Thursday, August 31, 2006

Headless




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They're after me.



*


I don't know if you'd call it decompensation or what.
The gears slip and grind.
Smoke billows from the machine.


*

I am sad and anxious. I grit my teeth all night and all day. I see the sun going down over the golden hills and it does nothing for me. My hands ache with a dull rage. You'd better not come near me.


*

I know some of you might say how sweet I seem, how good my nature is. Don't fool yourself. I got a snakebite in me that spills its acid out on others. I got a disposition you don't want to get acquainted with. My god my teeth hurt from wanting to do some bad thing. I sit on the deck and smoke and sip vodka but what I want to do with my hands is something else.

Or I'll bother you with my sobbing. Won't let you rest.

Oh my god, I'll say.


*



I got no reason to feel bad. I got nothing to complain about.

It makes me sick how I bellyache.



Every single thing right now just makes me sick.


Sick at heart.



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Once when you were small you thought there might be a way...






















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Sunday, August 27, 2006

list of rooms in which things have happened





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Once you were in a room and on the television a man was saying that a man had been killed in a shooting and the man was your friend. Once you were in a room where this was happening and you were sobbing. Once you were in a room and your wife was looking at you and you could not stop sobbing.

*

One time you were in a room and your mother was hitting you with a spoon or a ladle. Or your stepfather was tackling you and smashing your head into a piece of furniture.


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Once you were in a room and you were looking at the dead body of your grandfather. Or you were standing in a room in someone's house and a boy was lying on the floor gurgling up his own blood and staring up into the ceiling and dying and you just stood there. Maybe wrote something down, maybe told someone not to touch anything.

Remember that time you were in a room and the man was dead and swollen in his underwear and there were one hundred and thirty two little foil wrappers on the floor, one for each pill he had swallowed? And his mother wanting to come in. Demanding to know exactly what was going on?

*

And there was a room in which a man tried to put a knife into you. A room in which you pulled a blanket off a man hiding in a closet. A room in which you put the flat face of your gun into a man's ear and pressed hard and pulled back on the trigger enough to take out the slack and the sound of your own voice filled up the small space and almost drowned out the sound of the man's sobbing.

*

The room in which you pressed your flesh into the flesh of the woman who would make a baby with you. The room in which you held that woman while blood poured from her womb and another creature came into being.


*

The room in which you begged to die.

The one in which you begged not to.

*

Open a door, one thing happens. Open it again, something else.

Let's hear it for the carnival. Let's root for the good guys. Let's boo the bad guys. Who's to say which is which?
As long as there are hands and arms and eyes and teeth there are doors to open and rooms to step into.

*

You haven't got the first idea of what
is in store for you.


*

Remains




*

Last night I went over to my brother's house to watch the fights. While our truck was parked in front of his house a drunk driver plowed into it, driving it up onto the sidewalk and folding the rear axle.

So, yesterday we had a truck, today we don't.


*

I guess I always need these reminders. You think you have something. A truck, or your health, or a friend, or a job or a house or a marriage. A grip on things.

You don't, though.



At best, you get to sort of check them out for a while. It's a lending library.


You gotta give it back.




*

Some shit's overdue, even.


*



Then one day you go and they take your card.

It's no good anymore.




*


You don't get to check anything else out.



*




Pema Chodron calls it "groundlessness." We are comfortable, then something happens, we're not feeling so good anymore.

What happened? I thought this was going to last...


We don't like it. We don't like to feel things shift under us. We want it solid. We want the world to be a place we can count on. But it isn't. The nature of the world is that very groundlessness we seek to hide from. Go drink on the deck in the dark and watch the glowing tip of your cigar as the stars wheel, thinking you are a special case. You are and you aren't.

You are and you aren't.



*


So, anyway. Today I'm trying my hand at remaining in the uncertainty. Not fighting it, not hiding, not trying to change it.

Just be there in it.


Breathe.


Take a look around.



Breathe...


