Wednesday, June 29, 2011

…I have a lot of things up:
--"Motion Sickness" @ Wonderfort
--"Punctured" @ Free Range
--"Night Swimming @ Riverbabble
--"Naked" @ Atticus Review
--Three new poems, "Under/Slick/Remnants/Keep" @ The Stream Press
--Eigtheen new poems, "Little Boy Lost" and others are East Side Poetry
All are also here under "Words In Print."

...I just wrote this.


Mother is talking to Dad and he is not listening even though he nods and tamps out his cigarette and lights a fresh one, shooting new gray smoke over his shoulder like fire extinguisher spray.
My brothers are hiding in caves.
No one has caught a fish yet.
“Why do you always have to ruin everything?” she asks him but he doesn’t hear because he’s not listening, and so he says back, “That’s good.”
There is a tattoo of his name on his arm, right on the bicep. He said he got it in prison but I don’t believe him, even though the letters are loopy, crude and sad-looking.
She says, “Even out here, you snore.”
Once, she brought home a professional wrestler and he lived in our house for a week while my father was out of town fixing combines and broke-down Peterbuilts. At first I liked the wrestler with his long locks the color of just made popcorn. Then, after a while, I didn’t. I didn’t like him at all.
I was not so quick then.
I am still not.
But presently, in this scene, I am eleven and we are somewhere outside of Liberty Lake and later on I will think what an interesting name that is for a body of water, ripe with symbolism or potential foreshadow, but for now--because I am eleven and sad and alone despite being on this trip with my family, because I am eleven I am thinking nothing—I don’t get sidetracked. I am eavesdropping not to learn anything, because I know all the horrors already, but I am listening in just because I am bored and do not like fishing or camping or playing Hide N Seek on the craggy hillside where my brothers would likely pull out their pellet guns and shoot me should I try to escape.
Mother sights me, squinting as a frig of cigarette smoke bites her eye. Her white glasses have pointed tips. Her hair is fake fawn, a “fall” it’s called, a fancy name for a wig.
Her bathing suit is two pieces with a pink pattern even though the flowers are gladiolas. One of the flowers winks at me. Another sticks out its tongue. Gladiolas are like a lot of people I know who are fond of subtle tortures.
Mother was pretty once. I saw. I saw a picture of her from a beauty pageant. She was thin with white skin and a perfect smile that must have taken her a long time to make.
“Why are you always so gloomy?” she asks me.
The easy questions are the ones I never answer. That’s why teachers have a hard time with me. Sometimes I take the words in their sentence apart and shuffle them. Reordering is fun and full of possibilities.
Dad sucks a swig of Old Milwaukee. It is his last drink of beer until he opens a new can and the spray spits down his naked knee.
He throws pebbles at me, then gets bigger rocks and aims for my feet. “Dance,” he says. “Go ahead and dance.”
It’s not so bad, I think. I can dance. Camping is silly, but even stupid things can be fun. Tonight the sun will go down again. I’ll either have dreams or I won’t. There are so many different ways to be a family.

Monday, June 27, 2011


…Sometimes it’s hard to get out.
To get out of this hole, this trapdoor I’ve fell through.
Oh, sure, I can see the sun hanging up there in a crack through the wood splinters that caught on my pant leg when I fell through.
I can see it, but what to do about my predicament?
And I can see something shifting back and forth up there, probably limbs of a tree or maybe they’re shadows, kids jump roping or a panhandler rocking like a pendulum to keep time or keep from going mad, who knows?
Last night I dreamt I was stuck and then this morning when I woke I learned I really was stuck. The horror of it shocked me.
My dream was one of those awful black things that holds you close to its chest so that you have no choice but to take in the sour odor of its sweaty skin. But I thought to myself—Easy. Relax. It’s okay. When I wake up, I’ll get the real world back and this dream won’t have happened and I’ll feel stupid for being afraid, you silly scaredy cat.
Yet the dream-the nightmare-the thing that happened to me in the middle of night really was real, and so here I am now, wedged in a dark place surrounded by nothing but black space save for the freedom that’s up there, overhead, out of my reach, mockingly, berating me with all its regal, open-air liberty.
When you’re trapped like I am you have a lot of time to think about the things you’d do if you were free to roam wherever you wanted.
You make lists in your head. You think of people to thank, people to beg forgiveness from.
You write songs in your head and forget them five minutes later. Your fingernails get long and your whiskers curl into themselves and you probably start to smell a little, of course you do, let’s be honest about it, but it’s all right because no one notices, there’s no one else there, it’s just you in that pit after all.
You think about unsolvable riddles. With equal gusto, you think about perishing and living.
You realize there is a lot more you want to accomplish. You think: I could have been a better lover to my wife. I could have done this. I might have said that. I should have danced more.
After a while you start to hallucinate.
You’re thin and dizzy and light, almost a fracture of radiance itself, and so you send yourself in orbit, not fiercely so, but as if you’re a javelin some child has decided to chuck over a fence, and then you slither through those cracked floorboards that were once your ceiling, you go right though the trapdoor and out and you land on solid ground and there’s a big ass sun waiting for you, bloated and beautiful, arms at its side, hands on hips like an expectant mother. The sun shakes its head in mock disgust. She claps her hands. Breaks out grinning, says, “What took you so long?

