Monday, November 17, 2014

3 100 word stories

3 stories 100 words each
Pilgrim’s Way

Thursday Leonard found another treasure inside the Free Library on 46th, a CD of sing-along songs. [The Free Library is a repurposed newspaper dispenser in which one can both leave and take books, an excellent example of the gift economy at work. This library was magical and Leonard always found something perfect there.] The CD was perfect because later that weekend he was taking a road trip with his family to Provincetown. On the way there they all got lost singing, “Good Night Irene”. They found themselves much later in Plymouth, staring at a rock. What did it all mean?

Got Butter

When I asked your advice, miss, you told the story of two mice who fell into a bowl of cream.
The mice had no choice but to tread milk or else. The first said, "'Why wait?” The second bid her to try, "Perhaps a better fate than this?” But the first mouse just gave up. She sunk into the bowl,
glup…glup…glup. The second mouse grit her teeth and swam with all her might, swam for all that mattered, and sure enough, miss, pretty soon that mouse had churned up all the cream
into a solid vat of butter.


Once upon a time my Skylark was broken into, my stereo stolen, and the only token left behind, forsaken, was a worn out Carhartt jacket, left perhaps because the thief was in a hurry, or got interrupted by a scary sound and scurried away without coat to sell my stereo on so cold a night to buy some crack, maybe, leaving a warm jacket in exchange for a high. I wear the Carhartt everywhere now, as if I got a steal, the better deal, and it looks good too, blue, a little ripped, functional hood, halfway unzipped.



The girls are down for a nap and I have a moment.

What can I do with my moment to make it a real?

First I read Elizabeth Bishop's “PROSE”,

turn at random to a letter in the middle and read,

“I’ve always thought one of the most extraordinary insights

into the ‘sea’ is Rimbaud’s L’eternite: ‘C’est la mer allee,

Avec le soleil.’.” I don’t read French, but I do know this

line and even used it once as an an opening

of a poem written for my daughters,

plucked it out of a New Yorker article on "Rimbaud in Translation":

“I have seen it. What? Eternity. It is the sun matched by the sea.”

I kept reading, my interest lit up by the Rimbaud. She

writes “This approximates what I think is called the ‘anesthetic revelation’.

(William James?).” I was intrigued now and did a google search

for “anesthetic revelation.” I arrived at a wikipedia page not for William James

but for one Benjamin Paul Blood, a 19th century Dutch character. I read,

“After experiencing the anesthetic nitrous oxide during a dental operation,

Blood concluded that the gas had opened his mind to new ideas

and continued experimenting with it. In 1874, he published

The Anesthetic Revelation and the Gist of Philosophy.”

(The first time I had nitrous oxide at the dentist I experience

a rushing backward away from all current reality into somewhere

other, I want to say nether, and was filled with a bright euphoria

so intense that when the assistant took off the mask I took her

her and kissed her. Oddly, she kissed me back, as if

swept up somehow in my dream life.  Reality quickly came back to me.

I acted as if nothing happened and she did too.)

The Wiki article also quotes Blood that he "never lifted a finger

in anger" and that his "entire life had been fun." Wow, Blood.

Finally I read that Blood also patented a successful swathing reaper. What?

I had a moment of recognition, a kind of super-recognition;  a revelation

(perhaps more esthetic than anesthetic) dawns on me.

First I should tell you that there is another Adam DeGraff.

If you google me, you’ll probably get him because he’s a virtuoso violin player

who’s YouTube video of himself playing “Sweet Child ‘O Mine”

has gathered over a million views. He is me, or rather “I am another”,

so wrote Rimbaud, or somebody anyway. I recently noticed this Adam DeGraff 

had given a TED talk and watched it out of some kind of dopplegangerly curiosity.

Surprisingly it was not about violin playing at all, but rather

about “reaping”, literally, reaping swaths of grass by hand

as opposed to using a lawn mower. Adam said he had found his thing.

Not playing Guns and Roses to perfection on a fiddle, mind you.

There is something about scything swaths of grass that just

makes him happy he said. And this is what I remembered when I read

about Ben Blood too, the happy farmer, who must’ve also loved to reap

because he invented an improved scythe to better his own mowing style,

and who must’ve found there, like the musician Adam DeGraff, the happy secret

of deep trance through dance. I sent the other Adam DeGraff the Wikipedia link for Ben Blood.

