Thursday, June 28, 2018

My Epitaph

I’ll never have a son or daughter. 
I slaughtered any likelihood of that.
It’s not just that I’m gay. There are other
ways to foster progeny than through
the customary man and woman family plan.
But I’m content to be the witting beneficiary
of unwitting chance: the coupling of a father
and a mother in the sanctioned pleasures
of the ancient dance, which however by some
measures failed by not producing others through
new fathers and new mothers to the line.
My brother’s sexual proclivities reflected mine.
Venus never met our penises: Mars perhaps
too often has. And yet I’ve known a kind of jazz
epiphany through procreative sexual abandon:
libidinizing life – as if that were the apparatus
of a wife with whom I’ve peopled my New York.
(Blake sat naked in his London garden, singing
to his progeny of poesy, heralded by angels
in his trees.) I am among this city’s legacies.
New York is my spouse and child; I am its.
If I have a generative purpose, here it sits.
But am I only apparatus? Do I have blood?
I dream I’m standing with my father and my
brother in a downpour of precipitating mud.
Solipsism drops in dollops of itself, discarded like
denatured coffee grounds, forgotten by the pot.
My epitaph’s a rueful laugh: “I’m all I’ve got.”

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

He Even Gave Me the Rock

We wonder as we try to oversee
the vast horrific traffic jam that we
have generally made of what we’ve done,
how much was duty, how much was fun?
Could duty and fun be the same?
Perhaps that’s the clue to the game.
It isn’t exactly that everything’s One.
Everything’s everything: duty and fun,
and as variously and confusingly bundled
as let’s-call-It-God is each time It has trundled
Its Godself into yet a newly inscrutable Universe,
wondering: meaningless joke, or luminous curse?
Should the moon be averse to the Earth?
Should dying be bundled with birth?
Look at this crystalline rock sparking lights
indiscriminately through the days and the nights
like the flights of the limbs of a dancer.
I found a fellow who says that’s the answer.
He even gave me the rock.
I’ve not got over the shock.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

What Rapunzel Learned

When Rapunzel was remanded for those many weeks
and months and years to live up in the highest reaches
of that tower, what mattered wasn’t that the prince learned
how to climb her hair up to her head as if it were a ladder –
no, her grievances about this cruelty were screamed out
very loud across the Alps; documented evidence concurs
it shattered eardrums. She’d shed no tears from altitude,
had no fear of heights. Neither had she much desire to reside
below. What interested Rapunzel was enclosure. Her much
renowned composure she accounted for by one delight
to which indentured life exposed her that she never knew
was possible until she lived those lovely solo hours in
a tower, with nobody to glower at her or to glower at.
She didn’t even miss her cat. What she learned was how
she could engender grace in semi-open chambers that
existed solely to provide a single seat. With increasing art
and frequency, she learned to make a place for secrecy.
Her neat designs for comfortable fancy huts that shut away
while showcasing her exultation of the Ideal Chair are very
rare, and coveted world-wide. Mostly she’d be glad that
we’ll forget her doltish husband, but will recollect the bride.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

All We Know of Kay

While she wasn’t very pretty,
by the standards of the day,
she supposedly was witty,
though we don’t know in what way.
She went to art school in the city.
She majored in display.


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Purposes of Color

Today when drawing made me add and mix and cultivate
and infiltrate and undermine and unrepentingly remand
to thirsty textured stiff white paper – where I hunkered
down (just right behind the firing line) for hours today –
my whole armée of colored markers, pencils and the single
square-edged stick of azure chalk I’ve got to keep things
sometimes hazily and sometimes brazenly in situ – from
and into which they, on their oceanic own, fight messy wars
with one another to eke out a unity, a singularity, a whomp
at last I recognized the not-for-profit complicated business
I’m now in. I sort out on surfaces a grand arena in which
colors can assert their purposes. Takes an angry mob of them
to do this job. Is this a narrative that wants to tell itself I’m
letting tell itself? Not intended. Although by all means, if you
see one, have your way with it: lick it, kiss it, kick it, bend it.
While I am not too swift on human beings’ leanings, I guess
these colors could suggest the possibility of something we
might just as well (hell, given who is wielding them) call
“human meanings.” Whatever they may be. “Play with me!”
they cry. “Okay,” I’ve made it now my business to reply.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Pangaean Diaspora: On the Strange Business of Change