Saturday, June 25, 2011


…I have a new story, "Bleeding Madras" up at Beat the Dust and also here under "Words in Print."
If you happen to click on the story, at the end (it's a short piece) you'll find a video of Ryan Adams singing, "Sylvia Plath." It's worth listening to.

…Lately the money's just been pouring in. It's disgusting.
It's disgusting how rich I am.
I'm loaded. All I have to do is get the checks and cash them.
Every day I win the lottery. It's true. Don’t believe me? Just have a peek at my In Box.
Usually I win several lotteries. Every day I do. I win millions of dollars or pounds or rupees. The announcements about my winning come via email. The messages are usually replete with many misspellings and uses of exclamation marks !!!! sometimes!! in mid-sentence !!! or mid-wo!!rd.
The matter of my reply is always paramount and urgent.
Similarly, every day some person from a foreign country kindly wants to give me upwards of 15 million (US equivalent dollars). Even though this gent or gal has never met me, they "trust me" for obscure reasons.
To claim the money, all I have to do is forward my banking info and social security number!!
So easy!!!
No wonder there are all these millionaires next door.

…Tomorrow is my birthday. My wife and kids are taking me out to celebrate today.
There was a time when I hated my birthday because it signified getting old and I have this phobia (toss it on the pile with all the others) about getting old and, well, not being young anymore.
I think it stems from growing up shy and staying shy up until age 17, feeling like I missed out on things.
I think it stems from that greedy chromosome in me that does not want to age, does not want to die, that wants to live forever young.
But now I am a lot better at birthdays. I'm actually into celebrating them. I've got a few gray hairs (well, maybe more than a few) and I say to them, "Hi there. Welcome to the club. I hope you like it here. Sometimes we have lots of fun." I think, at least I have hair.
So what I'm trying to tell you is I'm just counting my blessings, because, well, I have a lot of them to acknowledge and appreciate.

…At the Iowa Workshop during a free write we were given the starter “There are three of me” and told to write something, so this is what I wrote:


There are three of me, each one reaching out to the next, my blood in my brother’s blood, triplets looking for a way to capsize our identity, strip off the bark of our being and find liberation even though nature won’t allow it and fate can’t abide it, which is why I make peace with the fact that one of us stole, one of us has killed and all of us are liars, we three the same sinning suitors, triplets, identical yet separate, like slices from a loaf, felons and oafs, husbands and cheats and broken men who, in the end, get swallowed up by an unforgiving earth, tagged guilty and finally freed, yet, damn it, buried in the same brown casket.

…I sent “3” off to Monkeybicycle for their one word stories. Hopefully they’ll take it. I like Monkeybicycle and hope they like me back.

…I also like these ditties on a Saturday, right as the weekend is starting to bloom, and I hope you do, too:

--"The minute I heard my first love story I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was. Lovers don't finally meet somewhere. They're in each other all along." Rumi

--"The moon has nothing to be sad about." Sylvia Plath

--"The snow has no voice." Sylvia Plath

--"All books are either dreams or swords." Amy Lowell

--"The world ignores us for years, then taps us on the shoulder with a birde or a blade." Doug Goetsch

--"There is a sense of exhilaration that comes from facing head-on the hard truths and saying, "We will never give up. We will never capitulate. It might take a long time, but we will find a way to prevail." Jim Collins

--"Wind, flag, mind moves.
The same understanding.
When the mouth opens
All are wrong." Mumon

Thursday, June 23, 2011


…I have new things:
three poems--"Jaguar," "Homeschooled," and "Nostalgia" up at The Stream Press.
and a story, "Night Swimming" up at Riverbabble.
They're all also here under "Words In Print."

…I often wonder if there is anyone else alive who might be as insecure as me.
I doubt it. I doubt that there is such a person.
Thank God I have days like the last few where bushels of acceptances come in, many with very flattering commentary. They give me a shove, a kick in the ass and slap on the face, a quit-whining-and-get with it push.

…On the plane back from Iowa I read “Ariel” by Sylvia Plath. I’ve read quite a few poets (not as many as academia types) and I will now put Sylvia down as my favorite.
She is daunting, haunting, a writer that wants to suture your wound with barbwire.
She wrote all of the poems in “Ariel” in a single month, shortly before her suicide. Many of the sentences bear the black pain of her depression and the struggles she was having.

…I also finished two volumes of poetry by Louise Gluck, former Pulitzer Prize winner. Her writing is lovely, not tricky at all, which many surprising hooks and last line that land perfectly.