I can imagine his surprise when he gets an e-mail from another Adam DeGraff

about his pet subject of reaping and anesthetic revelations. Then I went back and looked

at the Wikipedia page again. I noticed Blood also happened to be friends

With Lord Alfred Tennyson, another poet I love and a circular link

back to Bishop and to the poem itself. It was then clear to me that this 

entire moment was a poem waiting to be written. Therefore I am dashing it off,

before the babies wake up, so I will remember this.  (So far so good.)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Live Verses Dead

Live Verses Dead

(for Angelo and Eric)

-soundtrack Alt-J newness-

Ran through the roses in the cemetary. 

"I couldn't hear see or hear
But I could tell she was smiling
By the way she was singing"

This Screams Fall

Screams orange against green. 
Loud against serene. 
Cold against warm. 
Soft against hard. 
Life against art. 

Live versus dead.

Monday, September 15, 2014




D Note (oral)

1001 disco nights




ny years:

books in the free machine:

facault's pendulum
experiments with mirrors and lights
forever young
jokes philosophical

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Make Book

I blink for ink


For Preposterity
Fake time
Real time

Fake time in perpetuity for preposterity.

Fake out time

Fake you


Super Why

Palms Up

Under The Rainbow


She's drummer
He's guitarist



Monday, August 18, 2014


I just like the way this one looks

by itself.








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Friday, August 8, 2014

Electronic transaction

Bear down against the worst of the pain

Then shake it off!

-Subcutaneous scrimshaw

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


Sofia tells mama she's got red cracks in her eyes.

Lucia says she is grateful this morning for cold, for broken Easter eggs and for the new light.

I'm reading James Joyce Ulysses this morning. Every line sings.

I'm reading Hart Crane too. He says something beautifully resonant in every line too

Like, "Here at the water's edge the hands drop memory."

So why can't I come up with the right title?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Ways To Get Through Heartbreak

Here's something I wrote today for my cousin Ivy. If you know someone else who is going through heart ache, especially the break-up kind, then feel free to pass this along.

Ways To Get Through Heartbreak

1. Sad Songs

You should drown yourself in sad songs. After all they were written for you. Songs will never again mean quite as much to you as they do right now. If you turn on the radio it will seem as if the first slow song you hear was written especially for you. And perhaps it was.

Here is the magical thing that good artists can do so well; they can transmute pain into beauty. That is why sad songs are so beautiful. My favorite songs, even when I’m happy, are sad songs. Essentially what a great sad song does is take the energy churned up from the gut in the anguish of heartbreak and turn it into something beautiful akin to joy. As one of the greatest of the sad song singers, Leonard Cohen, wrote, “It's written on the walls of this hotel/ You go to heaven once you've been to hell.” He also wrote, “The cracks are where the light gets in.”

Once I was having a panic attack in a hospital after an operation. I had been at death’s door because of a burst appendix I had ignored for too long. After the operation I was very weak. They had me on morphine for three days. The morphine began to mess with my head and consequently I had terrible and vivid nightmares. I woke from one of these dreams and couldn't move because I was full of tubes. It was too much to bear and I wanted to start tearing the tubes out of myself to be free of it. Instead I took a breath and rang for a nurse. A nurse named Cory came into the room to check on me. He get me out my bed into a chair and told me to keep breathing and he would be right back. When he came back into the room, an eternal minute or two later, he was carrying a CD case in his hands. He pulled out a CD and inserted into a player. The first notes to Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” came on and instantly, INSTANTLY, I felt like new. The terror rushed away from me and was filled with the music and Bob’s voice singing, “Don’t worry about a thing. Every little thing is gonna be alright.”

Bob Marley wrote, “One good thing about music, when it hits, you feel no pain.” The music absorbs the pain and translates it into something beautiful.

There are many artists who are genius at transmuting pain into beauty. Some of my favorites are Bonnie Prince Billy, Neutral Milk Hotel, Elliot Smith, Neil Young, Bob Dylan etc. They all can make me cry when I need to.

