Monday, December 11, 2017

It's Funny, I Write

It's Funny, I Write

For the love of words 

For the first reader

Like, for instance,

"Like Kith to Karen is Mrs. Maisel the Marvelous" I just texted Karen M

like a text inside a textbook example of a textbook about texts might look 

and that all rolled well enough didn't it 

no matter the context 

Oh no, here we go again 

Go slow

You have nothing to say

It's okay

Take the typewriter and go into the basement

Find the crack in the cement 

Go in. Say hi to Larry the roach

Larry said to give the Berrigan brothers his regards

Go into the sewer pipes. Take a wild ride to where? 

Endless cycles of water and earth and sky and shit- 

Water cleans itself out eventually. But it also goes away.

More is coming. That's a good thing, right?

We're just going to have to build a bigger boat.

Drop the mic 

No, pick it up

First you have to pick it up 

Up the mic pick  

Smile, say goodnight 

then you drop the mic 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

little ditty about jack and coke

I don't know why I keep rhythm on this thing
is a line I've used before
before long i'll have to 
jettison it
to Hawaii
the land of sky blue water
or was that Wisconsin?

clever writing's dead
unless it lives forever
in the aesthetic rectory
the sept of revery
where I've been thinking
nothing gets its due
except sorcery and drool

narrative is only as alive
as it is new, and only new
as you haven't yet seen it 
go that way 

Go that way
and you go back 
and forth, 
Like a jedi with a lithp.

Odd anger at O'hara's killer
on Fire Island where he visits 
and consoles himself 
through me

I've got to write it up.

I've got to write it up, the screenplay
sent it to Thurston Moore
have to send it to Ron Padgett. 


Friday, August 4, 2017

Josephine Wang

Josephine Wang

I knew something about you through a gleam in your eye,
A literal gleam in your eye, the kind which says so much with so little,
the same gleam that you had -the only hint on your otherwise inscrutable face-
when you bonked my daugher, your 3 year old great grand daughter, Sofia,
in the head with a big bouncy red ball, 
knocking her off the camera screen,
a scene we've watched over 100 times, 
a hilarious gesture with a hint of the severe, 
but cute somehow, not mean,
something a mother/ or teacher might 
do, one who was sure of her charges,
in control, an iron fist with a soft touch, 
even a caress here and there, 
a lion's roar with well being
the goal, love's dragon
on the wing.  

How else could I know you, who
had been through so much? One way
has been through Wild Swans, a memoir
about 3 generations of Chinese women,
and my shock in finding a culture so different 
from this one, like night from day, so full of hardships 
and horrors, how that must've formed you, and how much
reforming you must've had to do come all the way here.

All told I'd say you escaped to a better place, 
faced a kinder fate. 

Dear Josephine,

You escaped the even worse hardships and horrors of Mao!
And in the process you gained a fantastic son from across the world who shared your name!

But still, not easy, the place from which you came is so far from the ancestors
you worshipped. Hard to imagine what this would be like, 
to think of this family being shut off from you and KungKung 
while you were so young? And before the days of FaceTime too!

You were forced to leave most of the past behind 
for the less certain shores of the future. You learned to "adjust your sails"
as your daughter is fond of saying, (to make "a long story short.")

You once told me something I could never forget;
the reason you only had two children is because 
you only had two hands, and if you had to suddenly flee China, 
you wouldn't have to leave a third child behind. 
That's love, in all it's practical efficiency, 
sacrificing the desire for more children 
so that you could properly take care of the ones you have. 
And it also speaks to the conditions in which you were raised too.
I never heard the story of how you escaped from Maoist China, 
but suffice to say both your children are safe, one in each hand. 
and prosper too, in their own different ways.

You are remembered by the fruits of your love. 
By the fruits of your love you will be remembered. 

This is the other kind of gleam in your eye, the figurative one,
your children, both living beautiful lives of their own, thanks in no small part
to your guidance and care, one hand for each.

And there is also the gleam I see reflected in Genevieve's eyes, 
one I see every day, reflecting, yours, PoPo, like a flame,
and reflecting in your great grandaughters eyes too, like a flame,
fortunate inheritors of your ferocious spirit and self determination. 

