sculpture

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“chiseller of inaccuracies”

–Fernando Pessoa

 

I would not speak

if I knew what to say.

There would be no need

to form words around

an unrealized dream.

It is the unsaid

which must be given

shape; which calls us

from its shapeless dark

to speak into existence

what we cannot know.

Yet, I know so little

about so much, I must

speak about it all.

I start where I am

which is always here.

First, I must listen,

discern the shapes

before I can speak.

My words carve out

what is there

from what is not

as the silence unfolds

a new kind of truth.

 

(August 23, 2018)

I Sit Beneath a Calder

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–Chicago Art Institute, July 13

 

slow shapes turn about

each other as they turn

together through larger

fluidic constraints

 

the whole turns slower

partly to the left until

a  pause then moves

in a manner to the right

 

others speaking Japanese

move through the space pause

take a picture and move on

 

changing the room’s rhythm

which changes the slow shapes’

turn about each other and me

Rothko Chapel: a meditation

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like stepping into a still pool

deep in a primal cave—

you slip into this silence:

 

the light breathes, a liquid

luminescence, in slow

arrhythmic breaths,

 

and you are changed—

you see what you want

to see; desire, fear, hope

 

flicker across the surface

like faces of the dead,

hesitant and fleeting

 

until you see only your self

stripped of all significance

 

(July 2, 2018)

the words were why I wrote when young

 

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the words were a way out

between the rigid definitions,

the expectations carved in cant

 

the words slipped along fault

line’s edges; the incongruous fissured

like water through the undefined

 

the words wore meaning there,

bare and taut, shrugging off

all social niceties for love

 

the words were love for the world:

the laughter of the sun rippling

the horizon further each day

 

words were a way to a salvation

from what I was not to become

 

(June 25, 2018)

It’s Being

 

 

images-3

“It embroiders us with error.”

            –Christian Bok

 

 

as error

becomes change

 

warhol’s prints

print awry

 

a chance shifts

with each pass

 

its being’s

okay then

 

as so you

each morning

 

wake anew

yet again

 

to sleep deep

into you

 

until all’s

written out

 

and what was

said is said

 

as always

an old tale

 

only heard

in passing

 

(November 9, 2017)

frame works

“All such talismanic uses of photographs express a feeling both sentimental and implicitly magical: they are attempts to contact or lay claim to another reality.”
                                                            –Susan Sontag
           
1.1           motherwell
ravens and spiders perch watching
upon hidden shapes of words blurred
redactions black bouldered mute
the least possible answer erased
crushed beneath it all a swimmer
struggles to emerge or submerge
1.2
to the left in a blue hazy field
a woman’s ghost screams thinly
before a partial door frame
or perhaps a window where
vague light draws shadows
like a slow breath’s inhalation
1.3
hints of black flames
char a cauldron
as distant fires burn
banks during riots
random with meaning
a man’s shape’s absorbed
until no difference
beyond an evanescence
like fumes boiling hot
into the desolate air
fat swathes of lightning
vague and tangled
gash a path in the dark
while molten slag flows cold
a velvet tapestry of blood
2.1             surreptitious keyholes
down long vacant hallways
past thinly veiled windows
through suggestions of doors
into stark grey rooms
unexplained visions lie
framed and then framed
for you and then for you
again and then again
like mirrors in mirrors
open unsuspecting exposed
a sudden focus like an iris’s
opened dark desire for light
all else falls away blurred
like someone’s vague childhood
fragmented without context
2.2            projection room
on another wall
as if through a window
as if across an alleyway
as if to another window
as if a framed outtake
of a movie still
sliced from the film
then left on the floor
a young man lies
uncomfortable
his back towards you
as a faceless adult
possibly a parent
holds an open book
or some blurred picture
almost an admonishment
for which you feel guilt
for someone other than you
delineated without context
3            self-portraits and candids
even as themselves
they are not themselves
they become us as we
turn to shadows
the object as subject
as subject to object
tight prisms reflect
origami’s neat folds
you view our center
as if a distance
enclosed within
yourself as another
we dress the part
a film still frozen
yet still no film
but mundane dramas
like other family’s photos
strange yet comfortable
in the discomfort
we feel about each other
4            japanese sex hotels
staged rooms 
await set players
we provide scripts
within given frames
as well as players
to perform parts
out of character
for our set lines
lines we know
but never would
trip off our tongues
as if our very own
without this space
opened here
5            every atom of me
manifest
between worry and joy
transitions of time
without time
we change into ourselves
in each moment
then again
unfold
6            sorrow
through it all we walk
as if through an amoeba
music haunts the walls
a herniated chant
calling and calling and calling
each day into being
like the slow onset of tears
(August 14, 2015)