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Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Long Goodbye



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¬°Adios, muchacos!




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Off for a long weekend trip to Arizona. My lovely wife has a day long jewelry making workshop and I have a list of chores to do for my eighty-four year old grandmother in Scottsdale.


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Things are afoot. As Obi Wan Kenobi said when Alderon was destroyed, "I need a glass of water..."
The wiggledywoggledy world seems the same, so it must be me.


*

Look for me to be back by the middle of next week, when my homicide trial begins. Not mine, exactly, but, you know. One I'm working on...


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¬°Cada quien puede hacer de sus calzones un papalote!







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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Dreaming of Them




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In the dream there were baby bluejays in my bag of potato chips. They were all covered in cheesy dust, eating the crumbs. I shook them out onto the ground and the dogs tried to eat the baby jays and I got on my hands and knees to keep the dogs away, but they'd already gotten one and were tearing it apart. Once on the ground I saw that there were little knots of baby things everywhere. Baby mice, tiny pigs, salamanders.

And dogs and birds and snakes coming in from the edges, swallowing them, ripping them apart.




Me on my knees, trying to save them.


*

Lately beer tastes really good. Wine, too.




I mean, really good.


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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

working the scene




*

Yesterday I was all giddy because I got to stick my gun in somebody's ear, which is becoming a rare thing. Then when I got home there was a journal with two of my poems in it.

It was nice. I liked it.

*

Later that night I got a call. A guy I know was in a shooting. He did good, his partner did good. But it made me feel like such an asshole, the earlier feeling I had about gunning this guy hiding in his bathtub. How too often I think it's all a kind of game. I don't know. It's complicated. I suppose it's natural to have conflicted feelings.

I shouldn't say anything about it.

*


This afternoon I was looking at this gun this guy used to blow his brains out. There was a feather stuck in the blood on the barrel. The guy had put a pillow over his face.

I don't know. It just seemed incongruous.

A little white feather stuck there.



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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

In The Factory With The Gears That Need Fixing





*
Stands in the muck, mangled,
amidst the architecture. Adamantine,
ruined.

Dismantling an imperfect language,
desiring the odor of crushed cruelty,
carefully, dearest tangle.... he considers:


Avocado,
Mouth,O
regano.

Distracted by the sound of something burning,
he misses red sweater, pearl, manhattan.

Further down, he gets to goats,
barley, bridge,
brutal morning tenderness,
petition, laughter,
and energy.

Untethered between paradise and wilderness,
he unseats the shining, deliberate tangles,
the falling smokestacks in the city of his grotesque birth,
the neighbor's plundered fields.

Rain thrashes,seems to carry
some uncommon nodbody
into the ditch. He doesn't remember
discarding his smoky clothes
in the vineyard fire.

Unwilling to sleep, he makes
an alter of the town ambulance.
Laughs as it burns and cackles in
Ed's Garage.

Driven simple by the stink apparatus,
he fancies himself a nailed figure pulled
by alligators through a book.



He says, "The radio's my vocation....."





*


fin.



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Driving The Plague Before Us





*

Last night was a dark mood, but I had the company of my wife. She soothed me as best she could and for that I am grateful. I am trying to learn compassion for my limitations, but I am a poor student.


*

This morning was much improved. Getting up early helped. It was cool and dark at five thirty, and it's clear that the season is changing. What a gift. Big wheel turning. Little wheel within it. Smaller one. Bigger one outside that you can't see. Infinity of nested scales, all turning.

Halfway through the run the world opened its eyes and turned on the lights. Birdsong and the heavy rumble and rattle of the trucks on Santa Rosa Creek Road hauling rocks from the quarry. The coach opening up the gym at the high school, propping the side door open with a trash can.

The dog running wild with glee and fierce intention.

My labored breathing and the heat in me.


*


Listen, all I want in life is to have everything that I want and nothing that I don't want.


Ha.