And this is how I will remember you, 
the little teacher with the big hand, 
the giant heart, the looming spirit. 
I can see you in the past playing some sport, 
was it hockey? something I would've never imagined, 
circa 1968, the year I was born, and what are you thinking about 
as you play, I wonder, serious as can be, perhaps of your daughter, Ada,
on the brink of leaving for Spain, where little could she have known 
in that uncertain time, she would meet her fortune, 
Joseph of the many colored coat, 
and begin the foundation for her many splendored family
(a future in which I am so happy to have found a supporting role.)

She couldn't have known, she could only keep skating, 
only keep working toward the next goal.  
But from here we can see the victory,
just how grand all those goals would add up to be. 

Good to know you, PoPo. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Here's something I wrote today for my cousin Miracle Ivy Benefiel. 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 hj

Friday, July 21, 2017

Personal Poem (for Chris Sharp)

Personal Poem (for Chris Sharp)

Since you simply forgot to "get in touch" as you said you were going to do, which I will try not to take personally, though it's impossible, I mean not to mind meaning that little, that you would simply forget, when I want, of course, from my own small island of ego, to mean a lot, but will still try to see objectively, as in- everyone has their own life to live, their own bed to make, I instead, on this one very rare night of being sans familia, and being not of the spirit to go out into the city, which I should do, since I can't ever, am instead reading the book I was going to give you tonight as a gift, a book a picked up, like magic, from a book sale in Westport CT last week, because I knew, or at least thought I knew, I would see you this week, and it seemed so perfect, "After Nature" by Sebald, put out in conjunction with the New Museum in 2003, with illustrations by Maurizio Cattelan, Werner Herzog, August Strindberg and dozens of others you would probably recognize but I don't, and was excited to give it to you, though if I had I wouldn't have read it, as I am doing now, having just finished the first of 3 long poems in it, a dizzyingly great one about Matthias Grunewald, and so at least for that reason am glad you forgot, but for all that greatness impressed upon me, would have rather have given the book to you, as it was meant for you, and physical gestures mean more, ultimately, than the mere metaphysical, as seeing a painting in person is better than the in reproduction, ditto music or anything else in this godforsaken digital age. 

There's this thing Sebald does so well, perhaps better than anybody, a kind of lyrical limning of connections flowing so subtly as to seem dreamlike that makes me dream up a new form, which is, indeed, something akin to dreaming, the way dreaming can dispense with narrative structure inside of narrative structure, forever, and it seems to me a poem could be written that way, After Nature, and so I will, in the presence of your absence.  

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

sutra 1 revised

The life of a breath

The subtle air flows
out of your lungs
and then back in
back and forth
in an equilibrium
echoing birth and death
In the small moment
before taking a breath in
there is a flash of joy, a relief
Breathing in you are born again
the world is made new and then
steadily ascends to its climax
Breathing in is like you wake up again
In the suspended moment
before breathing out there is
an equal and opposite joy of relief
Breathing out the world is released
let go of, there is a little sleep,
a small o, death in miniature,
a rest stop.

Friday, June 16, 2017

tonight's song

Tonight's Tribs Song Solo, transcribed...

Jack and Jill went up the hill 
to fetch a pail of water
Jack fell down and broke his crown
and Jill came tumbling after

Jill said Jack be more careful
You coulda broke my neck like that
Jack said I'm sorry sis,
but I was falling fast

and the hill was long 
and the song was wrong
and I got bruises on my scars
and bugs crawling in my ears
and exlamation points all over my fears
and i got little rocks in my eyes
and I got octopi swimming in my big tears
and I got little people in little houses
with little doggies in little dog houses
dying in their make-believe wars

And I got 
I got you 
yes i do

And I got my walking shoes
dippity dippity dippity dang do

I got blood in my veins
I got marrow in my bones
i got a flotilla of 
rolling motor homes 
I got a fiddle full of 
flighty hormones

i got water by the boatload
I got docs by the bay
I got billion dollar bashes
every other damn day

I've got bluecollar salesmen 
breathing down my neck
I've got bottles of tequila
waiting up on deck

i've got a million questions
burning in my maw
I've gotten a million answers
but every one is flawed

I've got one thing more
one thing less
one thing gone
one thing best

I've got something else
Until something else comes along

I've got this here song
and this ear to take it all in

i've got this mouth to sing along
to the music of the spheres

The music
of the spheres 
is here
in your 1-4-5
circular pattern, my dear

i've got a spray-paint spirit-spout
That on the hour sprays verses
on the sides of hearses

What else?