…I'm presently at this very moment listening to Eddie Vetter's new disc, "Ukulele Songs," which, as the name implies, all feature ukulele strumming. It's a pretty interesting record, pairing his deep, brassy voice and angst over the pineapple sweet plucking of that most tiny instrument. It'll take a few more listens to get a real feel.
…Bright Eyes' new disc is wonderful and must more poppy and accessible than his/their other stuff. Plus there is an untagged bonus of 14 songs at the end.

…These are some things I like on a Thursday, from Sylvia, and I hope you like them, also:

--"I can never read all the books I wand and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life. And I am horribly limited."
--"And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."
--"Kiss me and you'll know how important I am."
--"Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one's head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no tomorrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace." (from “The Bell Jar.”)
--"If you expect nothing from anybody, you’re never disappointed."
--"I have the choice of being constantly active and happy or introspectively passive and sad. Or I can go mad by ricocheting in between."
--"I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am."

Monday, June 20, 2011


…I have a couple of new things up:
“The Long Way Home” @ POSTCARD SHORTS
Both are also here under "Words In Print."

…Iowa is over. The workshop was a lot of fun.
In my class, there were a motley crew of eleven: a PhD from the Mayo Clinic; criminal defense attorney; nurse; political staffer for a Wash. DC politician; ad agency owner; hospital chaplain; venture capitalist; and me.
We did a lot of free writing. We would get a first sentence and have to write furiously—whatever came into our minds—for ten minutes.
We would get a solitary word—“sing,” for instance—and have to do the same.
We’d get a starter sentence and then our instructor would be at the black board writing, “Now include Abraham Lincoln in your story.” Then, “add a south American country.” “Put in barnyard smells.” “Add, ‘And that’s when I finally knew…’” etc.
Needless to say, we did a boatload of writing.

…On Saturday night, I read at a small bookstore downtown. I actually read twice, two pieces of free write I’d done in Iowa.
My pieces were pretty decent and I read okay. I got very nice feedback, which I think was genuine.
I just have to stop getting nervous when I read. With all my speaking experience, there’s no excuse for me being nervous.

…Our instructor was a very passionate, animated guy named Doug Goetsch. He’s published many volumes of poetry.
A few of us had dinner with him last night. He’s a New Yorker. Although he looks nothing like George, his mannerism, hand gestures, smile, loud speaking voice when he’s excited, and his laughter, are all identical to George Costanza from Seinfeld. Really.
Doug is a great guy and a wonderful teacher. He kept saying, “Just write the best piece you can write. Nothing else matters.”
He’d said, “Do you think Herman Melville cared if Moby Dick won some award or contest? Do you like he’d not have written Moby Dick if he didn’t think he could get an agent or make any money out of the deal?”
Here are some gems from Doug, many pertaining to writing, but all pretty much about life:

--What makes you uncomfortable is what you should pay attention to.
--The goal is to break your own heart.
--Writing has to try to capture the absolute chaos of what it means to be alive.
--If somebody says something that resonates with you, that’s you talking to yourself through them.
--Good teachers remind you of your own intelligence.
---We have to remember why we do this, why we wanted to do this in the first place.
-The brain is brilliant; this is why witnesses cannot be trusted.
--You have to slip the noose of perfectionism to be good. Perfectionism is nothing but the fear of not being good.
--A novelist knows that the world is scared—all of it.
--When I’m in the hands of Alice Munro, it’s a good day. I think: hell, I’m reading Alice Munro!
-Stories need to be complicated, or they don’t feel like life. They have to be random and inevitable.
--Writers have PhD’s in complaining.

Friday, June 17, 2011


…Since I’ve been in Iowa (a day and a half) I’ve had two poems and two stories accepted.
That puts me over 450 published pieces in the last two years. My goal is 500 by year end.
My goal is also to secure an agent for my novel already written, and to finish two others, which I’ve outlined. I best get my butt hauling soon.

…On the plane here, I read three books (with a much-delayed layover in Houston, I had massive time to read, plus two of the volumes were thin.):
--“How to Treat a Sick Animal,” by Timothy Gager. Flash and micro fiction. Very quirky, well-written, vague and sometimes very clever work.
--“Ethics of Sleep” by Bernadette Mayer. Great title. The writing, not so much. A friend recommended her to me, and Mayer is hailed by many as a groundbreaking genius, but I don't see it. Her sentences are all broken up and nonsensical. For example: “Typing the thing that got a whole in yours yet.”
--and, “Walking Light,” by Stephen Dunn, which is genius instruction on how to write poetry, along with some life lesson vignettes from the author, and many great quotes.

…People in Iowa are-(surprise)-really hip, chic almost.
And very young.
Thin, too, with clear skin.
Seriously. They are. In Iowa, they are that way.
This campus (U of I), where Carver and Vonnegut taught, is sprawling and audacious and a mix of modern and roman classical architecture.
Then there’s a little carless strip with scores of cool restaurants and bars and water fountains and sculpture, jazz bands playing, someone selling gelatto and fried chicken.
In Iowa. Yep. Who knew?

