Monthly Archives: June 2004

Ah, New Orleans: a villanelle

The air is thick with history, with years of sweat and toil.
Old ghosts play hide and seek in sheets that show more recent use;
the wiser tourists avoid alleys and shun Bourbon’s roil.

Old men of different colors sit on their front steps and broil,
and stare across at one another, hearts filled with abuse;
the air is thick with history, with years of sweat and toil.

Some drunken fools careen along the street, in beads and foil
and pay five dollars to discover “where they got their shoes”.
The wiser tourists avoid alleys and shun Bourbon’s roil.

For two weeks in the spring, pre-Lent, the tense peace turns turmoil,
and you don’t want to see OPP for the weekend, that’s old news;
the air is thick with history, with years of sweat and toil.

If you look closely, underneath the surface, a slow boil
festers even in the minds of drunken revelers at Krewes.
The wiser tourists avoid alleys and shun Bourbon’s roil.

So come to spend your money here; we’ll throw our beads at you
and like as not you’ll end up poorer but show no scar or bruise.
The air is thick with history, with years of sweat and toil;
the wiser tourists avoid alleys and shun Bourbon’s roil.

29 JUN 2004

By request, here is a villanelle that theoretically also provides some impressions of New Orleans. Although I have to admit, feeling rather Tom Waitsy at the moment, the picture I’ve chosen to put in the Viewmaster for this one is a bit on the sadistic side. But then again, Nawlins does have that contingent. Ya know, vampires and all. With bondo fangs and everything. Giving tours. Pointing out witches … and strippers.

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A Meditation Haiku

Take a slow breath.
Don’t hold it long; let it go.
See, there is more air.

Take a good, long look;
Don’t scan the scene too quickly.
See, there is so much.

Take a deep swallow.
Don’t rush it; chew the liquid.
See how full you get.

Take a pause; listen.
Don’t mind all the surface noise.
See, you can do it.

Now give it all back.
Of course you have to keep some;
so you’ve changed the world.

Take a short lesson:
Each moment is a treasure;
gold can’t buy one back.

Breathe, look, drink, listen.
Become part of the whole world.
See — you can’t help it.

29 JUN 2004

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Freedom of speech doesn’t do any good
If no one has time to stop and listen;
Not that anyone actually could
Listen, with their mouths also open.

So I will stop talking, at least for a while,
and let everyone else have their say;
I will listen to the same things repeated
by countless others, who each think
they are repeating something for the first time
or that no one else has ever heard it.

And the quotations from third sources
(like reading the Bible and believing its happening to you)
will continue; with interpretations regurgitated
verbatim again and again.

But there is no point in me talking.
All I can describe is my own path;
I cannot begin to talk about yours.

And that’s what you want, isn’t it?
An atlas that shows where you could be going,
but doesn’t make you describe where you are.
Where YOU are.
Not where your philosophy is at present,
or your political agenda,
or the lack or abundance of your education,
or the number of newsfeeds you can consume each day.

You can keep that frame of reference
for someone who wants to be hung on a wall.

It ain’t me babe.

28 JUN 2004

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Dathy Pahka and the Couscous Bauble

We sit in circles, crop circles, like silver-clad heroes at Arthur’s table, dark knights of the soul of verse, our words colliding in the jousts of wit and criticism. Is it the flame that draws us moths to it, and so we dance in the flickering candlelight, hoping to stay entranced and yet remain un-scorched? Like ashes on the forehead can remind us of our lone and bitter days, days when we thought “if I could only be accepted, if they would only listen” and so drank ourselves silly in the inconsequentiality of the moment, we titter, stumble, laugh and tumble against the cold, hard steel of our truths, our realities.

And in the end, we want of wealth, of fame, of power, of “don’t I know you from somewhere” and “weren’t you with…last seasons” and “oh, I thought your last…was simply marvelous” and so on and so forth and furthermore and insofar and even if it mattered, even just one smattering of an insignificant jot of ink that spilled on blotting paper or stained the index finger rather than died its immortal death on the crucifix of watermarks and typesetters’ thorns – yes, even if that could save our tortured souls from waking in a world we could not evade with our descriptions, make light of in our comedic stances, would we want to pass it by, relinquish our hold on that which makes us realize how much we need to simply create, to form, to place under our power that experience of living, of dying, of falling down drunk in an alley watching our world crumble in half empty tea cups?