I'm out

lessons for dummies

the mind is like the wind

Will you let your error-filled limited-perception wind-like mind lead you -all seeing you, core of consciousness you-or will you =oversoul you- lead your mind, your mighty but limited unit of perception?

You are in everything, the trees, the rivers, even the rocks. And everything is in turn in you. The atoms you breath are the atoms I breath, we share blood, we share air. 

How cool is the air?

But your particular perception, as highly valuable as it is, is still limited. So learn the dance learn to bring your limited perception to the universe and not be limited by your perception of the universe. That's too clever to follow.

Just listen.

I'm absconding. With

The Tennis Oaf

Today on the court I went from oaf

to acrobat in one set. One hour.

How? I put all of my breath into it.

I put everything I had into every shot.

I was trying to balance everything with nothing.

It means everything as it is happening

and nothing when its over

Those lines either

bear repeating

Or saying never

Love Love




The Tennis Court Oaf

Today on the court he went from clumsy gat
to cross-court acrobat in one quick set

How? He put all of his breath into it
He put everything he had into every shot

He was trying to balance everything with nothing

It means everything as it is happening
and nothing when its over

Those lines either
bear repeating often

or saying never

Love Love



Hi Miss Chance

Hi Miss Chance

Is there still a chance to come in and teach the kids the dance of the minds of trance?

Monday, May 22, 2017

sutra 1

Sutra 1

Breath flows in to out,
out to in, in to out,
coming in and out, you
feel the air pouring
out and then in
subtle particles of air
sucked into your lungs
exhaled from your lungs
back and forth
in an equilibrium
echoing eternity

In the space of the small moment
before taking a breath
there is a flash of joy.

Breathing in, the world is renewed,
is made new and then steadily ascends to a climax.

Breathing in is like you wake up again.

In the space of the moment
before breathing out
there is an opposite joy.

Breathing out the world is released,
let go of, there is a little sleep,
a small o, death in miniature,
a rest stop.

The eternal dance between in and out
twisted like snakes of time
in the life of the breather,
between breather and life.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

star service

Back in the 90’s very young kids were making very big money on underground raves and designer drugs. The raves were off the hook, thousands of people in factory warehouses the size of football fields, with chill rooms, black lights, trippy visuals, go go dancers, and a market driven proliferation of the drug ecstasy, or simply, X. These were the days before “rolling” was a term. “Ex-ing” was still de rigeur term in Seattle. The kids that threw the raves were rich kids who got even richer selling drugs to other rich kids and leveraging the drug money to throw massive underground raves. Because of the questionable nature of these massive events, they were rarely, if barely, legal. All the financials were off the books, for obvious drug related reasons. Therefore there were elaborate systems for getting to these raves, meant to elude any heat. First of all advertising was mostly through hand delivered flyers. The flyers were often ornate masterpieces of design. On the flyer would be a phone number. On the day of the rave you would call the number to find out the “secret” location. Often that number would refer you to another number. In those days this ruse seemed to be enough to deter police intervention. And when the parties were successful these guys would clear $100 grand.

The guys that threw these parties would sometimes come in from out of state, LA or NY. When that happened they would often rent out suites at the Alexis Hotel, the small upscale boutique hotel on the Seattle waterfront where I worked at from 1992 to 93. The entourage would typically roll in around Wednesday and party every night. They would throw their big warehouse party on Saturday night and then stay on at the hotel a few days afterward. After a successful rave they would usually throw massive parties in the suite. We loved giving room service to that clientele. They tipped outrageously and the girls were beautiful (incredible/ not to be believed), not to mention dressed to kill. The free ecstasy was a nice tip too.

After one especially successful party the producers ordered about $10,000 of room service from me, which equated to over $2K in gratuity. This party turned out to be great because they invited me and a few of the bellmen to join them after our shift was over.

One of the bellmen, Steve, was my closest friend at the Alexis. His dad was a local Fire Chief, so during the days Steve would fight fires as a junior firefighter, with his dad, and at night he would work at the Alexis. Steve milked that bellman job even more than I milked my roomservice job. It was a sweet set up.