Suburban Life

I miss living in central Austin, except for the people
and the traffic, (fourth worst in the country according
to  The New York Times, right behind Los Angeles
for Christ’s sake), and of course, all the noise from all
the people, who would have thought death had undone
so many, as Eliot cribbed from Dante, and the traffic
makes me want to scream like a Siamese in heat
desperate for a mate. But what can I do? I just want
to see the Monet to Turner exhibit downtown
at the Blanton before it leaves to some other artsy-fartsy
city much farther away than Austin, the only town in Texas
I can stomach, liberal oasis that it is.  So I jump into
the Honda, hybrid of course, and head down the interstate
to take in a little culture, as the owner of Shakespeare
and Co. accused me of doing in Paris thirty years ago
when I didn’t respond fast enough to his overly interested
queries as to why a skinny Texas boy was wandering
around Europe for months looking  at pictures
hanging in the Louvre and other fancy-pants
museums which seemed to be in every city
all across Europe no matter how small. But that
is neither here nor there now, the Blanton is
the Blanton and right here, and Paris is so
far away, that I gird my loins, so to speak,
and brave the lethargic interstate’s quandaries
in search of somewhere beautiful to be.

(July 31, 2014)

On When I Can’t Write

It seems odd to write about what I do when I can’t write while I’m in a fairly prolific time with my writing. I think my key to not getting bogged down in a fallow period is that I keep a notebook with me at all times.
Since I was 15, I have carried with me some form of writer’s notebook. In high school I carried around a paper brad binder, then graduated to a three-ring binder where I kept neatly re-copied “finished” poems, not then realizing to what extent all the drafts could be mined later for the raw ore of writing. Of course, then, there wasn’t much of a revision process at all. Without ever having heard or thought about it, Ginsberg’s first-thought-best-thought became first-thought-only-thought in my composing process. So there wasn’t much to mine from the slag of my thinking. As I went off to college, I moved my notebook into a five-subject spiral. Ostensibly, the spiral was for notes for my classes, but never having learned how to take notes, I tended to work on ideas for stories and poems in the back of my college classes while half-heartedly listening to the lectures on Texas politics during the nineteen thirties, or the arcana of macro-economics. After graduate school, I settled into using a hard covered book-sized artist sketchpad as my notebook.  I like not having pre-printed lines to worry about and the texture of the paper appealed to me as well. The aesthetic of the writing experience became important as I relaxed into the process of writing, more than obsessing over the end product as I had as a beginning writer.
It is the focus on the process of writing, which I believe allows me to avoid the trap of not writing. When I am not working directly on a poem, or feel as if I don’t have something I am playing with, I will flip back through my notebook, reading through drafts of now “finished” poems, or bits of words that never progressed beyond the first contact with the page. Often in these lost bits, or leftover bits of language I find new starting points for new poems, or at least, places to grow larger leftover bits that I might be able to use later, or not.  They give me something to play with while my mind searches for the poem I will write.
Last summer, instead of cleaning out my closet as I was tasked, I found old notebooks from up to twenty years ago. I sat on the floor of the closet reading through old scraps of my thoughts. I was surprised by how much I found that I could use in the present. Some were happy accidents, others were directions I was not ready to go in when I first wrote them, or didn’t recognize as a true direction. But my point here is that if I hadn’t of gone through the old notebooks I wouldn’t have discovered something to write about in the present. 
What I also discovered from the old notebooks was that I am writing more in the last few years than I ever did twenty years ago.  I write the beginning and ending dates of each notebook in the inside cover as I begin and finish a book. It used to take me up to two years to finish off the space of the sketchpad. For the last three years I have run through the same sized book in six months.  I credit a large part of that to making the time to sit and work through my current book on a daily basis. In other words, when I can’t write, I do exactly what I do when I am writing well: I sit down and write. Sometimes I write on a specific poem I have been working on, other times I just flip through and re-read what I have written.  It is the time I make myself do this that is what makes the writing occur. I don’t wait to be inspired, or when I think I can find the time. I just do it. I sit down and I write. Or at least pretend to write. I don’t worry if what I am writing is worth a damn, I just write trusting that I will be able to find something, if not now, later, worth thinking about. I trust that the poems will come, that I will write something, that the muse will eventually talk back.