I find an alluring analogy for how any human being’s sense of who she or he is can expand to discover what a varied conglomeration it comprises in the geological model of the supercontinent Pangaea which about 330 million years ago broke up into the continents we now know, sending great chunks of itself out in a forced diaspora therefore having to find and create autonomous places on the planet. 
My continents of self have been at something like that especially these past three or four decades – usefully marked by the deaths of my family members (we were only four to start with) -- first my brother Bob from AIDS in 1989 when I was 38; then my father from/with Alzheimer's in 2000 when I was 49; and my mother from congestive heart failure in 2003 when I was 52. Each centrally occasioned powerful shifts in me within the larger shift of becoming the only Kettelhack left standing. There’s the sweetness of a gift here; no reason to mourn. We’re maneuvering as we must through incarnate life. Moving from only-child to fatherless-child to motherless-child seems to me now to have engendered their quiet release, them from me, me from them. The sibilant “less" in father-less and mother-less is almost onomatopoeic for how I felt/’heard’ their absences -- the soft exhalation of something delicate suddenly whisked or brushed away. The delicacy is primary. Whispers here and gone. Death can be an extraordinary clarifier.
As a result not only of those losses but of who knows what other morass of influences, the lexicon to which I resort to describe my experience is significantly different. Meanings of almost everything, even definitions that seemed once for me foregone – man, woman, gay, straight, old, young, winter, spring, summer, autumn, night, day, work, music, art, sexuality, marriage, relationships, solitude, joy, boredom, depression, addiction, anger, hilarity -- have either disappeared completely (no definitions are possible) or morphed into a liquid system of responses that while defying categories evince specific glints of reaction.
To cut to a sort of chase, when I reach orgasm these days, I howl so ungovernably loudly I can't imagine that most of Manhattan's east 2nd street's inhabitants around me haven't called the police or an ambulance. In a way, that ungovernable quality describes what’s happened to all my responses – they flit or slink or whisper or howl: nothing justifies any of them and I can extrapolate from none of them any grid of identity. It's just the bob-aloos and bab-aloos of being. It isn’t chaos: but it’s an order I can’t begin to analyze. Well, I ‘begin’ all the time, but so far to no avail.
The net effect of this diaspora of self, ungovernability of reaction has been a dimensional sense of release - not least from Pangea’s imprisoning definitions and categories. It is not a release I have consciously or intellectually pursued. The way I know anything is always after the fact. I rarely, maybe never, learn something because I intend to. I wake up feeling or thinking differently than I felt or thought when I went to sleep the night before. That's how I'm able to say anything -- through a felt contrast of 'change', visited on me moment by moment, but which does not seem to conform to any ideology I can name, beyond some notion of my "temperament." I annoy many people with my assertion Every Idea is Hell. Swallow an idea and it grows all over and through you and suddenly it's doing the thinking, you aren't. I don't like that kind of coercion, and I won't put up with it. Except in those innumerable cases where I do put up with it, but I don't know that I do (or maybe I still like it so I don't care) - that is, until I go to bed and wake up thinking "no, that's not it", and another of them bites the dust. Seams and compartments are dissolving. This does not turn my perceptions of 'reality' to pea soup. I'm not in some amorphous fog. In fact, the opposite. With the dissolution of so many presumptions and assumptions (falling off me because they 'want' to not because I want them to), I get a chance not so much to see a thing for what it really is, as simply to see a thing. Claim it for my own, give it my own meaning. My relation to what I see is more immediate. It doesn't get filtered much. As many people know, it takes me 5x as long to walk any distance in New York as most other people I know. I am besieged by strangeness & beauty every inch of the way. Shadows, fallen leaves, 1880s architectural adornments, trash cans, tree branches, textures of brick and stone. Nothing isn’t riveting. What I see almost always subverts any assumption I once brought to it.