Steve was mostly an upstanding citizen, even, at times, a brave and heroic one. One time he talked a major 80’s rock star from shooting himself in the head. The rock star was suicidal because he had cheated on his wife with one of the hostesses from our 5 star restaurant, The Painted Table, in the lobby of the hotel.

Steve said he was in the middle of talking the gun away from the rock star when the phone rang. The rocker ran to the phone, ripped it out of its socket and tossed it out the window. It landed on our chef’s car in the lot below. As soon as the phone hit the car below another phone rang. It turned out to be the second phone in the adjoining room. Steve raced the rocker to the phone and held it behind his back so the guy couldn’t throw it. The rest of the band sent him a $1K tip a week later in gratitude.

That’s the kind of guy Steve was. But Steve was also the kind of guy who would do sneaky shit too. For about 3 months of my year at the Alexis we had the cast and crew of The Little Buddha staying at the hotel. Chris Isaacs, Bridget Fonda and best of all, Bernardo Bertolucci. Keanu Reeves, the Buddha, was staying with a friend in town. The producer of the movie, Jeremy Thomas, was staying at the hotel too. Jeremy Thomas is a legend. Check out this pedigree. He’s produced films directed by Nicolas Roeg,  Nicolas Roeg: Bad Timing, Eureka and Insignificance, Julien Temple's The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle, Nagisa Oshima's Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, and The Hit directed by Stephen Frears, Bernardo Bertolucci’s epic, The Last Emperor, Bertolucci's film of Paul Bowles’ The Sheltering Sky, David Cronenberg’s films of William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, J. G. Ballard’s Crash and Christopher Hampton's A Dangerous Method. Heady stuff

Anyway, Jeremy had a block of the highest caliber weed I had ever seen, up to that point in my life, in his hotel room, kept under a glass cake dome. So Steve, and some of the other bellmen, would sneak into his room and smuggle out small pieces of the “cake” now and then for the staff. And that is what Steve brought to the raver’s party that night and it made me see pastel spirits and plaid faces.

I also dropped some acid that night. I remember taking it with the ecstasy, after I got off work at 2am. We called ex and acid together a “dose equis” back then, or sometimes a “candy flip.” That was the only time I ever tried that combination and it was probably a bit much. I don’t remember much of that night. Copious amounts of Jeremy Thomas’s weed and Veuve Cliquot were on hand too which didn’t help the memory.

I do remember at one point being curled up on a couch with three or four women and maybe one other guy and we were cuddling and slithering around the couch while watching the TV, out of our minds. We were watching a late night rerun of 90210, an episode in season 2 called "U4EA". In this episode Brandon takes another walk on the wild side when his devilish girlfriend, Emily Valentine, slips a hallucinogenic drug in his drink at an underground club.  

Then my memory goes black, until I woke up in the suite at about 5pm the next day, still “tripping balls” and with two minutes to get my uniform in order and go downstairs to work.

The first order I got was for two omelets, croissants and orange juice, strawberries and vanilla bean ice cream. I remember the table presentation was very imaginative. Let’s just say the strawberries were legally married to the emperor of ice cream in a mock ceremony.

I took the tray up the room and to my surprise Brandon, from zip code 90201, opened the door, with bed-head, hangover eyes and stubble. Because of my delirious state I thought for a second that I had fallen into television life.

I stared for a minute until Brandon raised his famous eyebrows as if to say, “dude!”, and I snapped out of it. Suddenly this was not Brandon, but Jason Priestley and he was small and there were bags under his eyes and his breath was off. He also didn’t want me to come in the room because he had a girl in there. I could see her in bed behind Jason just well enough to see that the girl was Christine Elise, aka Emily Valentine!

Much later that same evening, after I had returned to a near state of normal, I got an order from Bernardo Bertolucci himself. Bertolucci was a hero of mine. I had studied his films in school and even written a paper about his film The Conformist for Marxist critic Kaja Silverman. So I was thrilled to be serving him a late night shrimp cocktail.

Bertolucci didn’t disappoint. The great artists are often great even in their most mundane moments.

I rang the bell and heard an Italian voice say, “the door is open.” I opened the door and Bertolucci was sitting at his table in his bathrobe, smoking a joint, undoubtedly from Jeremy Thomas, staring into space. He seemed to be listening to the hauntingly beautiful violin music coming from his stereo. It was as if he were in a dream.

