Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Soul

I am asking myself a question
when I write those two words.

It has been said that God will not be mocked,
so I am not afraid to ask.

I am in a small room
typing on a black plastic keyboard
having just read the words of a friend about
the desert he is in;
Iraq, war, separation,

the soul.
Some of us are forced to stand still in the dark and face ourselves.

I lift my trembling hand out over the dark lake.
What do I hope for, oh Soul, in all of this reaching,
say it back to me:


Sunday, December 17, 2006


It’s such a small miracle –
1 days oil stretching to 8.
No one come death-ragged from
the gaping tomb,
no one taken up
in a whirl of fire.
I almost believe it
like I would believe you if you told me
that you made a cake yesterday
and it came out
with the shape of a feather on it.
Feathers mean something to you and I,
vaguely. Just enough. But if none had come
no one would be weeping.
No souls would plummet to the earth.
We’d wait awhile
till we got the oil
and come up with a reason
why it was all perfect timing –
light the candles,
call it “When the Oil
Finally Showed Up Day.”
But it stretched.
You pulled the cake
from the hot tomb
and across its yellow face
a feather had been mysteriously swirled.
You called me.
I remember.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Native Hill

I am heading back toward home soon for Christmas - early this week.
For awhile, I thought that it was good to call whatever place I was in, I was living, my home, in order to fully define myself as a man - a rock - carrying his home on his back like a manly snail. Snails are manly in this sense.
Irvine is lovely, and I can feel myself acclimating to its oceanview desert scrubbrush wilderness. But it is not home. It is not in my blood. And the ridiculous suit of armor, concrete and plastic, that has been pulled over top of its rooty desert beauty, makes it nearly impossible for me to love it fully.
Can a man love a city? Yes. A city, glass and chrome, does not seem quite as much of an insult to land as this sprawling suburbia that Irvine is made of - that shrieks when it sees an open spot, diving to clap a strip mall over it.
The Lord is making me sane in an insane world. I am afraid it is going to be painful. I am afraid of the pain of sanity in America.
Wendell Berry, author of the essay A Native Hill, has his land in Kentucky - he can stand back and say "Well at least I settled in a place, and raised a family, and did not destroy, but shepherded, made good." Wendell, I am a wanderer - I am a shepherd only to a flock of wild visions.
Can a man find a home in an idea? Can he find home in a Spirit? Can he find home in a woman?
This below is one the last poems from Shepherd, which I've been working on over the course of the last year.


If in the wild places of the world
you come across the cloaked figure
of a man clenching a black bag
pacing or perched in a squat
on the high point of a desert rock,
violently sweating,

leave him be. He
is looking for his home

and he does not have a home.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Listen to the Italian for a Moment

click on Scarlatti's wig to hear a snippet of his music


First, a shout out to Google for revamping - it's much more excellenter now.

Second, a shout out to Allesandro Scarlatti. A prominent figure in the landscape of Baroque composers, Scarlatti's pieces have levity, energy and clarity even through their relative complexity. Music beyond the Baroque era is often full of a complexity that can become a sort of heaviness - like hearing Joyce read aloud. Its beautiful, but too much. Scarlatti's music seems to be a perfect balance, for my ear, between simplicity and complexity, joy and sorrow. I am listening to Sinfonia in C Major, and I don't have any idea what this means (specifically the Sinfonia part), but I am enjoying immensely even in my ignorance.

Third, a shout out to the students in 39B Rhetoric & Critical Reading, section whatever-the-stink-it-was, who learned a thing or two I think, and enjoyed themselves in the process - this is all a way of saying that I liked my students, and am sad to part with them. They will always hold a place in my heart until they don't anymore.

Christmas is coming. Listen world - the One you long for has come. Let's tell each other the story again.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

l'Orfeo, favola in musica

Orfeo, fable in music, is the earliest work considered to be an opera. Monteverdi composed the music, and another Italian with a rad name, Alessandro Striggio, wrote the text. Orfeo, or Orpheus as he is commonly known in English, could sing and play the lute so beautifully, so powerfully, he could sway the gods themselves with its loveliness.
Euridice, his new bride, dies suddenly, and Orfeo descends into Hades armed only with his music.
This is the prologue to the Opera, in which the single female vocalist sings of the power of music.

And this is the first four stanzas of William Wordsworth's "Power of Music":

AN Orpheus! an Orpheus! yes, Faith may grow bold,
And take to herself all the wonders of old; --
Near the stately Pantheon you'll meet with the same
In the street that from Oxford hath borrowed its name.

His station is there; and he works on the crowd,
He sways them with harmony merry and loud;
He fills with his power all their hearts to the brim --
Was aught ever heard like his fiddle and him?

What an eager assembly! what an empire is this!
The weary have life, and the hungry have bliss;
The mourner is cheered, and the anxious have rest;
And the guilt-burdened soul is no longer opprest.

As the Moon brightens round her the clouds of the night,
So He, where he stands, is a centre of light;
It gleams on the face, there, of dusky-browed Jack,
And the pale-visaged Baker's, with basket on back.

More "Animal"

He is blind, that grim and rawboned god,
black smoke,
and the world now dark –
he didn’t see me
flat behind the back of the creature,
my lamp clapped dim
between our bodies.
Or did I put it out?

I would ask – lift my tongue
into your matted hair –
if I thought you cared to, or could,
answer with any sort of luminous

The sound of death’s footsteps
made me forget almost everything.

Yet he passed,
and did his sullen work
to lift the wooden hatch,
as the night rumbled forward on its track
toward the round horizon.

Monteverdi = Greenmountain

Claudio Monteverdi is seen as the last of the Renaissance composers, and the first of the Baroque composers. Plus, he's got a sweet name.
In his most famous work, Vespro della Beata Vergine, you can hear both the influence of the monophonic plainchant of the Gregorians, and the markedly different instrumental intricacies of the new styles.
The first movement opens with a male voice chanting, in the old style, the phrase "O God make speed to save me." Hearing only the single voice, I thought I was still lost in the familiar mystic realm of the ancients, out in the shadowed wilds. But then, like a ceiling full of chandeliers suddenly lit (I actually shook in my chair), comes the full orchestral and choral response, "O Lord make haste to help me." This ain't early music anymore. He combines masterfully the old and the new.
I wish it was easier. I find myself thinking of this constantly: how do you proceed through life so that the lessons you learn stick with you, and show up in the new situations - so that what you learn is added to, is gained upon. Monteverdi's music represents the giant snowball of Western music that had been slowly growing, collecting new techniques and instruments, having begun as a simple chanted melody during the time of the Byzantine empire. His Vespro is a huge ball of lutes, harpsichords, violas, counterpoint technique, new harmony, and choir voices.
Hot damn, I want that. Every word should brim with the knowledge of the learned - of time experienced. I think this is called wisdom.
My poems are my memory, and my teachers. They walk behind me in a motley gang, making strange noises - birds, creatures, plants, robed figures - heads bobbing. I want to feel them there, reteaching me what they taught me, so painfully and beautifully, once before.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


You'd think a man about to step through the ornate gates of the world of Baroque music would have a better grip on his daily habits - you'd think he'd have a track of well-placed steps upon the daily race. Nope. I hiked up, however, some green scrub-desert hills south of Irvine, just east of San Juan Capistrano, which is the town famous for its mission swallows. Sparrows? Birds.
Ate a tasty turkey sandwich while perched on a rock overlooking a ridged valley. Felt like an Indian, or a hawk. Tried smoking my pipe, but it wouldn't light in the wind.

Where to begin with this new world. The thanksgiving meditation was good. Paused from posts - is how I would describe what I did If I didn't feel so deliquent.

But, I do. I owe something now to this electronic page. A lesson, at least, in the ways of ancient music. But no longer! - will I be deliquent. (That's not true)

Moving forward into a brave new world.
If you been reading and would like a cd & short guide of the music I've described during the study of early music, let me know. I'll send one to you.

I haven't posted a new poem in a few light years. Which is a measure of distance. Which makes no sense.

So here's one, from my new series, Animal:


Today these hands are mine.

I say it in a dream – a dismal haze.

Today I will do what is good and mindful.
I will do what is natural to the light.

I move, mistaken, on the inside.

Today I’ll writhe up from this hole
and take a bite of all the brightest things.

