Monday, April 30, 2012


The Dead torque our record
inflicting their poverty


Their sexual gist
a recollection imprinted
upon us, their


Cerebral tombs, a
tacit melting of
our beams


Proving lethal ground, our
site for combat

Friday, April 27, 2012


Waking up with the dog and cat curled around my legs.
Frankie giving me the slow blink and putting his paw on my face.
His nose dripping onto my lips.
Purring. Buddha trying to rub the sleep from his eyes
scooting up the mattress on his belly for some
morning love.
He must get his belly rubbed. Yes,
he must. He is a good boy. Mr. Sleepy Head,
where’s that kitty? Where’s your brudder?
Taking that first shit after the first cup of coffee.
That daybreak buzz.
Watching Phish on New Year’s Eve with Jared and Mollie and her sister-wives:
Lucy Lu, Magda, Francine and, yes, now Beatrice, who happily vomits without burping every time she sees me.
Wherever they live.
Dylan cheerfully glued to every move I make, never saying a word, jabbering nonsense like now, Dylan just as articulate with his face,
saying it all.
My mother beginning a sentence with “This idea…”
My sister and nieces living in Kentucky.
The first day of spring in the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge.
Writing a poem first thing every morning as I embark on this year of…
Moving along.
Your reading this.
Among other things…

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


I see my clatter
hear my look
oil my gun
savor my sense
discern my awareness
muddle my margins
synchronize my speech
in-vent my creations

I'm turning out, becoming
shards of myself
burst by some counter-invasionary force
whose Mother prayed
for It, also

But don’t feel too bad
if I had the first shot
it would’ve been It, not me
seeing Its sound
hearing Its face
touching Its odor
tasting Its feeling
intuiting Its ignorance
disorganizing Its borders
baffling Its tongue
imagining Its unmaking

Him or Her

As if by chance
one goes first
one after the other
to live

Monday, April 23, 2012


Earth’s unbo[r]n[e] opinion

sparkling serenely

sprouting with glee

Word animality

Tense dense
vigorous amusements


who buy their dreams

Afflicting tabloids with ruin

Pulverizing human joints into dust


Ash heaps smoldering
with refugees

Housing unnoticed flames

being a Tao of ambiguous deception


Maybe us

From Grand Island and/or Dubuque

Phoning home
we look like ants

As we must

Friday, April 20, 2012


REVIEW OF AVANT-POP: FICTION FOR A DAYDREAM NATION, edited by Larry McCaffery, Black Ice Books, 1993

A related review's at Reconfigurations.

Avant-Pop: Fiction for a Daydream Nation has become something of an underground, countercultural icon since its publication nearly 20 years ago. It’s become so because of its intense focus on identity politics and disobedience.

The term “avant-pop” refers to artists’ appropriation of pop culture icons, trademarks and logos. These writers suck them from the media membrane and digest them into necessarily re-contextualized characterizations that inevitably “disrupt the aesthetics” of the culture at large.

A carpe diem spirit works throughout Avant-Pop, jostling the groggy Western reader awake to live a more conscious life.

The very first piece in the anthology, “Blessed,” by Stephen Wright, a pornographic dramatization of the four Gospels in a campy over-the-top suburban freak show, seems selected by McCaffery to invite comparisons of his “gallery” to shows featuring work by artists like Robert Mapplethorpe and Andres Serrano.

Serrano’s “Piss Christ,” perhaps the most famous and controversial work of art at the time, alluded to contemporary culture’s degradation of Christian iconography [according to Serrano]. And Mapplethorpe’s self-portrait with a bullwhip implanted in his anus made him the most popular whipping boy of the excessively homosocial Christian right.

The main thrust of all this seems to me various forms of naughty discontent, which then gel into a horrifying can of delightfully writhing, open-ended worms. McCaffery writes in his fictive introduction, “Tsunami,” that Avant-Pop is no exhibit of “bland workshop bore-ons,” but intense morsels of artistic interference intended “to rescue the badly nourished creative imaginations” of a daydreaming American public.

William T. Vollmann’s “San Diego, California, U.S.A. (1988)” best embodies this aesthetic. What makes Vollmann’s piece so striking is its placement of nature, not sexuality, which is to say gender-based personality, at the center of the narrative. Nature, not a human individual’s libido, defines character. The fact one is an Earthling trumps race, class and/or gender. Looked at from the standpoint of genetics, the fact seems as irrefutable as it does amoral: We are primarily Earthlings.

