Occasional Verse 10: Trying to Find Your Underwear After Sex

Posted in Occasional Verse on May 10th, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

Do I address the underwear 

or do I address you, 

now naked pair,

whose underwear disappeared

into that oblivion of bed clothes,

as if to say there is no way

to put that apple back on the tree?

Maybe there is someone approaching,

a child that needs sparing,

or a lover betrayed?

But that, of course,

only makes the underwear hide harder.

Could you close your eyes

you might be able to see yourselves

just five minutes before,

in a tangle of elbows and feet, 

pushing your underclothes 

back in time, almost to the first day.

And now the price of that pleasure 

is an eternity of search.

Nothing free in indulgence

is quite free of consequence.

Check out all the work in the Collection: Occasional Verse

Bookshelf 23: Cat Painters

Posted in Bookshelf on May 7th, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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Occasional Verse 9: Accidentally Giving Someone the Same Gift Three Times

Posted in Occasional Verse on May 3rd, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

I just gave my dad

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

for the third consecutive Christmas. 

This is enough

to break his waspy resolve. 

He’s called me out in front of the family 

from sheer exasperation. 

I’m shocked.

I can’t tell if it’s worse to be called out the third time 

or not to be called out the second? 

The book is well outside 

his taste: history or spy-fi. 

It was a risk to begin with, 

and I don’t even remember taking it. 

It is the kind of thoughtlessness 

that prevents me from being a good gift-giver, 

or even just average. 

And my father still hasn’t read the book. 

I think if anyone had given me a book three times, 

albeit unknowingly, 

I would have at least cracked the cover. 

Maybe I’m shifting blame here, 

my deficiencies as a gift-giver exposed? 

Maybe I’ll double down next year,

and give it to him a fourth time

starting a game of literary chicken 

that can only end 

in a new pair of running shoes for Murakami.


Check out all the work in the Collection: Occasional Verse

Uncollected 65, Floor

Posted in Uncollected on April 30th, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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Racists of America Club Note #19: Get Out of Slavery Free Card

Posted in Notes on the Racists of America Story on April 26th, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

I have a memory I might somehow be able to use. In the nineties when I was in high school, my stepfather listened to a lot of Rush Limbaugh on AM radio. One day I was walking through the kitchen and Rush was discussing the slavery reparations question. He had a guest on the show whose name I wish I could remember. The guest, as a black man, thought the idea of reparations was ridiculous and promised to send anyone who contacted him a certificate pardoning them for slavery. The idea seemed so preposterous to me, but also perfectly represented a white fantasy. I’m not even sure if the guest was serious about the certificate. I didn’t listen long enough to find out. I wish I had sent off for one.

Check out other work in the Racists of America series here.

Dirty Dish Gallery 35: Cornbread

Posted in Dirty Dish Gallery on April 23rd, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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The 17/18 Poems 38: I feel like a wall now

Posted in 17/18 poems on April 19th, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

of what whose habit is

to be by daylight pain,

like a Danish mope.

(I hate patience.)

I hate you,

and hate you in every color.

go chase rain to someone else’s doorstep.

I feel like a wall now.

Something I could shoot arrows off

or pour boiling oil 

all over your square-jawed silence.

May your lyrics try to keep peace

and always cause war

May it hurt when you laugh

May you watch

as the last snowball in hell

melts through your fingers.

Check out other work in the 17/18 Poems series here.

Paint Chips, Cracks, and Decay 20: Tape

Posted in Paint Chips Cracks and Decay on April 16th, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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Strange Faces Other Minds 15: another tin woman

Posted in Strange Faces Other Minds on April 12th, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

I read this poem at Sixfold magazine. The journal has a really interesting submission process. Essentially the people who have submitted poems vote for the best submissions and the top 30 make the magazine. Anyway, this is by far my favorite poem of all the different submissions I read. The user was anonymous, but if he/she ever finds this post. Let me know your name please. …and send me more poems. I love this one!

Check out other work in the Strange Faces Other Minds series here.

Bookshelf 22: I, Tonya

Posted in Bookshelf on April 9th, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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Occasional Verse 8: Hearing Your Own Pettiness in the Words of Your Son

Posted in Occasional Verse on April 5th, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

As you drive them to practice,

your son tells his friend

that their tennis coach is 

not the sharpest pencil in the box.

He says this with the same smirking condescension

(and cadence!) that you said it with, 

just two days before.

Moreover, feeling his point might have been 

too subtle he says it again.

At which point you interrupt

to correct your son in front of his friend. 

By which your son understands

you are not correcting his meanness

but his lack of guile.

And you did this all to seem 

nicer than you really are.

In the silent five minutes left 

before you reach the tennis court,

you realize your legacy will be total. 

Your son inherits not just your sense of humor

or your fluid single-handed backhand

but your vanity, pettiness, and spite.

He doesn’t just see you as you present yourself,

or as you conceive of yourself

but as you are. 

And all those not so comic foibles

will become part of him too. 

His words, your words, echo in your thoughts

for five long minutes and then a lifetime more

as you gaze vacantly through the windshield

at all that is before you in time

looking into the future,

the harshest kind of mirror. 

Check out all the work in the Collection: Occasional Verse

Uncollected 65, Building

Posted in Uncollected on April 2nd, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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Racists of America Club Note #18: etymology

Posted in Notes on the Racists of America Story on March 29th, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

When did the word racist get coined? When was it first leveled as an accusation?

