jeudi 30 avril 2009

The Extra Room

a brakish room

deep in a damp cellar
a dark, dank place on
the southwest corner
meant to hold nothing
sacred or memorable

i remember you put in
boxes of your train track
dozens of cars and
road signs and rail ties
buildings of painted wood
you made yourself and
your little men in
construction caps
courtesy of legoland
things to make towns
spring to life as
trains barrel past
their little smoke stacks
steaming for a few seconds
because you never figured out
how to make it last

but those boxes became
moldy after months
in that room and
you had to make a new
place in the attic
for there your toys would
rest unspoiled and dry
and the colors would
stay bright and irrefutible

but now you think about
how to rescue us from
this economic downturn
how we might still
get to europe every year
because you know
i live for that
for baguettes and brasseries
and old chanson
resting on my tongue
and all the words that come
like poems in the morning
and how you are happiest
when i'm at peace with myself
and how i'm never happy
when i'm back in the states

and you turn back to
that dull, dank room in
the emptied-out basement
where you are now
storing your parents' piano
against my better advice
and you think out loud,
i bet someone
could love that room
if i put in a bathroom
on the other side
of the wall and
installed hot water
it has its own entrance
afterall and no
rain gets in no matter
how hard it pours...

but what about food?
i ask in a reprimanding
tone that you pick up on

well, there could be a
hot plate and small
fridge of course

and i think about
that corner right beneath
my living space, right
under my floor boards
and i ask you,
but what kind of person
would want to live in
someone's ugly basement
in the dew and the damp?

and you answer,
oh it's not as bad as that
the room could be nice
with a new rug and
curtains, a bit of paint
and plywood shelves
some landscape painting
in the middle of the wall
and the bright windows

and i picture your
poor forgotten toys
tossed in their
stinky boxes and
definitively tell you,
whoever it would be
i don't think i'd
want to know him

and you demand,
not even for 500
bucks a month?

and i roll my eyes
and answer, he'd
get an apartment
for that!

and then the silence
between us grows and
there are mushrooms
and strings of pearls
and ancient visions
behind closed eyelids
and an empty room
without promise

mercredi 29 avril 2009

Do not fail to imagine...

Gordon Bunshaft's Manhattan House and Travertine House

(see below for Andrea Grenadier's delightful poem)

Murphy Mirrors

I casually mentioned to my poet friend Andrea Grenadier that I was considering writing a poem called "favorite murphy's law" and she liked the theme. I invited her to try her hand with me and she happily agreed. We gave ourselves a week, without further discussion about what we would write. Our poems show our unique thoughts in the moment and such differing styles! I even rediscovered a style I have not used for many years and her poem is, as she said, "cheeky" and full of playful irony! It was fun and challenging, and we do so hope you will enjoy them.

Fave Murphy's Law

by Laura Tattoo

"Whatever it is you want to do, you will have to do
something else first."

If I have to do something else first,
let it be to rise before dawn and
hear the bird's first chanted song
throated for his love's delight
yet waits its echo evermore

If I have to do something else first
let it be lilacs drenched in dew
and gathered in armfuls to overflow
so that I swoon and follow long
summer's footfall on the earth

If I need to do something else first
let it be dreamspun netherworlds
cloaked in all their mortal humors
veins run cold and when I wake
I suffer first to know myself

Over and over we contrive to
wend our way toward cherished goals
but interrupts these heart's desires
the universe of ice and fire
earth and air dilettantes of old
and we but newborns of this world
must cede control and laugh and bow
to better knowledge than our own

If I have to do something else first
let it be to deeper thoughts
silence-laden, lamp-lit tomes
from whence I draw my sustenance
and slip into someone's dusty clothes

If I have to do something else first
let it be water to quench my thirst
by drinking in your mouth, my languid muse
to seal upon my tongue your heart
and lift the veil on your subtle arts

For I am nothing without thy love
to make me flouted melody
that birds turn into song and poet
his words to fire on like varnish
does not strive for art apparent
but molds his clay with modesty
and kisses of an immortal goddess
to guarantee her poet's progress

If I must tend to something first
then let it be wind and rain again
let it be morning and even's birth
or the promise of mortality when
I fall upon dark poverty of word

I cannot count the stars but know
that I have not sufficient years
but last until a state of grace
descends upon my earth-bound soul
and all but beauty is erased
the promised glow to recollect
that landscape of thy ancient song
of lilac, poets and songs of birds

My Favorite Murphy’s Law

by Andrea Grenadier

“Whatever you want to do, you will have to do
something else first.”