…Poetry has been dripping out of me lately like a nose bleed that’s extended to my pores.
Here’s my first Workshop poem, written for my wife.

IOWA Heart

Like a pornographer
or slave trader
looking to make a purchase,
we study the heart,
that very human heart.

To me now,
what is presented feels
congealed, cold as marble,
maybe even callused.
Yes, that. Yes.

Some sharp girl wants to squeeze it
and does.
“See?” she says, pointing at the aorta leaking
thick black oil.
A boy (they are all so young here)
leaps forth and stomps on it,
catching air as he bounces.
“Wheeee!” he sings.
Yes, we.
The others rise from their seats,
applauding hardily and happily,
like a mob of stoned do-gooders.
Even the instructors grin
as each massages their bearded chins.

“But look!” I shout from the back row.
The crowd gasps, staggers even.

My heart is in my hands,
bleeding ripe cherry-red,
bleeding but breathing,
beating, yes, still throbbing alive
for you
my love.

Here are some excerpts I like on a Friday night in Iowa, from Louse Gluck’s fine collection, “Vita Nova”:

--“Even before I was touched, I belonged to you;
you had only to look at me.”
--“I hate when your own dreams treat you as stupid.”
--“Just because the past is long than the future doesn’t mean there is no future.”
--“Deep serenity flooded through me, such as you feel when the world can’t touch you.”
--“Everyone afraid of love is afraid of death.”
--“I dreamed I was kidnapped. That means
I knew what love was,
How it places the soul in jeopardy.
I knew. I substituted my body.”

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


--This morning I spoke to a group of 150 surgeons and nurses and other folk. It was fun. I think I was funny. They laughed a lot. Maybe they were laughing at me or maybe they thought I was very silly. In any event, it went well and I think they thought it worthwhile.

…I saw “Midnight In Paris” the other day and rather liked it a lot. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a Woody Allen film. This was very clever. Owen Wilson’s character goes back in time and meets Hemmingway, Salvador Dali, Picasso, Monet, Matisse, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein (played by Cathy Bates), Mondrian…
The cinematography felt antiqued, like one of those cobalt blue doors that has nicks and splotches where the paint has chipped off.
Go see Woody’s latest so that we’ll have something to watch other than animation and Marvel Comic movies.

…On PBS last night they were playing a reel of "Les Miserables." It gave me chills. It always does. When Fantine sings "A little fall of rain," my skin prickles.
Nick Jonas sang a few numbers. He was quite good! Really.
The first time I saw "Les Miserables" was in London. I'd sobbed three times before intermission. The second time I saw it was at the Kennedy Center in DC and it leveled me the same as the first time.

…I have been listening to Joanna Newsome. You should, too. There's no one on the planet like her. Go to youtube and watch/listen to “Peach Plum Pear.”

…And I have been watching "So You Think You Can Dance," which is the lamest name of any television show ever, but it's really good. The dancing is so varied but sharp and breath-taking. Some of these people are like sculpture, like rolling waves of controlled water. Physical poetry. One krunk dancer said, "I write music with my body." That's pretty accurate.

…I am gearing up for my trip to Iowa for a writer's workshop. I think this is going to be a grand adventure. I think I am going to learn a lot, make new friends and be inspired. I need something to kick me in the ass and this should do the trick.

…Yesterday I wrote a story about a boy who watches his mother stick pins into herself, over every inch of her body. It sounds twisted, but I actually think it turned out well, this story called, “Punctured.” There’s symbolism in it as the wife’s husband is a tailor.
Often times when I try to describe me writing to other people they look at me a bit skeptical, with a nervous stare in their eye.

…I like these things on a Wednesday:

--“Today was a bad day. We lean on each other when things are bad.” Grey’s Anatomy

--"I think we're just gonna to have to be secretly in love with each other and leave it at that, Richie."

--"I did not write and I did not write, and still it was all on the way to being a writer." Sven Birkerts

--"I do not think there is a woman in whom the roots of passion shoot deeper than in me. The two elements of passion are rapture and melancholy. It seems to me, I am that incarnate. I am and have always been intense. The only feeling I have never experienced is indifference. Only indifference. Everything else I have either felt or imagined so vividly as to make it real to me." - Edna St. Vincent Millay

--"I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger as reason. I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous has power over me. Anything I cannot transform into something marvelous, I let go. Reality doesn't impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls." - Anaïs Nin

--"What matters most is how well you walk through the fire." - Charles Bukowski

--"It is impossible to discourage the real writers - they don't give a damn what you say, they're going to write." Sinclair Lewis

--"As soon go kindle fire with snow, as seek to quench the fire of love with words." William Shakespeare