Merriam Webster says 1902 but does not give the instance.

The online etymology dictionary has a fuller account but no original instance.

Check out other work in the Racists of America series here.

Dirty Dish Gallery 34: Crumbs

Posted in Dirty Dish Gallery on March 26th, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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The 17/18 Poems 37: in other ways distracted

Posted in 17/18 poems on March 22nd, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

in other ways distracted

I changed forever by the horns

with the same is me of mind

we never not today dead in narration

homeless in a poem 

become indifferent to the mantle

the urinal mint roiling in piss 

with such a thing including

an original state more than I ought to


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Paint Chips, Cracks, and Decay 19: Drywall

Posted in Paint Chips Cracks and Decay on March 19th, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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Strange Faces Other Minds 14: Eric with the Light Brown Hair

Posted in Strange Faces Other Minds, Uncollected on March 15th, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

I have no idea where I found this poem. If anyone knows the poet, let me know. I would love to read more of this poet’s work.

Eric with the Light Brown Hair

I have no horse! I have no horse! 

cries Eric sitting on the porch 

of the Twin Maples Retirement Home 

and it’s a fine spring day, 

I am walking to the playground 

when I stop to hear this, 

the most profound moment our town 

has seen since the ice-cream truck 

adopted a rendition of Stephen Foster’s 

Oh! Susanna

the profundity of which should be apparent 

to all those who linger in blissful repose 

over the sad lives of great forgotten men 

I have no horse! I have no horse! 

Eric behaves as one does 

after a beheadment 

and I love the ology of it 

and the ism of his cry 

I love the ology of clouds 

and the ism of rain too 

but not as specifically as 

I love Eric, who seeks his red rose 

in the fume of the moment 

his mouth oily and explosive, 

wide open, waiting for someone 

to throw a few peanuts in 

God has made some pretty weird comments 

in his time, about the nature of human 

life and all of that, naturally 

they are profound 

but somehow they seem like a morbid imitation 

compared to Eric’s 

and even if he goes back centuries 

every time he gets stewed

like the wildflowers who wither on the shore 

far from our native glen 

I sigh for Eric, who I unanswered, 

I sigh for Eric who once had light brown hair. 

as I swing 

floating like a vapor 

on the soft-spoken air

Check out other work in the Strange Faces Other Minds series here.

Bookshelf 21: Logicomix

Posted in Bookshelf on March 12th, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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Occasional Verse 7: My Son Fishes Coins Out of the Fountain at the Mall

Posted in Occasional Verse on March 8th, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

My eight year-old son can’t believe his luck.

That there are just 

“all of these coins left in this fountain.”

He easily fishes them out.

He’s recently become curious about money

and where it comes from. 

I’m afraid this is sending him

the wrong message.

I’m also worried about all those wishes.

Will they still come true?

I feel silly for even thinking that.

I would feel really silly 

saying that to my son, 

who might think, as it now stands,

that one obtains money from fountains.

I am desperate for one of those signs

that are on some fountains that say

these coins are collected for charity.

Then I could tell my son to leave the coins

for the kids with multiple sclerosis or something.

My son is really raking it in at this point. 

His wet little hands filled with lucre.

People are starting to look.

Other kids are getting curious.

There might be a run forming on this fountain.

All I can think of telling my son

is that we have to be somewhere.

Later at home we count the money–

“Count de Monet!”

He’s too young for Mel Brooks jokes.

Three dollars in change.

Not bad, my little capitalist.

He is now asking for a water feature 

in front of our house. 

I didn’t expect that.

I try to explain that nobody 

would make wishes in our fountain.

He wants to know why the mall fountain 

is better for wishing 

than a fountain in our yard, 

to which 

I have nothing to say.

Check out all the work in the Collection: Occasional Verse

Uncollected 64, Wigs

Posted in Uncollected on March 5th, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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Racists of America Club Note #17: Converting to an Essay

Posted in Notes on the Racists of America Story on March 1st, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

(Failing to find the story in an idea, here is an attempt to rewrite the idea as an essay.)

Title: Recovering from Racism

Are you a racist? The question almost feels like an accusation, but it’s not meant that way. Just take a second and ask yourself. I am willing to bet 99.9% of the people that read this would answer no. Maybe even a vehement no. 

 So okay, have you ever imitated black speech to make a joke with your white friends? Maybe not? Have you ever laughed at one of your friends who did? What about have you ever looked at a name on a piece of paper and your first thought was, ‘that person must be black’?

Well maybe you have done one of those things or can think of something you did along similar lines. Is this racism? Maybe, but at least not in its worst form. 

Okay, another question, have you ever been talking with someone who said, “I’m not a racist, but….” and whatever they said after the ‘but’ sounded racist to you?  I’m guessing you have. 

All of these questions are trying to make this point, there are a lot of people out there that are a little racist, but don’t think of themselves as racist. In fact, my guess is most of the racism in America is of this sort, sometimes called implicit racism. There are very few people that even in private conceive of themselves as racist. (I mean even Donald Trump doesn’t consider himself a racist.) I would also guess given our difficult 400 years of race relations that nobody has been untouched by that history. Struggling with race is in our cultural DNA. Calling somebody a racist is basically calling them American. I include African Americans in that statement. And I am not talking about anti-white racism either. Our history race is so difficult that it is almost impossible for an African Americans to not be at least implicitly biased against their own race. 