But even as I say it, twisted with pleasure,
I rap against the inner notches of my ribs and wake
silent in the dark wet,
where the heat of a distant noon sun seeps through
the outer skin of the sheath pulled close around this cavity,
this suffocating world,
and I hear the sound of mine own voice, speaking, above me -

Today I am animal.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Review of Thanks & von Bingen

Well, I decided Thanksgiving week would be a good time to do a wrap-up review of early music - it certainly has created a new room in my mind & heart worth being thankful for. I am thankful for Palestrina, Machaut, the Franco-Flems, the British buds - they are all friends of mine now, in some capacity or other.
As a backdrop for a week of meditative reflection, I have chosen to kick it way back to the roots - to the early of the early birds. This includes gregorian & ambrosian chant, as well as the mystic Hildegard von Bingen.
Hildegard was a mystic from the 12th century - she claims to have received visions from God, as well as the command to "Write what you see." She wrote: three books of descriptions of her visions with interpretations, poetry, as well as musical compositions.
I was just listening to "Fire of Creation," from The Origin of Fire.
That's Hildegard in the blue doorway, with her scribe Volmar.
Um... I want a scribe named Volmar.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I call and cry unto Thee

... is the name of the last song I am listening to by Thom Tallis. He and his licensed compatriot are being swept off the lens.
I don't know who I will choose next. I might break the bubble of the baroque tonight - step in from the strange & vast medieval landscape to the intricate interior of the Baroque.
Went on a walk tonight with Alan, my good fiction friend - he is not a fiction, I'm fairly certain, but he does write it. We walked through some of the wild Irvine brush just west of my apartment complex. There is a certain dip in the path where the air cools. Irvine, as she was meant to be, comes alive there. Sparrows dart from the bushes, white-tailed rabbits do the same, plunging back in moments later, and the wild scent of all the local herbs culminates into something like music.
I call and cry unto Thee, Being whose presence shines in this world you've made, whose voice mutters joyfully in the dry stick-bushes where the path dips.
I am a wild creature, tied to a lamp, tied to a bag of broken words. The sparrows don't accuse me - they don't notice. They assume I am an animal, like themselves, singing my song, walking along, eating seeds, maybe, they think, or meat - (all along the trail piles of coyote dung betray other wild eaters).
If we are full of the hot air of language disconnected from experience, then we must slowly exhale, paper bags puffed up and crushed, squeezed like bagpipes - to the point of being small and compact and ourselves. Wheeze with me awhile, and return to find that things have meaning. This is not existential moping - I pray it is not. This is not a task that many, most, have the pleasure of undertaking: To know oneself. To drag every last creature out of ones head & flesh and ask them "Who are you, little one, with a life inside of me?"
I am Animal. I am Lamp.
Unfortunately, this all has the flavor & tone of solipsism - to become wise, a man must walk through many doors, and the door of the self is one of them. At this point, he will not be sure if he is an egotistical ass or not - chances are, he is. We, most of us, are.
I draw my pictures. I write my words. I learn about music. I look for love. I strengthen my body. I whistle. Like a bird sometimes.
But after this, after a man walks through this door once - (I call and cry unto Thee with the hope of it God) - he can turn the lamp upon other things, other people. He can sweep the self from the center of his head's light, and fill it with other worthy creatures.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

To Be Perceived such and such; To be regarded highly; To be known as someone who is different - as someone who has done something great; To do something great; To reach out to the world, great Philanthropist, and rescue many, heal wounds, lift the downtrodden of the world; To make sure that someone sees the thing you do for good in secret; To do a thing for good in secret and roll it under your tongue like a caramel; To distract yourself from the pain of not doing something great; To hide the fact that you have never acted because you have been afraid of the failure of not being perceived as having acted greatly; To know exactly what it means to do something great;

all these are chains that stop a man from doing - what? From living as himself. From doing the thing that is his thing to do. I am not entirely sure what this means.

But here is the world. Here I am, contraption of flesh & light. Here are others, near me. Push the whole damn dark world of fear aside - the fear of not being perceived by oneself or by the world as great - and suddenly you are very small, and very much yourself. Reach up and touch your nose. That is the sort of thing you can do.

And if there are things happening to you, things that you are choosing, that have the smell and texture of greatness, ingest them as the skin does oil - soak, and do not say a word, but keep doing things. Keep touching your nose. Keep combing the hair of the good thing. Listen to William Byrd's keyboard music. Smile and bend your knees and eat some food. It will break apart, back into the flesh & light it came from, and nourish you - a creature - an animal - a soul.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Spem in Alium

Not a beautiful phrase, (the first word being a near homonym to everyone's favorite meat-product), but, indeed, a beautiful song. Spem in Alium is a motet (a type of medieval musical composition) by Thomas Tallis, written for an 40-voice choir. The title translates as Hope in Another. I think.
Music is becoming the lense through which I see the world - or, to use a more apt metaphor, the ear, with curled and ornate lobe, through which I hear. If you say something to me, it's likely being filtered through the haunting sonic matrix of Spem in Alium, or Lamentations of Jeremiah - another piece by Tallis. Lamentations is a 2-set, nine part piece based on the Biblical book of Lamentations - it has also set camp in my cranium. Which is now covered in long hair. Which, as my sister tells me, looks like Mom's. I'd like to think I look like Dad back in his italian-soccer/beach-bum days (sorry Mom).

The lyrics (as you listen) (click the colored words above and wait - it's a big'n):

I have never put my hope in any other but in you
God of Israel
who will be angry
and yet become again gracious
and who forgives all the sins of suffering man
Lord God
Creator of Heaven and Earth
look upon our lowliness

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Byrd & Tallis

William Byrd and Thomas Tallis were the first two composers in England with enough musical noteriety to earn themselves acknow- ledgement from the finicky hand of Music History. In fact, they were the only composers with a license to publish music in the 16th century in England. Yes, the whole century. They worked as a team at the Chapel Royal in London, and danced around waving their licenses when no one else was around. I would have. I bet the Chapel Royal has some big aisleways.
These two English blokes are the composers of the week, pushing the Franco-Flems out of the spotlight, though I have, as of yet, no idea what their music sounded like, nor how the mechanics of it worked. So here's hoping for the best [note: at this point, one would raise one's pint of Guinness awkwardly and nod]

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Drupelets and Splices

Today was an interesting day - mostly because I spent it with good people. First: eggnog pancakes & basic drum lessons with some old friends in Santa Ana, next: wild raspberry jam & lessons in comma splices with a friend here in Irvine, and last: Korean BBQ with my roommate Steve.
Theres a lot here, so I'll give you the basics. Keep the 8th note beats on the hi-hat, bass drum on 1, snare on 3; raspberries are not berries, but aggregate fruits, made of an aggregation of little fruit-droplets called drupelets; a comma splice is a common punctuation error made by 39B writing students wherein they use a comma to divide 2 independent clauses, which should only be divided by either a semi-colon or an em-dash; Korean BBQ involves a grill in the center of a table with various meats one applies to the grill, and then many little white dishes full of fermented cabbages and fish cakes and pickled onions.
My stomach is packed and my head is wriggling with new creatures.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Jackson Cade Rigamonti

To a Little One

You are small right now. I have prayed
that you would grow. I have asked the Shepherd
to help you find your way into this field.
Your father is a tree, faithful,
firmly planted - your mother is a light;
full of bright laughter. Your brother
is a growing thing, green and more than a little
silly. I love him. Music never met us
except within a dream - but still it seems
not right to leave her out. Her?
I'm not sure why I call her her, since we never knew;
neither do we know who you, little one,
will be - will you join your brother in the underbrush,
or your mother in the spaces in between?
Well, either way you come is fine - but come,
little one, come now, let us see. If you please Dear
Shepherd, if you please.

To Medieval Music

The old ones are mourning
for the new ones. Yes, long dead,
but they made their songs wise;
their music reaches forward into time
so that its beauty rings with sorrow
for us. This song, now wrapping
round my chest its arms
from somewhere miles and miles
ago, when men & women bent
their heads to older loves,
must feel the dark and growing
scar that’s hid beneath my shirt.
I hear, in the tremors of the wrists
pressed tight to me, a weeping.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Figures of Speech

Yesterday in workshop words were getting thrown around that, yes, I have been acquainted to, but never really had any substantial relationship with. I know what they look and sound like, but don't know where they're from, how many brothers and sisters they have, if they're dating anyone.
IDIOM for instance. So... knowing it was a figure of speech, a figure within speech, i.e. not plain speech itself (when is speech ever plain?) - I looked it up on
An idiom is any group of words that can't be translated literally into another language and retain its meaning - E.g (the example they give) "kick the bucket". If I told my my italian cousin to "scosse la benna", even if I am saying it correctly, it won't mean "death" to her. It will mean "kick the bucket". Which is not the meaning of the phrase, though it is the literal meaning, that we think of when we say it. So, it is a group of words, usually an image, that is assigned an alterior meaning different than the literal meaning of the phrase.
The other major figures of speech they listed were SIMILE (My love, you are like a cananda goose, filling my heart with brillaint honking) and METAPHOR (My love, you are a canada goose, filling my heart with equally brilliant honking).
Oak Titmouse! click it

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Veni Redemptor

Here is a lovely old monophonic Ambrosian hymn, translated Come Redeemer.

click here to download and listen

Counterpoint & Elsewise

Counterpoint is a form of POLYPHONY. Are they the same thing? Well, as far as I can tell, yes, they are, but you know, in the all-asians-look-alike sort of way. What then are they? Polyphony is the layering of distinct melodies, that interweave and play off of each other, but remain their own separate creature. This below is the first line of the oldest recorded notation for a polyphonic composition, called Sumer is Icumen In. To translate this from the old english, read it aloud. Its in 6 parts traditionally, and this is a delightful version of it, that brings me great joy. Tidings of them. Listen to the way they counter & point at one another.
Click on the picture to download the song.

