Thursday, June 21, 2018

Walking through the huge funeral and get cool in the shade light breeze, strong smell of bounce fabric softener, floral, and artificial, Listening to the sun records singles compilation, single best singles compilation ever made, having just got it cut by a Mexican Barber, World Cup, I'll be up all of the upset, he and how is the value of the teams see what countries, à la Cinderella stories Senegal and Japan. And how hard it is to root for Russia and why it is that fair? It out your Waze good while he didn't after the boys on Telemundo, channel 47 locally, is 10 times better in the announcers see on American English US primetime. He is a downright scat singer of excitement. He is like the front man, and a back up band is too weird you Tatian mutating tone of the horn's entire crowd seems to be cue. Playing. Between the two and he'll cut, I in the state somebody. I tell Junior, the Barber, to shave quotation marks on each side of my head. Took him a minute to figure out I was joking. I'm not sure I was. No lock to him to sign the girls up for swim lessons. Holding it down.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

as good as anything

"You tasted it. Isn't that enough?"  -Philip Roth

Violet-tinted white sky behind brick-red house behind periwinkle umbrella passing by fading pink Magnolia tree behind shiny black and candy red cars behind cobalt blue tennis trophy behind blond wooden dolphin in a white metal cloud. Also in frame to left is Uri Aran's plaster sculpture cast from a plastic cup lid -which we got as a souvenir of the Jewish Museum art-give-away show, "Take Me I'm Yours."

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

letter to Jim Jarmusch

Dear Jim

I don't know you, but your film, Paterson, seems to know me. It gets me, as they say, in uncanny ways. 

First the name; your man Paterson is played by Adam Driver. Driver plays an ur-driver, Adam, the original driver you might say. That's odd, to have the actor, himself, bringing the right name for playing a part, the bus driving ur-citizen of William's ur-town. Of course the movie is, in part, about being an actor, how acting is tied into our drama, so the fact that the actor is tied into the drama, by his very name, is noteworthy. And more than this the actor is tied into the film via the character, having been partly written for him, as is evinced in the scene after the heroics in the bar in which you see a photo of Adam Driver in his marine uniform. I know enough to know that this is not a staged photograph, but that the actor himself was in the service. Paterson's twin is, in this sense, the man playing him, Adam Driver, and vice versa. Just as we are, in a sense, who we play.

And, so in this way, in an almost Whitmanic way, I am Adam Driver. Or at least my name is Adam too, Adam D, Adam DeGraff. And I'm a poet (DeGraff, my given name is also a kind of pen name, "de graff" = "of writing".) And of course I love to drive. Once I put out a book of poems about driving cab in San Francisco on Kevin Ostedal's Blue Press called, "Men Who Found Out." In this book there is a poem for Ron Padgett.

Ron is a friend of friends, and I've had some good moments with him. Once via an e-mail with Bill Berkson, Padgett claimed that I cheated on a test (about how many "Fs" are in a particularly tricky sentence) by using the double F in my name as a "viewfinder." I can't help but see that now as a precursor to all of the twinning in this movie, those twin Fs in my name. Friends Forever. 

I also had a memorable moment with Padgett standing in front of group painting by George Schneeman of Ron and his friends naked, 40 odd years ago. I asked him if he remembered it. He said, "I sure do! It was my birthday." Wow, that's perfect, I thought, he's even in his birthday suit.

I don't want to digress TOO much here, so remind me sometime to tell you the story Bill Berkson told me at that show about the glorious naked Schneeman portrait of Bill, and how it got its unique yellowish color from being singed in an apartment fire. 

Okay so back to the movie and driving. My initials are AWD. I see them all the time on cars, as if it belongs there. A cab driver from San Franciso, aha..."very poetic"... like a bus driver from Paterson, like the meteorologist Jean Dubuffet on the eiffel tower in O'hara's poem alluded to in the penultimate scene of the movie, like the doctor, William Carlos Williams, like the film-maker Jim Jarmusch and so on. Aha!

And speaking of your poetry, I loved that you put your own words into the mouth of a ten year old girl in the movie. And the way Laura says about your poem that it is "almost like" Paterson's, which is to say, Jarmusch's is almost like Padgett's. That was a nice touch. 

But the thing that gets me is that the girl is so much like my daughter, Sofia, who is 8, and even the poem reflects one of her poems. "It's almost like one of yours."

One day Sofia and I were looking at the moon behind some clouds and Sofia said it looked like a ghost moon. I said that would be a good name for a band, Ghost Moon. I said we need to write a song for the band. I asked her what would be a good name for the title of the first album and she said "A Wishing Swirl." I said that was a good title, but now we needed a song with that name. She went to town making up lyrics and I tried to keep up writing them down. (I did contribue one line, the line about the monk, but the rest are all hers.)