I don’t say all this to condemn America either. Every country has its history to live up to and live down. I say this to try to move us forward. At the moment, the technique for moving forward seems to be leveling the accusation of ‘racist’ or ‘racism’ at a particular individual or practice. One sees for example a clothing designer, politician, or business owner being called out as a racist in mass media outlets. Maybe at one point a shaming technique worked? Maybe when we were dealing with a significant population of self-identifying racists. Whatever the efficacy of this technique historically I feel like it is failing us now. It doesn’t work for the accusers or the accused. For the accused the stakes are way too high for essentially struggling with something that we all struggle with. There is no way for someone to make a racist mistake and learn from it. There is only condemnation and denial. There is no way for someone to admit a mistake or to even question what is racist and what isn’t. So in an environment where no one identifies as a racist yet there is still plenty of racism, we are guaranteed only the suppression of symptoms and the festering of causes. 

My proposal is that we start working on racism using a recovery paradigm. The kind used to fight physiologically deep problems like alcoholism. I don’t think racism has the same physiological basis but is culturally very deep. Not only is it deep like alcoholism. There is an incredible amount of guilt, shame, and denial surrounding both the term racist and alcoholic. What I love about programs like AA is first owning the problem. Everyone gets up and says ‘My name is <blank> and I’m an alcoholic’. This seems so simple but is actually quite hard. Many in recovery have been in denial for years with both themselves and those that love them about precisely this. They have given all kinds of qualifications. You have probably heard a million of these excuses. I drink a lot but I’m not a drunk. I like to have fun. It isn’t affecting my job. I drink but it is definitely under control. You get the idea. And just like with racism, there is usually someone to point at that has a bigger problem than you, which is why you never start working on your problem. Saying you’re an alcoholic in AA is not meant to make all drinking problems seem like they have the same severity. It is the acknowledgement of a common struggle. A recognition of the struggle and therefore the ability to improve.


Check out other work in the Racists of America series here.

Dirty Dish Gallery 33: Beet Wings

Posted in Dirty Dish Gallery on February 26th, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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The 17/18 Poems 36: Kelly

Posted in 17/18 poems on February 22nd, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

I hear Kelly, I do Kelly

not so much saved 

as salvaged

until I couldn’t 

I couldn’t

just for the moment 

I’m saying

spell comfort

C-O-M-F-O-R-T

this plan is about envy

this play is about summer’s prices

a cock will burn down this city

a Minneapolis in the purple rain

we’re gussied up for the going down

I want to see Kelly

I want her to know

that hate, cold as it is

is only love’s winter

Check out other work in the 17/18 Poems series here.

Paint Chips, Cracks, and Decay 18: Onion Skin Basement Floor

Posted in Paint Chips Cracks and Decay on February 19th, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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Strange Faces Other Minds 14: Q&A

Posted in Strange Faces Other Minds on February 15th, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

I’ve spent the last hour trying to figure out who wrote this piece of run-on goodness. I thought it was by Dean Young, but if it is, I can’t locate it. I’d apprecitate any help if you know where this is from.

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Bookshelf 20: The Myth of the Ethical Consumer

Posted in Bookshelf on February 12th, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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Occasional Verse 6: Your Six Year-old Daughter Asks How the Penis Gets Into the Vagina

Posted in Occasional Verse on February 8th, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

What do you say? Do you tell her?

I told her.

And now your wife

wants to know why.

So does your therapist.

Maybe it’s because you remember

the day you figured it out

in fifth grade,

a full three years before

it was revealed 

in junior high health class

by a football coach 

that said puberty 

poo-ber-dee.

You were riding your bike

home after school,

puzzling it out.

You knew that somehow

the penis had to 

get into the vagina

for babies to get made.

But it just didn’t seem possible 

that the penis, 

a squishy little piece of flesh,

could be pushed against a vagina, 

and do anything but crumple.

If only it could be made firmer,

if only it had another state.

Wait a minute, 

I stopped the bike for this.

I remembered that the penis 

almost has the desired properties

when you wake up in the morning.

What your mom sometimes calls a flagpole.

Yes, that might just work,

a flagpole penis.

Oh my God, a flagpole penis! 

If you don’t take into account my age

at that moment, 

you might be unimpressed,

but remember this was pre-poo-ber-dee.

An erection was in no way connected

to desire in my mind.

I was like a man who’d never seen water,

trying to figure out how a fish swims.

I was an anatomical engineer 

that deduced the solution from first principles.

It was my on-the-road-to-Damascus moment.

Okay, not everybody gets to be Paul.

But when the great engineer in the sky 

has called your name, 

you go out and you preach the word.

And that is why I told my daughter.

Check out all the work in the Collection: Occasional Verse

Uncollected 63, Apartments

Posted in Uncollected on February 5th, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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Racists of America Club Note #16: Something to Work In

Posted in Notes on the Racists of America Story on February 1st, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

Sometimes when someone is doing something that annoys you, it is difficult to imagine that they aren’t doing it specifically to annoy you.

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The 17/18 Poems 35: A World of Made

Posted in 17/18 poems on January 25th, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

a world of made is not a world of born

how many rain-soaked lives must I live

this makes me pain great cause, and again, and again

in this opportunity of space, I am an asshole

an asshole deep

from the day that sex made me

from wanting the page to roar back

from the future I’ll never see

god, please grant me, not serenity

not this cleat or that clod

or the beauty of the leaden peonies

god, grant not love and good conscience

but a deeper, blacker stripe.