Monday, June 13, 2011


Because it’s spitting rain at an awful angle, the wind spraying my window with froth and foam.
Because it’s sunny with gold glare blaring so bright that the light’s rays scald my skin my hair my lips the tips of my fingers.
Because I am surrounded by waves and water and raucous wind working against the water subversively yet openly where any person with an attention span can see it.
Because I am surrounded by nothing, nothing at all, not trees or books or carpet paint drywall wood stairs earth or even space.
Because I am thin and want to be thinner.
Because I have been trying to build some sort of definition in my chest in my brain in my psyche about what it means to be me what it means to have a purpose what that purpose might be and why it is in any way meaningful or worthwhile.
Because it sometimes hails hard out here and I love the rumble sound of it the billion marble particles dancing off the roof.
Because the evergreens wear the wind in their wide sleeves, roaring like a prehistoric symphony.
Because the MoMA exists and The Met and The Westside Tavern and cabs and SOHO.
Because there are small towns and middletowns and every kind of place where a person might sip coffee while seated on a bench in front of a picture window watching people pass by.
Because children sometimes come in threes or twos or not at all but there is just the thought of them running up and hugging my knees, looking glad and familiar.
Because toast can be buttered or dry or torn in hunks and dipped into pools of egg yolk or slathered with whatever condiment a person chooses.
Because art has a pulse and lungs and can throb in white green red slices of square screens even when no one’s watching.
Because no one has a map for this, no prescription, no app or Google Maps, no history lesson to learn from.
Because failure is an inevitable part of the truth and truth is always busted-up, tattered and well-worn if it’s really the real thing at all.
Because faith is belief without evidence and sometimes, often, hope is all we have.
Because there’s no going back.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


…My room smells clean, like chrome, Azzaro Chrome. I have peeled a scent strip and now the office is ripe with slick citrus—green apple, pear and maybe mint, basil, too.
That’s a trick I have; ripping the fragrance ads from magazines and keeping them in a folder by my desk and opening one now and then when I want to give my nostrils a fun surprise.
Do you like surprises?
I only like good ones.

…In case you don’t recognize the image above, it’s from “Clueless,” a guilty pleasure of mine. I haven’t seen it in years, yet I can still recite most of the lines. Paul Rudd's character in that scene actually says, "Come on, you know you're beautiful." It's quite cute.

I’m listening to Keane right now. The lead singer’s voice reminds of a vat of caramel.
Before Keane I was listening to:
Al Green
Third Eye Blind
Vendetta Red
Veruka Salt
Wiz Kalifa
Sugar Loaf
Joy Division

…I finished William Carlos Williams’ entire body of work. I have to say many of his poems dragged. They were several bright spots, but many heavy, chain-dragging moments.

…I got in the mail three books--"Room" by Emma Donoghue, "Long Drive Home," Will Alison and "The Goon Squad" by Jennifer Egan, which I lost somewhere in NY.

…I’m reading Lidia Yuknavitch’s memoir, “The Chronology of Water.” I heard her read from it the other night. I was somewhat spellbound by her. She was shy and awkward, wore a flouncy tree-hugger dress, kept talking about having to pee her pants, but she read wonderfully and her words—oh, her words! They ripped my heart out was serrated fingernails. Here’s what best-selling novelist Chelsea Cain has to say about first hearing Lidia read: “They say that alcoholics remember their first drink, that lightening feeling in your body that says yes-yes-let’s-feel-this-way-all-the-time, well, I will always remember the first time I heard Lidia Yuknavitch read. I thought, this is how writing is supposed to be. I thought, man oh man, she’s good. I thought. I want that. Literally, I wanted that chapter…”
I know I brag about a lot of writers, but holy hell, if you could simply read her first paragraph you probably be shuddering like I was.

…I want to be water, too. Any type. I would be pee, white urine or yellow. I would be salt water, briny and think or seltzer, carbonated and clear. I want to float and roam.
I want to move endlessly, without care.
I’d like the wind to decide, to take me there.
I want waves to wash over my mane, my back and shoulders.
If there should be sea creatures swimming in my belly, then I want them exactly there.
When I was young, I wished I could fly. Now all I want is to be water.
I want it more than I can say.

Here are some good things for a Saturday:

"Tell all the Truth but tell it slant." Emily Dickinson
"Happiness? Happiness makes crappy stories." Ken Kesey
"Here lies one whose name was writ in water." John Keats
"I am so clever that sometimes I don't understand a single word of what I am saying." Oscar Wilde
"If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster." Isaac Asimov

"Writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself." Franz Kafka

Thursday, June 9, 2011


…Last night I saw "The Airborne Toxic Event." (That's them in the photo.) They were spectacular! Really, they were.
The lead singer moshed twice all the while singing full-boar into a microphone. He fell twice. He was lifted back up. He said he thought maybe his nose got broken.
He climbed some scaffolding and sang from the ceiling.
Anna, the smoldering violinist, moshed, too, while swinging a tambourine.
The band played for two hours. Played hard. They tore it up.
"Mona," a rocking band from Nashville opened the show. They were so good. The lead singer looked like Joe Strummer. The drummer pretty much made love to his cymbals and kit. The bassist shredded.
Fun times at Ridgemont High.

