I choose you and you choose me. That’s the only way it’s worth what we’ll trade for it: our lives.
I choose you and you choose me. That’s the only way it’s worth what we’ll trade for it: our lives.
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited,the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions”. In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.
- from Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death
What a surprise to find my usually confident and snarky and sexy dashboard awash in waves of anxiety, worry and delay regarding human relationships. So many dear Tumblrs conveying sentiments like:
“when I lose weight”
“once I have my shit together”
“when my acne clears”
“when I make more money”
“when I live somewhere better”
“when ___ lets me”
then I will:
“have an adventure”
“make __ matter”
“go after what I want”
I’m just gonna go ahead and call bullshit on most of this. Consider this post a slap on the ass and a kiss on the cheek. But take it as a reminder - meant to sound less preachy than it probably does.
Planning for some experiences is understandable, but you can’t wait for everything to be “right” to live the life you want. A partner who requires you to be perfect (rich, thin, accomplished, blemish-free, etc) will never be the authentic romance/love/relationship you want. You will never be enough for them, and they won’t be for you.
Stop waiting. Don’t hesitate.
Do it NOW. Wear it on your sleeve. You may not get what you want, but if it’s about your bank account or your love handles, you never would have anyway.
Okay. Enough. Consider this the starting pistol.
We find each other one way or another. Happy to help.
You can tell by how he lists
to let her
kiss him, that the getting, as he gets it,
It’s good in the sweetly salty,
deeply thirsty way that a sea-fogged
rain is good after a summer-long bout
of inland drought.
And you know it
when you see it, don’t you? How it
drenches what’s dry, how the having
of it quenches.
There is a grassy inlet
where your ocean meets your land, a slip
that needs a certain kind of vessel,
when that shapely skiff skims in at last,
trimmed bright, mast lightly flagging
left and right,
then the long, lush reeds
of your longing part, and soft against
the hull of that bent wood almost im-
perceptibly brushes a luscious hush
the heart heeds helplessly—
of the very good.
- Todd Boss
…But the life affirming perversity of art and its attendant optimism in the reformation of identity is not a result of gaps and delays primarily; it is what is IN the gap: what is glimpsed is the proving flood of detail, the gush in the gash, the visual’s as well as language’s power to flush the nerves to the point of acquiring flesh, lubricity.
Because of its trespass into the sacred realm, the poetics of sex will always be in violation. The glimpses it affords are in a breach of ordered, seamless appearance, where the word surges into the thing and the mouth that forms it.
Disjunct between convention, between cultural imperatives for order and the ripping of the gown, is the site of poetry; it causes trouble, is transgressive, puts its tongue everywhere.
-Dean Young, from The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as Assertive Force
Imagine how much healthier our country would be if workers were allotted not just sick days, but a certain number of Conjugal Days.
Or, as Dorothy Parker said: I’m fucking busy. And vice versa.
Reasons to Survive November
November like a train wreck –
as if a locomotive made of cold
had hurtled out of Canada
and crashed into a million trees,
flaming the leaves, setting the woods on fire.
The sky is a thick, cold gauze –
but there’s a soup special at the Waffle House downtown,
and the Jack Parsons show is up at the museum,
full of luminous red barns.
– Or maybe I’ll visit beautiful Donna,
the kickboxing queen from Santa Fe,
and roll around in her foldout bed.
I know there are some people out there
who think I am supposed to end up
in a room by myself
with a gun and a bottle full of hate,
a locked door and my slack mouth open
like a disconnected phone.
But I hate those people back
from the core of my donkey soul
and the hatred makes me strong
and my survival is their failure,
and my happiness would kill them
so I shove joy like a knife
into my own heart over and over
and I force myself toward pleasure,
and I love this November life
where I run like a train
deeper and deeper
into the land of my enemies.