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Paint Chips, Cracks, and Decay 18: Wrapper

Posted in Paint Chips Cracks and Decay on January 22nd, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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Dirty Dish Gallery 32: Napkin

Posted in Dirty Dish Gallery on January 21st, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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Strange Faces Other Minds 13: Bear’s Night Letter

Posted in Strange Faces Other Minds on January 18th, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

This Brendan Galvin poem is filled with such beautiful masculine creepery.

Dear Blank. That’s how I think of you.

Nameless as your eyes would disclose you

if I got that close.

You may have noticed me, though,

in my window above the street

where I pretend to be switching channels.

I suspect your mother suspects

I have been watching you,

and maybe she is correct to guard

her clothesline, the seven flavors

of your nighties, your pantyhose having a fling

with the breeze. If you think I am humorless

you are wrong. I see the comedy

of those popsicle-colored convertibles

you and your friends jazz around in.

I see your father’s pride

when he waters the flowers and you

practice handstands or pump your arms

and work over the grunts 

of a high-school cheer.

I’m not going to slide out of shadow

with a voice full of peanuts, Hey, Girlie,

a crank who stuffs pigeons 

into a sack. Oh, no. Secure in my creephood,

it’s enough to watch, knowing that one day

perfect teeth enter the pizza

that breaks the cartwheel’s back.

Check out other work in the Strange Faces Other Minds series here.

Bookshelf 19: Big Money

Posted in Bookshelf, Uncollected on January 15th, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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Occasional Verse 5: Trying to Find Your Underwear After Sex

Posted in Occasional Verse on January 11th, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

Do I address the underwear 

or do I address you, 

now naked pair,

whose underwear disappeared

into that oblivion of bed clothes,

as if to say there is no way

to put that apple back on the tree?

Maybe there is someone approaching,

a child that needs sparing,

or a lover betrayed?

But that, of course,

only makes the underwear hide harder.

Could you close your eyes

you might be able to see yourselves

just five minutes before,

in a tangle of elbows and feet, 

pushing your underclothes 

back in time, almost to the first day.

And now the price of that pleasure 

is an eternity of search.

Nothing free in indulgence

is quite free of consequence.

Check out all the work in the Collection: Occasional Verse

Uncollected 64, Building

Posted in Uncollected on January 5th, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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Racists of America Club Note #15, attempt at an intro

Posted in Notes on the Racists of America Story on January 4th, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

Who would think up the Racists of America Club? There he is right now on that park bench, spilling ice cream on his shirt. Progress is wrought by imperfect vessels and there was none more imperfect than Donald.

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Dirty Dish Gallery 31: Pepper Seeds

Posted in Dirty Dish Gallery, Uncollected on January 1st, 2021 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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The 17/18 Poems 35: I Miss The Future

Posted in 17/18 poems on December 28th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

I miss the future maybe more than the past

what was to be and now will not

tragically gliding forward and away from us

there were happier men in that future

there was justice in that future

and most of all there was great poetry

can we bring it back forward

or is it gone forever

men will never have the character and intellect

that was to be so

being of the future

this loss cannot technically be 

a fall from grace

but being so close to realization

it feels we really did lose something

and now that wisdom, gentleness, and peace

is never to be had, or almost had, again

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Paint Chips, Cracks, and Decay 17: Gum

Posted in Paint Chips Cracks and Decay on December 25th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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Strange Faces Other Minds 12: Parade

Posted in Strange Faces Other Minds on December 21st, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

Right in the middle of Parade by Tony Hoagland, I ran into this.

Something weird to admire this week on TV:

the handsome face of the white supremacist on trial.

How he looks right back at the lawyers, day after day

–never objecting, never making an apology.

I look at his calm, untroubled face

and think, That motherfucker is going to die white and right,

dissappointing everyone like me

who thinks that punishment should be a kind of education.

I felt so called out on my shit, like Hoagland came to my house, punched me in the balls and left.

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Bookshelf 18: The 42nd Parallel

Posted in Uncollected on December 18th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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Occasional Verse 4: When Your Favorite Band Mainstreams

Posted in Occasional Verse on December 14th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

It’s tremendously gratifying. 

You were right.

This band is great.

But the very same moment they legitimize your taste,

they no longer serve as its marker.

You are a bit like a revolutionary

that suddenly finds himself in power.

It’s a little embarrassing.

What do you do now?

Who is left to convert?

There is no argument to make,

amazingly everyone agrees.

The only answer

is to find another backwater band

with which to bother your unlistening friends.

The guerilla needs to go back to the jungle.

If you don’t, you’ll find yourself 

saying silly things like

I liked them before this or that important concert,

waiting for your early adoption 

                              to count for something.

Check out all the work in the Collection: Occasional Verse

Uncollected 63, Tiles

Posted in Uncollected on December 11th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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Racists of America Club Note #14

Posted in Notes on the Racists of America Story on December 7th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

(Another piece of dialogue. I’m not clear on the context.)

You should come to a meeting.

I’m not sure I’d know what to say.

Just come, listen. You don’t have to speak if you don’t want to, but you probably will. I hardly ever know what I want to say, but once I hear other people share, something always comes up. Most of us live lives rich with shame about race.

Check out other work in the Racists of America series here.