When the narrator says “I saw a girl naked outside a house and said: You’re too glowing to find meaning in but I can find meaning around you. –I heard my own voice,” a fluid mind becomes self-conscious—I’m naked!—by hearing itself over Nature…by becoming sentient.

Vollmann’s technique and style, like Nature’s, is so subtle and graceful it’s nearly invisible. At the end of “San Diego…,” when the narrator realizes he “became something more evil and more good….[and]…Now that it is over, I can say that I was happy,” the reader also realizes that everything seems imbued with a mind, haunted both by consciousness and unconsciousness, navigating the seam/membrane of the text by using what’s speakable and perceivable, that is audible and visible, as landmarks and touch-stones for whatever’s disappearing.

In “Politics,” Kathy Acker forces the reader to participate and perform and play with the text by largely absenting punctuation, only using periods to terminate sentences that quantify and equate life and death with money. For the most part, Acker’s disappeared punctuation might represent the stubbornness of inadequate identity: “…you get fed it from birth and can’t get away except by severe disruption…”

Richard Meltzer, one of the earliest practitioners of flash fiction, has three short-shorts here that display a meticulously styled, plain-spoken vernacular voice. And Meltzer’s textually justified cruelty and aggressiveness are as hilarious as they are heartfelt—

…weep in goddamn awe at the notion of YOU as essential principle, as the essential principle, every bit as basic as Thales’s water, Anaximenes’ air, Pythagoras’s number…

—and honest as well:

As gents who when we write (dine)(play) get at least something on our collars, faces, souls, we rise to the chore of showing ‘em how it is done…

Life dulls conscience, ignoring it until those rare times it’s actually needed for its own sake, a condition the writers present here as acutely felt. Each fiction conveys something of the way life feels under the skin of the speaking voice, the way It feels seaming Itself together with words, trying to imagine how It sounds inside the bodies of others.

As one of their beloved forefathers, the Marquis de Sade, writes at the very start of his voluptuous and impeccable Justine:

Will it not be felt that Virtue, however beautiful, becomes the worst of all attitudes when it is found too feeble to contend with Vice, and that, in an entirely corrupted age, the safest course is to follow along after the others?

He goes on to suggest wherever there’s evil some good is born, which is to say, as he does for the rest of the novel, wherever there’s some good evil is born.

And this seems the seam where the bomb is planted, so I’ll slip away…

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


A Review of Edward Abbey’s The Fool’s Progress: An Honest Novel, Henry Holt & Co., New York, 1988 [Avon Books edition, 1990].

What do we want most to dwell near to?
Thoreau, “Solitude”

Not everyone wants or needs the same things, even though corporations would find their lives [sic] much simpler if we did.

The fact is we all want something particular to ourselves, as we alone experience our lives from beneath our skin. Our desires might take the forms of fingerprints for our souls if the opportunity then ability to produce such intended content were common, but it isn’t. Being free, however, gives one the right to find that out for one’s self by trying.

Only rarely, in certain works of art, do we humans find anything at all resembling the complex, peculiar beauty of a singular human life lived and experienced as in Edward Abbey’s The Fool’s Progress: An Honest Novel—a fictionalized autobiographical fingerprint of the man’s “soul;” whatever that actually is, it will live on for as long as there are readers feral enough to experience it.

Abbey’s novel puts us through the mincing of a much ignored American-type male, the last generation of a self-reliant breed of lower class homo macho Americanus not mythologized by the likes of “John Wayne,” “Dan’l Boone” & “Davey Crocket.” Abbey’s Henry Lightcap ain’t none of those guys, but the real deal without any pink slime injected for mass consumption by obese, useless proles accustomed to wallowing in their own psychic hamburger of mythical shit, those “fat guys in distress” Henry would save from time-to-time in the non-myth wilderness of the Desert Southwest [Abbey almost had me there, being a fat slob and all myself]. Henry was an erudite mountaineer who loved life almost to idiocy, thus the “fool” of the title and that most confounding of all Americans—the wise redneck.