Music is the best place to find solace in my experience. It has an uncanny way of empathizing with you and what you are going through… and then gently lifting you up and out.

2. Other Stories

The first love of my life chose an odd time to tell me she was seeing another guy. It was in a movie theater just before a movie began. I felt like immediately leaving the theater, finding the nearest bathroom and puking my sorry love sick guts out. But I was so stunned by the news that I just sat there paralyzed by grief. Then the movie started. It was the Abyss, a film by James Cameron. It is an awesome movie, so awesome that I completely forgot the terrible and upsetting news that had completely torn me apart just minutes before.

You see what happened there? A more interesting story took over.

We think in narrative terms. Everything is a story to us. Your view of yourself is a story and your ill-fated romance is like an epic novel. You probably even still harbor hopes of a miraculous happy ending don’t you?

You are so caught up in the story right now that every nuance of every word spoken during your last conversation is being turned in your mind over and over again in search of every possible meaning. The problem is that the meaning you are generating is almost entirely driven by fear; fear of being alone, fear of losing yourself, fear of being unlovable.

So, after you have cried your eyes out to a sad song or two, you have to get out of your own story for awhile, at least until the pain subsides. Really engaging movies are good for that. Try a thrilling redemption story. Stay away from the romantic comedies. A good mini-series can be great too, something like Breaking Bad or Homeland, something so consuming you can’t stop watching for a several days.

Maybe the best thing is to get lost in a great book. Books last for a long time and right now you need to be out of your own story for awhile. You need to be free from your story until you can begin to get perspective on your own thoughts and feelings.

Getting a real handle on your own story takes years to do properly. It requires reading a thousand and one stories at least. But for now you just need a good one to get started. If all else fails I guarantee you James Cameron’s The Abyss will pull you clean out of your own.

3. The Force

Every one has their own idea of God, so this gets personal. But even those who don’t believe in God still know how to breathe, still have some innate sense of an inner life drive. I do think there is a kind of fluid transcendental intelligence to the universe, but even if I didn’t, the belief in my body’s own involuntary will to live would be anchor enough.

Use your imagination to turn this thing into an actual rock. Your rock might be called The Life Force, the Breath, Buddha, Jesus, Mary, Allah, Kali, your grandmother or maybe even just an actual rock. Imagine holding onto this rock to keep from drowning in a raging river. This is a metaphor of course, but the more real you can imagine the rock, the more it will help you. The rock itself is immovable and solid, but we are not, which is why we must exhaust all of our muscle strength just holding on. Our thoughts in times of heartbreak are wild like the rushing river. We need some stability, something to hold onto, so we cling hard to our metaphor, to our rock, sometimes all night long. “Please don’t let me drown,” you cry, your fingernails digging into stone.

Breath is an especially good anchor because it is RIGHT THERE. You can cling to it like a life raft if you need to and it will never fail you (until it does, but then you won’t be around to know any better anyway.)

So figure out what your rock is, whatever it is you feel is most stable in your life. Then imagine the rock, a real rock in real water, and then hold on for dear life.

And hopefully in the process you will find a deeper understanding of your own inner strength and where it comes from. You might get stripped down far enough to understand what you believe is true.

4. Poetry

You may find that once the serious pain has been dealt with you will prefer wallowing in the misery of your own story over watching good movies and good books. It is your story after all. And there is something really compelling about pain.

But check it out, “Misery is wasted on the miserable.” That’s a line from the fourth season of the sitcom Louie. Louie has just had his heart broken and he talks to his doctor about it. Here’s the whole conversation.

"Dr.: So you took a chance on being happy, even though you knew that later on you would be sad.

Louie: Yeah.

Dr: And now... you're sad.

L: Yeah.

Dr: So... what's the problem?

L: I'm too sad.... Look, I liked the feeling of being in love with her. I liked it. But now she's gone and I miss her and it sucks. And I didn't think it was going to be this bad, and I feel like, why even be happy if it's just going to lead to this, you know? It wasn't worth it.

Dr: You know, misery is wasted on the miserable.

L: What?

Dr: You know, I'm not entirely sure what your name is, but you are a classic idiot. You think spending time with her, kissing her, having fun with her, you think that's what it was all about? That was love?