Dirty Dish Gallery 30: Chopsticks

Posted in Dirty Dish Gallery on December 4th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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The 17/18 Poems 34: Marigold

Posted in 17/18 poems on November 30th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

marigold 

a story in place 

a palace floating 

acting mythic

really sinking

I started wondering

got lost

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Paint Chips, Cracks, and Decay 16: Cursive

Posted in Paint Chips Cracks and Decay on November 27th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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Strange Faces Other Minds 11: College

Posted in Strange Faces Other Minds on November 23rd, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

This Mary Ruefle poem is one of my favorites of hers. I haven’t heard her read it unfortunately, but I found this in her Trances of the Blast collection.

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Bookshelf 17: In the Realm of Perfection

Posted in Bookshelf on November 20th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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Occasional Verse 3: Reading Nietzsche Before Watching It’s a Wonderful Life

Posted in Occasional Verse on November 16th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

These spirits do not mix.

All it took was a 30 minute dose of Nietzsche

on the herd mentality, mobbing, 

and the perversion of the ubermench’s spirit, 

to make George Bailey’s wonderful life a Greek tragedy.

Prior to this encounter, I had seen the movie

over 15 times, usually during holidays,

and it always touched me.

But this was the first time I saw 

George’s family, friends, and townspeople

ply that combination

of guilt, shame, and sex 

(not to mention some angel dust pyrotechnics)

to level George Bailey, man of talent.

And on this viewing, surprise of surprises,

Mr. Potter turns out to be the only man

trying to save poor George,

even if it is

only out of self interest.

And all those gut-wrenching moments 

coming so close to escaping:

the board meeting,

the bank run,

the train station with Harry,

the call from Sam Wainwright,

(if that idiot can make it anyone can).

If only Ernie the cabbie

would just chloroform Georgie-boy.

Just so he could get out of his own way 

for a half an hour. 

The real dagger in the soul is the end

when he’s wet, disheveled 

with tinsel matted on his head, 

looking out as an imbecile on all proceedings,

as he is made

to feel grateful for it all.

Check out all the work in the Collection: Occasional Verse

Uncollected 62, Window in Snow

Posted in Uncollected on November 13th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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Racists of America Club Note #13

Posted in Notes on the Racists of America Story on November 9th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

One shameful moment when I was young I thought I could work into the sharing moments at one of the meetings.

I lost a coat as a kid when we were staying in a hotel in the southwest. I’d been playing with a Mexican boy also staying in the hotel for a few days at a multipurpose court that the hotel had. When the coat went missing my dad asked me where I thought it was. I told him the Mexican boy probably stole it. My dad called me on that assumption immediately and that same day he found my coat in the hotel lost in found. My dad bringing it to me mentioned it was probably the Mexican boy that took it to the lost and found.

Check out other work in the Racists of America series here.

Dirty Dish Gallery 29: Cracks

Posted in Dirty Dish Gallery on November 6th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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The 17/18 Poems 33: A Square Yes

Posted in 17/18 poems on November 2nd, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

a square-yes

no not even that

or maybe it doesn’t 

find its fold

the map I mean

make it into work

of the captured heart

the heel is heavy

I serve

a practiced gesture

since I can’t say no

I won’t

Check out other work in the 17/18 Poems series here.

Paint Chips, Cracks, and Decay 15: Cement

Posted in Paint Chips Cracks and Decay on October 30th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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Strange Faces Other Minds 10: Eggrolls

Posted in Strange Faces Other Minds on October 26th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

This is one of my favorites. I’ve heard Shapiro read this one. It’s great spoken or on the page. Here is the page-version from Slate.

Check out other work in the Strange Faces Other Minds series here.

Bookshelf 16: Crying of Lot 49

Posted in Bookshelf on October 23rd, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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Occasional Verse: Series Descriptor

Posted in Occasional Verse on October 19th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

Occasional Verse is an attempt to reimagine that genre of poetry around smaller events. Events that are still meaningful in a life without being the major threshold events that are the mainstay of occasional verse: birth, marriage, death…

Check out all the work in the Collection: Occasional Verse

Uncollected 61, Brush

Posted in Uncollected on October 16th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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Racists of America Club Note #12

Posted in Notes on the Racists of America Story on October 12th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

(an attempt at dialogue, I’m viewing this as the founder being interviewed by a reporter)

-What you need to understand it that the club isn’t a place for racists.

-Then why is it called the Racists of America Club?

-Well. I guess it is for racists. It just that I mean. Crap. Hold on. 

-It’s like it’s a place for racists trying to escape racism. Does that make any sense?

-How do you try to “escape”?

-Mostly by just talking. We each share a little something. It could be something going on at the moment. It could be something from the past that a person is working through. The important part is that it’s not judged. Each person says what’s in their heart. They learn to trust the group. One guy has a black guy at work he’s having a problem with. One girl has a story from when she was ten years old that has shamed her to this day. 

Check out other work in the Racists of America series here.

Dirty Dish Gallery 29: Red Drops

Posted in Dirty Dish Gallery on October 9th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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The 17/18 Poems 32: Of Made To Gather

Posted in 17/18 poems on October 5th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

of made to gather

jingles many songs

feeds a complex hunger

live at your ear

to notice and care

admitting exchange

eyes never shut

sense trying to make itself

mist more than memory

a raft of deadmen

late at night 

in low earth orbit

Check out other work in the 17/18 Poems series here.