*

This weekend Lineberger posted a link to John Donne's "for whom the bell tolls." In my nearly limitless ignorance of the world, I had not read it except for once in a high school english class. Here's a passage that nearly killed me:


"And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another. "



*



"Some by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice: but God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another."



Well okay then.

*

Just before I drifted off to sleep last night I had a brief epiphany about our place in the world, about the turning and meshing of the great gilded gears at the heart of the wheezy, whanging machine we are all a part of.

"Of course," I said to myself, picturing the exact way things worked to bring us each to our knees with our guts looped in our dirty hands and our eyes glowing with grief and happiness. Our hair wild or burned away.

"I get it. It all makes sense. It couldn't be any other way."


And I did get it. Something was given to me, as if God had opened the big book to a certain page and let me gaze until I had my fill.



*



Peace like a river in my soul.


*

Of course, I wanted to capture the knowledge. Write it down somewhere. But I was so sleepy.

Now its gone. Leaving only the taste of something fine.


*


It is small, but I am thankful. Even imagined or imaginary grace is but grace.




*

We are all entwined. Ensnared.


Embraced.



*


The farmer, he was headed for the boneyard any minute, but he wasn't goin' around squawkin' about like some people...








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Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Lost Boy




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How easily my little craft founders.


*

A little weather, a stiff breeze, and she ships water over the gunnels and wallows in the troughs.


*

I man the helm, but I lack grace at times. Too heavy-handed and impatient. Quick tempered. I can get her to point into the seas so she can ride it out till the weather calms, but I'm no sailor. Not one to speak of.





*

I should be used to this up and down by now. Good day, bad night. Good night, bad day. Week. Month. Hour.


And I am. I am. It's good, it's fine, this motion, this constant bobbing around. I don't want to be a baby about it. My troubles are small and variable and just enough to put the taste of life into my ever hungry mouth. I really do love it all. I got a small compassion for myself that I can wrap around me like an old jacket. I know how to be my own friend. I can batten down the hatches, trim the sails, and mind my heading till things blow over.

Shit, I'll probably be grinning like an idiot in an hour.



*

I got some stores set by. Friends like good old books to read in the night. A wife who holds the whole of the sea in her cupped hands, who traces the outline of my face with her fingertips in the dark, who in the final analysis simply loves me.


Loves me.


*

I think that really what's happened is that all that artwork we saw yesterday has infected us. It was too powerful to bear, and we've both been knocked senseless by it. Yolie is nearly drowning in images and cutouts from her work on the sofa. She's thumbing through them, moving them around, overlapping them, cutting, placing. I can hear the voices of a thousand women coming out of her pores. I can see them standing over her.

I'm in much the same predicament.

Fevered.

Restless.




*

My hands ache.

My eyes got grit in them.

My heart is hammering in my chest like a laboring pump trying to gush water out of the hold of a ship that is slowly sinking.


*



I'll go down singing if I have to go down or I'll just
go on singing till dawn.



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I am a stubborn one.






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Little City Meats





*

We made a bonzai trip up to San Francisco yesterday. Left early in the am, were at the De Young museum by eleven.


*



Holy Crap!



*


There was a show of Chicano art, mostly from the collection of Cheech Marin, that was the most powerful work I've seen in years. The colors were strong, vibrant, overblown, wild, cartoonish. The whole show was essentially cartoonish, but it packed a punch. The strength in the show came from the passion that leapt off the canvas in nearly every piece. It would have been easy for the whole thing to veer off into something like a freak show, but it didn't. It just punched you in the gut, over and over.

My favorite piece from the show was John Valadez's "Pool Party"



*

Then upstairs was the Gee's Bend quilts. A good-sized collection of quilts hand-pieced by these women from Gee's Bend, near Selma. The power that these pieces held was palpable. Fabrics, old and worn, collected from family member's work clothes, dishrags, whatever they could scrounge, and then hand-pieced in improvised patterns based very loosely on traditional quilting patterns.