L: Yeah.

Dr: THIS is love. Missing her, because she's gone. Wanting to die.... You're so lucky. You're like a walking poem. Would you rather be some kind of a fantasy? Some kind of a Disney ride? Is that what you want? Don't you see? This is the good part. This is what you've been digging for all this time. Now you finally have it in your hand, this sweet nugget of love, sweet, sad love, and you want to throw it away. You've got it all wrong.

L: I thought this was the bad part.

Dr: No! The bad part is when you forget her, when you don't care about her, when you don't care about anything. The bad part is coming, so enjoy the heartbreak while you can, for God's sakes. Lucky sonofabitch. I haven't had my heart broken since Marilyn walked out on me, since I was 35 years old. What I would give to have that feeling again."

So there you go, you’re a walking poem. Use the energy that is generating from the pain. Bleed yourself out onto a piece paper and make a poem. Marianne Moore said a poem is an imaginary garden with real toads. The realness of the toad should be apparent enough right now so just start working on the garden.

Make some kind of art with all that anguish. Instead of sinking down into the mire get fired up enough to make something worth keeping. Either that or sink so far down that you can’t stand yourself anymore. But the latter way takes up a lot of unnecessary time and energy. Life is short and precious so you want to get where you need to go sooner than later.

One of the best examples I know of great loss translating into great art is Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “One Art.”

After you read that, then read Brett Millier’s enlightening essay about the poem to see further why;

5. Preventative Medicine

So to sum up...start with sad songs as your palliative for the worst times. Get deep into the pain and let the beauty of the music transform you. Then, instead of wallowing, read an engrossing novel, preferably a deep one. Get out of your own head for awhile. Meanwhile grab onto your tenacious Life Force and hold tight. When you finally begin to get some perspective, work on a poem. That’s a pretty solid formula to help get you through the worst of it.

If you can get through all that, and you will one way or another, then it helps to have some kind of disciplined practice so you don’t fall into the same traps again. This practice could take on many forms; writing, yoga, swimming, biking, hiking, knitting, drawing, shooting a bow and arrow, playing tennis, etc etc.

But one practice that I highly recommend is focusing your attention on your breath for at least 5 minutes every day. If you can do that for few years or so, then you will be well on your way to learning to master yourself. And you will be far happier than most people who are still, even in old age, ravaged by the rushing river of fears, emotions and thoughts.

What you do for that five minutes is just focus on your breathing, trying to quiet your thoughts. You won’t be able to stop your thoughts. If you could still them entirely and be with your breath for even five minutes, you would be an enlightened master. It is next to impossible. So what you do is just try to become aware of your own thoughts as much as possible. If you do this long enough you eventually will come to see that your thoughts aren’t really you, that your story isn't you, that you don't have to be controlled by it. Meditation is yet another way of learning to get out of your own story so that you can get more objective perspective.

It isn’t easy, but once you finally get it you will begin to feel blissed-out waves of ecstasy just by the feeling of breathing in and out, the way the breath in needs to happen, the way the breath out needs to happen, the nurturing caress of the good oxygen coming in and the relief of the toxins going out.

But first thing's first; find a good rock to hold onto.

Then, last thing, let it go!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The life of the mind

I dreamed I was sitting on a roof with Paul Rudd watching in awe as tree branches with dark maroon berries flew off of the trees in slow motion and dove into the river below. What we at first thought were branches turned out to be birds. What we thought were berries were the birds' eyes. Afterward we stopped by a record store. I bought an album by Sun Ra and Paul bought one by a band I had never heard of before called Dankerotica. The name of the album was "The Life of the Mind"

Monday, July 14, 2014


Today I went to the Bronx zoo with the girls and saw giraffes and monkeys.

On the way there Sofia said, "Broccoli is Spanish for Brooklyn."

She also said Honeywell was her new favorite street. 

Where did you get Honeywell from I asked her?

She didn't know.

But when we got to the zoo I saw, to my great surprise, Honeywell Street, directly perpendicular to the park.

Later I was telling this to my friend Melissa Ivey. I said it was a curious coincidence and what did it mean? Then I remembered that Melissa had just said earlier this afternoon said she really loved honey, really loved a lot of it in her tea. Then it hit me, she loves her "honeywell."