Before I learned this, I had to learn that.
And before that, there was nothing.
There may have been some elegant dust,
some maunderings, an intimation of substance.
But the something else was a lifetime:
to know the words was nothing. To feel them,
to bend over and pick up
these tiny Nabatean stones
to use them in a sentence, was
And now, this knowledge,
for what it came to be worth
leads to discontent. For it is not
everyone else’s knowledge.
I would, just once, love
to be able to breezily say, “Gordon Bunshaft,”
and have others nod knowingly.
“Ah,” one would say, “Manhattan House.”
“But Travertine House!” another would chime.
“Dreadful boxes,” I would say,
and the conversation would
turn to other failures
of imagination.

jeudi 23 avril 2009

The Lilac Queen Cometh

photo courtesy of The Garden of Paghat the Ratgirl,
Click the photo to enlarge and read T. S. Eliot's delightful poem!

mercredi 22 avril 2009

Magic and Loss

for Lou Reed

I was dragging around Goodwill
in my usual slow drug shuffle
time-releasing morphine in the cups
painful muscles sorting through the bin stuff
needing nothing with bulging closets
of riches and rags and rockets
and a stack of jeans in a worn-out bureau
some that still even fit
walking around like a slug in a
pair of boots I hadn't bought yet
just for fun, just for the hell of it
killing time as time is killing me
stalking a pretty girl amid the racks
all dressed in black, hair black
cloth black, cloak black
black mouth, black eyes and
those beautiful black nails
on thin, delicate fingers that
fly through the stacks with ease
and I know that feeling
that youthful breathless being
and how I want to feel it again
to have her look across at me
with that killer friendly love stare
and imbibe me with her energy
but she will not look up because
I must seem odd and miserable

so I move on to the checkout
because I'm dead dog tired
from the hour I frittered away
and as I move up in the line
each moment growing weaker
I look around for some distraction
before a fainting spell takes over
and now I'm close enough
to spin the CD rack real slowly
to try to read the tiny fonts
and there I see Lou Reed
some obscure album he
released in 1993
and I think, Lou Reed, now
there's a New York poet and
my god, he's still going
I really ought to listen
to more of him, so I grab it for
a measly four bucks and leave

At home in my chair
I lay back and forget him
He sits on my shelf for months
until a singular day in February
of the redundant new millennium
I rediscover him in a pile
between Clannad and Nakai
as I prepare to walk my daily mile
in and out of a Portland downpour
I shrug and pull him off the rack
lay the CD and pop shut the top, then
shove the machine deep into my pocket
adjust the headphones to my head
and pull my rain hat down on them
I turn and cross the threshold
without a thought, without a clue
that you were coming or
that I was coming to you
christ how true, how fucking ironic
to hear that pain-filled music
streaming out of you about
the death of your dear friend
and his brave suffering in the end
your rage, your sorrow
your revelations on pain
like i've never heard before
and tears begin to pour
because they must out
out out this body's pain
as I evaporate into yours
and your words are charmed
your words are goddamned hard

Oh the glory of it all
to find you at Goodwill because
someone couldn't listen anymore
and I needed to so badly
and my eyes and ears were opened
and I had a mystical moment for
the first time in god-knows how long
magic and loss, magic and loss
i'll never take this pain
for granted again
and maybe when I'm dead
and maybe when I'm dead
well, we'll see, won't we?
because 'the cold black sea
waits for me me me"
and "that all consuming fire"
makes me feel so alive
that I'm passing through, Lou
"passing through the fire
to the light" with you

"There's a little bit of magic in everything
and then some loss to even things out."
~Lou Reed

2/22/00 (the day after my 43rd birthday)

