Saturday, March 25, 2017

Eighty-Three Percent Complete

She was iconizing. When I met her she was
eighty-three percent complete. They had finished
mixing thirty shades of purple, blue and lavender
with gold, the color of pale wheat, into an orange
porridge of cement, whose crucial part in turning her

into immobile art she had at last relented to accept
and lend assent. As she neared the full extremity
of being placed so unextractably – immaculately
and exquisitely positioned into the invention of her
own meticulously measured space – to encase

her in posterity – she had a moment, while she still
could breathe and speak, if not quite blink or cause
her cheek to blush, or eat or drink, to tell me just
what she had come to think about her destiny. Had 
she wanted it? Not at first. But it had slaked her thirst

for an identity. At last she could be fixed. To iconize
effectively meant to homogenize into a steely, known,
describable, unparalleled exactitude, a singularity
whose moral etymology and sense could be ascribed
religiously to myths of her as mistress of far greater

powers than had been imaginable in mortality.
She’d have a provenance that everyone would know.
She’d be admired and remembered and invoked
and undergo a transmutation from the flesh back
to the word. As that word, she would be heard.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Guy's Cavalier Approach to Life

Guy’s Cavalier Approach to Life
Not least because I've every right to do so, I have carefully weeded out of my pic stash almost every photo taken of me during several of my life's porky periods. The one remaining horror (as I had come to think of it) is the pic you see on the top right of the first quartet of images. It was taken in 2011 in Amityville where I was born & - is 'raised' the right word? I was standing next to my lifelong buddy Don Thomson, in on one of his rare trips east from Wisconsin. That swatch of floral print shirt shoulder is all that remains of him in this cropped photo. On the day the photo was taken, I probably would have clocked in (had I dared to stand on a scale, which I hadn't for who knows how long) somewhere around 215. When later that year, after my 60th birthday, I went for a full medical checkup, my doctor pronounced me amazingly healthy although suggested it wouldn't be the worst idea if I took off, say, 20 pounds. Somehow (I'm guessing) the requisite complex synaptic shifts for 'hearing' this news zapped into a configuration sufficient to get me on a low calorie diet for the rest of that year and the rest, really, of every year since then. I now average about 155. I don't know why I did it. 
That is, I like having done it. But any of the obvious reasons one might have expected me to give, had one asked me, didn't obtain. They just weren't true. It wasn't because I 'wanted to be healthy' or "wanted to look good.' I don't know why I did it, other than to say that "it was time" (which is up there with "it is what it is" as the most idiotically unhelpful observation human beings make) or equally WTF: "I don't know, I just did it." The benefits were tabulatable: mostly related to vanity, by the way, not health -- & while after the fact I enjoyed that something in or about me was evidently at work to keep this new regime going, I couldn't saddle it with any of the self-help premises or strategies (however Jungian or otherwise palatably non-cliché) it had once been my job as literary agent, editor and writer to know the value of and wield in appealing ways. (I used to write those kinds of books - books that purported to be 'self-help' as that category is usually understood). I didn't feel I'd finally learned 'discipline,' or began to value life in a more complete and open way. I loved existing! But I pretty much always had, fat or not. 
I don't feel I'd reached some exalted state of awareness in any of this. I simply no longer was able to link cause and effect in any of even the most obvious ways. True, the blunt force of if you're hungry you'll want to eat or if you spend all your money you'll be broke or if you jump off the top of the Empire State building you'll die by splatting on the sidewalk still held credence. But what did that explain about motive? Nothing, really. The more I 'looked' at motive, the more the only interesting way to start seeing it was playfully. I'd been writing long dense poems every day for a number of years. On April Fool's day 2009 I started added drawings. And the poems quickly became less dense. They had drawings to play with! They didn't have to be so all-out serious. But as to "Why did you start drawing then?" as I was & am sometimes still asked, I had no idea. It's gotten to a point now - I'm not proud of this - where I'm annoyed not at myself anymore for being unable to come up with even the simplest explanations for why things are what they are, but at other people for thinking that such a thing is possible. Again, this doesn't make me 'better' or more evolved. Just frustrated, like a baby must be when she sees a purple dragon in the sky and everybody else sees flotsam & jetsam.
Thankfully, the annoyance doesn't last. Because what drawing, and its attendant consequences, as I'm almost able to call them, offer -- sex, laughter, playing Mozart, walking out of the Lafayette Avenue subway at Fort Greene up into the glories of 1870 Brooklyn brownstones and their regal canopies of Sycamore trees, etc. -- are constant distraction & activity. Everything is distraction, by the way, because it isn't something else. You were brushing your teeth and then, distracted by the sight of your razor, you shave your face until distracted by the pressure in your bowels which will shortly get you to sit down... and on and on through the day. There's no underlying 'thing' to know. Anything worth knowing is completely in front of your nose. The whole bounty of the feast is always, always before you.
There's more to say - oh there's an infinity to say! - but I think that's enough now. Except perhaps to add that one of the prods for coming up with my breezy & rather arch title - "Guy's Cavalier Approach to Life" -- was (on the face it) its appalling contrast to the tone & the accomplishment of an extraordinary thread on Facebook initiated by one of my dearest friends with a plea for information about whatever means of keeping themselves healthy her friends and acquaintances could name - from diet to exercise to whatever else they'd learned from experience. This unleashed responses from many other of my dearest friends (many from childhood) - all of them gorgeously clear and articulate about what had worked for them - across the board from the emotional to the medical to the dietary - and in such great specificity! They were doing what I find myself incapable of doing: giving advice. And it was good advice. And I know much of it helped both my friend who'd begun the thread and who had been battling long disheartening stretches of ill health - as well as helped each of the advisors to give that advice, or maybe better put - the results of their own experience. It was beautiful and human and completely true for the participants.