Paint Chips, Cracks, and Decay 14: Cracked

Posted in Paint Chips Cracks and Decay on October 2nd, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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Strange Faces Other Minds 9: Le Petit Vie

Posted in Strange Faces Other Minds on September 28th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

I first heard Le Petit Vie on the Poetry Foundation’s Poem of the day podcast. I love Edwin Butt’s poem written too.

Check out other work in the Strange Faces Other Minds series here.

Bookshelf 15: Jayhawker

Posted in Bookshelf on September 25th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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Occasional Verse 2: Driving the Wrong Way Down a One Way Street

Posted in Occasional Verse on September 21st, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

You entered the do not enter

and there is no way out but through.

You will learn that the usually effective

embarrassed/apologetic wave has its limits.

Even the church-going mother

in the hatchback

taking her children to school 

can be seen muttering

a few non-biblical epithets

under her breath.

Her stare is enough to wish for the end times.

You have screwed this up for everyone

and will have to keep screwing

because backing up is worse than continuing.

You can only manage your level of wrong here.

Driving the wrong way down a one way street is like

putting a roasted potato in your mouth

at a dinner party that is way too hot

but you can’t spit it out.

So take the honking,

take the shrugs,

take the fingers.

This is an exercise in humility.

It is spiritually cleansing.

Remember Elliot’s words

Nothing dies harder than

the desire to think well of self

and know that today,

if just for a little while,

you killed it.

Check out all the work in the Collection: Occasional Verse

Uncollected 60, Smug

Posted in Uncollected on September 18th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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Racists of America Club Note #11

Posted in Notes on the Racists of America Story on September 14th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

Here is an attempt at dialogue. The scene is a reporter asking the founder of RAC questions

I know you are interviewing me, but can I ask you a question?

Uh, okay.

Are you a racist? 

(The reporter looks shocked.)

That wasn’t an accusation. I have no reason to think that you are.

No, of course not!

Have you ever imitated a black speech to make a joke with your white friends?

No! (defiantly)

Have you ever laughed at one of your friends who did? 

Uhm…..(hems and haws)

Have you ever looked at a name on a piece of paper and your first thought was, ‘that person must be black’?

Well, this doesn’t really seem like racism, at least not in its worst form. 

Okay, how about this, have you ever been talking with someone who said, “I’m not a racist, but….” and whatever they said after the ‘but’ sounded racist to you? 

(laughs a little) I’ve definitely heard that before.

So this is my point, there are a lot of people out there that are a little racist, but don’t think of themselves as racist. In fact, my guess is most of the racism in America is of this sort. There are very few people that even in private conceive of themselves as racists. I would also guess given that our difficult 400 years of race relations that nobody has been untouched by that history. Struggling with race is in our cultural DNA. Calling somebody a racist is basically calling them American.

Check out other work in the Racists of America series here.

Dirty Dish Gallery 28: Nail Clippings

Posted in Dirty Dish Gallery on September 11th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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The 17/18 Poems 31: Early The Scarlet Morning

Posted in 17/18 poems on September 7th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

early the scarlet morning

the sky floods

blood ruddy

we must remember

the heart is simple

the limousine full

it is ancient

it is awful

image: turning baskets over

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Paint Chips, Cracks, and Decay 13: Boxed Box

Posted in Paint Chips Cracks and Decay on September 4th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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Strange Faces Other Minds 8: The Rain

Posted in Strange Faces Other Minds on August 31st, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

I found this Creeley poem via The Poetry Foundation’s Poem of the Day podcast. I loved the audio, but reading it was just as good.

Check out other work in the Strange Faces Other Minds series here.

Bookshelf 14: Trances of the Blast

Posted in Bookshelf on August 28th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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Occasional Verse 1: Arguing About Whether You are Arguing

Posted in Occasional Verse on August 24th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

You are discussing a movie with your wife.

Talk has circled around various interpretations,

and now you find yourself debating, rather vigorously, 

whether you agree with each other. 

You maintain that with minor exceptions you do.

Your wife is quite certain that you don’t.

Don’t be surprised. 

For if there is an acorn through which 

to glimpse the forest of marriage, 

it must be the argument about whether you are arguing.

And so, here we have

in this discourse 

the inability of two to be one,

coupled with the relentless determination

that quite simply two equals one.

It’s a very real physical impossibility, 

a duality of states

as in superposition

not as one, not as two

but, for lack of a better term,

a one / not one.

Uncollected 59, Lines

Posted in Uncollected on August 21st, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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Racists of America Club Note #10 (A Cry For Help)

Posted in Notes on the Racists of America Story on August 17th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

Hey dog,

Hope the shingles aren’t too bad. I talked to mom last night. She’s thinking about coming up to <> and nursing you. She also convinced me to get the shingles vaccination. She’s in full mama bear mode 🙂

If you are feeling well enough, I have a question about the Racists of America Club. I’ve been working on it like I said. I seem to have gotten into it by opening it as an interview. Right now it doesn’t have the bite of a real story though. It is more akin to one of the Socratic dialogues in Plato in which the star is the idea less than the characters discussing the idea. I think one of the problems of the story for me is that I actually believe in the idea too much. It is not like a real interrogation. I’m too one sided about it. Have you ever had this problem writing a story? Maybe I should be writing an essay instead? Help!

