, what we be. And yet when crushed, when feeling need for succor we seem to see these walls, and once seen they seem to be, we let them be. For my part, I prefer to make a womb in which I float and breathe. And insubstantial as they are, those walls seem real as anything, at least as real as anything that seems, like parties, portals, barriers, and me.
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REFLECT :: March was a month of deaths, as it sometimes is, and I found myself connected, personally or tangentially, to four people who passed within a week. My uncle Frank Larkin, family man and trooper who’s been suffering nigh on ten years now, moved on to a much, much deserved rest. Frank, I hope you’re chilling out excellently somewhere! My brother-in-law’s dad, George Schroeter, passed too, same day, after a several month intense cancer battle. A close friend’s mom passed the night before. And the week before that, in the early morning hours of March 4, East Bay poet, troubadour, roustabout, lollygagger, beauty-maker, dramaturge, Ren Faire founder, chortle-bounder, the mischievous and inimitable Pagan Neil wandered off quietly in his sleep. (Pictured above, with friend and accompanist Alan Shearer at the Bay Area Book Fest, June 2015.) I was very joyed to know him, and fortunate to have seen Pagan and Alan (a.k.a. Beachhead) perform many time over the past several years, and they were gorgeous. There was a sad and raucous memorial for him on March 20 at the Octopus Literary Salon in downtown Oakland, chock fulla poets, Ren Faire folk, Berkeley Rep folk, and several mysterious visitors from who knows what part of his life. Rock on, Pagan! Onward once more through the fog (and out the other side). And a wish of peace for all moving on, whether for an instant, or for an endless instant.
REFLECT :: Speaking of life, terrific visit this month with NY Singaporean poet Jee Leong Koh. He paid a rare visit to the Bay Area to meet up with friends of Justin Chin, fellow queer Singapore-born poet who (also) died recently, and to promote his new book Steep Tea, which has been garnering just attention for it’s lush, personal language, its strong sense of form and rhythm, and its exploration of having two lives in two worlds – something so many of us can relate to. Mostly, though, it was great to get to hear him read a couple of times (what a voice this man has), and to connect a bit more strongly as poets and as friends. We’re all human, aren’t we? Among other things. Jee, well met, and re-met, and see if you can make those visits just a little less rare.
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Beneath your skin you grow, stretching it, yes, filing with nerves, finding the world around you. Objects still and moving, all kinds of dirt, smeared, mud, huge piles of it, mountains. Things drift around, eating you, fighting over teeth, crashing cars, addled and purposeful, making structures, layers, hierarchies false and imagined. Inside your skin you know a few truths, or might, feels like it if a bit slippery, but once you slide outside, you are reflected upon, projected upon, injected in, and analyzed. Layered and put in context.. Revised and re-envisioned. Stamped. And so we grapple, knowing all the while we are all mortal, all very much alike beneath our skins, taut, sensate, ready for light and air. Why we’re not always ready for each other stays a mystery, and until we cantor skinless in the lane, until we dance the knowledge of all things beneath, we saunter trapped within, potential angels ready to burst, and stumbling on without the charge of true human shine.
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REVIEW :: Trigger Finger Release Surgery – Kaiser Permanente – Richmond, CA – March 4, 2016
Aesthetically, what I prefer in a surgery is a clear sense of what the procedure actually does, why I need it, what I’ll go through step by step, and how much it will cost. It’s also great when it works out successfully. The recent trigger finger release surgery that I received from Kaiser Permanente did effectively relieve the condition that it was meant to treat, though my actual experience in regard to the above criteria did not quite measure up. This surgery does not receive a five-star rating; closer, in fact, to a three. This is not due to any lack of procedural skill on the part of the surgeon; indeed beyond her skill she was above-average patient with an above-average anxious, well, patient, and the procedure itself, once past my anxiety, went smoothly. The lowish rating is much more a result of the conventions, habits, and policies of the medical industry today. A brief examination of the reality of those criteria should bring some of these specifics to light.
