Thursday, June 30, 2005

Bereft Object No. 1

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005


It's just an excuse, I know. But right now I don't think I could write a passable poem if you put a gun to my head. I feel as if I've gone tone deaf for the music in the language, and lost my visual acuity as well. What used to happen when I saw the word "tractor" or "garbanzo" was that my head would swim in scents, colors, mood, memory... each word and image sparked another and it was off to the races. Maybe the first line or two would come out false and forced, but pretty soon I could break through the hard surface and be off into the depths of something visceral, real.

But lately the word "bowl" conjures up only itself, squat and pedestrian.

No milk to go with it, no cereal, no pale and slender arm propped up next to the bowl, keeping a gleaming silver spoon aloft above it.

Nope. Just a bowl.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Agememnon and Diane

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Monday, June 27, 2005


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Yesterday I spent the day at SWAT training. It was a good day. We hiked up a local peak in our full gear to 'teambuild'
and worked on a suicide bomber/hostage scenario, played around with the bomb robot.

In the team meeting we discussed the murder of a brother officer, J_____, from LASO. He was a gang officer looking for a parolee at large. He was interviewing a couple in the doorway of their home when the suspect stepped out from behind them and shot him in the head.

He was thirty-five, a fifteen year veteran, two kids. Just got remarried two weeks ago.

One of the guys on our team came up from LASO a few years ago and was a good friend of his.

I lost my first friend, a guy in my academy class, less than a year out on the street. Since then, twelve years, I've gone to a funeral, or two, or three, every year.

We all know guys that have been killed. We've all come close.

We play these games, like- "Well, he was doing something stupid that I never would have done." Or, "He should have done x, y, or z." Or, "Well, that guy was a fucking idiot. You knew it was going to happen." Or "He was a hard charger. You knew it was going to catch up with him."

On and on.

But often we just shake our heads and admit, "Well, that could have happened to any one of us."

We don't like that too much.

I remember as a kid I used to see my old man on the TV, dragging a bad guy out of a bank, or running towards a house with his gun in his hand, and think he was Superman. Or times he'd call and the first thing he'd say was "I'm alright."

Then we'd turn on the TV.

What's it say about us? About me?

I don't know. The easy answer is we're all heros, or fools.

The real answer is something more complicated than that.

Anyway, here's to fallen friends.


Isabella's Quantum Birthday Party

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Sunday, June 26, 2005

Donald Ponders the Meaning

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Saturday, June 25, 2005

Sleeping, and Dreaming of Sleep

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Saturday Morning

Lately I've been on this kick of exploring how intention can shape my reality, and I am having a great time at this. It began with the regular sort of exploratory reading that I'm always doing, but it was also coupled with a period of darkness and deep unhappiness in my own life. I suppose most spiritual traditions will tell you that the crisis is neccessary in order to break down your internal resistance to the messages you need to open up to in order to engender the kinds of change that your crisis drives you to seek.

Something like that.

At any rate, reading the really normal, bland, and everyday kind of spiritual guidance stuff- Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, Dali Lama, really almost anyone I could get my hands on, and also silly stuff, strange stuff that I would normally just laugh off or make fun of, ridicule. I started to pay attention to coincidence, to 'messages', to feelings and intuition. Meditation. Visualization. Mantra. Positive Thinking. Manifesting. Faith. Openness. Gratitude. Compassion.

And it made me feel better.

At first I just was less agitated. Less prone to be mean to my wife and daughter and dogs and friends and self. And I had periods of time when the sun would come out and a breeze would lift from the sea and everything seemed brighter and more real, more vivid and alive and beautiful. And gradually these moments increased in frequency and duration and intensity.

The better I felt, the better I kept feeling. And since some of these exercises worked, I tried others, and I did them all with a kind of abandoned effort, really just doing them to do them and having fun doing it. No attachment to the outcome.

So today I was just looking around my home and I had one of those moments of realization- "Hey, you know what? My life as it exists right now is a completely different life from the one I occupied just last year." Gone or mostly gone were the rages, the depressions, the anxiety, the bitterness.... a world that was full of ugliness and pain and shit and death had been transformed into a peaceful, beautiful, place full of love and joy and bliss and wildness and death and pain and shit and it seems lately that the entire universe really is conspiring to make all of my dreams come true- all I have to do is know what those dreams are and they are bestowed upon me.

So, is this a valid way of experiencing reality? I don't know. All I can say is that it is valid for me right now, and I see the results of my new world-view all around me all the time. Perhaps it is a willful blindness on my part, but it doesn't feel that way to me. Perhaps I am becoming more and more delusional.

Or perhaps less and less.

Margaret and Helen in the Milky Way

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Friday, June 24, 2005

The Art of Hiding and Revealing

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Red Bird

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One of my good friends is a Buddhist monk. He lives in a monestary in Chinatown in New York City now, but for the past fifteen years he lived in Malawi, Africa, where he established an AIDS treatment and education facility, and an orphanage for children whose parents had died of AIDS.