I explained my theory to her about the fourth dimension, the bending of all the angles of space together, all the corners of the cube matched up with the other corners. Like putting a square peg in a round hole.

When I passed Honeywell St. the angles folded together there. I didn't know why until catching this new clue, this new angle, Mel's love of honey. Honey makes you well is one moral of this story. 

Then after leaving the park I realized I left the double stroller behind, packed up the girls and just left it there on the side of the road. When I called the zoo the manager said it was gone. I felt bad about losing the stroller, like somehow I had failed my children.

Later I asked Melissa if she had any idea why I might have forgotten the stroller and she said maybe it went to a family that really needed it. Of course, and this isn't even a stretch to imagine in the Bronx. I felt better about it.

Later that night Mel and I went to see Ron Padgett read at St. Mark's in the Bowery. It was a fantastic reading. But even more fantastic was that afterward Arlo Quint gave me a hard-back copy of Ron's Toujours L'amour AND The Collected Writing of Joe Brainard. What a generous gift. Thank you, Arlo!

Melissa pointed out that maybe the books were somehow in exchange for the stroller. Makes perfect nonsense.

Finally, after the reading, on the way back to Queens we met up with our girl, Amma.

What a ruse!

4D Glasses

So how's this Ernest gem
Falls out of a bar in Brooklyn
Post Robin, tis a dream
In Taymor's midwinter's force.

Spring isn't far enough away
So lets put off sleep until may
Of next time around X 40.

The way the tender dances
When she muddles the fruit
And shakes the cocktail
Is the way to live life
40 drinks in
4D glasses

40 winks

Seeing Stars

I dreamed I was rearranging the stars. For a purpose I can no longer remember. And then thinking they are so far away, and so large, how could I possibly be rearranging them? But I knew I was doing it nonetheless. When I awoke from this dream I thought about it for awhile. Was it about changing my destiny? Or maybe the inability to change one's destiny? I didn't know. And then I remembered the thing about faith the size of a mustard seed being able to move mountains. I've always taken that scripture as a kind of declaration of determination. Like if you have enough faith you can do anything you want to do. But now I hear it in a different way. If you have the faith of a mustard seed you don’t need to do anything at all. Just be the mustard seed. No need to move any mountains around for god’s sake! Let nature take care of it. But then I realized that moving mountains is exactly what a mustard seed does; when the mustard seed pushes up dirt it moves the mountain. Kind of like how mustard on a hotdog can change the whole hocky game. The seed rearranges the stars.

Some Of It All

“Ok, what I was saying was, so my nieces, when they were young, Jamaica, and then Irie as well, and their little brother Dante—we would go on these walks and we would sing... everything that would happen, and they were like, these ‘little musicals’ and I felt like I was living inside a musical at the time. And, I would think, well, this is possible for the future, this is a possible future — everything being musical.

And then, not too long ago, on facebook, Jamaica, who’s like now 22, I think, she... said she watched ‘Grease’ for the first time, and liked the idea of... she said... “What happened to musicals, why don’t we have musicals... more often?” So that led me to remember this time when we were young and... everything was... a musical. And I often think about what it would be like if we were...we were... living inside of music all the time... both... in our movement... and in our... so-called speech, you know, dancing and singing constantly, and, you know, that that’s a possible... that that could »happen. That’s a possible iteration in the future. Although maybe way in the future. Um, for society... but for myself »personally... I think it’s a worthwhile goal... which I think about sometimes when I’m dancing in the morning, like how to extend that dance all day long, and, I haven’t been as musical lately as I used to be... I haven’t had the time, to practice, although I need to get back into it...because I want to... also extend that.

So, that’s just a little riff of of your... um cool info about that tribe [ the Dagara, of Burkina Faso, who have a musical ur-language ], which I didn’t know about, um, and I could definitely see how language would lock you in. I also think about going to see... uh, this musical, not musical...but a motet recently. A 40-person motet. That you walk into this room and there’s 40 speakers and each speaker has, you know, one person’s voice, of the motet so you can walk around and listen to each person’s individual voice, and, I would watch people walk into this room, which is at the cloisters in New York City and... about half the people that walked in would immediately start crying...and just the way that music can just... do that... to you. Amazing.”