But I could think of only one thing to add: Get your crayons out.  

There are three quartets of images here. I think they can sort of tell you what they're about directly. I hope so. God knows I can't.



Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Déjeuner sur “Curb”

Ditch all tepid sympathy - "poor didda thing” won’t do.
Empathy which shocks. That’s better. Find whatever cracks the glass
to flood you with the view. Break the locks. Wed spirit to unwitting letter.

Bear the brunts. Here's the touch one wants. Lavish days in languor: bend
your being toward vestigial pulses of its genesis. Settle only for what would
intolerably anger you if you did not receive it. Listen to the clangor,

love whatever just has flown into the hangar: be deceived by thieves, why not.
(They’re almost always hot.) Jot and doodle, don’t conclude or if you’d like,
conclude. Then let us collude in Tompkins Square and see where

there might be a perfect bench along a walkway’s curb to sit on
to eat lunch. (I’ll bring the sugar-free Hawaiian punch.) Let’s
spend our time defining that egregiously annoying word

which makes me murderously grumpy, which despite the lumps I’ve given it
from all the looting and the plundering I’ve tortured it with for so many years
will not admit a single certainty about itself. Let’s grab it by the ears.

Threaten it, if it will not succumb, with the “or else” of its worst fears, its hell:
evisceration of its spell. Find out if it’s true. This “hunch” – this fucking “hunch” –
what is a goddamned hunch? – I can’t stop having about you.


Frère Jockstrap and The Rutabaga

Frère Jockstrap!” “The Rutabaga!”
That’s how brothers Jacques and Rudy make
their greetings every morning to each other right
before they set again into their lucrative set-to:

get underfoot and over-thigh, beyond this elbow
or that knee or ankle, therefrom to an ear or nose
or chin, thence to the bumps upon their stumpy feet
that pass for toes – all those and other body parts

now inexhaustibly resume their arts of tangling back
into whatever Gordian knot they’d disentangled from
the day before, a set-to at which they are whizzes
at sustaining new extremities of stark intractability,

so photogenically alluring they’ve become a “thing”:
and more, the single sight sight-seers snap a photo of
on Comte Le Cocq Archipelago where they happily
reside in the LeVance Merganser Sea just off
the coast of lovely Southern Bummersby.

And yo! Physicists are wide-eyed at the calculus
implied in the exertions Jacques and Rudy daily
now abide! The equations of entanglement in
the fraternity of Frère Jockstrap and The Rutabaga
irrefutably have proven to explain Eternity!


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Guy & a bit of the Mozart e minor sonata

What a joy this will be for me. Turns out I will be able to contribute something to the Broadway Bach Ensemble chamber music concert on Thursday March 30 (starting at 7:30 pm at Presbyterian Church on 114th & Bway where we play our orchestral concerts) - a short tender poignant 2 movement violin & piano sonata in e minor (kv304) Mozart wrote in Paris in 1778 when he was 22 - right when his mother died. It may be the most direct musical expression of mourning for his mother he was to make. It's the only instrumental work he ever wrote in this key. I get to play it with my good friend & wonderful pianist Arlene Hajinlian. It's such a gift to me to have this chance to play it. With luck I hope we can make it a gift to those who hear it.

You Are My Sunshine

You Are My Sunshine


Monday, March 20, 2017

Going Up and Coming Down

My creatures are arriving and departing lately
here to fore and fore to here more in each other’s
transport than in that to which they had before resorted:
ships, or dreams of ships, that docked into a pier for which
some human being’s poetry would serve as gangplank.
But poems lately have been splintering into a perilously
unavailing state: creatures slip through cracks and drown.
They no longer know what lies beyond our human gate,
what’s going up or coming down. Healthy fear appears

to be their motive force – which spawns a greater viability:
to gain direct control of their mobility, for which there is
no more reliable recourse than the deployment of their limbs,
or climbing up another’s limbs to be embraced by somebody
akin, with whose intention breathing passenger and living
means of transport can align. They walk: a sign whose gist
I get. They see our human world as losing every bet it places –
undermining duties of attaining and sustaining beauty’s graces,
choosing to forget where they were going or have gone.

This won’t beget a dawn my creatures feel like taking on,
and so they stroll autonomously now, and leave our creaky
leaking suicidal ships to us. What a tempting rhyme –
to write they might consider switching to the bus.
But that, to them, as recourse, is as fully ominous.
They won’t do what we do to fly through air or drive on roads
or sail in water. Each bespeaks great danger to the soul.
Art is slated for annihilation – a fate, unless they find a way
around it, which awaits its every son and daughter.