- Tony Hoaglund
The irreverent refuses transitional states; there is no between but like a quantum always here and there, such a perfect waitress. One if by whirlpool, two if by monster. And as such profane, heretical, because it doesn’t observe the separations that pieties and sacred ritual insist on. The irreverent mixes. What we need is recklessness and an owl shit outburst and a good smack…
The poem is here to be defied…
The irreverent is the irrelevant’s revenge. Inclusions are always the greatest risk… The giraffes go knock-kneed to drink. Consistency is the triumph of insects. The irreverent is cracked in the plinth and therefore can sustain no monument, no argument, no politics.
The antidote to venom is venom, it’s just a matter of context. Under the shroud, the thong. The irreverent can never be maintained, it’s always its own debacle, in crisis of its own discovery and obsolescence. Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Can I get you a number of drinks. Inclusion is always the biggest risk. Coyote trots on the edge of the abyss.
- Dean Young, from The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as Assertive Force
Wake up, he urged.
And in that moment, he receded while golden light washed over me, like a wave, driving out the hint of chill. I opened the screen door, and slid outside. Rumor of snow elsewhere, but here the warm porch was still summering in a clear and barefoot blue. Coffee in hand and hawk overhead, I took deep, deep breaths, counting the hold, the exhalation, sending it to you, shivering and gasping miles and maps away.
Alone in the perfect morning, I imagined Norway, Argentina, New Zealand, Ireland, Namibia. Where next? How long? I drew the picture of the plane setting down, the boats rocking into dock, my hand on cold wet stone, my feet on warm brick. (After all, texture is the last frontier of fantasy)
Tiny fast birds with vibrating beaks hummed at the orange trumpet flowers. An outboard motor growled to life in the distance. Fat invisible squirrels leapt from branch to branch overhead.
So much work and time, so wide a gulf between the call of my gypsy heart and its satisfaction, between anticipation and certainty, between desire and you.
So much to consider. All this land in hand. To build a homebase? A summer home? To make the life I want without waiting? To know the universe will figure it out. To do the work, to keep the bags packed while also being rooted, engaged, creative: a balance I am just starting to strike.
For me, the onslaught of winter signals an incubation of sorts. The end of October is always the edge of what next. Today, the work is piles around me, the sun is bright, the coffee is strong. And I will not rest.
I imagine my cheek pressed against a perfect shoulder, and the setting ceases to matter. There are homes to build, books to write, trips to plan, friends to make, children to have, a deeptrust in the universe to nurture. I want to be ready.
People use language for two reasons: to be understood and not to be understood.
- Dean Young
Let the stars
Plummet to their dark address,
Let the mercuric
Atoms that cripple drip
Into the terrible well,
You are the one
Solid the spaces lean on, envious.
- Sylvia Plath, from Nick and the Candlestick
In The Pleasure of the Text, Roland Barthes writes, “Is not the most erotic portion of the body where the garment gapes?” Our attention is drawn toward “the intermittence of skin flashing between two articles of clothing … between two edges … it is the flash itself which seduces.” Our attention is magnetized by the gap, and it is in this gap, the glimpses it allows, that our attention is eroticized, pleasured…Desire is sustained through delay.
Again, Barthes writes, “It is this flash itself which seduces, or rather: the staging of an appearance as a disappearance…it is not violence which affects pleasure, nor is it destruction which interests it; what pleasure wants is the site of a loss, the seam, the cut, the deflation, the dissolve which seizes the subject in the midst of bliss” Perhaps Orpheus turns SO he could see Eurydice vanish, so that his desire would be endless and endless source to song. The moment of appearance bracketed and penetrated by annihilation.
- Dean Young, from The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as Assertive Force
All those nights in the fog. Calling your name at the sea. The real fog. The real sea. Who needs metaphors in a life like this? Who needs dreams?
By splurges and splash, leaps and collapse, the memory installs the past.