…Yesterday I finished "In the Broken Things," by Gillian Prew. Her poetry is staggering, it's so good. Her language becomes an icicle that breaks free from an overhanging door eave and slays your heart. Here:

"Even men
need love
though sex is important, and reason often
redundant. Women

's hearts are soft as their deliquescing breasts

…two premises
with a watertight conclusion

inspired by gravity, if
external forces are like poetry, or
something more sinister."

And this:

"I collect weather. I have a tray of rainbows
but they are dead. I live in fog.

Keep your egos. You will need them
but always treat them with a little contempt

they are used to it.

Yes, there is the sun


Yes, she is good.

…Consequently I took a break from the novel (not a good habit) and wrote poetry all day.
All day.
Tubs of words I wrote. Sewed them together. Broke them off. Bit some in two. Spat out others. Gargled some. Regurgitated others. Cut and pasted and ground under my shoe more than one or two. It was a lot of fun. It was a lot of writing about hard things with jagged edges.

…It feels good to do this, the writing down part, the pouring out.
Feels a bit like tilling the ground with my bare hands, making seams in the earth, dropping seeds into the dirt valley and covering them up with brown soil blankets, adding water and a wish.
The words are words made of ink, Rorschach blots. What do they really mean? What is my subconscious trying to tell me, or you?
The words have been sitting there like a genie trapped inside a bottle for centuries.
The words are slippery, like oil or blood.
The words stand up straight but take a punch. They do not talk back or complain. Not this time. They speak a recognizable truth.
It feels good to write them, as if I've been waiting to do so my entire life. It feels urgent and necessary, yet I don’t feel released from any consequences.
The words tell a mostly beautiful story. I think any reader would find it enthralling.
Is there anything you have to add?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


…Yesterday I did some despicable things.
I did everything I could think of, but write.
I watched videos.
I hauled gravel in a wheelbarrow (really. seven loads.)
I mowed four lawns.
I read other people's stories or poetry and told them I liked it, if in fact, I did like the writing.
I pushed paper around.
I read and deleted and sorted emails.
I sent notes to friends.
Bought books on Amazon.
Went on Facebook.
Took out the garbage.
Took two showers.
Read a few blogs…
It's interesting how I can keep myself distracted from the important task at hand if I try really hard.
Actually, it doesn't even take any effort.
So, you've guessed it: I'm in novel-writing mode.

…I’ve started a new gig as Guest Poetry Editor for The twenty20 Journal. I'm excited. If you have any work that fits the guidelines, please send it my way. I'd be thrilled. But do send it as soon as possible, since I only get to make five selections.

…Last night I wen

…In the bible somewhere it talks about wrestling with the wind. I think it's in Ecclesiastes. I think it mentions how wrestling with the wind is a foolish endeavor.
When I was a boy I was terminally shy, surrounded by many out-going, older brothers. Often I would hike to the hills that lurked like craggy gargoyles in somebody else’s acreage beyond our house. Just past a barbed wire fence sat a sloped dome formation with a flat center and I would often lay down on my back over a blanket of pine needles and listen to the wind moving through the valley and hundreds of evergreen trees.
It could sound violent one second.
Orchestral the next.
Like the whispers of a grade school another time.
Stormy and frightening.
Or very much like the trains of a thousand brides's gowns, rustling down church altar aisles.
The wind is a great mystery to me. It's moody. Transformative. Like a body of water with many options.
If I could wrestle the wind I'd tie you a scarf or make you air balloon with it.
Yes, that's what I'd do.
I'd write a complimentary mention on the biggest space of it, something I really, honestly meant, and I'd let it go and I'd tell the wind-air balloon thingy (in the same way you would instruct a homing pigeon) to avoid airplanes and the tendency to want to shoot straight toward the sun. I'd say, "Take this message. I'm counting on you, big fella. You're my only hope."
Yesterday, while doing manual labor, I got sweaty at one point, so I took my shirt off. It was sunny. There was a breeze. I felt its fingers trolling in my chest hair. Felt it swiping away my beaded brow. Once it sort of tapped me on the cheek, like a morning wake up call, even though I was already up and very much alert.
Later I watched the breeze wrinkle the face of the lake.
I heard it scatter some dull pinecones across stone roads.
I heard the steel dock girders push and pull from waves caused both by boats and the breeze.
At one point, I even looked up into the sky, but all I saw was blue.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


--William Gay wrote a fabulous novel called, “I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down.”
I don’t hate that. In fact, I rather like being a witness to that.
This sunset is something else. Take a look.
Right? Amazing, isn’t it?
A box of 164 Crayola crayons would even be jealous. Quite jealous, actually.