The reply…

Alright, as far as your question about RAC, yes, this is a common issue for a lot of writers, especially people newer to fiction writing, though we all face it. I see it with my students sometimes: they want to write the “Message Story” that feels like it has a thesis statement that they lead with but then remember they’re supposed to tell a story so they try to paste some one-dimensional characters and plot onto sexy their idea after the fact. I sometimes think of this as the story that knows too well where it wants to go so all the arrows point in one direction. It’s not that fiction should avoid big ideas by any means; it’s just that those ideas are always WAY more interesting when they grow out of three-dimensionally complex characters who have the real life human fears/hopes/conflict that we all do. That’s harder to do, I know, but if you don’t you run the risk of making the story about the idea and the idea only, and so the characters become cardboard cutouts spouting the author’s big idea. As a reader you feel cheated: You came looking for a story and you got a treatise, so you sort of feel like, Homie, why didn’t you just write an essay or polemic?

Actually, Pynchon of all people has one of the best lines about this. In one of the very few–perhaps only–nonfiction writings about his work (it’s the introduction to his volume of early short stories which is called Slow Learner) and in it he talks about an early short story he wrote that was titled “Entropy.” Entropy, of course, is the central Pynchonian metaphor and concern for all of his mature work, but early on he tried to write a story about it with that very fucking title and he has this great line about it: “The story is a fine example of a procedural error beginning writers are always being cautioned against. It is simply wrong to begin with a theme, symbol, or abstract unifying agent, and then try to force characters and events to conform to it.”

So you are not alone. We’ve all been there. You don’t have to take me to funky town. I already live there.

But while the diagnosis is clear, the solution is obviously much harder. I do think it all essentially comes down to character. You cannot have Socratic mouthpieces. These need to be characters that you make the reader feel like are real, that we have known or can recognize as true to our lived experience. You need to think about who these people in your story are. Sit down and think about their backstories and what has brought them to the present moment of your story. As yourself what their greatest fear or hope is. What’s their greatest shame? What’s their biggest wound in life, or their greatest joy? Where did they grow up and why is that significant? What’s the one thing they’ll be thinking about or remembering on their death bed? Not all of this will actually appear in the story, but they will help you get to know your character and you need to know it because that will help you make them three-dimensional. It will give context and complexity to the way in which you write/present them in the present narrative of your story.

The other thing about this gets back to this notion of the story knowing too well where it wants to go. I think it’s okay to have a sense of where you think the story might go, but you can’t be locked into it. I typically try to have a rough outline for a story. Very rough. I sometimes think of these as almost stage directions (By the end of this scene Character A has to wake up, go to work, and have a fight with a coworker) that mostly function as floaties that help me get into the big pool: they help me get started writing when I feel the anxiety of ‘what the hell do I do’ as the cursor blinks back at me. But I’m not beholden to an outline in any way. Because usually no matter what I think might happen in a scene or story will actually change in the act of actually writing it. And that is one of the exciting parts of writing. You have all that highly conscious forethought about your story and what you think is gonna happen, but the hope is that at some point you sort of drop into the zone/muse, that less conscious level that can’t really be planned for except by doing, that opens up new doors to and changes the way you thought the story would unfold.

I guess the last thing I’ll say is about my own personal experience with this. In <> I very much set out to write about politics in an overt way, which was risky. And obviously as a leftist/socialist I have a particular world view and belief system. One of the big tricks for me was figuring out how to not shy away from politics (which I think a lot of writers try to do to avoid charges of dogma or propaganda), but how can I write about it in a complex and interesting way. I think when people say they don’t want to read about politics in their fiction what they’re really saying is they don’t want to read bad writing, whether it’s Ayn Rand or Soviet social realism. So I wanted to write about these abstract ideas that I’m committed to, but to do so with complexity so that it didn’t just feel like characters were mouthpieces for my politics. This meant giving complex issues their due complexity, which meant I oftentimes had to undermine my own politics or point out its flaws or contradictions or limitations (even if I personally still remain committed to them). I felt like that was the only way I could write overtly about politics while still making the good kind art that strives to make the simple more complex. Thankfully I’m better at this in art than in my daily life, where too often I want to make something as complex as economics or politics overly simple.

A few years ago this website asked me to write some advice to young fiction writers. I ended up coming up with a list of 25 pieces of advice. Some of these might be silly, but I think at least a couple of them might be helpful for you in thinking about how to tell this story. Anyway, I attached a copy here if you want to take a look.

I hope I didn’t overwhelm you with all this, but it’s a big and complex issue in writing so I wanted to give you my honest thoughts.

Check out other work in the Racists of America series here.

Dirty Dish Gallery 27: Artichoke Burn

Posted in Dirty Dish Gallery on August 14th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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The 17/18 Poems 30: Willow Said to Be Weeping

Posted in 17/18 poems on August 10th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

willow said to be weeping
joy said to be mocking
hope said to be thin
and the cargo was not slaves

this is the verbal energy
that surrounds the contemplation
of difficult (I mean ravenous) things

a bit daring I do say,
unlovely hand,
you are the subject given over
just like the dead
and in such quantities,
such well-meaning forevers

Check out other work in the 17/18 Poems series here.

Paint Chips, Cracks, and Decay 12: Ticket Sign

Posted in Paint Chips Cracks and Decay on August 7th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

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Strange Faces Other Minds 7: Presque Isle

Posted in Strange Faces Other Minds on August 3rd, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

In every life, there’s a moment or two.
In every life, a room somewhere, by the sea or in the mountains.