HOMOPHONIC music, as distinct from homophobic music, is different than polyphony in that it is carried by one strong melody. The separate musical parts, voices, harmonize with the lead meoldy, creating chordal sounds. Notice how the four parts of this old hymn are laid out, following one another, forming a four note chord with the four parts. Click on the picture below to listen to a homophonic hymn composed by Thomas Tallis, an early English composer.

Lastly, we have MONOPHONY, from which both of the crazy chickens above hatched. It is the form of music that is composed of only one single melodic line, which all the singers sing together. Gregorian chant and other varities of single melody chant from early western culture are examples of this. Click here to listen an example of Gregorian Chant.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Franco-Flems

These guys keep coming out of the wood work - now I've come upon the MOST importantest of all the 15th century Franco-Flemish composers: Gilles Binchois. His fine melodies had an arguably greater influence, apparently, on composers of his time, and in centuries to come. I don't really know, so I choose to love them all equally.
Still listening to Ockeghem this morning. Ockeghem studied under Binchois, and took his place as most important Franco-Flem of the 15th century. Guillaume Dufay was writing at the same time as Binchois, and Josquin des Prez took up the tail-end of all four of them, pushing forward into the 16th century. J des Prez, as I like to call him, took what his Franco-Flemish ForeFathers had proffered to him, and wrought a style very near to perfection - so thought Gioseffo Zarlino, a musical theorist of the time. He may have studied counterpoint under Ockeghem. What is counterpoint? Tune in next time to find that out, and other secrets behind the technical wizardy of the Franco-Flemish composers.
The picture below is of Ockeghem (with the glasses) and his singers.

Low Volume

And I mean, amount of weekly posts. Interestingly, we usually associate this phrase with sound intensity. It comes from the Latin word which signifies a series of pages of writing, in the Book Volume sense, and I suppose it made its way to Quantity after that - it does mean that though now as well: quantity, how much of something there is. I suppose that the Sound Volume evolved from the Quantity Volume, which evolved from the Book Volume, which did not evolve, but was created directly, because books are angelic beings.
I spent a weekend up in the woods up in the mountains with 12 other poets. We read poetry and ate hummus and sat on big rocks. It was good life. It didn't help the already pressing problem of weekly time management. Hence and thus, last week's low volume.
Speaking of low volume, we need to choose the weekly composer. Guillaume de Machaut must make way for another man who was writing in France, a hundred years later, in the 15th century: Johannes Ockeghem. He was a Franco-Flemish composer, and I think that since I have so little on his two Franco-Flemish neighbors, Guillaume Dufay before him, and Josquin des Prez after, I will talk about the three of them together. Yes, this is 15th century Franco-Flemish week. I'm listening to the Kyrie from Ockeghem's "Missa L'homme Arme" right now - definitely some polyphonic refinement on the music of Machuat. A little of that Franco-Flemish polish.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Le Voir Dit

Translated A True Tale, this collection of poems set to polyphonic music is considered Machaut's masterpiece. It is the tale of the author's sorrowful separation from his beloved. It is absolutely lovely. He has been considered the "last great poet who was also a composer."
While in Minnesota, Eric Alness, Ben Wright, Tim Beardshear and I, walked downtown in the crisp air and sunlight to a Dunn Brothers coffee shop, and a great used bookstore. Where I am going with this is right here: I found a book of Petrarch's sonnets - in the Italian, with translations. As some of you might know, as I didn't know before this week, his best sonnets were love sonnets written to a certain Laura.
So I have Dante and Beatrice, Petrarch and Laura, and now Machaut and his lost love, all milling melancholy in my mind.
I went on a run in Minneapolis - down into the heart of the city, back to a cathedral we had seen - a lutheran church. A woman was at the enormous organ practicing. I sat in the cruciform building, under the stainglass light, and listened in shorts and a white bandana. This has almost nothing to do with Le Voir Dit, except that it is a true story, and was full of music in many ways. Joy always surprises us when we least expect it.

Guillaume De Machaut

After a 3 day visit to Minneapolis Minnesota, and its neighboring towns and cities, I have returned to my little black laptop computer, my potted plant, and some Bailey's on ice. Palestrina's week in the limelight has passed, and now I find myself listening to the spare, and very different, Messa de Nostre Dame by Guillaume de Machaut. He was composing in France in the 14th century, and was apparently the most prominent figure of the French Ars Nova - a musical movement in France that consisted essentially of 14th century music and its innovations. It sounds quite different than Palestrina's Misse. I can't quite describe it - it's clear that Machaut's music was much earlier. It is polyphony in its youth - healthy and strong, but simple. The picture below, an early illustration for a manuscript of his music, depicts Nature giving a gift to Machaut: her three children, Sense, Rhetoric, and Music.

(No such bird) VII

It wasn’t a conspiracy.
Hers had been the shop
he’d come upon in his urgency
to know, and she had known.

When the third syllable had
dropped he had waited for another
word, but none had come.
He shifted, hesitated,
wanting her to catch herself,
to take it back, wait, you know,
there is one just like that,
yes, let me think,
it’s called…

The animals had crunched their seeds
audibly, and stared.
The parrot turned away –
looked out the window.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

(No such bird) VI

He stood in the center of the city street.
Manned cars mashed their horns in angry loops around him,
but he did not pull in his feet – he did not blink.
Sunlight angled down, clear and bright, between
the glass and steel - a solvent, and the air grew
thin enough for hurried forms to cut right through it.
Round and round him, without effort - there was
no conscious struggle. Some sentiment,
yes, between apathy and wrath,
but the city flashed around him easily.

Nothing escaped his notice.
The light went through his hair and skull.
He knew better now: this was not confusion.
It was the quiet aftermath
of a detached hope – variation in the repetition,
but always some form of the same answer.

The bells of the shop were still jingling.
The trees in the park moved only for the wind.

(No such bird) V

The branches domed above his head.

Lifted up, the leaves
would press against the light

and translate through their porous flesh
the story of heaven.

In the still air,
on the soft floor,
he would turn and read the prophecy
written in that brilliant green,

looking for the figured one
that would come: Postured
centerward, a heralding of red
amidst the native green.

A scribe, he waited with his pencil ready.

Monday, October 23, 2006

(No such bird) IV

It’s time to grow up,”
he lipped with observation’s
overaction. He lifted a hand
to the mirror and crunched it
tight. “To be a man one must

kill everything he loves.”
It made him glad to say it.

Meanwhile, she flipped precisely
through blunt-cornered, hardbound books,
looking for a name. Funny, the feelings one has
despite being sure.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Giovanni da Palestrina

Palestrina is a small town 23 miles east of Rome; ancient stone resting on a hilltop. Giovani Pierluigi was born in Palestrina during the 16th century - took it as part of his name - "da" meaning "from". First Question: why don't we do that anymore?
Palestrina was a medieval composer, pre-baroque, composing mainly polyphonic (intertwining harmonious melodies) religious chant. Most of his famous works are Masses, which traditionally consist of five parts: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei. You should be able to figure those out.
He has taken the place of Mozart as composer of the week. Sit down Mozart, were playing it old school now.
Apparently he composed Mass in and for St. Peter's for a large portion of his life, achieving great renown. Also, pertaining to his reputation, Bach's masterpiece Mass in B minor was inspired by Palestrina's Missa sine nomine.
My apartment bedroom sounds like a monastery.
I don't have a second question. Click on Palestrina's vague medieval smile to hear one of his compositions.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Intransitive Verbs and Mozart

Have you ever been a victim of unrequited love? - that insatiable longing, that sucking inconsolable desire, all heart and all mind aimed toward one specific being. It's like being half mad, where everything in all of life ends up bending back towards that one person, like a glaring red arrow, a grasping hand.
This (oh soul, take heed) is different than an intransitive verb. I was grading student summaries of Stanley Milgram's "Perils of Obedience" essay, when I came across the word "inquired" used without being followed by a preposition or a prepositional phrase, and it didnt seem right. I think it might be an INTRANSITIVE (!) verb. Someone correct the government paid english professor if he is wrong. He wants to know.
Regardless, an intransitive verb takes no object. For example, you couldn't say: Justin sleeps bed. "Sleep" is an intransitive verb; it has a subject performing its action, but does not have an object upon which it is performed.
Which, of course, brings us to Mozart. It is the last day of Mozart Week, and boy howdy, it has been a good week. But Mozarts music has not taken me as a direct object - in fact, it takes no object at all. Music, in general, does not take an object - has no end it is trying to effect through its action. Or something. I swear it ties together in my head.
And somehow a bleary-eyed heart calms a little, with the music of verbs and violins pointing skyward, shooting brilliantly just for the sake of lovely sound.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Purple Finch

I have never seen one of these, but it is lovely, no? Apparently, they are a local species; another Californian I haven't met. I was trying to find a green-bellied bird I saw yesterday, but this wine-drenched gent will have to suffice for now. He suffices well.
(Click on our local purple friend to hear his song.)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

(No such bird) III

This often happened. His pen
rendered the paper still
beneath it's thought thing:
a bird, in flight. Each sounding
stone pulled across the page made
the repetition of the extended wing,
and it's curve, a reality. He
was careful. He was in earnest.

And as often, one
would blink into existence
over his shoulder - no bird, but
a known face, speaking words
in a manner of speaking, chiding,
"What, this again? My God
friend, it's time to grow up."