Written, it seems so concrete, so decisive and bold – yet it is the journal of a hallucination, created in our minds and carried out on the gurney of the flesh into the streets we barely recognize, and the stones in the pavement do not glint or glitter as we remember them, nor so brightly as they can.

An in our drunken haze we drop our curtsies and highballs half-full of the contraband elixir we consider our inspiration – and we ask for it by name in the password prose of prayer: give me three or four rounds of Dark (and often cloudy and thick swirling dark it is), and then a couple of clear and crystal Brights for the road, the road I must trod down in inebriated, lucid celebration of my inhibited yearnings. I want, I announce to the “wicked and expedient stones,” the world of my choice, of my creation: a world where one can morally possess a mind and venture to speak it, a world where social conventions are gatherings of gregarious and yet not sheep-like folk who know not only which fork to use with the salad, but which one to take at the bend in the road that leads to funny or witty, separating dull chortles from mirthful laughter.

Laughter, yes, and tears that come from excess – these are the signs by which we will be known; and they shall sing our praises while they curse us, hound us for mementos while they scour the tabloids for our inadequacies, and read until the wee hours of morning each drop of saccharine and strychnine we draw from our veins with the prick of a vengeful pen.


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Celsius 488.33

What is the point at which the conscience burns
and thus consumes the mind with thoughts to act,
that in its darkest recess for truth yearns
to separate illusions from the facts?

And the externals that provide the fuel,
that pile the planks under the stakes we seek
upon which to transfix ourselves as fools —
how much do we require before we speak?

These embers that now scorch the gathered crowd,
how long before their heat is burnt to ash
and we, again, will curse the cold in loud
vehement wailing in the last light’s flash?

How many will bewail both fire and dark
that dare disturb their dulled complacency
while others see engulfed in the first spark
the basic tenets of democracy?

And this conflagration we now build
to smoke some evil hornets from their nests —
at what point will its appetite be filled?
Once it’s begun, the bonfire knows no rest

’til it devours all things within its touch,
its raging tempest void of care or sense;
and then, too soon is gone without so much
as a faint flicker of experience.

Unless the fire outside is taken in
and used to fuel a greater flame inside,
the burning of externals is just din
that drowns out reasoning in fratricide.

So watch that flame with care that you ignite —
with caution, choose your victims for the pyre;
and know that he who claims his match most right
is likely both mistaken, and a liar.

25 JUN 2005

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On the Incredulous

Not that the incredulous person doesn’t believe in anything. It’s just that he doesn’t believe in everything. Or he believes in one thing at a time. He believes a second thing only if it somehow follows from the first thing. He is nearsighted and methodical, avoiding wide horizons. If two things don’t fit, but you believe both of them, thinking that somewhere, hidden, there must be a third thing that connects them, that’s credulity.

Incredulity doesn’t kill curiosity; it encourages it. Though distrustful of logical chains of ideas, I loved the polyphony of ideas. As long as you don’t believe in them, the collision of two ideas — both false — can create a pleasing interval, a kind of diabolus in Musica. I had no respect for some ideas people were willing to stake their lives on, but two or three ideas that I did not respect might still make a nice melody. Or have a goot beat, and if it was jazz, all the better.

— Umberto Eco, from Foucault’s Pendulum

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A Single Word

If I could in one word describe my road,
without digression through its tangent routes
or cataloging each and every node
that might be seen were I to map it out,

a single thing that clearly would detail
both how the trail and I got to this place,
despite the odds predicting I would fail
or in the search for truth, fall on my face,

then naming it would be of little use.
For if in a small segment of a line
the infinite whole world can be contained,

we may as well collect words as refuse
and think our days in study, wasted time,
a sentence where just empty space remains.

24 JUN 2004

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