A Wishing Swirl

A wishing swirl falling down a waterfall
As delicate as a rose petal
As strong as a marble hall

How far it falls from way up tall 
The misty mist has a strange and twisted twist
Like a monk's last kiss 
Like Mona Lisa's fist

Opening into bliss 

A swirling wish fluttering in the sky 
As if it were a butterfly
On a starry starry night

In different colors very bright

And everything is going right

Also, along this line, the woman that plays Laura looks like my wife, and there was that scene where Paterson and Laura go to the movies (going to the movies in a movie, meta all the way through.) They watch a movie and Paterson points out that Lara looks like the woman in the movie. And suddenly I'm thinking about my wife as a "Panther" woman and how strange that kind of exoticism is, and how I'm involved in it, even though I wasn't really conscious of it before, how attraction itself is based on impulses we are not always aware of. I mean I always just thought it was her smile that got me, but if I'm honest it was more than that. And yet, and yet, to echo Paterson's poem to Laura,"There is no one in the whole world" like my own pumpkin. And if I lost her "I'd rip my heart out and never put it back." "How embarrassing." 

The pumpkin thing was embarrassing too. But I can't help but think of my own poem, so much like a Padgett poem:

Pumkin Seeds

See them grow, watch them grow
Pumpkin seeds from nothing
From nothing to pumpkin seeds
to pumpkins seeds to pumpkins
from pumpkins to pumpkin pie

Betty Lu, she's my grandma
Betty Lu makes pumpkin pie 
Pumpkin pie from nothing 
from nothing to pumpkin seeds 
from pumpkin seeds to pumkins
from pumpkins to pumkin pie.

Serve it up with cool with cream,
straight from cow, from breast of cow.

Oh man, that's enough for this letter. But I have so much to say about the movie and the way it echoes in my life. (How about when I saw Wu Tang in the city and the sound went out and so they had to do the show a capella? It was like Method Man practicing his Paul Lawrence Dunbar rap in front of the washing machines. Such a good reminder.)

I mean, it's through and through. 

See them glow, watch them glow
See them glow them pumpkin seeds. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

moment by mom

Operation "missing I" 
in opera town where war is waging. 
What does it mean to a soldier to dance? 
It means dodging bullets. 
I'd like to dodge some bullets 
with you, Miss, I say. 
I'd like to sing with you, Miss. 

Missing you, I found I. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018



I'm all the way on the spectrum,
or was, or can be, in a dream last night
I was clapping along to Zenen Zeferino
and Julia Del Palacio, both of whom I am
in love with. Those names alone
make me swoon.

Paolo Javier was there
Queens Poet Laureate
His second child still on the way
He graced the stage
with that perfect name
Paolo Javier

Radio Jarocho too, the way Julia
said it, rolling the rrrrs, rrrradiohairrrrocho,
the blue dress, the voice aloft & loose
in the wisps of rain on the last refrain
We couldn't believe it was true.
Richard Joo was there and Quinn O'Sullivan
Marco Battisto and Diana Dimutru
The Sunnyside representatives were out in force
Jaime Sweetman rocking that sweet Liverpudlian brogue,
plus Argentinian, Indian, Morrocan tongues too, to name a few.

There was a touch and go moment
when the sound went awry
-feedback on the monitors-
and Julia decided to take the band off the system,
walked off the stage and into the crowd
circled everyone around her and played sans amplification...
It was sudden intimacy, everyone clapping,
every one completely under the spell of the evening
as if the feeback was just for that
And then, there it was, the coup de grace
The rhythms of Julia's feet
dancing with Amoa's djimbe
Amoa from Akoko Nante
the band that played previously
came back up for the encore
the two cultures riffing rhythmically
back and forth in perfect synchrony
Amoa from Akoko Nante
Say it with me
Say it outloud
Amoa from Akoko Nante
Julia Del Palacio
and Zenen Zeferino
More pleasing words you will not find

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Jesus Saves

This is a poem to be made in the future.

I read a George Saunders short story to my class today which was basically about Jesus loving the least lovable kid, a kid who desperately needed someone to find him beautiful, someone willing to die for him. A kid who's breath stunk. "The end of Firpo in the world." Great story.

And then, after their shower tonight my 6 and 7 year old daughters came in the kitchen, where I was cooking, wrapped in towels, still dripping wet, with impish grins. Sofia said, "Jesus loves you." The girls giggled. Then Lucia said, "Especially when you fart." Then they ran out of the room.

Where did that come from? It felt strangely good to hear. A funny joke, probably from Jesus himself. That joker.

This note is probably just for me.

I think I'm becoming a believer again. In the idea of Jesus. Made flesh. In us.