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Lark Sparrow

This is a good picture for the local Lark Sparrow: he is seated on a native So Cal plant. I saw these birds in downtown Los Angeles often, when I spent my time there. Out here in the desert, where things are certainly different, (more smells, wild and herbal), this little sparrow seems very much at home.
(Click on his russet stripes to hear him sing. )

Monday, October 16, 2006

Wolfgand Amadeus Mozart

I've decided to learn a bit of music history while I am here at UC Irvine. This isn't a new decision - I originally began wanting to try during undergrad - but never had the chance to follow through. Meaning: didn't. But now....!
So, out of the names milling around in my head tagged with the label "Classical Composer", I chose Mozart first.
He was a composer of the Classical era, which is a name given to the distinctive era in music history generally recognized as beginning in the early 1700's and ending in the early 1800's. It seems that this era in music corresponded nicely to the developments in philosophy at the time. It was the Age of the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, in Europe, and philosphers were looking for clean logic-driven explanations of the world - new refined simplicity, order, science.
Mozart wrote lovely concerti, which were arrangements with the orchestra that highlighted one instrument, exploiting its individual characteristics and capabilities. I've been listening to the Violin Concerti numbers 3 and 5. Click on Mozart to hear the Adagio movement of Concerto #3.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

(No such bird) II

They leaned in together, and
together clapped their hands
and he waited. They swung
their heads like strung balls,
prolonged pause on each outer edge,
and through this he waited.

He asked again, the same as he had
the first time: "Any such?"

and they launched back into it, balled
yolks rolling back and forth, together.

No such bird

A smudge of light, hole
in the leaf layers 50 feet away,
moved across the glass pane
as he pushed open the door.

Bells accompanied his coming
and the lady, bent over
at a mouse cage but alert,
leaned up and straightened
her shirt and smiled at him.

"Hello" she said, mouth pinched
into an arc.

"Hello" he replied, and shifted
his eyes around the busy room.
The smell he liked and so passed over
for the sound of crickets burrowing
into the sawdust.
Mice broke kernels apart.
Something licked its chops. A parrot
squawked obnoxiously, inches from his ear,

and he drew back, hesitated, then said "Do you have
a small-boned bird, chestnut-red,
with a bright golden beak?"

She paused long enough for the light
reflected from a passing car outside the glass to move
across her face.

"There is no such bird."

Friday, October 13, 2006

The People, Yes

This is an audio clip of Carl Sandburg reading an excerpt from his masterpiece, The People, Yes. (103 poems long).
Click on his photo to hear him reading.

Black Phoebe

I see these little gentlemen in my field. They perch on the chain-link fence that surrounds a garden on the northern end of the field.
(Click on the picture to hear his song.)

Yellow Warbler

Just too lovely. Now if I could find the local birds.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

More Blog Changes

So, I'm trying to figure out how to make all of this work for all browsers. Apparently my banner wasn't showing on any browers other than Internet Explorer, which is a little pathetic. I am embarrased. Not that it looks much better now, but at least it looks like I intend it to look.

Ah, so, in order to refresh ourselves after that little bit of madness, lets consider the Swainson's Thrush. Click on the picture to here his song.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Another Sighting

I was walking through my field, attention turned inward to thoughts, syphoning then upward into the sky (it was a lovely day today), only vaguely aware of the crunch of cut wild grass stalks and the stirring of peripheral plantlife, when a commanding squawk exploded on my right. I turned, and there behind a chain-link fence a Roadrunner was proudly waiting for me to be aware of his presence.
He stayed motionless for a moment, pointed like a weapon. I found respect for him. His crest was smaller than his cartoon counterpart's, his body mostly mottled-brown, and his legs very much bird-legs, but thicker, stronger looking - somewhere between a chicken's fat taloned limbs and a songbird's delicate twig-legs.
He began to move - it was very quick, but all seemed graceful and purposeful. His movement was not reckless. Up and over the fence in a flash, then down onto the dust and mown grass floor, he started performing the famous run from which he earned half his name. It was entrancing. It was not wild; not two churning propellors whirring madly at his sides. It was like a slow-motion dance, that somehow happened to burn across the landscape. I see where they got the stopping-on-a-dime thing, and the sudden-cloud-of-smoke departure. Wile E., you have a worthy adversary.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Cafe Rant

Yes, Gather ye Suburbanites
round cafe' tables smartly
with your perfect cups of coffee
which ye, in all your wisdom,
shall toss into the heap
that is growing and becoming
and will soon wake from it's sleep.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Irvine Post-Wild Flowers

They are known as Firewheels.


So, I was on the path that leads me through various fields, frat house mazes, and parking lots, to the heart of campus, to the grassy ring called Aldrich Park, to the Humanities building, where I will spend a great deal of time in the next few years; and I happened to be looking for a red flower I'd seen the day before, and intended to pick today; and suddenly I saw creature movement out the corner of my eye (top left corner). Before I continue, let me say that I love creature movement - that blurred black or brown swoosh as you round a corner, or pass beneath a branch. That crack and rustle in the tall grass.

These stayed for a moment, to my great pleasure. Two long-legged, ten inch tall birds, with blue-marked cheeks, mottled brown bodies, and little fan-crests on the tops of their heads. Male and female. Yes, they were Roadrunners.

How cool is that?! The creatures live here too. Rabbits and crickets and roadrunners and yellow warblers and lizards - even here in Irvine, my friends, the creatures live.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Lesson taught to the Self

Soul, be awake. Break away
from pedantic landscape - stop
trying to say something soul.
You don't have a single particle
caught in your clasp
other than words.
Open your hand! Let the words
blow and scatter away.
From what inspired fountain
do they arise? Ah, yes,
the deep mind, the deep well
beneath the meticulous streets
that we know so well, that we
walk daily, leashed in necktie
language. Arise, deep words:
I will let you go. I will let you pluck
away from my pimpled hide,
I will let the wind gain force
and carry you high above
my pathetic reach. This is
of course a battle against the
Gods of Egypt, who sway on milky
coils, who say, "The Nile is mine.
I have made it for myself."
It is a battle against the philosopher
in me. Oh, don't worry,
he will melt in the levity of
unchained, unleashed words
barking gleefully down the street, yes,
like a pack of rubber-jowled bulldogs,
howling with rabid joy.

Friday, September 08, 2006

No Need To Rage

In the last days you will grow tired
and your eyes will close mid-day -
having had tasks removed
from your fumbling grip, you gasped
deep existential breaths, and then
gave up. Let go. Found a quiet table
on the patio. It's okay - whether you
have hope beyond this flesh or don't,
there's no need to rage, rage. All of it
will end in the same moment anyway:
soft stares into nowhere sky, and
wrinkled eyelids that slowly sigh, and close.


Go on, old men,
playing around with wooden boxes
strung tight across with cat gut.
Dodge in and out of
cherry-lacquered fence-posts;
ramble and sing late into evening -
the coda will wrap you back eventually.
But now, crow on, gentlemen; tonight
a certain heart could use
a bit of bluegrass light.

Can you sense the limpness of my limbs?
Pry back these cedar slats,
and show me into what dark basement
my heart has slipped, like a cold and fleshy coin.
Do you see it Charlie? Shine
your violin right there.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Let Go You Soul

Let go, soul; you who would
have control over every situation.
Lose your pinch on the loose ends, here
in the spotlights red wash over
felt hats and dog-wag wrists;
where no one can keep his own mind
straight from the others.
Tumble along to the rag-tag beat; Let it creep,
tip-tap toe-shoe, up your widening
bloodstream; let it gleam in
that usually uninhabited left
corner of your eye. Don't
cross out lines as you tend to do,
hoping to keep them sober and sane;
dont try and keep them out
of the sugar cane. These lines are sheep
that you don't own. Scratch their hides
& feed them fat & let them
find their own way home.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Things to Think

by Robert Bly

Think in ways you've never thought before
If the phone rings, think of it as carrying a message
Larger than anything you've ever heard,
Vaster than a hundred lines of Yeats.

Think that someone may bring a bear to your door,
Maybe wonded and deranged; or think that a moose
Has risen out the lake, and he's carrying on his antlers
A child of your own whom you've never seen.