My way quilts, they called them.

The hardworn life these women lived was evident in each piece. Hope and despair in some crazy balance, acted out in these weird fields of color.

They kicked Diebenkorn's ass all over the place.

*


Upstairs in the De Young's tower you can see the whole city laid out below you.



*


On Columbus we sat in front of Calzone's and had a rustic bruchetta and some wine and mojitos. Went to City Lights. Aria was closed for the fourth time in a row we've tried to go. Yolie got another wonderful sweater at this very strange hole in the wall joint run by a woman who evidently won't let anyone touch the merchandise and chases potential customers out of the store at every opportunity. At the pier we had crab sandwiches and smoked salmon and more wine and some Scharfenberger bitter chocolates and then we drove home and were in our own bed by midnight.


*

Today we are both feeling a little hammered, so we're putzing around in the garden and lounging in the hammock and doing artwork and I've got to wash the dogs and then I'm so taking a nap it isn't even funny.


*


My gratitude is measureless.

Wide and deep and wild as the sea.


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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Kicking Doors



*

I buy into a certain kind of bullshit about being tough.

About packing the gear.


*


I don't know what it is. Maybe growing up with a daddy that was a cop. Seeing him put on his badge and gun in the early morning hours and step out into his patrol car in the driveway. Hearing his stories. Seeing them on television. Seeing lots of shit on television and the movies. Men running into enemy fire. Men dying in the sand and in the jungle and on the streets. Men grimacing and holding their shoulders as fake blood ran down their arms.

*

My little brother joined the Marines.


I used to worry about him.


*


Now he's a cop and I still do.



*


I seen death and killing. I know some about it. In its intimate details. Held things in my own hands, pieces of a man. Of a woman. A child.

I know enough to know better.




*

Still, it's something in me that can't learn. I'm off tomorrow to teach MP-5 submachine gun to the county Narcotics team. I can't sleep almost. I want to infect them with a mindset. I want them to walk out of that range training with something hard in them that might keep them alive.

I want it for myself.



*

When you are a child you see these things men do and you want badly to do them although you have no understanding. When you are a man and you choose to do them there is some part of you that is still a child. Although you should have understanding by then.


But you do and you don't.


*


You do and you don't.




*

What is this thing within me that wants so badly to be fed?



Is this where my demons lie?


Is this my strength?



Or is this some other thing?






*


I have a great weakness within me.



I seek to expell it.




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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Red Gun






*

If I were more strong-willed I'd never watch or listen to the news. I wouldn't have television in my home. I don't see the point. Must I be reminded every few hours of the suffering in this world?


*

Okay, maybe I do.




*

I don't know how to keep room in myself for all of it. It's a door that is always wanting to swing shut in me. It isn't easy for compassion to maintain a toehold. I'm a poor host to it.


*

Yesterday my partner and I were talking about the difference between cops and real people. It basically came down to cops being assholes and real people being stupid. By that we meant, in our own charming way, that what we see on the job changes us, abrades our soft spots and hammers us into something hard, and that this is something that real people don't, on average, like or understand. But we come to appreciate this new worn-down and hammered, smooth, hard kind of thing we've become.

Of course, this is all total bullshit.

Everyone becomes intimate with pain and everyone learns the same kind of lessons. No one is immune, and no one is more special because they get a larger helping, or a more constant supply.


The other thing is, we're getting other people's pain, and that ain't the same thing.


Not by a long shot.


***


Richard Siken is talking about pain and art in an interesting way on his blog, Aye, Wobot!. About art as a response to the stimulus of pain. I see what he's talking about. And really, if I'm reading him right, how everything we do, everything we create is on some level an attempt at ameliorating our pain. Our machines, our art, our entertainment, our structures, our language, our clothing, our words, acts, and thoughts.


Ouch.


Ow!


Here, put on a coat and go inside this lean-to. I drew a picture. Isn't it pretty?


Want something to eat?


Wanna hold hands?




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