Monthly Archives: April 2017

#273: One Must Have Toys at Work

I had to hide my rubber ducks
because for some reason
my freshman boys could not
leave them alone. Now they
are hiding inside my office
with my owl lip balm and
my librarian action figure with
shushing motion and my
James Joyce finger puppet
and my Shakespeare, complete
with quill pen. They’re all gathered
around my big green crazy-head
which used to say things
when you squeezed him
until my son threw him against
the wall. And all my toys, for
reasons unknown to me,
are stationed between Kafka’s
short stories and a biography
of Stephen Crane by John
Berryman, who once wrote,
Life, friends, is boring.
Maybe so, John, but not when
you have a small but select
collection of toys at work.

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#272: Let There Be Rock

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In the beginning
Back in nineteen fifty-five
Man didn’t know about a rock ‘n’ roll show
And all that jive
The white man had the schmaltz
The black man had the blues
No one knew what they was gonna do
But Tchaikovsky had the news
He said

Let there be sound
There was sound
Let there be light
There was light
Let there be drums
There was drums
Let there be guitar
There was guitar
Oh, Let there be rock

–AC/DC

In the beginning,
as Tchaikovsky sat around
composing the 1812 Overture,
he was overcome suddenly
with trepidation and boredom.
He thought there might be
something missing from the piece.
So he added cannons.

And it was good.

The cannons added a certain
je ne sais pas, only in Russian.
He liked them. The explosions.
Made you feel like you were right
there on the field with all those
dying soldiers, maimed and bloody.

And it was good.

But still, something still sucked.
He first invented, then engaged
a special machine that would take
him into the future. He met Elvis
and thought, okay. I need this guy
in my 1812 Overture. But as luck
would have it, he was stuck in
the 20th century and could not
get back home with Elvis.

This was not good.

Discovering the now powerful
and readily available sources of electricity,
he knew that light would be good
over the orchestra during a performance
featuring Elvis, and he knew that using
this same advancement in the area
of live sound reproduction, a Public
Address System would make it
possible to reach a wider audience,
say, inside of a sports arena. So
he said, yes, light and sound.

And it was good.

Meanwhile, he picked up some schmaltz
and some blues. The cannons were nice, yes,
but when he saw a percussionist
behind a trap kit for the first time,
he said, there needs to be drums
all up in here. And he said, Let there be
drums. And there were drums.
He met Chuck Berry and thought, without
hesitation of any kind: My overture needs
guitar. A screaming lead would do very
nicely in this mess, especially behind
the cannons and Elvis. Let there be
guitar, he said, and there was.
And once he said the words, once
he had the cannons, and light, and
sound, and drums, and guitar, he knew
the name of his last and finest contribution
to the world of music about war and death
and love and death and war. Rock.
So he said, Oh, Let There Be Rock.

And there was.

And it, as you know, was very good indeed.

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#271: The Neologist Speaks about Food

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Whoever made this graphic forgot to add SUGAR to the NO list.

Lately, I have had two dreams,
both inexorborific,
one concerning jelly beans,
another about beer, farfignewtons.
I will dream next about cheese.
I have not had a sandwich
in ten horrorflopnoggen days.
Candy is no longer thingful.
I wouldn’t recognito a potato chip
if it bit me right on the keatettle.
I’ve not had milk. I tried something
called Almond Yogurt and it
nearly killed me with its awfulscrap.
All my buzzes lately have been
100% natural, doubleplusgood.
I rolled up some cabbage inside
of a slice of deli-meat, chewed
and swallowfinched.
I grillified salmon, lean meats.
Eggs and bacon, bacon and eggs,
fruits and vegetables, fruits and fruits.
I am told I will become very clean
both inside and outtheresomewhere.
I am the king of my domainname.
I speak of food as if it were all nuts and berries.

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#270: A Poem Spoken in the Dark

I’m not proud of it, but yeah, I made it up on the spot in this video and then transcribed it. That’s why I’m speaking so slowly. I’m not drunk. I’m just trying to choose words:

The reason
my last two poems have been prose poems
is because I have been composing them
using
the voice-to-type feature
on my stupid smart phone.
No pen, or pencil lead, or
ffffinger dexterity
was used
to compose
those two poems.
So today,
I am videotaping myself
talking the poem.
In that way, this poem
about writing poems
(which a friend of mine says is not a thing)
is a video poem,
a spoken word poem,
improvised on the spot,
for your reading, viewing, listening pleasure,
right now, in this moment, in my office,
in the dark.

 

 

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#269: A Letter of Gratitude to My Wife and Son (another prose poem)


Dear family,

I am about to begin my journey home. Almost everything is put away and the trailer is hitched up (I never did unhitch); all I have to do now is climb in and start up the engine. It was a good trip. Even though I was with my brother and his friends, I spent a lot of time by myself. I read some and I wrote some and I listened to music and I walked and I rode my bike. I took in the good Willamette Valley air under cover of giant oaks, just like ours, but older and over miles and miles. Last night it was so clear; the stars were lovely and David and I kept the fire going until 10 or so. I slept well and ate well and it was easy to be good. I have some Easter surprises for both of you that I hope you will like.