When someone knocks on the door, think that he's about
To give you something large: to tell you you're forgiven,
Or that it's not necessary to work all the time, or that it's
Been decided that if you lie down no one will die.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Queen: an opening mouth

More than what you are Los Angeles;
you, like every small god, are
a brilliant metaphor, clammed
and cool. You take your place in line.
You herald your own coming.
You chomp your stainless jaws robotically,
waiting for the ventriloquist.
But I will not be this, for you.
Oh queen, oh giant thing on whom
my mind has found its parasitic life,
quit blubbering like a thin-boned
hollywood broad, and climb the thin stroke
of my body; I have cleared a place for
you. I had myself beheaded, for you,
sweet Lady Blue, vulgur with voided eyes,
delicate vulture, whose fingers stretch, red and white,
down the freeways every night.
A pestilent creature has opened
its groin with your name, but
I will steal it away. I have taken up
the habit of dragging the desert
in my teeth.
I desire your beauty, Los Angeles.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Melodrama of the Moon

Sometimes the night is overlong; we wait
with eyes upon the moon's slow course across
the stretching sky. It barely seems to move -
it snags on every star it meets, lingering,
nosing every red or blue-smeared galaxy.
A snail, gigantic; sphere of spiraled-bone,
leaving in its milky-wake a sparkling veil,
tattered by the periodic hail of shooting stars.
Without fail, it will reach the other side
of the night sky's vast expanse, we know,
but in the quiet vacuum of a single moment
it seems to be frozen into place - the face
of Lot's wife, surprised, and caught mid-stride.
Luckily, the crickets and the barnowl
regale us with their songs, curing our impatience,
adding music to the melodrama of the moon.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Taming Your Journals

It's okay to lift your pen away
from the flat white paper-face of
what-have-you. Probably
an emotionally needy diary
of some sort. Like wide-mouthed
hatchlings whining for a morsel,
they beg, and we, like sway-backed slaves
consent to labor, hefting heavy words in.
But its okay to let them go hungry.
Okay even to let them starve,
for a time, till their ribs show through
their dustjackets. Wait, I say, past
their desperate grimaces, past
even their final gasps. They will
inflate finally, in the fashion of the movies,
exhale dramatically and falter back,
keeping one eye always on you,
watching to see if you are watching.
Do not watch. Wait, and when
your empty notebooks, now
with tight stomachs and sharp jaw lines,
stand and dust their hands on their pants
and say "Fine then!" - then pounce,
and pin them down, whip out your pen,
tatoo them all over once again.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Barn Swallow Sonnet

The swallows dipped into the shallow pond
and scooped 1/2 teaspoon gulps of glossy blue
but didn't swallow. Instead, they ricocheted
back to the sky like feathered balls bounced off
a marble floor. Physics grinned, and as a prize
he pulled the droplets down each throated sluice
to tiny red translucent sacs. Yes, Light
passed through all parts of these iridescent
blue chips of wind-flint flung through summer air -
broken strips of stain glass window spun like discs
above the heads of wheat, lensing rainbows,
diamond-shaped, smooth. Even that tiny ball
of hydrogen glowed inside each swallow core
with a fierce and smoky sapphire light.


All men live in dim mines of coal.
The sun pulls in elastic strands
through cracks in the cavern walls
and men mostly dance about
in the dark, frantically heaping,
hoping to amount to something.
I am one of the misinformed breed
who sit in thin sun-shafts, pressing
one black lump between patient hands.
"As much a fool as Noah," the say.
"No, wait, watch," we reply
and we press, and hold, and wait.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Artist Temperment

All of my injuries come within an hour of commencing some new dangerous undertaking. Often less than an hour. There was kitchen duty at camp, and quad errands with my brother. Today it was table-sawing hard wood floor panels. Never done anything like that before - it was new and interesting. So was the 2 inch rota-gash I tore in the pad of my thumb.
I suppose being a poet, full of that tremulous artist temperment, I am prone to feelings of anxiety concerning my capacity to engage this world in a normal fashion.
Cutting my thumb, losing a days work, and general worry over money and relationships, makes me realize that I havent had any sort of plan of attack, you know, method, to my approach to societal success. I have floundered, as I once said, like a fish in a barrel of light. Even that metaphor is a sort of floundering - images splattered over a problem.
Ingenuity and dedication to a single problem is needed for success.
I don't know why I am writing these words.

We all want to air out our souls every once in awhile. This hasn't always been my goal in writing. My goal before, at times, was much more modern - you know, articulate some important truth to the masses.
I guess I am still aiming towards that. But tonight, through a feeling of anxiety, I am standing naked again in the field of the world, without any weapons, without any signs telling me where I might at least find some clothing. Feelings of security really change ones attitude toward ones place in the world. I remember times when I felt successful and secure, and it is so much easier to be confident about metaphysical ideas. Belief affected by mood, as it has been said.
I don't care for success in this world. I just want to feel secure - no, to know I am secure. I don't think I can feel it unless I know it - at least I hope I can't. And if faith can truly give that to me, despite how poor I am and what parts of my body I am currently tearing up, then I will cling to the gospel of the incarnate God, in Jesus Christ - I know we are spinning in the worlds bright darkness. I know that we all want this security. We all remember from our youth that we are going to die. We never forget it. We all know deep in are unspoken thoughts that at some point we are going to rota-drill a little too much flesh, and it will spell our end. Success is a pleasureable slap on the seat of your pants, and it leaves marks in the history books, yes, but we are going to die and be forgotten.

Life enternal. Been reading the psalms and in ecclesiates, and they treat death as an end. As if they will exist only nominally; no thought or consciousness. No sentience. Sinking down into sheol, where apparently everything is taken from a man. I realized when cutting my finger how okay with death I am - that is, when my heart is safe on the rock of the gospel.

I can't, obviously, continue in this constant rehashing of the problem. Lord have mercy on those whom you are calling to be men and women after your own heart.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

So Many Things

We are creatures of flesh and blood. We have muscles, and tendons, and skin. Hair. We can move. We consume organic material, i.e. plants and other creatures, for the transference of energy into ourselves from this material.
I was working in Dufur, Oregon all week. Here is a picture.

Beautiful, no? My soul found rest. My body found good hard work. My mind stayed quiet, and hummed to itself.
Been thinking (yeah, my mind never really stays quiet for long) about politics, and how a person can enter in to such a large, corrupt, dramatic, bureaucratic world when one is a small spatio/temporally confined creature. When one is not omnipotent or omniscient. Oh, it is like believing in anything; fighting for anything. It is never easy. It always demands faith and a clear-head. It always requires humility, and confidence, and a certain inexorable love of the world and its beauty - of wisdom.
If I ever find a way to say a single word concerning our nation, and the governing of our nation, and the proper ways of representing the different peoples of our nation, it will not be because someone puked their imprecise passions into my throat, and I have regurgitated it.
It will be because it has sprung up naturally in the field of my body as I have walked the narrow road.

"All of us who are concerned for peace and triumph of reason and justice must be keenly aware how small an influence reason and honest good will exert upon events in the political field." ~Albert Einstein

I am suddenly faced with the question: am I conservative? Am I trying to conserve the old ideas? Yes, I suppose, in so far as they partake in wisdom. Am I liberal? Am I open to new ideas and in-so-far as I am able to be, free from bigotry? Yes, I am open to new articulations of wisdom, and to being free myself from my own blindness.

Politics is the managing of the state, which is the union of a people and the representation of these people - a government for the people and by the people. And people are people - they are creatures of flesh and blood and bone and sinew, and they have minds - sentient, intelligent, and souled. Therefore, wisdom.

I love America, because she loves these ideas, or did, and was founded on principles which were made of these ideas. Is America a fat blind obnoxious beast now? Maybe. But in her youth she was strong and clear-headed and wise.

God, we humble ourselves before you, not thinking more highly of ourselves and our ideas than we know to be wise. If Bush is a wise man, then we have some sort of semblence of safety until his term is completed. If he is not a wise man, lets find a wise man and replace him. We are clever, no? We can find a way.

What is wisdom? I hear the question buzzing about my ears. Dang - I thought you'd ask that. If you dont know I cant tell you. Come to me in 40 years. I'll tell you the same thing, but more emphatically.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Hidden Thing Revealed

I always knew that it was there
so that when I suddenly stumbled upon it
in the middle of the sidewalk
I nearly tripped and broke my teeth
all out. Nearly bit my tongue in half.

Nearly tipped my head back
to release all the laughs
I’d been holding hostage.

“Is this then the ransom I’ve requested?”
I posed to the air above the spot, and
the laughs all crowded up to teeth
to peer through with me down to see
if indeed we’d found the thing
we always knew was there, and hiding.

“Is this the hidden thing, now in view?”
I flung the question out finely, like a philosopher,
like Demosthenes with his mouth chock full of
crystallized and quivering marbles
of pure joy. Trembling before the anticipated hatch.

“Shall we hatch then, damnit?!” I cried out for my comrades
now rolling madly about inside my mouth,
frenzied beasts in a zoo-cage riot.

Then, All the laughter in my mouth
got real quiet. I closed my eyes tight as clamshells,
keeping precious pearls safe - avoiding, if possible, unrequited
humor. Then craned my neck downward. Then
focused to my inner core. Then
with a planned and pregnant gesture of near Shakespearian melodrama

opened slowly to see the sidewalk,
and nothing more.