Some doctors are better than others at explaining the anatomy behind a condition or a procedure. Some are terse and vague; others know only one set of phrases to describe an issue, and can’t expand if they’re not understood by the layman (who is often in pain); still others bring out charts, diagrams, illustrations, or are adept at drawing it out themselves. Somehow, over the course of several doctors and a consult with the internet, I still couldn’t figure out exactly what the release surgery does. I got that it is caused by a tendonitis which results in the tendon that bends a finger being swollen, and getting stuck in a “sheath” that protects it and attaches it to the bone and muscle. But the exact anatomy kept alluding me, and I’m a bit familiar with the subject. Some said that the procedure would cut a notch in the sheath, some that it would remove part of the sheath, and others that it would work on something else outside of the sheath. Turns out that colloquially, orthopedists use the term “sheath” to refer to two parts of the finger anatomy: a flexible tube that the tendon runs through that protects and bends with it, and a rigid connective tissue that attaches the flexible tube (thus the tendon) to the rest of the finger. But they never tell you that; they just use the term interchangeably and leave you confused. And why is this? Is it too much trouble to come up with a second term, or to briefly clarify? Much thanks to my physical therapist, who did just that much after the fact.
That seems a minor issue, and it might be unless you’re really concerned about knowing what you’re letting someone do to your body. But the issue of why I needed the surgery has left me a bit more unsettled. I agreed to do it because an orthopedist repeatedly insisted that it would resolve some chronic pain that I’ve been having in my left index finger, along the back around the middle joint. Even though that didn’t seem to me to be the area that the tendonitis would affect, he noted that the cortisone shots that I’d been given for the trigger (which I also had) made that pain go away, so it must be a result of the -itis. So I agreed to have the surgery done on two fingers, one to stop that ongoing pain (and the trigger), and to another that had no pain but hadn’t been much use for fifteen years. Just before the procedure, the surgeon examined the hand and told me that it wouldn’t stop that chronic pain at all, that had to be something else, but I went through with it anyway. Result: both fingers have stopped getting stuck, but I spent a couple weeks with the extra pain from the surgery, on top of a lot from the chronic problem with the index, which was hugely aggravated by the intrusion, and from the thumb on the same hand that just started to trigger the week before, also hugely aggravated by it. So I got three times the pain, and was left with the same chronic pain and more. Note to self: the most frustrating thing in the world is when doctors contradict each other, which happens all the time.
So I end up for a few weeks with a lot more pain and a lot less functionality than expected (and that I’d been led to expect), partially due to the surgery multiplying pain elsewhere in the hand that it didn’t even address (nor did the doctors), and partially because they just don’t tell you what you’re likely to go through. They say, “You’ll probably experience a few days of discomfort.” Heard that a few times, have you? Well it’s TRUE. They just don’t mention that first you’ll experience several days of agony, followed by a few days with a lot of pain, then the few days of discomfort. And why leave all that out? Well it is elective surgery, technically, and they sure want you to elect it. Keeps them in the vichyssoise. (Okay, that was a little snarky.) Personally, though, I think that not telling a patient that they might go through a lot for a couple weeks is at the very least rude, and more generally egregious. And I continue to have pain in both index and thumb. Of they chronic pain in the index, they’re pretty much said, “We don’t know what it is. Want another x-ray?” And of the thumb, “Well, looks like we might have to do that again.” Urgh.
Finally, a word on cost. Admittedly, I have a pretty good deal between Kaiser and Covered California (thanks, Obama!). The procedure for both fingers is supposed to run somewhere around $400 – not bad. (Haven’t got a bill for it yet, so fingers crossed – at least those that can). They let me know that, so I budgeted it in, and my finances can’t really go much beyond that. But they didn’t mention the meds (shoulda figured), or the physical therapist, or follow up visits, or the fact that you can’t really cook for a week or two (couldn’t use the hand much, and couldn’t get it wet a drop), so you’ll need to get a lot of easy prep foods and takeout if you just don’t want to go hungry, which raises the cost a bit more. Okay, perhaps I’m not the most pragmatic person at all times, and yes maybe I should have figured all that, but I would hope that an institution that’s supposedly helping people through pain would recognize that those people could use a bit of help with all of the logistics as well, since chronic pain don’t really make the brain sing bright.
Was this a review or just a rant? Yes! Will anyone read it? I don’t know! Will anyone relate to it? Many, many, many, I have no doubt. Sorry, Kaiser Permanente, but you get 3.2 stars on this fiasco.
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Colors leak out all over the place, words leak out. Used air, salty fluids. Light leaks in. Fresh air. Buildings. Flora and fauna. Tendrils out and in. Without exchange, we wouldn’t be. Nothing would. Without exchange, the robin would not emerge from its shell, the sticky down would not dry, the egg would never be laid. You would not have that bowl of delicious vegetable soup, spiced just the way you like it. So have it. Let yourself leak into that soup while it leaks into you. Leak all over the place – light, colors, you. Dew in your hair, your hands full of petals. Throw them up above your head, and as they drift about you, you emerge.