On the table, a dish of apricots. Pits in a white ashtray.

Like all images, these were the conditions of a pact:
on your cheek, tremor of sunlight,
my finger pressing your lips.
The walls blue-white; paint from the low bureau flaking a little.

That room must still exist, on the fourth floor,
with a small balcony overlooking the ocean.
A square white room, the top sheet pulled back over the edge of the bed.
It hasn’t dissolved back into nothing, into reality.
Through the open window, sea air, smelling of iodine.

Early morning: a man calling a small boy back from the water.
That small boy–he would be twenty now.

Around your face, rushes of damp hair, streaked with auburn.
Muslin, flicker of silver. Heavy jar filled with white peonies.

Every time I read this it takes me to my room somewhere. I first experienced this poem on the page. I wish I could find a recording of Gluck reading it.

Check out other work in the Strange Faces Other Minds series here.

The Mantra of Craft T-shirt Gallery 15

Posted in The Mantra of Craft T-shirt Gallery on July 31st, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

Time to Murder and Create Wall Clock

Strange Faces Other Minds 6: Somebody in a Bar

Posted in Strange Faces Other Minds on July 27th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

This is a great example of how lightning can strike anywhere. I photo copied this page from a book of poems in the library. I didn’t like any of the other poems. I don’t even like this poem, but the second stanza by itself is probably the best thing I’ve read all year. It kills me every time I read it. I tried to track down who wrote it, but wasn’t able to. If anyone reads and recognizes it, please let me know.

Somebody in a Bar

Bookshelf 13: God’s Silence

Posted in Bookshelf on July 24th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

god's silence

Racists of America Club Note #9

Posted in Notes on the Racists of America Story on July 20th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

The reason I can’t write the story is that I believe in the idea too much. It would be the same as writing one dimensional characters that are surrogates for pure good or evil. I don’t have the ability to interrogate the idea.

Uncollected 58, Comb

Posted in Uncollected on July 17th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

comb

Strange Faces Other Minds 5: Birdseed

Posted in Strange Faces Other Minds on July 13th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

Robert Saunders was a good friend. He passed away 10 years ago and I still miss him. It is hard to know if I’d like this poem as much if I didn’t know him personally. It definitely reminds me about what I loved so much being around him. I guess it doesn’t really matter though, if you love a poem, you love a poem.

Birdseed

I planted birdseed
But no birds grew;
I watered the plot
While over it flew
Other birds, who
Were unaware
Of what I thought
Was growing there.

Paint Chips, Cracks, and Decay 11: Pitted Blue Wall

Posted in Paint Chips Cracks and Decay on July 10th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

Pitted Blue Wall

Paint Chips, Cracks, and Decay 10: Staples

Posted in Paint Chips Cracks and Decay on July 10th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

staples

The 17/18 Poems 29: Stubbornly Former

Posted in 17/18 poems on July 6th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

by this kind

he means cancer

the prospect he attaches to firmly

narrative abusing time…again

he is the tom of love now

all windows

in the mood to be forgotten

while others discuss

bribes and blandishments

instead of the love

they are too afraid to want

let the heaven we inherit approach

out of the deep business of some dream,

that heaven so stubbornly former


Dirty Dish Gallery 26: Salad Gone

Posted in Dirty Dish Gallery on July 3rd, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

salad gone - Edited

Uncollected 57, Second Hell

Posted in Uncollected on June 29th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

My company for eternity

Would be “onerous”

Said the devil

And that is how second hell started

I called to the cloying

The grating, the unambitiously mean

With no small pride

I say we are many


Light 26: building occluding sun

Posted in Light on June 26th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

Building Occluding Sun

The 17/18 Poems 28: No, Mrs. Khokhlakov, No

Posted in 17/18 poems on June 22nd, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

no, Mrs. Khokhlakov, no

what can one say

of how to live a life

other than

to just survive it

burnt shame

darkening memory

can God even caution you now?

I hope, but hope only

waiting to be told

that Icarus melts the stars

Bookshelf 12: The History of English Poetry

Posted in Bookshelf on June 19th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

history of eng poetry

The 17/18 Poems 27: From Where the Animating Myth

Posted in 17/18 poems on June 15th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

from where the animating myth

such a thing including

the farmer/cow rehearsal

always like we call them

we first and death as dead

I was young once

mind big like a city

human above the body

two ass-clenching years of it

like a bird too chirpy

practicing my no-one in a bar routine

you don’t know how shitty perfect feels


Paint Chips, Cracks, and Decay 9: Grate

Posted in Paint Chips Cracks and Decay on June 12th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

grate

The Social Unit 11: Justice

Posted in The Social Unit on June 8th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

Justice is not an us versus them problem. It’s an us versus us problem. Any inversion of social/economic/political class just perpetuates injustice. I.e. the difference between labor/capital or high/low class is only an accident of history, not written in our biology. That is why “taking” power only results in “taking on” all the moral problems once despised in an oppressor. A deeper kind of a revolution is one that frees oppressors as well as the oppressed.


Series X, 36 Bathers

Posted in Series X on June 5th, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

bathers

The 17/18 Poems 26: Various and Blinding

Posted in 17/18 poems on June 1st, 2020 by buzzing wire – Be the first to comment

and if not why not

talk to me

I’ve given

a wonderful way

a wordful song

a foolhardy love

sometimes you need

off and unlike

various and blinding

I’m not saying stupid, stupid