The whole country’s become a giant CAFO, a hootenanny for the moneychangers. Before there were too many people, you could take to the hills and make your own life…you could “go west,” “go home” or just go. Now we live in an eco-hell eerily akin to that eternal Christian heaven where our eyes are glued open to God and we’re permanently awake or plugged in, permanently producing and consuming profitable holograms, except in our case it ain’t eternal cause we’re slowly killed off as we lose our ability to consume efficiently. When one can no longer eat, one becomes irrelevant. It’s as Henry the narrator waxes romantic early on about the ability to escape “20th century man”: “A world without open country would be a universal jail.” [105] A man needs to learn his limitations for himself. They’re one of those sets of things that can’t be taught. He needs to be able to close his eyes once in a while to the limits others might place upon him, and just go.


And eventually, being mortal, he wears out, slows down, grows sick and dies, perhaps without ever realizing it, while heading home, and then just keeps going. The cop who questions Henry at the end, the fact that he’s kind [and so is everyone else after that, giving him food and drink, willingly sustaining him] suggests that Henry and his dog died beside the flooding creek, or maybe even inside their truck, but didn’t know it. A different level of consciousness begins projecting the text’s reality that keeps it moving forward on its inertia, as if death itself were not an equal and/or opposite reaction to its desire to dwell nearest to home, the Earth itself, an ideal that Henry always wanted and managed to heroically live up to.

This novel is shamelessly sentimental, but so beautiful and seamless that the sentimentality is a necessary device in the very nature and process—the autopoietic unfolding—of Abbey’s text, which serves as a distraction from our inadequacies that is the essential spiritual spark to the human imagination—that which is essential to human being. And with that sentimentality comes a sharpened sword against the corporate machine, that which would deny everything that the novel, that Henry Lightcap, that Edward Abbey does.

Henry sees it clearly, crossing America with his dying dog in his dying truck with terminal pancreatic cancer consuming him from the inside out, each being tinkered with in their own way just to keep going, just wanting to see home, knowing full well:
"…the America of my boyhood and youth it’s been blasted, obliterated, buried beneath the new America of black gummy asphalt and tinted glass and brushed sleek cool aluminum. What Edmund Wilson called, with prescient despair, 'The United States of Hiroshima.'” [211]

Even so, Henry Lightcap [Abbey] still feels smitten with existence: “[wanting] to weep. Not for sorrow, not for joy, but for the incomprehensible wonder of our brief lives beneath the oceanic sky.” [301] Henry seemed to view the human world as a distracted distraction, something to be dealt with and seldom enjoyed, and when it is enjoyed it always ends in sorrow as the fiddler must be paid. The cost of such complexities was not worth the profit made, at least not to Henry, for whom the word “Mountain…the simple easy bi-syllabic denotative, sen[t] a little pang of nostalgia through [his] central nervous system: homesick—[he was] sick for home.” [344]

What’s particularly heartbreaking, heroic, romantic and ultimately cathartic about The Fool’s Progress is how terribly long it actually takes to die because we want to live so much. And what’s outrageous is how corporate America helps death along with every step we [ie: Henry] take, killing us off one-by-one, step-by-step as the business of American business grinds on and on and on, etc. Death by corporation is slow.

The truck’s demise, the dog’s collapse, Henry’s altered projection, each is its own tragedy as each struggles heroically, to put things mildly. The tragedy of the truck’s death [as a literary device its dimensions were those of a word-being, so I include it as a character and thus capable of “dying”] is the end of tinkerability. The dog’s tragedy is the casualty of companionship. Henry’s death seems the death of an American aspect worth loving, something to be patriotic over [as opposed to nationalistic or greedy about]. How many Americans are left who are self-reliant like Henry, and how many of those can discuss Heidegger and Nietzsche? How many 50-year-olds will you hear honestly declaim: “I don’t believe in doing work I don’t want to do in order to live the way I don’t want to live.” [17] It seems with every generation they comprise an ever smaller portion of the population.

In Gender, the questionable Ivan Illich writes: "An industrial society cannot exist unless it imposes certain unisex assumptions: the assumptions that both sexes are made for the same work, perceive the same reality, and have, with some minor cosmetic variations, the same needs." [9]

Such a program proves fatal to much of the American way of life. Americans of the Tea Party stripe recognize this, but can’t put their finger on it. They don’t even know who Nietzsche and Heidegger are, and can’t or won’t imagine they’re being horn swogled. They want to live like their parents did, but the world won’t let them. In fact, the world says their parents lived bad lives. They have more in common with the people they kill overseas than the folks who command them, but they can’t see it.