Naturally, I gaped,
shocked to find I had not found
the thing I’d planned on finding all along,

and naturally, when I gaped wide
the orbs sprung out in concert from inside my head
and bounced around the sidewalk
like brilliant rubber balls - red, green, violet -
each one the word
each one the song.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Birdcage Sonnet

I've meant to own a bird since I was ten;
small-boned, chestnut red, bright-golden-beaked. Instead,
I bought the cage. Its resting empty now
upon my shelf: flat-backed, byzantine-domed;
like a minature cathedral, with black wire frame
instead of stone. No angelic warbling echoes
from its lower mesh, no clang of bird-bell bursts
from thin rafters. Its empty. Completely.
Except this morning as I watched, the light
flew in the open blinds and quickly came
to the cages side: it paused, and peeked its bright
gold beak inside. Breathed once. Then, with joy,
pressed sunspark feathers against the bars, splitting,
slipping through, a thousand luminous fragments, filling.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Need to Grow

Sometimes two plants will spring from the soil
simultaneously - held under for various unrelated
reasons. Always a reason to it. But, now, sprung
seemingly, together, in the juvesence of the year
at the heels of the Tiger-Christ prowling through the garden.
He sinks on his haunches, pauses, then leaps
and you and I caught the motion from beneath
the shallow lids of our graves. Caught the breath,
and leapt up, tipping tiny pallid green tongues
out into the Light timidly. Soon, though, the Light commands
us forth from our graves, and we slowly wriggle
from cadaverous sheaths, shaking off the death-rags
gladly, though with a bit of timidity, a little trepidation -
fear & trembling, as it says. It was right.
But the Light shouts "Come forth, damnit!"
Which snaps the last frail bone of fear,
and the sky opens up so large and clear
above us that we cannot help but cry out in mad laughter
and burst from the ground like dead men rising,
all green and lively, ruddy flavor licking back
into shoddy limbs, new green shoots darting out in the place
of rotten, missing fingertips. Must we die our whole lives?
No - there is a chance for new light always.
We know this in our bones - and poetry
spoken from the marbled lips of God on High
shakes us constantly, flinging out old cataracted eyes
so that hard pearlescent stones can roll out, brilliant
with new light, spawned not in the heart of any man,
but masterfully forged by the Spirit of God himself
within the husk of these very heads, these shaggy
red-brown heads, splotched and knobbed, that he Has given us.
This of course, since we have sprung together
close-alinged, is where I lean to kiss you, and why.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Poets Purpose

Recently a friend asked me why I write. "What need does it fill?" He asked.
All of my years have passed in relative quietness. I have never had a life of burning and pillaging; of running out into the street and taking what is mine. I have never been one to stir up, by force, the bitter soup. I have never been extremely articulate - my metaphors have never been precise, like knife-tips, poking readers through new holes in the fabric of understanding. We all stand about, including myself, with hands limp at our sides, wondering at the gravity, beauty, and simplicity of life. I have made a few small ticks of the pencil in my journals about such things. I have forgotten them all in time.
Why am I here now, in a coffee shop, pressing my spirit outward to that distant island shore - over many waters that most wont even acknowledge as existent? Can some men exist solely to be beautiful to a few? For beauties sake? Must all beautiful fruit have a bite, have a poison center, that shakes the lover into death throes of pleasure? I don't want to kill or to die quite so hotly. "Rage, rage, against the dying of the light"? Why? Can a man who trusts God simply enjoy a few people - kiss the foreheads of a few people, throw a few homing pigeons into the evening sky, and try not to let the blink of fear cloud his faith in the light?
Why am I here? Why have I spent the last few hours writing and reading poetry? Poetry says what I say "The world is beautiful, and we are all going to die". This is the song of poetry. I feel it now in my stomach, in my eyes, in my groin. It is joy and pain.
Christ says "Come follow me, all you who are weary of flailing about in the dark, looking for light. For my yoke is easy. My burden is light - pure beams of evening light, cut, swathed in white fabric, lifted lightly onto his shoulders by the red birds of faith.
All of my poetry is spilling into these paragraphs that no one might read.
Is it okay? Lord, show us hopelessness, again, and show us the brightness of the hope that you've offered to us.
Find us, as Ezekiel says, flailing in our own blood, and teach us to grow.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

A poem written while watching...

... a group of highschool dudes at a starbucks coffee shop.


Do not be deceived -
we will not live long.
The little demon choir
assigned to herald our end
is already clearing their throat
for the song. I hear them at night
like fieldmice barking
at the blue moon.
Don't assume much else
than this: death, and
a few bright moments of bliss.
There is a choir, as well, for this.
They, however, have been singing all along,
and sometimes, sometimes,
we wriggle from the life vest
of deception long enough
to swim, for a moment,
in the radiant chorus of their song.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

What is here and what is not


The day is really here friend.
The words have bowed in acquiescence
to the day, for she is really here.
The words, where are they then?,
flitting around like insubstantial sparrows
of the night. Flitting around
like balls of unseen electrical light.
They have no place to land otherwise.
But the day is here, before us,
pooled out, and floated with
a million bobbing bits & creatures;
paper, bone, petals, and a squirrel.
The squirrel floats past on a raft
of walnut shells, barks gallantly,
and the words flit and flit with new fury,
finding their only perch on the day,
because it alone is here.


Where is everything else?
The unnamed, unplaced creatures
pull at my pant legs. Yes, I know
you, little one, I know that if
you were given a space in the day
you would become hard and bright
as a pearl. I know that if one man
would crawl on hands and knees
all day, pushing you into holes
to find the place that you become
a key, many doors would open
that would not open otherwise.
A new fantastic corner of the day would
open to his eyes. Perhaps no one else would see.
Is it worth it? Would it be worth it?
So many beings inside of me
do not have a place in the day.
What else can I do, but reassert
that the day alone is here, and there
are many things inside me that are not of this day.
Shall we keep these other creatures in the cold?
Shall we watch them fade, like accidental
pencil marks being erased?
I will not – I will fashion them sweaters
from the songs that their flitting stirs inside of me.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

All of A Sudden

What a great little cluster of words: "All of a sudden." From the latin "subre": to approach stealthily. You're zoned out, loping along merrily, and bam! all of sudden:

You realize that somehow you've become the person you've been waiting to become. And it feels eerie - it feels like all things feel when they are actual, when they have found a niche in the room of place and time . With its own skin, withs its own corners, with the detail that cg artists vainly stetch their digital pens out toward, and artificial-intelligence engineers only dream about.
No, not perfect, no Ideal Man, Renaissance Man, the Third Adam, now complete with goodness, truth, and beauty.
I mean, come full circle on Dantes dark downhill road. I mean, being circumsized of ones intellectual dependence on certainty - as distinct from an intellectual giving up of it. I mean clambering up the river Lethe on the otherside of the world, and feeling strangely unlike any superhero. Have you felt how Dante felt when he first arrived to Purgatory? Oh, dang, so, I'm not in Heaven? My my, what a steep and pretty hill...

I mean, realizing you are not a child. Realizing you have a mind; one that has been given over first by a gift to you, then by faith, then by sword. Am I afraid to call out to the creator in the world of ones and zeros? No, I am not. Great God of the red-wing blackbird, and the peacock, and the black bugs that kept sticking to our shirts as we walked today: here I am. I am myself.

Push me across the fields of flax and corn
but push me equally

push me up and over the blue hills, into the break of morning
let me roll down the slopes, pick up speed
but do not let one part lead, of me, and one part follow

do not let all my pushing be hollow

but push me in such a way that I gather earth
about my shoulders, thick and even, time and girth

and then when I roll down into the city
and then when I roll down to the sea

smacking roadsigns with solidified speed
hitting that pier and launching out over lashing green

I will have meaning, and I will have me.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Cherry Blossoms & Robin Songs

I relearned the spring call of the Robin. I'm not actually sure if it is indeed the Spring call, and not the generic "Hey, I'm a robin" call, but I hear it in the spring, or, it reaches my conciousness in the Spring. It reached my mind's eye, and ear, yesterday again. Immediately I recognized and loved it - yes, you are one of my friends. You there, song, and your russet-vested friend. Robins are almost always portrayed as female in cartoons, but I see them as distinctly male. Oh, and canadian geese. Those dudes are dudes. Gentlemen, really - awkward & bumbling, yet kind and dignified old British gentlemen you might find at clubs, you know, where they sit in big leather chairs and smoke pipes and get red in the face over pish-posh and all that with a dry & clever wit. I can see geese doing that.
My sister and I saw one today, black neck in the air, trumpeting a series of evening honks. I think it was a love song. Some female goose (wherever they are) I hope was extremely taken by it, because I thought it was mostly humorous. But then, maybe girl geese list "sense of humor" high on the attractive-qualities list.
It's so awkwardly beautiful to think of all of these animals all around me thinking urgent Spring thoughts - hooking up with the females, going out on dates to parks. Songs, swoons, bright tail feathers erect and waggling.
"Hey everybody!" I want to shout "Lets have a meeting here in the grassy patch tomorrow about this whole Spring mating fuss - lets figure all this out - lets approach this rationally" Next thing I know, I'm up on a tree branch, yodeling & sporting a new Italia Sport jacket.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

To what shall I compare thee?

My dear dear long-blue-legged
beast, or woman, or man.
City? That is the pretty name
we have chosen to call thee - no?
I sit absorbing microwaves
in your blue suburban glow.
I am your child. I feel
the deep deep planting
of a seed within the twist
of my intestines. Vine and wire
have combined to climb the spire
of my spine. You ask me
how I am feeling, if I am not feeling
well, and why should I speak
freakishly, hellishly, if I am
feeling well? And so I reply,
Yes, Yes, quite fine. I have what I need.
Your have given me much
from the blue cornacopia
of your bosom. I have taken
what you didn't give.