…I have a couple of new things:
"Bathroom Kiss" up at The New Flesh and "A Place Called Mistik" at For Every Year.
With the latter, I had originally sent in a piece About Ian Davis, lead singer from Joy Division, months before his suicide in the year 1980. Crispin Best, who runs the site where one story is posted for a seminal occurrence in each year since existence, said he was moving through the list chronologically, and that I needed to start in the 1630's. 1630's?? I don't know anything about the 1630's. I think the Salem witch trials were in the 1690's. Nevertheless, I googled "Events in the year 1637," learned how the Caucasian population cajoled the Narragansett and Mohegan tribes to betray their friends, the Pequot Indians. Then, in one fell swoop, on a single day, the two tribes--along with a white army militia--killed all 400 men, women and children of the Pequot tribe living in Mistik, CT.
It's a horrifying slice of history, but it felt like it needed to be written, so I did.

…I am Guest Poetry Editor for the Fall Issue of Twenty20Journal. I'm excited about it and appreciate the opportunity. Nora Nadjarian is taking over the fiction honors.

…Have you see what the writer, V.S. Naipaul recently said? Good God.
This is a writer whose won The Nobel (Nobel?!) Prize for literature and who's been named, by TIME magazine, as one of the greatest 45 British writers ever.
V.S. said there is no woman writer, alive or dead, who can match his own literary skills.
He also claimed that he could, within a few simple minutes of reading any piece, determine the author's gender.
He claimed women always fall into "sentimentality" and "have a narrow view of the world."
What's wrong with this guy?
It's a pretty idiotic publicity stunt, if that's what it is. If it's not a stunt, well then, I don't even have words for this guy.
Anymore, the majority of my favorite writers are female. Anymore, I'd say 80% of them are female. Anymore, you'd think we'd have put sexism to bed once and for all.
But alas, not.

…Okay, is there a better song than Jeff Buckley's version of Hallelujah? Ah, no, there isn't. Play it right now and tell me if I'm wrong.

…I am wrong often. (But not about Jeff.) I make mistakes. Sometimes I am so disappointed in myself that I don't like me. Does that ever happen to you? Probably not. This is perhaps a situation unique to me, myself and I. In fact I’m sure it is.
I am flawed.
I am a broken toy.
Forget that I brought it up.

…I am also still digging The Head And The Heart ("I miss your face like hell.") The old Third Eye Blind ("Remember how we used to spend, the whole goddamn day, in bed?") And the new Death Cab For Cutie ("The lights are itching pulses beneath my skin, a sign I'm about to begin, anew.").

…I finished poetry books by Lara Konesky ("Next to Guns") and Misti Rainwater-Lites ("Sloppy Mouth.") They were both very good, pretty sexy and raw collections.

…I also just finished "A Reliable Wife." I liked it very much. It felt sort of like reading a classic that had been slightly refreshed or updated. Here are my favorite (some anyway) excerpts which will give you a flavor for how good this guy is:

"The city entered her like music, like a wild symphony.
"The empty attention of stupid men."
"Men only give you what they give you.
"He found her mouth and kissed her sometimes until she couldn't remember her name; sometimes he kissed her and then moved his head and slept on her shoulders.
"He was not the first man who wanted to his own desire to be central, who thought little of her except as a necessary part of his own blind groping. She became the thing he wanted, and was surprised that she, in some way, wanted it, too."
"She was entranced by the way his hand never left her cheek as he made love to her, caressing her the way he might gentle a wild horse.
"The blue black pill bottle was still in her suitcase. It waited like a serpent."
"That she was beautiful was both an attraction and irritation, a detail of her usefulness." Robert Goolrick, "A Reliable Wife."

Friday, June 3, 2011


…I have some new things:
"Losing Your Little Girl" at Apocrypha and Abstractions
"The Spaces In Between" at Fwriction
"Big Jelly" at Unicorn Knife Fight (isn't that a great title for a lit mag?)
"Suspicious," a poem, at Guerilla Pamphlets
They are all here under "Words In Print."

…I can't get enough of The Cave Singers. I'm obsessed. I have no idea what some of their lyrics even mean, but damn they're good.

…I'm reading, "A Reliable Wife" by Robert Goolrick. When I went the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference this novel was cited as having one of the best beginnings for a novel. Quite frankly, the book rocks. It screams. It races from one sentence to the next. I'm in love with it. He writes in short, dynamic sentences. I'm trying to learn a few tricks. I wish I could meet this guy. I have some questions.

…I started the novel! I like it. Poor Iris. Poor Alex. This is going to be tragic, yet it will end well, er, after some catastrophic events, it will.

…Sentences, fragments keep popping into my brain and I keep saying, "No, no, go away!" If I take them and run I'll end up writing poetry or stories and I have this novel, this baby that needs to gesticulate (is that the write word?).


