So I find myself with an extra hour, movie starting off-schedule is all, all work done and waiting to be mailed, and here I am with a pen. Double-capp half-caff and a baked good. Not so bad a world. Internal, external, as if there’s a diff, for a moment calm seas and the buttress down, uncalled. Not that all the dramas are dispersed, far from it, but a few are in process and the rest have really run into grass, and leaving the house tonight I found myself Cheshirely grinning down the red street at dusk. No reason but the familiar cars, the cloudening sky, Bobby’s garage radio, lavender down the way, those birds I always hear, a couple lurking cats, and that Ruby Street air, that Mosswood air, that North Oakland air striking through, smog to the hills and fog on its heels, just everything as it is, I’m not going to say as it should be, but, for a moment, at peace. Whatever peace is. Sense of movement and change in a seeable swath, a familiar song made by boughs and breeze. A sense of ease.
And suddenly I’m very, very calm, a rare sensation, very grounded, like Daphne May calm and warrior grounded, perched in Espresso Roma Elmwood like a blackbird augur. Like a man of stone. And I wonder what to do next. Movie starts in 20 minutes, but do I need to go? Do I need to write? To sit and breathe? No need to do anything. No urge. And no worry. Just contemplative and good, and I know that whatever I do will be fine. All fine. I feel fine. Maybe I need a drug.
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ANNOUNCE :: I have a couple of readings coming up fast this month. On September 3, I’ll be at Books, Inc.. in Alameda, co-featuring with Nanette Bradley Deetz (who’s also one of the coordinators of this fine series). I’ll be doing a somewhat dark set, debuting an intense new piece titled “The Violence of Publication”, and doing a mini-release of last year’s chapbook 6 Questions. To balance that, I think I’ll go lighter at the Sparring with Beatnik Ghosts on September 5 at the Felix Kulpa Gallery in Santa Cruz, with a few of the ecstatic odes. That read will feature a slew of awesome poets and writers from all over California, so if you’re in the area, totally come check us out. See deets for those, as well as readings in October in Brooklyn and Woodstock, NY, on the Events page. And enjoy something!
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An odd tranquility verging on boredom, almost a malaise like nothing felt for years leads me to Gaylords for coffee and ink and breeze and people and music. If a cup of coffee got me into this, maybe another will get me out. Good luck with that. But time tells me that everything quavers, everything waves, and who knows what will fall from the sky. A pie, perhaps, a piece of Tupperware, a single blade of grass. And whatever falls did something else before, and something else tomorrow, and I’m going to have a salad eventually, and dance, and stand on a rock in the woods, and, finally, die, if there’s even an I to do those things, and who cares because there seems to be and that’s enough, that’s enough, and then something else will happen. That breeze is fine.
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REFLECT :: Been seeing a lot more music lately, and boy am I the better for it. Caught Hazy Loper‘s Oakland release party for their new cd (and vinyl!) Ghosts of Barbary (gorgeous ballad shanty yearning land), along with the inimitable harmonica trio Tin Sandwich. Mid-month basked in Blowdryer Punk Soul (personnel Jennifer Blowdryer, Steve Wishnia, and Jimmy Crucifix) at a much-needed benefit for the SF Tenants Union. They skanked the night away along with bonus word-macking by NYC’s very own Fly, and Punk Hostage crew A Razor, Cassandra Dallett, Joel Landmine, and SB Stokes. At one point I actually burst into flame. And capped off the month with a viewing of Three Times Bad, the Bay Area’s amped-up down-home string band that just about splits the air with joy. Picked up a copy of their recent cd American Sojourn, and have been diggin’ those porch-stompy tunes ever since. Sound save us all.
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So smash, smash the mirror, smash it good, smash the motherfucking bloody shards in hands and throw them in the streets, the streets that didn’t used to be there so smash them too, rip them to rubble and toss them back to quarry, toss it all, fill the quarries all with stone and urge, cap and progress crumbled back to pebbles, dig it up and toss away and let, let the tendrils, let shoots, let violent stem and branch take hold and soar, soar again, smash it all with full disinterest alone on a distant peak in a long, slow, rock and river breath.
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REVIEW :: Listen to Her Heart by Amy Berkowitz
Her heart was a wait for the train
In a place where it never stops raining
A sad heart like wet socks
Every so often, I come across a book of poetry that just floats my boat. Amy Berkowitz’ Listen to Her Heart is one of them. Amy has assembled a smorgasbord of tiny pieces about hearts doing things, and being things, and wanting things, and becoming things. They’re unpredictable, and often witty (even when they’re sad), and they’re full of sensations that every one of us has felt, or wanted to feel, or can imagine feeling. Any one of us with a heart, that is.
His heart was like Marmite
Everyone thought it tasted awful
But he swore there were loads of people
Far away who loved it
These manage to be loaded with pop and other cultural references, and universal at the same time. They tickle and they sigh. They’re light and mortally serious. Self-conscious and unflinchingly sincere.
My heart is a stolen car
My heart is an empty bar
The acknowledgments page at the end of the book notes that some of these poems have appeared in various zines and journals. Curiously, when I saw that, just after finishing the book, I realized that I hadn’t thought of them as separate poems or pieces at all, but as a single piece in list or series form, akin to the well known I Remember poems by Joe Brainard. Anyone familiar with my writing knows how much I work with and enjoy series as form, so naturally I’d have a bias when encountering a book like this, with dozens and dozens of kind little pieces scattered seemingly unkempt over pages and pages like wildflowers in a field. Should we read them as individuals, or as an orchestrated group? Who cares?
The heart wants a job
Now the heart wants a raise
The heart wants a vacation
The heart goes on strike
This is a slim volume, of maybe forty pages, with a few pieces per page. But it doesn’t feel slim, or of any specific size at all, because, astutely, it has no page numbers, leaving the reader adrift and tumbling through veins with no need of location. It also gives us much less reason to read in any particular direction or order, rather to plunge in anywhere and leap here and there, experiencing a multitude of strivings in random succession, rather much like life. Brilliant.
Your broken moped heart propped up in my garage
I keep calling you to ask what I should do with it
I don’t bother leaving voicemails anymore
There’s one for the ages, and many more there are, ready to be rolled about in, and tossed in air, or sat with very quietly in the dark. This book is worth checking out. Have a heart.
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I lay in bed half-awake, half-waking, tangled in the quilt but mostly out of it. My knees still pressed in and sucking warmth from the down, my feet atop the mound and chill in the morning air. I’m enjoying how cool they feel, soles naked to space. I’m enjoying the cool on my arms, sticking out of short sleeves, and the warmth-cool-warmth alternating through my body. I squirm, tense and release lower back, scrunch toes. It is not an urgent day, and I am determined to express its inurgency. And all I can think is, Everything in the universe must do this at times. And I wonder if it feels the same to all. So indolent, so luxurious in the August morning foglight, sea air and distant highway thrum drifting through my Northern California window. Cool August, which always feels like a luxury, knowing the heat is beating down vast and abroad not far away, as if I rest in the cul-de-sac of another dimension, jutting into our own like an effulgent lobe of jade. Indolent and knowing that it cannot last, I curl up like a petal, release. I think I’ll lie here a bit longer, basking in the August fog, before the sun creeps in and sucks me into sky.