This monk comes from New Jersey and he moved to Taiwan in his late teens and spent most of his life there until going to Africa as a lay buddhist prior to his ordination. But he grew up gay, wild, self-indulgent....he says he knows he racked up some serious negative karma on the way.

I look at him and I see a good monk, but also just a good person. That same guy from Jersey, but a bit calmer and more peaceful.

He's become a spiritual guide of sorts for me. Not by what he teaches, just by example. Sometimes I think that I'm a good guy, you know, I help out, I put bad guys away, I'm out there in the trenches. But then I see his face all serene and still, and how he moves through this world, and I am both chagrined and inspired.

We all have such a long way to go.

But as Monk Cheng Man says, just go "slowly by slowly" and we'll get there.

I hope he's right.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

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Injured No. 1

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Domestic Interior

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Working Notes

What I find to be most difficult about this blogging is just putting down my thoughts. Much more difficult than putting up a poem or photograph, something that I've already worked out, something that sort of had to come out. This other thing, this just 'talking', seems, well, pointless.

But I'm opening up the channel to see what comes out. Right now my writing is not at all interested in showing itself- for the past several weeks I have written no poems, and the work on my novel is intermittent and hard-won. But the artwork is pouring out of me at what is, for me, an astonishing rate. My experience is that when you can act as a conduit for creative flow you should just get out of the way as much as possible and let it pour through....god knows it is rare enough when it happens. So I'm riding that wave right now and enjoying it.

At work things are just sort of plodding along. I am working on a series of unsolved homicides from the late 70's, which is the best thing I've been involved with as a detective. My partner and I have set up a separate office and it looks like what you'd imagine, if you imagine that it's not like television. We're in an empty room in a storage building. We stole a desk and a table and two chairs, a filing cabinet, a dry erase board. We got a tech guy to hack a line in so we could set up a laptop and access our records system. We covered all the windows with brown paper and put all the crimescene photos up on the walls.

All day I am surrounded by these murdered women. In several of the photographs they look right into the camera, caught forever in their terrible poses, and I am not kidding when I tell you that they want something from me. That's no shit. I see their faces at night, or the bindings, the wounds...and it's not like I wake up screaming or anything. I mean, this is my job. It doesn't frighten me or creep me out. It's just sad. And I carry a certain weight around with me now, a small stone that I can't let go of.

A Great and Terrible Light

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I've been bitten by the collage bug!

What Is Revealed As Light

Behind me our empty bed
is abandoned to the silent house.
No river sounds, no sounds of longing,
no cry that might be joy or terror.

Working loosely,
I block in the dark shadows.
The light spaces leap
into being.

My hands are stained with burnt umber,
yellow ochre, mars black. I put the shadows
down and watch the unpainted shapes
take form.

What is revealed then.

A white house in the woods, near a lake.
Dark cypress trees that threaten to sway
in a wind you can almost feel.

A long coin of sepia light,
ribboned with black water.

Now the brushes lean in a tin can,
wet and spent. A bad husband,
I mistreat them, leave them
splayed and broken.

In the kitchen a simple table
holds our plates, a glass of cold water,
a broken loaf, my hard
and empty arms.

(Thanks to Sulpher River Literary Review for taking this poem)

Monday, June 20, 2005

this is an audio post - click to play

The Urge to Make This World

You can’t begin to get it right but still you begin
Again each day to make the world anew. In the dim
Light of dawn to draw the outlines of your familiar things:
The bed, the dresser drawers, the family photographs,
The breath and body of your wife, your right arm.

Almost effortlessly, bright new birds are gathered
Into the arms of the trees you make to ring your garden,
Your walled delight. Color and scent ripple outward
Into a milky sky, staining the whiteness with life.

A new world.

Leave the shipwreck of your bed and the warmth of it
For the cold of the blue kitchen. Light a fire
Under the kettle of water for your tea and trail the dregs
Of your dreams behind you. What falls to the floor

Becomes the warp and weft of this thing you carelessly
Call into being with your breathing, your thoughtless

Open a drawer, and you’ve created bread.
From your fingertips spill oranges, pomegranates,
Figs, the sweet flesh pitted with seed. Each stone
Cock hungry for the earth you’ve made.

This life you build with each forgotten gesture loves you,
Calls you master, opens its fragrant arms to you, gives
Its flesh to your desire, wants only to do what’s impossible:

Sate your hunger for it.

You Start Out With Nothing


That’s a place to begin, the way it turns
the long drive
into a movie staring silence.

Leaving her
at the airport, that’s another.
Staring absence.

Ah, but she’ll soon return.
Baring air crashes. Baring bad

A couple of days ago I worked this case,
a thirteen year old broke in to his neighbor’s home.
The guy was eighty-four. We found him in the kitchen.
Beaten to death for his car keys
and a roll of quarters.

At the kid’s house we found
a skateboard in the bathtub,
the water tainted with blood.

Outside we stood around and watched
them load him into the hearse.
Hartley lifted his foot out of the puddle
he’d stepped in, then put it back down
in the same place.