As I set the tray down and handed him the check. I told him I thought the music was beautiful. Without saying a word Bertolucci stood up and walked toward the stereo. He stopped the CD. The sudden loss of music startled me, the silence. He ejected the CD, put it in the case and handed it to me. It was Arvo Part’s Requiem. I took note and then handed the CD back to him. He gestured for me to keep it. That was one of the best gifts I’ve ever been given, even better than the windfall from the night before.   

Monday, May 1, 2017

poem for Dante grown up

Let the rich die a million deaths forever

Let the poor live one truly beautiful moment

Inside you will find a dowager stripped bare and held dear

Inside you will find a body alive and warm and without fear

They will gag you but I will be your mouth

Like Jeff Magnum is Anne Frank

reborn in the Neutral Milk Hotel

Moving the muscles of her mouth

screaming in effervescent meaning

an impossibly beautiful descending melody

Ode to Fortitude


I cleared my mind to write a poem last night to read today at the Long Island City Landing. The first word that came to me when I blanked out was fortitude. For years that's been the first word to appear when I clear my head to write. So I wrote a poem spinning off the sound of the word and read it this afternoon in heavy wind with the City skyline behind me.

Ode to Fortitude

Fortitude for years!
forty years of fortitude.
In Hamlet Fortinbras says,
"Go softly on."
go softly on, dude
what else is there?

Fortitude for forty year old virgins
forty winks followed by
forty days of the flood
40 days of the flood
followed by 40 days in the desert
forty days flew out the window

It was my first solid
word: Fortitude
whenever I shut my eyes
and let a word come to me
its always "fortitude"
sometimes it comes out as "fortified"
like in a cereal commercial
fortified with essential minerals and vitamins
fortified with the essential

The onomatopoeia of the word
those fricatives
like little sonic word forts
the ramparts of verbal attitude

fortified like a 45
put on a 45
like a record baby
right right
round round
or a gun
pull out a 45
A president, #45
unfortified unfortunately
forcing the feds
to forge ahead with
a dirty plan
in Florida
a Florida-fide misfortune
knight to bishop, check

what a night in Florida meant
to Elizabeth Bishop, check mate
Florida like the palm
at the end of Wallace Stevens' mind
Stevens never made it there
but he knew it was the final embellishment
"The thing is, America's heritage
is founded on transcendentalism,
so it makes sense that we cannot reach
what is evermore about to be anyway.
'The final embellishment'
a'saith Wallace Stevens,"
A'saith my friend Emord.

Make a fort in your living room
out of couch cushions
over 40 years ago
put a 45 on the turntable
a rousing, hair-raising rendition
of 16 tons by Tennessee Ernie Ford

Making a fort at the beach
Against the wind
fourteen years ago
drinking a 40 in the hood
confiding in a friend
with nothing left to hide
thinking hard about food
turn flour into bread
bread into roses

Then there's the Ford you drove
four to the floor
a Ford Crown Vic was your ride
over the hills of San Francisco
and back through the back woods
of Joplin MO
in your grandfather's Ford
going all the way back to the first man, Adam
in the first automobile, a Ford
a Ford on either side
like Ford Maddox Ford

There's the fjords fortifying Norway
jutting up from the depths of the sea
into sheer mountain sides
like Karl Ove Knausgaard
jutting up from Norway as a force
in the field of literature
A force field of attitude
A fortitude of solace
like Superman in the fortress of solitude.
the fortitude of solace
inside the fortress of solitude
fortified with solace inside forty years now
of Garcia Marquez's 100 years of solitude

Over forty years old
and you're already an old dude
Forty more and you're worm food
Fortifying the worms
food for the next generation of food

Forty quaaludes and finally

FIght against the flood
and stand on higher ground
for four or five minutes with gratitude
fighting against the flood
until the flood overtakes the flight
the flood overtakes the floodlights
the fortitude to stand against the tide
until the next generation
can take over the hood
like a blood infusion
the next generation
fortified with my blood

Then, as if on cue
this very morning
the pope appeared
in a Ted Talk and said
Tenderness is not weakness
It is fortitude

Go softly on, dude