We were no good match. All thick paint, split wood and broken glass. All undertow and siege. But oh, how I believed. Wandered through the wreckage looking for steady beam, a tree that had collapsed over our ravine. I knew this story by heart. A lifetime being told about that climb, that leap.
What can’t be made more beautiful by an out-of-order sign?
You had me at broken. You had me at incomplete. Those naive mistakes of desire and swoon: thinking love though the fog, the sea, every absence mouthed doom.
(Of course, this is too lyrical for the razorblade of you. Add howl and bruise, add clang and scratch. Add midnight paranoia and unyielding boot, carve and blood and sting. Break the back of the rhyme, snap its
spine pretty, pretty neck.)
The Error Is Not To Fall But To Fall From No Height
Don’t misunderstand: I do not suffer the past. I miss neither your mouth nor your art. No one is lost. No one all rock. But the cliff I miss. That climb, the dizzying perch above disaster. Every moment in its service, a faith of pure devotion… I’ve spent too long on lower branches, a skirmish of orchids and owls.
Just open your thieving, feral heart to the mortal stars
But you can’t lift anyone to the sky. You just rise, wait, write.
fists the sky
Somehow, I got roped in to running the NOLA Rock-N-Roll marathon in March.
Shoot me now. Also, is there a training guide for scholars?
From Books to Bricks: An Academic’s Guide to Marathons
The Poet’s Guide to Pacing
Lyric of the Laces
The Other Meter
The Quotable Thoreau (On Marathons: “I went to the streets because I wanted to run deliberately”)
(Damn it.) Okay. This is going to be fun. (Damn it.) Any training resources you guys think of, let a girl know?
Work is love made visible. - Kahlil Gibran
17 Gulf Trace Drive
They’ve returned from the beach, still sandy. He holds up a broken shell in the sunlight while his brother shakes the mats and he sees where the thing used to live. Someone is grilling fresh fish for one. Someone is slicing a stalk of aloe in the shade. Someone left his wet footprints on the wooden floor.
In the morning, the surf is glass. By the afternoon, a cresting pool of jewels. She turns on her yellow towel, her skin the brown husk of a coconut. Someone wishes he were already home. A girl in a royal blue bikini walks the shoreline with a white iPod. Someone laughs saying feminine cinnamon anemone three times fast.
Late into the night, a beach band plays covers and everyone knows the words and everyone sings. Someone is barefoot on the dance floor. Someone is licking salt from her skin, shooting tequila, squeezing a lime. He won’t ask the girl with glossy lips her name; instead watches her shift her weight from one stiletto to the other. Someone pushes through the crowd toward the coast.
97th & Park
They’ve returned from the Japanese Tea Garden where a falling yellow gingko leaf caught in her long red hair. He tapes his fortune to the fridge, and watches her silhouette quiet in the quiet house.
Someone is knocking on the door and he lets her in. The girl has a dog named Winston and a long, blue bruise in the crook of her arm, a fresh tattoo. She lets loose the hem of her shirt, blackberries tumbling to his white countertops.
On the stoop outside, four brothers smoke long brown cigarettes. One plays the trumpet and they tap tap tap their leather boots as a riff curls from his round face into the graying sky. A girl walks by in a bright orange skirt and they hush. Like a prayer gone round and they hush. She looks back at them looking back.
Inside, someone is exulted with mania – he lines all the books up in order, talking fast and loudly to someone not there. Someone is tipping a green vase into the dishwater, the pungent branch rotted. Someone whose lover has died puts on Indian music, an old boombox, and sings softly.
6 Ash Street
Somehow it’s March though it never snowed in the square. In the kitchen, she can’t remember the words to the song and he taps his spoon on the side of a blue cup to remind her. A thin crack threatens the length of the handle but he uses it anyway.
Someone is whistling in the cul de sac. The crew teams are slicing through fog on the Charles. Someone is knocking on the door after a long night at the Plough and Stars. He opens the door but no one is there – only the smoke of a rosepale dawn rising into the air.