When they were kids, growing up didn’t seem so much an “economic” process as a spiritual one where a person would become responsible for their behaviors which were then incorporated into their livelihoods or the way they did business. Now, adulthood is merely “I owe, I owe, so off to work I go.” Only wage slaves need apply.

According to these corporatus americani, those of us who aren’t rich are broke because we’re inferior. But in Henry Lightcap’s case, at least he was self-reliant. He not only accepted personal responsibility, he was addicted to it. He couldn’t have shook it if he wanted to. Henry had his weaknesses…they were legion, and they were glorious.

Too much of our daily lives has been stripped of dignity and depth. Way back in 1975 Henry, on a visit home to West Virginia, noticed things were getting crowded around the old homestead. His older brother, Will, asked Henry what he was hopeful about, and Henry said, “A fast, efficient and painless plague. Desertification…I don’t know, Will. But something better happen soon.”

It didn’t. It hasn’t. It won’t. But when something akin to that does happen, it will be very painful, and pain’s something Henry knew all about. He understood that changing human nature meant mutilating human beings. He also knew that the America of the 1980s, and even more so the America today, was doing just that: attempting to change human nature so it would fit neatly into a proper set of target markets. Henry resisted this with everything he had. He was only one man, however, so:

"Henry felt that by contributing nothing to the annual Gross National Product he was thereby subtracting even less from what was left of the Net National Heritage. He himself would carry out a private one-man revolution in the belly of the beast. Freedom begins between the ears. The Good Life starts where servitude ends. In a nation of sheep one brave man is a majority…

"Theory. There was a flaw in the program. The program did not appeal to women, especially married women, especially those married women married to Henry Lightcap." [329-30]

My theory: Art like life will kill you, but until it does it will only make you stronger. Henry Lightcap was one of those rare philosophers for whom words meant something. Like Thoreau, he lived alone [with his dog] by his words, and died alone [with his dog] by them too.

But he wasn’t lonely, just solitaire.


Illich, Ivan. Gender, Heydey Books, Berkeley, CA, 1982.
Thoreau, Henry David. Walden, Quality Paperback Book Club, 1997.

Monday, April 16, 2012


our dwelling
becomes a postcard,


From us, remitting
a well-done to history

Craving a ghost
to dominate those


Friday, April 13, 2012



Whittled inside seven
spaces buying seven
blades, slivering

One saga

Heaping carcasses
people who failed
to endure

While others—in three phases cured—spoke

Tomorrow’s basis
a seam of the token spread
becoming something

Using chuck [acquired]
from the enemy

Monday, April 9, 2012


A vexed cop

ranting a page
rage to death

a text to sex us
our exquisiteness
our readings
our detritus
that seem

corrected corrections

justifying those
ne’er dare
but always

going with
& flowing with

the rule
this way

brandishing their tool
never getting us

truly disconnected

who sum
times wriggle
knotting the noose
loose as a goose
in the spruce

Friday, April 6, 2012


Arranging five moles whose psychic style shrouds the Tao, probing their speech, how it executes sound, asking:

What idiom’s viable? What tone suggests implication? Which ear considers what’s said? Who’s snooping? Who’s got occasion?

Will this liberty fit this line? Or is the demise of the word the destruction of the world?

A docile sound, pounding yet passive.

Our enemy feels our actual condition. We know Its position: Over crimson sod where banners of fading apathy sag; like grim water weighing us down, It gallops away from the sky, sinking.

Vacuous controlling aims harmonize us with Its ever active fluid consistencies shaping our spiritual wave-forms, swaying the wind.

A swing [non-insistent] seams a true picture of power, while authorized bunting waves without any clout itself.

The same song swinging the maize ignites this jetting water’s fall, this metallic sound of stars exploding beyond the noise, and deliberate rule dominates the designed inequity of force in harmony with what riches can be won.

Phases do not probe the luminosity of desertion, subsisting for those petrified by their names to say nothing.

Force need not insist upon its function or activity.

Monday, April 2, 2012


(quick) scan
of the inside horizon
nearing you

Feels your bones.

It won’t explain what It’s doing to your interior

It leaves, assuming
It will define your breath for Itself.

You did nothing to It,
but still…