One realm which has undergone for me a kind of utter subversion is that of psychotherapy - from traditional forms of applied psychology to Twelve Step approaches to Alan Watts (whom I name because I treasure the ground upon which he treads, which means – and he is the first to let me know it, his having died in 1973 notwithstanding – I ought to be and have learned to be beyond wary of him: be most careful about people with whom you agree!). More basically it's the realm of needing, seeking and receiving "help." Particularly help for behaviors you have identified as self-destructive and/or which you can't stop doing and/or which you also decide you want or need to change.
Perhaps the most glowing sort of twelve planet solar system in this realm of help comprises Twelve Step programs. The answer the Twelve Step approach offers people seeking help from addiction or compulsive behavior seems to me to be fourfold, and although we are reassured this help is offered as 'suggestion,' to my mind it really gets its adrenaline from an implied (and for some very warranted) "you have to": 1) you have to want to change, 2) you have to stop the behavior you now know is 'the problem' - act your way to it, don't think you way to it & 3) you have to surround yrself with supportive people doing the same thing, 4) you have to see your connection to a greater or higher 'power': the ultimate essential source of help. What I’ve numbered 4 is for most Twelve Step process adherents held to be number 1. And I caution you as Twelve Step literature does that nobody has the last word on it, very much including me. These are just glints of the reflections of my own experience.
But for me "the sticky thing" (as a friend of mine is wont to call everything) about my response to Twelve Step admonitions/suggestions after many decades of reflection and experience and writing about them (again not claiming this gives me any expertise; believe me, it doesn’t) is that it doesn't really accord with the larger effect of my experience over all these years of surviving as I am (largely formed/constituted by what I crave), which begets a less and less arguable truth and beauty: I become less and less alterably convinced not only that I am and will always be who I am, but that I wouldn't want it any other way. I begin to register, maybe, a fuller amplitude of my 'success' (or at least experience) in being me. I really like things as they've managed to keep on being. I do not believe in "shortcomings." I can't imagine, in fact, even what that word could mean. After many years long ago of assuming pathology in so many of my tics and twitches, I just don't see pathology anymore. Provisionally, yes, there are ‘problems’ to be solved, always within the parameters of the moment. Don’t walk past a bar if you’re an alcoholic sort of thing. There’s (probably) always a place for what is known as common sense. But in any larger way, all I can see in anyone, no matter how their behavior annoys or regales me, is a full system response always at work. We are complete and whole and working ingeniously every breathing moment to achieve and sustain homeostasis. If we’re breathing and alive and capable of any connection to the world, we’re in a kind of balance. Possibly even if we’re not.
Am I wrong or right? I can't imagine even what that question means. What reliable measure of that could there be?
"Acceptance is the answer to all our problems," says AA, meaning acceptance as the precursor to being able to effect 'healthy change'. But 'acceptance' to me is a condition the psyche and body birth-to-death insist upon (whether or not I'm conscious of it): it's neither an answer (what would be the question?) nor is its function to help solve 'problems.' There are no problems. There's simply you, alive, in community with others. I'm sometimes tempted to say something like "I no longer believe in 'help'" but I stop myself because I truly don't know what the main-event words ("I" - "believe" - "help") in that sentence mean. I don't see much behind concerted strategies to "help" besides a boorish if often sentimental hubris: a presumption that you know what what's going on & what must be done about it. We often flock to people like that, and (I suppose) who says we're wrong to. But it's all beside 'the point' - which isn't a point but a large unbounded capacity to go on, some of us ever more curious about and conscious of it, 'being who you are.' Which you're going to do anyway! The point isn't to live or die. There is no point. Unless, because you can name it, you call what you want to do "a point." So if, for example, my friend Reed and I have 'points' they respectively include (among perhaps less mentionable ones): turn on the lamp and read a book, or sit down to draw. 
This at least touches on the shift. But words words words, maybe too many words for the send-off. Some gist got gotten, I hope.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