Adam DeGraff - transcribed from a voxer by Darin De Stefano 02.23.14 11:11 AM

7 Year Green Pen

I woke up inside my dream this morning while looking at a very green hill of grass. I couldn't believe how real the grass looked in my dreaming mind, couldn't believe it was just a dream. I was wishing for a way to capture it, some way to write it all down and take it into my waking life. A Zach Galafianakis type character popped into the frame and pointed toward the hill. "The pen is on the other side," he said with an impish gleam in his eyes. So I started walking up the hill and, consequently, woke up. Then, during breakfast, Genevieve George gave me a gift for our 7 year anniversary and it was a green pen.

"I don't know why it feels important for everyone to know that it was a 7 year pen - which can write an average of 5.5 feet per day for 7 years before running out of ink!" --Genevieve 


talking to my brother Jeremy last night and the subject of water came up, because he is getting ready to move across from a river. I remembered that his ideal spot as a kid, when he needed to go somewhere beautiful in his mind to meditate, was a river, and now he would be living his dream, in the suburbs of Denver no less.

I told him about how when I was on a 41 day vow of silence I read of a Russian leader of a nomadic tribe who would council his people to submerge themselves in water seven times a day and how they would plan their peregrinations around river and lake crossings as a result. This resonated with me and I have been trying to get in water at least ONCE a day ever since. A shower usually, but I find that in natural bodies of water the vibrations are much stronger. Positive ions or something.

That made me think in turn of the woman I met on a recent tour of Wave Hill Gardens in the Bronx. She touched every tree she passed. I asked her why and she said that ever since she had become a Reiki practitioner she could feel tree energy. As soon as she told me this it resonated and I knew it would effect the rest of my life in much the same way as reading about the Russian saint had. I would touch more trees in the future because of her suggestion.

Then I thought about a show I caught on TV in the hotel room when I went to Myrtle Beach with my in-laws a few months ago. It was called Naturescene and it was just a couple of naturalists walking through the woods and pointing out interesting things about the flora and fauna all around them. I could have watched that show all night. It's been on the air for 32 years in the south it turns out. I found it online.

I fantasized about putting a show together like that for my own surroundings, finding some naturalist guided and walking through Central Park, but maybe bring literature and history into the mix like Dylan did with his satellite radio show. Make the show that I myself would like to watch.

Just then I noticed the shadow of leaves against the trunk of a tree I was passing were a rich dark blue. Then the shadow turned brown-red, then blue again. I realized it was because a traffic light was lighting up the leaves. The dark blue shadows of the leaves against the tree were the beautiful result of the green traffic light magnified through the green leaves.

"One need never leave the confines of New York to get all the greenery one wishes" Frank O'hara

Toto Bien

Frank is reading Sun Ra's The World Is Doomed in the chair next to me. I rib him and point to the white helvetica letters stitched across the avocado green polyester satin vests. Which is once again why I'm not a painter, he says. High above my favorite barber stand the 3 stooges posing proudly in the nastiest golf-wear, circa 1922. Noel Black photo bombs the painting in red underoos, circa 1999. The shrunken futbol field is on TV just below The Stooges and I get momentarily lost in the game. The bigger-than-life-size players. Beethoven's symphony in my blue-tooth gives them a majesty far beyond my own feeble attempts. I shout over the beautiful din. An Angel is born! Shut off mad king Ludvig for a minute just to hear the pounding salsa techno always on the overhead speakers here. Talk about a loss of sadness. "Toto bien?" asks Juan.

The Ornithopter of Abbas Ibn Firna

Following the thread of "ornithopter" on the interwebs I come across a poet named Abbas Ibn Firnas, who invented not only the first recorded ornithopter, but also a water clock, a means of manufacturing colorless glass, various glass planispheres, corrective lenses ("reading stones"), a chain of rings that could be used to simulate the motions of the planets and stars, and a process for cutting rock crystal.

In his house, he built a room in which spectators witnessed stars, clouds, thunder, and lightning, which were produced by mechanisms located in his basement laboratory.

 He also devised "some sort of metronome."