Friday, October 29, 2010

Every Poem, Every Work of Art..., is a return on an investment

I walked down Passyunk to 5th, and then to South and the Eyes Gallery. 42 years ago, Eyes had been open... maybe a year. A proposal to build an exit from I95 to South, fought and delayed for years, had driven away old businesses and made rents cheap: perfect for Artist Urban Pioneers like the Zagers.

1968, I walked into the Eyes with my wife, then five months pregnant with my oldest son. We left with a birth announcement, a wonderfully visceral silkscreen of a newborn, Oct. 29. Ezekiel Zager. A few months ago I came across this print and thought of how many photographs, mementos, drawings that I'd done, had been lost over the years. Not surprising if Julia and Isaiah had lost the last of these. Today, being the 29th of October, I walked the mile or so to the Eyes Gallery. I saw Julia, who now manages the business there. Said, I may have something you'd be interested in... and took out the print, gave it to her.

She thanked me... and remarked on my Spirit Stick, and seemed pleased. It was like returning something that I had held in safe keeping--but was never mine. I can visualize the image without it.

This is what life is meant for... to return what we've been loaned, without ceremony. No one 'owns' anything. We don't always know to whom or where to return what we hold in trust. It's a great moment, when we are able to to make good on the loan.

For me, every work of art, every poem... is just that. Returning what we've be given... for temporary safe keeping. The interest... how I'd understand the parable of the talents in the Christian bible... about interest on the talent, not as profit... but creative investment. We give back... with what we have created out of ourselves from the seed of the gift.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Poem Trees in Winter

Poor little tree on Passyunk, between Morris and Tasker: dead before its time.
I wrote poems on its trunk, hung can tabs and ribbons green and red from my spirit stick to make it feel better... even though it's dead. And feathers--that it would think a bird has come to call and left a card. To make it feel better.

But no one stops to see. They pass it by. They don't see the dead tree
They don't see the poems,
or the aluminum tabs
or the leaves dangling from fine copper wire
or the ribbons green and red from my spirit stick.

I think it needs more poems. Come hang poems from the branches!
Write poems on the smooth barkstripped trunk! Make it a happy poem tree!

At the very least, stop and say hello. Stop and pay your respects to a tree who died too young

Even better, take ribbon or colored string and leave poems on clips so people can take and read them. Anon... or leave your name and webpage and where someone could buy your books... or send you money for your poems cause poets have to live too. Or just so they know where to send you thanks, to tell you how happy they were to read your poems (most poets really like that too--even if some won't admit it)

I think we need lots of poem trees--in winter.

Winter poem trees, poems for leaves.

Think how HAPPY the trees will be!
Poems fluttering in the wind for the trees to recite on cold winter nights!

There are so many poets in Philadelphia--except for other poets, most people don't know how many wonderful poets we have in Philly. We should let them know. Winter poem trees would love to help us, I know they would.

Trees don't like hugs. This is a misconception passed along by people who don't like trees at all. But they do like poems. And sometimes, if you place both palms against the trunk, pressing neither too hard or too softly, (I swear this is so!) you can feel... and sometimes even hear them thrum with pleasure... like gigantic misshapen cats.
"You do stuff
and then you write about it
and if the stuff you do

is a poem

you are a poet"

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fire & Stars


on windows across the city
             day downward pressing
westward shine        else

inward turn

50 millennia past

fire & stars



              toward dawn

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Nine Years in Afghanistan: the Endless War

I was born the day Nazi Germany declared war on the USSR.  The United States had not yet entered the war. France had fallen. The British expeditionary force had been evacuated from Dunkirk, Japan was in China. By the time it ended I was old enough to be aware and to remember--the honking horns on the streets on VJ day. Some 70 million people had been killed.