lundi 13 avril 2009

Beneath the Surface II: Mal au monde

Easter, 2009

I'm drowning under the

weight of the whole
world out there
spinning, shouting
hooplahing and counting on
each one of us to carry his
or her own weightlessness, and I
underneath it, unfit, a pittance
a solid knock of nothingness on
hard wood, or rather on mud
on the bottom of the pond, and not
I alone, but everyone with
mal au monde, that waterborne
disease and loneliness in the
bones of these aching women in
their homes, with worms: skin flints
brigands and frauds, or whatever
they call us, the lost souls of
somatic illness, mental, psychic
call it what you will, with
no physical cause apparent in
telescopes or x-ray vision
diseases spread through
whoredom, thievery, or
just plain old bad luck, spread
like butter on warm toast and
none of us dead, no, none of
us baked or fatted up for lent
but all of us just grumbling broads
behind closed doors with no one
left to blame, no facades, no
charades, just fantasies, like light
flashes across red mountains
sleeplessness in the morning, bad
attitudes toward lost lovers and
lousy mothers but gone our
rapists and murderers, all
gone to dogs, and we at the
bottom of this waste water pond
mouthing "help" but meaning "get out"
i shudder in the frozen "o"
i cascade down whirlpools
and lie here in madness below zero
absalom absalom, but daughter
forgotten heroine of my own
swimming, invention caught
again in my throat and taking
in water like a leaking boat
as all the saints rise from the
opening earth and pass over
oceans and unite in one long
deafening cry of
loneliness and hope
we are not drowned yet
we may be forgotten but
we will not forget, and
it must be said at last that
you will not understand, for
you must lie beneath
the surface for many days
and pray for it all to go away
before the real death comes
and sweeps us from the bottom
of this sickening pond

samedi 4 avril 2009

Whistler's Mother at the Farmer's Daughter

Lincoln City, Oregon, 3/31/09

Always pulling in just before 10,
always on the edge, always phoning
and confirming, yes, we're on the way,
wait for us, please, we're just around the
bend between right now and then, we're
driving fast as wind gusts pummeling glass
and we're hungry and tired and pressed to
the max of our endurance, we know
we're on the clock, we just need a bed
and breakfast, our needs are few but
we require your patience, we're
old and slow and and one of us is ill
and can't seem to think out loud when
it comes to packing bags and the odd
stuff it takes for a weekend south of
us where my mother lives at the coast.

Now at the Farmer's Daughter, the hotel
renamed for its Los Angeles twin, and
that is what I don't get at all, it's
some kind of joke, right? and yet it's the
same room as before, a West Bester, a certain
je ne sais quoi, beachy charm and ultradeep
European tub and a porch outdoors where I
can smoke my heart out, and I'll need it too
because Moineau does not sleep in hotel
rooms, she sits on the bed with the TV on
and sweats, under cover, incognito in a
hooded vest, she's shy and unassuming,
tries hard not to draw attention to herself
as she shuffles down Hall A to Room 123
but in the end can't swing it because she's
Moineau of a secular order, who sings
odd songs in the morning, then acts out
a play with multiple characters and it's a
sham of a spectacle of a dance with a stranger.

Up all night in the streetlights with red-hot
poker eyes, she hears footfalls and wild
animals, she's shivering frost and then burnt
as toast, what the fuck difference does
it make when you're shaking in your fuzzy
slippers in the bush, searching the dirt for
your lost little girl and someone shouts,
"Look out below!" and you fall down a rabbit
hole like some paralyzed Alice and you can't
wake up out of the nightmare you hate and
every time you find yourself in that bitch of a
room, they're all the same, the kitchen, the
bed, the carpet, and nothing will help, not
warm milk, not chocolate, not spooning in
the bed, no, thank you, no touching, please, i
think I'll leave my body for a bit and go and
have another cigarette, it's so hot, isn't it?
damn, I'm like a lobster in a pot, a sparrow in
a cage, and oh god, the hotel is on fire!
"Just joking," I say, as you put back the ear plugs
and pull the mask down over your face.

Ok, i have to tell you flat out, the bastards had
me on that motel shelf and I became fœtus:
I curled myself onto the center of the bed, no
blankets, sheets wet and just slept and slept
and slept and slept, until one came back in and
said, "I've found you a nice place to sleep tonight,
i found you a place, in the bushes!"

Suddenly it's morning, and a wakening light begins
to stream through the long, wide blinds and
gold-yellow curtains, and Moineau knows she's
survived another night by staying very quiet
and just giving herself over to tv movies and
poems and, even if her cough is bad, heck, even
the cigarettes helped, and somewhere down the
hall a man begins whistling, no tune at all, just
a shrill, long, proud noise, and now, Moineau is
opening her throat, she's wetting her mouth and
out comes a whistle from hell, and there's laughter
between us, like, where did that come from?
"Whistler's Mother at the Farmer's Daughter!"
and before you know it, there's a comedy
routine and a crazy song about Willy Nelson on
democratic principles and the weird women who
adore him, and now we're hysterical, repacking
the bags and eating fruit snacks and checking
every nook and cranny for our socks and cash,
leaving the maid a fat old tip, and then we trip on
out the door until the next time we need dreams
and succor at the Farmer's Daughter.