Just before I leave I am thinking about how grateful I am for both of you, and how thankful I am that you both were willing to (maybe even happy to) have me out of the house, let me do my thing, allow me this space to travel both outward and inward. I love you both. I am enriched beyond words having the two of you in my life, challenging me and growing me toward this hidden wholeness.

Yours,

Michael

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#268: The Middle Way (a prose poem)


Somewhere between asceticism and an orgy of consumerism and excess lies the middle way. I must confess I have not found it yet. I tend to waffle in my struggle to find the center. Against my better judgment I tend to err toward excess. Here I am camping in comparative luxury with my new trailer and my new truck, and yet I am abstaining from alcohol, sugar, carbs, grains, dairy, beans, any thing artificial or processed. I continue to meditate daily. I fantasize about tiny houses. Living more simply. After seeing the film “Minimalism,” I have thought about whether I could reduce my closet down to 30 pieces of clothing, including socks, underwear, pants, shirts, shorts, and coats. I keep doing the math. It doesn’t add up. I must keep my disco pants and my disco shorts and my disco hoodie and my disco bowtie. That’s four. There are things too difficult to give up. And that’s the project, isn’t it? What can you live without? What’s necessary? Who do you love? Do they know? What hurts? What helps? Are you prepared to find the center out and hold on loosely, loosely, but for dear life? Beckett:  We try, fail, fail again, fail better. I’m failing my way toward the middle.

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#267: Zappa (a Clerihew)


One of my heroes, Frank Zappa,
would never put up with this kind of crappa.
He’d be rocking the vote and on to attacking
to send all these idiot bastard sons packing.

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#266: New Buildings–A Ghazal

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We watched the four houses across the street destroyed for thirty-two new buildings,
the surrounding trees and plants and invisible creatures unearthed for new buildings.

In our old neighborhood, across that street, an outpatient hospital was demolished
to make way for an entire block of townhomes, bringing new people into new buildings.

This has been our experience, 26 years in two different homes, that some old thing
was ultimately torn asunder and replaced through the noise and dust by new buildings.

Lew’s Dari-Freeze is fenced off and ready for bulldozers. Our town’s oldest fast food
joint, terrible food I remember, but the place–old, classic, a marker, soon: new buildings.

On every block of our old stomping grounds, the old is going down and the new springs
up like weeds, only much nicer, but too expensive, too modern, these new buildings.

And in SE Portland many of the main thoroughfares are unrecognizable in their newness, all the old buildings and businesses replaced by giant sky-born new buildings.

It’s all for somebody’s good and benefit, maybe yours, maybe ours, and yet, something
goes missing, something disappears, and in time, the memories are erased,
replaced by new buildings.

 

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#265: Thirty Days, Day Twelve, Day Four, Day Two

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Lately, I’ve found that my days
are numbered. I find myself counting:
Twelve days of the month with
twelve poems, easy to say, more difficult
to do, and yet, I remain committed,
have been committed, to the challenge
of doing this every day for 30 days.

Today is day four of another
challenge that, coincidentally
coincides and overlaps with the poems:
for 30 days I must stay clear of carbs,
grains, sugar, dairy, beans, and (horror
of horrors) alcohol. It’s supposed
to make me better. I’ll try anything
once.

Today is day two of the process
of having a tooth crowned, during
which the dentist put it in, took
it out, put it in, took it out, shaped it,
put it in, took it out, shaped it some more,
put it in, took it out, shaped it some more,
put it in, took it out, shaped it some more,
until finally, after I had lost count of how
many times he put it in and took it out,
cement was applied and he
put it in one last excruciating time.

Today is day two of a new unit
with 9th graders and we asked
them to read a nonlecture by e. e. cummings
in which he implores us to remember
that “any apparent somewhere which
you may inhabit is always at the mercy
of a ruthless and omnivorous everywhere.”
Being is where it’s at. And “nobody else
can be alive for you; nor can you
be alive for anyone else.” Learning
Objective: Students will all clap
and sing themselves into the big BE
while I keep counting: thirteen, five, three.

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#264: to be anywhereish

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(a bop inspired by e.e. cummings)

to be anywhereish and everywhereish
all at once is to be at the mercy of somewhereishness,
and that’s a huge, unmindfulish problem.
someplace else is really no place and you
wander about sheepfully looking for anywhere
but where you are in the nano of the moment.

time is not on your side; no it ain’t.

you may have holdings in the future tense.
you may have findings in the yesteryearly nest.
but the problem is still that there is no now here
and there is not even there anymore, besides.
don’t look at me like that, you goat, not when,
not where. you sit there in your forward engine
and you, clueless, mathless, autocorrect yourself
until the starstuff between your ears spills outwardly.

time is not on your side; no it ain’t.

i think there’s an unsolution. Look deeplyish
at the center of anything and do what no one ever
tells you to do: that’s right, don’t eat that peach.
a friend of mine around sunday kept naming
a tangerine a nectarine. so in the now he forgot
everything, even names. Somewhere in there: that’s it.

time is not on your side; no it ain’t.

 

 

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