Now dear woman. Man.
Beast or thing: to what shall I compare thee?
No one has ever stood before me
so seductively, so completely,
so namelessly
as you.


Big News: you might get
a horrible international plague
and die. A chicken walked out
into the road in Germany today
and burst into a festered heap
of rotten bones and flesh.
This could happen to you.
Big News: People are dying
in Columbia of a virulent condition.
Her name is Operation Hurricane
, and she is currently downloading
viruses onto the cell phone
silently radiating
inches from your reproductive organs.
It happened in Beijing.
Its coming. Its coming.
Take out a multi-million dollar
life insurance policy.
Wear a wonderbra. Subscribe
to Hot Sex Unlimited
and scoop red coals into the folds
of your gunny sack. You only have so long.
You, my slick suburban friend
of flimsy flesh and bone,
only have so long.

Circle of Surprise

Life is a continuous circle
of surprise. You say, “I have
been here before” and you have
and yet still you startle back
in surprise as you round
the familiar corner. Life proceeds
in patterns: perfect, regular,
and entirely unpredictable.
A poem? you say, “A, B,
A, B, …A?” and your hands
spontaneously clap
like an epiphany, like
thunder on a clear day,
and your knees wobble
with the surge of chemical interplay
in your veins, and you come upon
the same word
you came upon yesterday,
and the day before, and the
day before, and still
you shout

Monday, April 03, 2006

Guy Fawkes

I have taken to wearing Guy Fawkes masks, or, I changed the look of this blog. This is how it happened - I thought, "Hm, this blog is ugly." Then I thought, "I have power." Then I thought "Plus, I have a sweet looking old board." Which, out of neccesity, I photographed.
Then, armed only with my 60 watt witts, I proceeded to spelunk into the dark caverns of the open code that Blogger provides. I found a way. In the darkness, I found a way. Light of Galadriel or something, I bet.
Do you like it. Yes, I do.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

More Dr. Seuss

Speaking of Seuss, I've just been looking through some of his political cartoons from the second world war. What a different attitude toward war than the one that the contemporary American intelligentsia has adopted.
Click here for more of Seuss' political cartoons.

Anapestic Tetrameter

My guess is that there are very few in these United States who haven't been touched by the rhythmical eloquence of the late Theodor Seuss Geisel-- that is, of course, Dr. Seuss. One wonders how any mere man could create such a bevy of magically enchanting sing-song stories. I'll go ahead and tell you: Anapestic Tetrameter.

I've been learning a great deal about meter in the past few weeks, and therefore this little bit of information excites me. An anapest is a tri-syllabic metrical "foot", a section of meter with three syllables, and tetrameter simply denotes four-footed meter, which makes it then four three-syllable sections on each line. English verse relies on syllable stresses to define the metrical feet. Thus, an anapest in English is two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable: "dum dum DUM", if you will.

Anapestic Tetrameter is much like a series of Seussian four-footed creatures -- long gangly legs, fat slanted eyes, and shaggy blue fur. Each foot has three toes, the last toe being a big toe, perhaps with a claw. And the creature is loping along a Seussian landscape, rolling hills and tall tufted trees, at a gallop.

Here are two lines, for illustration, from "If I ran the Zoo" (notice how the first foot only has two syllables; dropping a syllable here or there is a common practice in any sort of meter):

"the world's biggest bird from the island of Gwark,
who eats only pine trees, and spits out the bark."

Imagination, meet Perfect Rhythm. Copulate. Make children.

Classically, this form wasn't used much for, you know, serious poetry, since it does roll along rather comedically and joyfully. Lord Byron, however, gave it a go and wrote "The Destruction of Sennacherib" in anapestic tetrameter. Honestly, messieur Byron, you're good, but you're not the Seuss.

The Destruction of Sennacherib

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!

And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.

And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!

On Feeling A Little Ashamed

SO, I have just gone back through my archives and read some of my earlier more lively more articulate posts, and felt rather ashamed. I feel sort of scared as well, you know, considering the dreadful things that happened to Wordsworth in his old age such as, and we must say it in hushed tones, LOSING HIS MUSE.

I have never called out to a muse. Even Milton called out to a muse, but I never have. I suppose the Queen of Los Angeles, the imaginary figure in my mind, was at one time my muse. She did often spread her glowing faery wings in my heart and cause many a song to rise like glorious indigestion.

But here I am now, toying with the idea of scooting back down south and employing myself with the study of the Great Song, and I am terribly frightened of the dryness in my heart. And of my exceptionally poor sentence structure. I think of Henry Higgins and his ode to the uneduacted masses.

I think of dry things. Like saltine crackers after a run. And I am a little ashamed.

Friday, March 31, 2006



So, this is Kai-Zen, the place I am living right now
with a few guys. Kai Zen is a Japanese phrase which
translates, roughly, "one percent better everyday."

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

University of Washington

This afternoon I am tucked into a corner of a small cafe in the center of Seattle - well, not quite the center, but the right-of-center bulge called UW. I am tending my oolong tea, and thinking oolong thoughts.

I didn't get into University of Washington's graduate creative writing program. After walking around the campus just now - I dont know what to say. The neo-classical architecture towering above gnarled and blossomed courtyards is ... precisely the sort of setting I want to study in. But, I didnt get into University of Washington.

I, instead, received a phone call from James McMichael last Friday morning. He told me he liked my work. He told me that they had a place for me at UCI.

Where? Back into your heart my dear Los Angeles. Back into the lower tropics of your abdomen. How can a man write poetry in such a place? I demand the answer.

I called him back promptly yesterday morning and accepted the offer. I will be teaching (TA position) undergraduate composition next year. I will be writing poetry under one of America's best poets.

I will be in Southern California. After being here today, seeing the alternately delicate and stone-heavy beauty of the University of Washington, I dont know what to say. The large quietness is growing, yes you, child of quietness - growing in my stomach. I made promises to Los Angeles, and apparently someone is seeing to it that I carry them out.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Ghazal - an amendment

So, after Mike's comment, and doing some of my own research, I have found that Robert Bly, the great poet, was wrong in his descriptions of ghazals. And therefore I was wrong. I apologize. But - this is good news - I think our way is better.
So a correct ghazal is a poetic collection of Shers. A Sher is a two line poem, with an exact meter called Beher . A Ghazal then is a series of two line poems, and each end with the same word or set of words.
But it only required a cursory examination of the couplet Ghazal to see that two lines was one too few. The problem of the repeated words becoming monotonous was already lingering when I considered the 3 line ghazal, but when words and rhythm was carefully constructed it was avoided. But the 2 line ghazal becomes ALL ABOUT those repeated words. They drum a bit too heavily in the head, like over exaggerated rhymes in a ballad.
Therefore; I was wrong, but I still think I was right.
What do you think Mike?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A Ghazal

Robert Bly has begun writing in a Sufi Muslim form, called a Ghazal.
A ghazal consists of 5 to 26 stanza's of three lines, And generally you repeat the same group of words at the end of every stanza. I haven't in this one. Since this form mostly manifested as an oral tradition, another standard practice was to mention your name in the last stanza.
The last rule was that each stanza must change subjects entirely.

I stand with one finger on my lips. This posture
is the only expression of the heavy sorrow
that has taken root. I wait and hold. Thus life begins.

She leaned forward with the long funnel of white
fuming delicately at her lip. She leaned forward
with no words. Coughed. Looked up.

This paint is special, of course, he said – fast-drying
and if one leaves it alone for even a short moment,
it is too late. No amount of solvent will thin it.

“I will come later,” he declared, and they partied
in a frenzy with one eye each cocked side-ways toward the door
knowing he would not come. When the last had left, then he came.

There was a knock at the door in the evening.
I jumped, let the sweat bead, the slowly crept over
and cupped my ear to the oak. Outside, Death breathed.

Justin, where is this music coming from? A song
that consists of no sound. The birds have stopped singing,
All sound has stopped, and yet music. Thus, life begins?

Saturday, February 11, 2006

A moment of wonder

My life, wether it be work or play or mindless dissipation, is punctuated by these moments of wonder. Perhaps light falls across my path. Perhaps words, ideas, collide like V's of geese in the clear blue sky, exploding into a cloud of feathers and confetti, softly falling on the grass near my feet, dissolving.
I look up at the window, begging within to find a hint of light on the nearby oak, and it is there, and suddenly all of the ideas held within the invisble globe inside my head receive their missing link, harmonies to ancient melancholy melodies.
I am afraid and reluctant to describe these moments. I feel like they are powerful beyond my control. I taste the fierce joy that they promise.
Perhaps in describing this to myself, I am only painting a picture of a lost 20 something American male who doesnt know what he wants or how to believe, very well, in anything, and so is wistful and melancholy, and sort of hates his job. There are, as Robert Bly says, any number of men inside of me - too many.
One of them - the one I am leaning into, trying to become - speaks latin to himself in his sleep. He rises early, with the first light, and is patient in silence. He prepares himself. He gathers himself and says one word, clean mouth to the morning sky. Perhaps a song. It is not his own name, but a liturgy, a creed, a submission. He is fully himself, having fully submitted.
Chesterton's "Man Alive" comes to mind.
I pray across these electronic lines, holding disbelief in my hand like a baby crow, I pray to the living God that I and my family will honor him with our joy. That I will surrender to the joy that has always gripped me - the joy that is not by my power, but by the power of the Creator. Jesus Christ, light and reason of this lovely and terrible world, by faith I honor you.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Secular Humanism

I have a friend who claims to be a secular humanist. He subscribes to a weekly journal that expounds upon this topic. He has, upon his living room wall, a framed document that reads across the top: The Affirmations of Humanism: A Statement of Principles.