“Come in, Ma! Feast your Eyes on This!”

(video with a surprise at the end. well, a little surprise.) 
A much-loved longtime friend quite firmly 
requisitioned me, that moment, to prevail 
upon the odd capacities (or incapacities 
should they avail) of my imagination's eye
to give a go to a scenario in a hasty but 
appropriately lavish drawing (which he knew 
I couldn't help but do) a nouveau treatment 
for his window. Gold, stained glass and satin 
if I wanted. Affronted, I harrumphed that 
that was not the sort of ring I throw my hat in, 
thank you very much: as he well knew, I never 
drew on cue. No way! Which stance I vowed to
keep until an image growing in my mind began 
to make me pay a good deal more than I’d have 
had to pay had I stopped neighing Nay! and
simply did it. So, my friend, though it offend 
your sense of comme il faut, here’s the panoply 
of how I see the future of your window: which, 
however, will not sing unless you follow slavishly 
the single offering from you upon which it 
insists: that its surrounding walls be painted 
to reflect the textured richness of the hues 
of feces dropped by certain species of a yak 
found in southeast Iraq beyond the western 
bounds of Basrah – then he’d have his 
Casbah, his “Come in, ma! Feast your eyes 
on this!” Would she blow a kiss or hiss?
No matter, he'll have found his bliss.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

When Someone Tells Me No

I love to go too far when
someone tells me no.
I plot nefarious heists.
I mutate less like Darwin
than like czarist overthrow
or gregarious poltergeists.


Saturday, June 9, 2018

Charlie Is Our Name

We don’t know whom to blame, but into view
have just arrived three semi-thoughts, synaptically
entangled, packed as if prenatally into a black egg sac
inside the mind, seemingly befuddled, huddled
in an awkward binding, as if shorn of hope (as well
as hair) that they would ever find the unimpeded air:
as if too wrapped already in too many erring bands
of over-qualifying strands to ever know the whispered
soft embrace of atmosphere on so much as a tiny
swatch of unencumbered hand or foot or face.
No wonder they looked so forlorn: that is, if they were.
We stirred to think we’d got it wrong. They handed me
their essence in a drawing, and bade me turn it
upside-down. Whereby their purpose may have been
revealed. Either each reversal instantly had healed
what I was sure had had be an injury to self: or their
furtherance did not depend upon the safety of residing
on a sturdy shelf, which taken from them would not
after all destroy their chance of profitable destiny.
“Why are you drawn to the Abyss?” they wished to know.
“Why do you think there is one?” (There wasn’t?)
“Do amounts to Doesn’t which bears striking similarity
to Do. Nothing isn’t nothing. What could nothing be?”
Silly me. (and Whoa! Nothing rhymes with nothing!
I checked no less than RhymeZoneDot.ComLand,
which rules Synaptic Sooth and Friction in the ether
of the Internet, to see. Must be true. They say it’s true.)
But those three enigmatic semi-thinking creatures
weren’t through. “Upside-down or downside-up
or sideways, skinny bald and hairy human thing, you
didn’t draw our portrait. We, including you, drew you.
You and I and I and you and that third mystery who’s
joined us from wherever Over There is. (There’ll always
be a third to turn the Company of Two into a bee-loud
Three crowd). We are the Solipsistic Trinity of Me.
Except we’re not a solipsism, Charlie, are we?”
Something tells us Charlie is our name.
We don’t know whom to blame.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Burt’s Epiphany

The body’s adaptation to abrupt
enlightenment can look bizarre
to the untutored eye.
Burt got re-begat by his epiphany
into a random branchiness.
Nobody knows why.
Truth is beauty, Keats declaims
from his poetic pulpit. Burt says
bullshit. “Ruth’s a beauty,
maybe” (Ruth’s his erstwhile girl
who will not love him as a tree),
“but Truth screwed me.”

Friday, June 1, 2018

I’ll Come, I’ll Come

What is sex, and why? What in it –
beyond the propagation of a species –
do we think we have to buy? On what
result of it can we rely? Is it fun?
A spastic act? A fact or a phantasm?
Is it the alternating current of a body with
a body feeling powerful or overcome or
both that keeps us craving it until we die?
Haven’t said a damned thing yet
about why I can’t wait to get into a bed
with you that isn’t facile rhyme. I’m writing
poems when I ought to be igniting me
and you into a brazen blaze of hot blue
flesh and reckless tenderness –
a dangerous unfettered mess of trying
to make sex be more than sex. I’ll come,
my instigating bum-be-dum,
oh yes, I’ll come, I’ll come,
don’t worry, soon I’ll come, yes:
coming is what I’ll do next.