…"Be Well"

I am running to you
in the rain
a deluge of blue frozen stain,
a scratched-off signature or promissory note of the pain
I have caused you,
irrevocable, yes,
to be sure,
no different than trampled on trust,
a violation of every promise I ever made.
Over night now,
I feel like a villain
because the truth is
I am.

But you,
you should lift your head high
toward the sun.
It loves you so much.
It has its arms encircling your waist,
its fingers in your hair.
It is breathing bright light
across your cheeks at this very moment.

Be well
my loveliest…

I just wrote that straight through, no editing. It was two minutes. Maybe one and a half minutes. Lord help me.

…I do wish more people liked poetry. I think the world would be a happier place if everyone bought a book of poetry every month. That would hardly be anything. What an investment!

…Do you know who's a good poet? Lisa Marie Basile. Holy holy crap. I just read "Diorama," her poetry collection with Alyssa Morhardt-Goldstein (who's very brilliant also.) It's really sharp writing that makes you want-to/have-to read it again and again, as I did thrice. It's mainly, have-to because there is so much sustenance and silky silt oozing from every line, each word even. It slips away in reading and then after it's dripped free, you want to revisit certain pieces. It's like putting a favorite song on repeat (which I do all the time) and playing it ad naseum. You don't want to leave that place you've landed because it feels so good being there. If you want a good book of poetry, get "Diorama."

…Today there's a party at my house. Around one o'clock teenagers will begin arriving. They will be wearing swimsuits. They will be loud and rambunctious. I will take them out on the lake in a boat I do not like driving and I will flip them off of an tube tied to the back of the boat I do not like driving. They will have a blast and that will make me happy. As my daughter once said, "Your drug is other people's happiness."

…For this Friday, I like these things:

--"Anyone who wants to find out about me--as an artist, which is all that's of interest--should look attentively at my pictures." Gustav Klimt

--"Be not dishearten'd--Affection shall solve the problems
of Freedom yet;
Those who love each other shall become invincible." Walt Whitman, "Over the Carnage Rose a Prophetic Voice"

--"Vague ideas must be confronted by clear images." Jean-Luc Godard

"If you really let art enter you, it will change you." Rilke

--"Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth." Picasso

--"…without hope we live on in desire…" Dante

--"Courage does not always roar. Sometimes, it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow". Anon

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


I have some new things:
--“Broken Treaty” a tiny poem I wrote with David Tomaloff up at Twenty20 Journal
--“Boating Lessons” at Apocrypha and Abstractions
--And an Interview, plus five stories at Connotation Press
All of them are here under “Words In Print”

...On the drive home from Walla Walla, I read Tom Rachman's stellar novel, "The Imperfectionists." (You'll find some terrific excerpts at the bottom of this post.) When I first read them, I thought the reviews were a little over-the-top and exaggerated, as when the powers that be hop in and deem some only-slightly deserving book mammoth critical acclaim--"Spectacular!" The NY Times--"Magnificent!" The Seattle Times-- "Masterful!" The Philadelphia Inquirer--"Beguiling!" The Washington Post-- but, hey, this book was pretty brilliant. Set in the world of publishing (which would seem like a snore), Rachman deftly introduces dozens of idiosyncratic characters that are flawed and entirely loveable. You’ll end up rooting for them all. Or so I did.

…I make lists. I check things off. I like checking items off. It gives me this placebo sense of accomplishment. I never get all the way through the list though, so either I make them too long, or else I’m not nearly as productive as I should be.

…Last night around sunset I looked out at the lake and there was a man swimming across it, length-wise. That’s quite a feat. It was a beautiful sight. His movements were very fluid and clearly he knew what he was doing. Watching him was hypnotic, like staring at a fire.

…Holy crap. Today is the start of the new novel. I'm giving myself a minimum daily word count of 3,000. That's 3,000 words EVERYDAY but Saturday and Sunday.
I'm excited.
I'm nervous.
Just need willpower and blinders and maybe a happy word or two from you that this is a good road for me to walk.
I’ve got a rough outline done. I’ve got a corkboard full of photographs and scraps connected to the characters. I’m ready to go.

…I like these things on a Wednesday, on the first day of the happy month of June:

--"Absence diminishes commonplace passions and enhances great ones." French Proverb

--"No man steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man." Heraclitus

--"Why do you kiss someone? To give pleasure or to take pleasure?"
--"We gore each other and mutilate ourselves for victory and fame, as if these might swindle mortality and extend us somehow."
--"Death is misunderstood. The loss of one's life is not the greatest loss. It is no loss at all."
--"If life has taught us anything at all, it is that men with mustaches must never achieve positions of power."
--"Who said I was short? I'm a minimalist."
--"Everything intelligent is conditional." -- "The Imperfectionists," by Tom Rachman

--"Poetry is the blood-jet. There is no stopping it." Sylvia Plath

--"Being a writer allows me to edit myself into someone resembling an intelligent person." Kurt Vonnegut

--"Perfection is terrible, it cannot have children." Sylvia Plath