Inside, she wraps long, wet hair in a red towel and wipes the steamed mirror with the palm of her hand. Someone nearby is playing the guitar too fast. Someone is training her bird to say mama. Someone whose rent is due is dialing a number he hasn’t dialed in years. She steps barefoot from a pear green mat onto the cold, cold tile.
and how amazing the names of ex lovers on the tongue
how lovely and sardonic their lull, the names of all the towns
you slept through on your way to somewhere else
how sweeping the names of lost things, unremembered names,
tucked in a botanist’s notebook - calyx and clover and pistil - how sweet
the sound of a gun cocked back and the rooster at dawn, and the thistle
how stunning the names of accuracy, of Euclid’s quadratic, economy, elusive hints
of anatomy, uvulas swinging the foreign name - a wind its certain welt, the sting
of a nematocyst, the telson and the carapace
to crave the wild, delicious names - éclair and brie and fig -
the music of the treble clef and tremble of an aural math, the sprig
of spring come clean again, the cochlea gone mad
- Amber Clark
I live on a little swath of land that sits between the bayou and the Gulf of Mexico - for all practical purposes, a barrier island. Indeed, it is only good for a novice surfing session. There is virtually no break, save during hurricane season. However, I’ve been told by more experienced surfers (Hawaiian, no less!) that, since it’s so difficult, if you’ve learned how to surf on the Gulf, you can surf anywhere. And that’s where the wanderlust comes in.
Paul, who paints beautifully, you are too kind, and I’m not modest enough. Most recently: I’ve published work in Pebble Lake Review and the Boomtown Anthology (as well as a slew of online pubs), and I’m always workingworkingworking on the big thing. But honestly? My words are best encountered in hand-written transcontinental love letters, pinned by wiper to the window of your car, tucked into your book or jean pocket, left in sugar on the counter, penned in postcards mailed from foreign cities, scribbled almost illegibly in journals and on napkins and old receipts and matchbooks and playbills and maps. If you want more, send me your address. Wait.
So many of you conveyed really lovely sentiments about my staying around - at least on Tumblr - for which I am supergrateful. Of course, eliciting such genuine kindness/insidious flattery was not the intent when I posted my thoughts about removing myself from social media. (I’m usually forthright about my pleas for attention. Hint: They’re often accompanied by the Chin-Shoulder - a move I’ve been perfecting for years now.)
Still, my hesitance in leaving is two-fold. In part, it is admittedly selfish; I am inspired by all of you. My work is often better for our engagement. Mylife is fuller in manymany real-and-not-so-virtual ways for your stories and poems and art and comedy and music. Besides, if I leave, how will I ever know the outcome of so many stories and lives and intersections?
But the bigger part of me cannot avoid what I see as a tacit commitment to our ongoing community and friendships - however loose and contrived and curated they may be. So many of you have shared your families and heartaches, your grief and triumphs, your uncertainties and insecurities and neuroticisms and desires.
How could I simply disappear?
Of course, the assumption is that I am seeing some real version of you (And I am! I am!) But, for awhile, I took issue with that idea. (Virtual personas are not real! The virtual world is false! …What is art, what is the meaning of life, et al.)
But, really…do we ever see the whole of any being - even (especially) those we love intimately, tangibly? And does it matter?
Don’t misunderstand: I don’t feel obligated to you all. (Commitment never works like that.) And there are real reasons and ideas behind the impulse to leave that need to be addressed. But, leaving would be rather like closing a great book halfway in, and never finishing. Could I do it? Sure. But would I always wonder? Of course.
I suppose I just like knowing you - and I want to keep knowing you - even if it has to be this and only this.
Maybe even especially so.
Going off grid and wiping all internet presence, especially social
media, seems like a better and better idea each day.
The life I want, the ideas I’m most turned on by are never virtual and simply require action and avidity, maybe a little luck, will and daring.
to be cont’d…