It’s been raining like mad.
It lets up from time to time.

It only seems endless.
this is an audio post - click to play
this is an audio post - click to play

Love Letter

The guy on the radio says its normal:
The rage, the grief, the intrusive thoughts.
The mania, the disassociation, crying jags.
Hyper vigilance, insomnia, narcolepsy,
auditory hallucinations, compulsions.
The cross-dressing, self-injury, catatonia--

Wait a minute.

So maybe I got carried away there.
But lodged like a hot rock
or a baby ready to be birthed

it wants out. Let it go.

And the snot-stained blouses and red eyes,
the mussed hair, the hugs, the fat smelly strangers
who suddenly feel like home;
I am everybody’s cousin for this holiday.

It might look like I’m sulking
curled up in the corner, rigid,
staring straight ahead, maybe
maybe listening to some far off
kind of dog-whistle voice,

but I feel real pretty
in my yellow dress.

Resting Simply Without Altering It

Today arrived and the bird-swarmed garden announced it.
We live near the river so there was also the soft knock
of rocks against each other along the sandy bottom
although we did not hear it.

You left early for the city. You love the marketplace
and its din. I imagine you holding mushrooms or a duck or
one of those dried, unknowable things you crave.

I went to work where the tide of case files floods my desk.
Sunlight came through the window and the fish
gulped their food when I fed them.

Today there was another suicide,
someone’s father lost money to a thief who stabbed him,
a girl was raped. The voices and the faces of the victims
shone with a beautiful pain, individual and complete.

At lunch I ran with Jay. We jumped the fence
to the army post, ran through the eucalyptus
to the cattle guard. Jay is intelligent and dangerous.
He’s done me damage in the past, is likely doing more now.

It was a good run and we pushed each other
all the way out and back, four miles.

After work I picked up Emily, got pizza and Spaghetti-O’s
at the Cookie Crock.

Now she’s watching a horror movie and eating candy
as I write this poem. Tonight I will listen to your voice on the phone,
hear about your day in the city you love

Until the moon comes up
and sleep undoes this,
our only day.

(This poem appears in the current issue of Gulf Coast. Thanks, Gulf Coast.)

False Season

Here put a piece of something nice
& here a bone, some gristle.

For contrast. For what matters.

Down by the lake sunlight dazzles.
An anxious mother shades her eyes,
skinny kids on an oil-can raft squeal
and leap into the sweet blue.

In the woods dark creatures
stop in their tracks before moving on.

It takes a killing heart
to get done what needs doing
in this world.

I remember listening to your guitar
in the long hours, smoking,
saying nothing.

It was a way you had.
Nobody could touch that.

Now toward dusk blackbirds take wing,
The screen door slams, a glass shatters,
a woman runs out to the dogwood tree,
a man’s voice rings in the sky
like the crack of a rifle.

Where would you be in all this,
had it gone different
from the way it did.

It’s no way
of telling now.

Listen to the birds—

how they make harsh music, a glad
noise in the ashen sky.

(This poem is upcoming in Weber Studies' next issue.
Thanks, guys.)

Sunday, June 19, 2005


How do we fit art into our lives? How do we live our lives with purpose? How reconcile the beauty with the horror?
I dunno. But here's a place where you can watch me wrestle with these questions and others. I'll post my poems,
and some photographs, artwork, etc. And musings about my life as a father, husband, poet, cop, artist, nutjob, etc.

So, there's that to start with.

T.V. Tower Road

She's bent over at the waist so the sweep
of her dark hair obscures her face. Her splayed legs
jut at odd angles; her arms are tightly bound
to the trunk of an oak.

Thirty days of exposure has turned her skin to leather,
dark and shiny. Where the dappled light hits her
the skin glows gold.

Her jawbone's been picked clean and maggots spill
from the maw of her torso. The sweet smell sends
Nestor to his knees. He waves Sweeney off with one hand,
braces himself against a tree with the other.

I kneel in the damp leaves and stare at her a long while,
taking my time. I notice that I'm noticing things: a puncture wound
between the third and fourth ribs, the fact that she's been tied
with what looks like the strap of her purse, the torn bra a few feet away,
the broken fingernails; but that's just the job, and what it feels like
is that I'm simply sitting with her.

Nestor won't come near her, so Sweeney helps me with the close work.
It is good to do these things slowly, and I'm glad he doesn't need
to talk as we go. He points out a broken tooth, the intricate knot
in the binding, but other than that he is silent.
Danvers moves around us, dropping plastic markers and shooting
the photos we'll be living with later.

It's two hours before we get her bagged up. It's late so we decide
to do the autopsy in the morning, when we're fresh.

At home I eat the meal Yolie made without tasting it.
She tries to engage me but sees soon enough that I'm gone
and goes off to the bedroom to read. I pace for a while,
then sit on the back deck and smoke the Cuban cigar
she brought back from her trip to Miami.

The night is moonless.
Until my eyes adjust to the dark all I can see
is the red glow of the burning cigar,
how it flares when I pull the smoke in.