Try counting to 70 million. Imagine someone shot, incinerated, starved--for every number: another person, another human being... gassed, drowned, blown to pieces, vaporized... all that before I turned five. By the time I was seven, the USSR had the bomb. And then came Korea. And the Hydrogen bomb... those glorious unworldly full color photographs in LIFE, spread out on the living room floor... living room

We were preserved from the madness. Quite precisely. M.A.D. Mutually Assured Destruction. Herman Khan of the Rand Corporation used to lecture on the subject. He wrote a book called: ON THERMONUCLEAR WAR. Spelled it all out. Like boys playing chicken, he would say... the game (white) teens played in the innocent 50's. Kids pile into two cars, a mile or so apart, then drive at each other on the same lane... accelerate, faster and faster... see who swerves first. Who's chicken. Kahn said, you want to win that game, you don't want the other side to believe you're sane. You come at them, hurling whiskey bottles out the side, driver with his head out the window blindfolded. The one most convincingly insane--wins. Someone had set a limit to the number of deliverable warheads that, theorectically, would assure their eventual use, by accident if not intent. I think it was something like 10,000. The U.S. had exceeded that number by the 60's... before that, Khruschev and Kennedy showed the world how it was done... playing chicken.

The wars went on. By the dozens. Little wars. The superpowers playing their war games on vicarious battle fields. Testing new generations of weapons. Supplying the combatants. Observing how they worked. For the most part, only the 'little people' died. The poor, the ones no one could see on TV. They didn't speak English... so when they complained, who could understand? The question was--how do you live, how do you pitch your life's tent on a killing field, up to your nostrils in blood? More precisely, how do you choose to remain conscious? And why? The choices: the delusional madness of business as usual in a slaughterhouse--pretending you are not part of the killing machine: the indulgent madness of retiring from the world, pretending that you can retire from the world: or remaining aware, refusing to avert your eyes... but that too, is assuredly madness.

... then it went away. Or seemed to. Of course, it only seemed to if you had missed everything that had happened the first 87 years of the century. Nothing had changed. The major players had changed jerseys... one of them, anyway. But the little wars went on, and the killing went on, and the old heads from the Bad Old Days of the Cold War kept on supplying the weapons and banking the profits and grabbing spoils from the dead. What had changed was how almost universal the blindness, the denial had become. Only a matter of time before the seals began to leak, before the blood began to lap on the placid shores of the sleepwalkers, the innocent killers.

We are all killers. All innocent. All guilty. And very good at forgetting the dead, burying their memory under heaps of flowers, memorials, clarion words, calls to duty... to go on with our lives, with the killing.

Welcome children to the 21st Century.

(From my Journal. Written in the Philly Bar and Grill (now The Fire) October, 2001, the first day of the bombing of Afghanistan. Sports on all four TV's

Another step toward a North American Police State


Friday, October 8, 2010

Liu Xiaobo

I left a post some months ago, "Demand the Release of Liu Xiaobo.

Some anon functionary of the Chinese thug government left a comment justifying his punishment. There are always people ready to whore themselves for a bad cause. Now the thugs are mightily pissed at the Nobel committee...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

No More Google Reader!

You chose a dozen or so 'favorite' blogs, the ones you think you want to revisit, the one's you don't want to miss when they add posts or links.

Big mistake.

A year later you look at your blog roll and realize the only one's you've checked are the dozen or so on the Reader. Used to go here and there at random. "Oh, haven't looked at Blackguard for a while, wonder what's up?" That's how you found the Big Dozen in the first place, remember?


Choosing at random, discovering new places to visit.

When rewards for visiting one site were slim, you didn't go back for a while... until curiosity renewed your interest. Some dropped out of sight; new blogs came into view, favorites were never given permanent status: they had to keep on earning it.

No more Readers, Google or otherwise.

I unsubscribed.

The lot of 'em. Even ones I love and wouldn't think of abandoning: Cosmic Variance, Larval Subjects... but I don't need a Reader to tell me I want to go there! Left 3, because they give vital information about local poetry events and poets--and because the information is timely. Three out of... more than a dozen--more like 20 on my list. Only three where it actually matters to make regular visits.

The blogisphere is.. or used to be, a place where you'd find stuff that establishment media left out. What's the point if you set yourself up as your own Editorial censor, winnowing and excluding like any print source, like the goddamned Norton anthologies--pretending to include everything worthy of your time--fergedabout the rest!

I'd gotten to thinking, maybe it's time to follow Dan Green's lead. Set up another site to organize and archive all my Best Barks, and leave the Dog for discussion or whatever... but the more I thought about this idea the worse it sounded. I didn't start the Dog to make another fucking magazine! It was a place to play, to explore, to experiment, to lose stuff along the way and replace it with whatever is grabbing my fancy at the moment. I seriously doubt there'll be human life left on this planet in another 100 years--what's the point of pretending to live for 'posterity' when there ain't no such thing?