I have somewhere within my soul compelling arguments in opposition to some of these affirmations. Such as the contradiction between the first two points:
A. We are commited to the application of reason and science to the understanding of the world... and B. We deplore efforts ... to explain the world in supernatural terms...

Along the looping way of my life I picked up the knowledge that knowledge is contingent. Knowledge cannot happen in a worldview vacuum. Nor can science. Science requires supernatural terms to even begin to be a useful tool. Why?
Because of the assumptions science makes about the world. These assumptions are very different that the assumptions of a strict materialist ; which is what you call anyone who "deplores efforts to explain in supernatural terms". Materialism assumes that the world is what it is, and there was no cause except material, and there is nothing but material - matter in motion.
Whereas Science, oh you great glittering snake, you require something very interesting to be your stealthly self. You require Order. It is a slippery concept, so one must watch it carefully as it slithers through the mind; if something is explainable, constructed in such a way as to be possible for one to understand, then this something has an order to it.
Okay, I really need to go do laundry. But lets get this expressed.

One would not seek to understand or explain a world where every thing happened by chance. In a world of matter in motion only, there are no laws, just the appearance of laws. One cannot investigate that which has no rhyme or reason. This is precisely why we dont prosecute Insane people for murder. They didnt do it for any reason. We dont try to figure out motive.
If the world is Insane, matter from matter, flinging around, accidentally creating strong creatures, that is clumps of matter that exist in close proximity and create the appearance of a singular being, that beat out other weak creatures; in this world there is no reason to investigate. There is no beginning or end to understanding. You cannot figure out why such and such happened; there was no reason why - it just did. It was an accident.

Science is exploration. Science assumes that if one tests something once, it should work the same next time. Science assumes the knowability of the world. This is a supernatural concept. Nature on its own does not create knowability.

I'm trying to articulate. Pardon my repetition.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

So, for days
songs spun easily out.
The clouds
opened up
for days
and rain
welcomed itself

The temptation
on an arid afternoon
is to think that inspiration
is ninety percent

What is that Einstein said?
Or was it Ben Franklin?

I have still have songs,
you know, on the quiet ends
of the cycle -

cumulus, cirrus, clear sky -

but they sit cheerfully silent
like a dog who loves you too much
to run and get the bone
you've thrown for it.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Morning Walk with thoughts

A gaggle of geese
careening in from morning sky
looks and sounds exactly like
a Scotsman falling down a flight
of stairs, bagpipes in hand.
Monsieur Heron,
I will walk a wide circle for you.
This is true:
Everytime I hear the electronic
soundbyte of a red-wing blackbird
from a store-shelf plush toy
it is always the same three vacuous
alarm clock chirps.
I have never heard this bird
make such empty noise.
A few songs, but mostly
the lovely 4-octave melody
they are belting out now
each from his own alder top.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

On a drive to the shoe store

Today on the road
I received three blown
kisses from an old woman

with a strawberry red
wig sitting slightly askew
on her titlting brow.

She had been waiting
to fit like a pin
into the close-knit weave

of traffic. I slowed
and gave her the two-finger
sideways bow. She erupted

into an explosion of strawberry
gladness, screeching out
and sending the blown kisses through

her blue-glazed windows
to me.

Ex Cathedra VI

The summer of my 25th year,
when the soul's ghost was busy
within turning the notched gear
to the quarter century mark,

the genie granted me my three wishes.
I stood up on my chair and demanded
he tell me who he was. It was still dark
and he opened his mouth in the darkness

and a glow began emanating up
from the back of his smoky throat, slowly, before my eyes,
warming to a deep crimson, until I saw
the thin line of vibrating light rolling

up into sight over his wet tongue.
I shook with pleasure, and it woke me.
Surprise! it was only the sun rising. Morning! with stiff limbs.
Some of us, I found out later, did not ask

receiving the gifts with simple gladness.

Monday, January 30, 2006

I will try, in the lilting amble
of my little life,
to learn all the languages
in the world.

First: my mother tongue.
The one I wield now,
like a blunted gun
hacking through a dark wood.

Second: zee romance.
La langue belle, e la lingua
piu bella; an ordinary fellow
like me needs all the help
he can get.

Third: The Nobles:
et tu Brute? they will inquire
and I will reply, "No, no,
sum ego."

Fourth? One for the Africans?
Someone will have to love me
enough in this case, to move
my tongue to the right place
in my mouth. Not in the french sense,
mind you. This is Africa, where
we share bodies like we share the air.

This is how it will be.
I can see myself now,
easily conversing behind the pearly gates
with the Asian proselyte
whose banging language grates
like a dishwasher fulll of diamonds.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Robert Bridges Reprise

Once again, I must say that my respect and love of Testament Of Beauty grows with each reading. It is a beautiful work, and I wonder at the way that it has been ostensibly wiped from literary rememberance - I have no knowlege as to its real elimination, but from my vantage point - as a young suburban male in middle class Oregon who has never had any real literary training - it is effectively non-existent.
I love didactic poetry. From the soft romantic didacticism of Whitman and Berry to the pronounced and philosophical didacticism of Dante and Bridges -

Don't we see that art is not a game? a volley of sentiments? a feather to tickle the higher senses?
I say this partly with a play in mind that I recently saw; one which made a profound statement (Timberlake Wertenberger's "Love of a Nightingale"); one from which the audience was able to rise quickly, apparently, from their seats and begin again the discussions of preoccupied corporate americans.

I could not rise, and wipe the slate clean. This is called a play, but it is not ... play. It is not a game. It is real men and women phrasing the question in song, profoundly, stunningly. We can eat drink and be merry, yes, but we cannot turn away as if this were not saying something that is specifically applicable to us, now, at this moment, here in the theater.

It was the myth of Philomela, the girl whose tongue was cut out, the girl who was turned to a swallow. This incarnation of the myth turned her, in place of her sister, to a nightingale.

She sang to young Istis. He put questions to her, like pilate to Christ, and she, instead of answering, sang.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Ex Cathedra VI -not really.

Note: these poems are written without much premeditation. I have had these dark religious symbols of death and birth congregating solemnly withing my heart for years now. Obviously I am relying heavily on Dante's Divine Comedy imagery.

I am not attempting to write good poetry, but rather to write poetry on a regular basis, online, with that strangely warming and inspiring knowledge that there is the possibility that others are watching.

I am looking for life. I am looking, in my poetry, to find humility and repentance. Poetry is always in the pursuit of knowledge.

I will, of course, try to say this in a poem.
Right now. Here we go.


Bly, you are my brother.
And Stafford, we share blood.

And therefore I must straighten your collars
as I pat your backs. Because I see
that your poems are fields of velvet-furred
lemmings, marching, upward.
You care for each lemming
as I care for my birds - you carress
as you let go of each. Saying
"Go, and do the magic dance once more"

which they cheerfully do, shaking hind legs
in rhythm to their boisterous barking.
You see, they are always going somewhere.
You cannot release a creature of the wild
and think he will not go somewhere.
It is only the disease of man to sit.

Up the gleaming hillsides they stream
in rivers of bright eyes and oily almond hair -
almost romantically fair, except for the fact
that they are rodents - there is humor in that.

You wait, I wait, for that moment beyond the humor.
When they come to the hill-top, beneath the very sun itself,
and come to the end of themselves, the end of the thought,
where our genius careens downward suddenly.
But the words, our dear Lemmings, dont know any better.
They keep marching. We wait to see what will happen,
you and I, and I know, my brothers, this is the moment
that poetry is brightest - when they have suddenly pause in air
before the wide-eyed tumble down to the sea of our unknowing.

They are most beautiful in that moment.
I know. I have held them in my arms in that moment.

But, Bly, Stafford - they fall.
They do not redeem us at all.

I know you have considered this -
I know I'm not the first.

But it is my holy curse
to make a creature
who bends his little leg - who stops before reaching
the beauty of the death of a mind
trying to see the sun itself -
a field of awkward little rodents, shining,
kneeling. Waiting on the world's edge.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Ex Cathedra, V

Two Roads Diverged

Two roads diverged in a darkened wood
and sorry I could not travel both
with any certainty. Long I stood

and looked down one as far as I could
to where it stopped in the undergrowth
abruptly, violently, a wall of tangled roots. I licked my lips

and turned my dripping head-housed eyes
to the east, where a wan morning light
was glimmering under the steel lid of cloud.

Was this an option, a road, this sky
that drew my eye upward? Not now
but later - soon - so plunged into the dark

where no path went. So dug a hole downward
like a mole, a rodent, frantic for hibernation,
frantic to find the dead loved one, entombed,

so made a sign, writ with my own jittery hand
"Abandon all hope ye who would find
a hope. Forsake your life, ye who would find it"