Sunday, January 27, 2019

This Part in the Play

First thought: the sharp delicacy of the creases
this cardboard discard on the sidewalk
displayed were far less about chaos than clarity.
Even its grease spots, stray threads and rug
fibers suggested a parity with what the crumpled
cut-out cardboard creature’s idea might have
been had it pondered the nature of hair –
that is, if it had more for brains than blank air.
But who said it hadn’t? Whoever had artfully
scissored, incised and revised it into this sweet
intricate form seemed to me to have seeded it
somehow with all the warm prospects of mind
and intention and sentience. It had already eerily
churned in its pencil-drawn eyes a frank gaze
full of message I sensed it had terrible ways
of conveying to me with intensity. Dread threw
its freeze and its heat at my heart: I wasn’t
prepared in this play for this part. I looked away
roughly, abruptly, and felt my throat thicken.
Couldn’t bear to look into its eyes. I was chicken.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Putting Down the Flags

[A good friend who quite likes the Jungian-derived Myers-Briggs personality questionnaire (I almost said quiz), wrote me recently about how spot-on he felt our shared (and apparently rare) personality acronyms were – we’re both INFP (can’t recall what the letters in the acronym stand for: there’s a link below, though). He asked me if I thought it was bullshit, which he clearly did not. It broke open a familiar egg which I’ve often spatula-ed into better and worse omelets – and I’ve just come up another one, which inevitably I suppose will be another variation on the theme of whatever my prejudices cause me to hold as ineffable truth. What this does to how tasty my omelet is, Fate only knows. It’s at any rate what I’m apparently thinking now, and I immodestly imagine it may have wider interest than just to my friend and me. I can’t resist broadcasting manifestos – they’re so much fun to write. So here’s another one.]

I think every category of inquiry into the oddness of being human is marvelous for two reasons: the audacity of its premise that it can crucially illuminate human motive and behavior, and its abounding energy aimed at parsing its hypotheses into articulable, persuasive and actionable principles. Everything from the Delphic Oracle to Sigmund Freud to Phrenology to Wilhelm Reich’s orgone energy accumulator ( to the 12 Steps to Esther Hicks ( to my INFP diagnosis (though I tend to change acronyms slightly every time I re-take that Q&A, here’s the rundown on that one: all have various appealing aspects to recommend them (I love listening to Esther Hicks) and at various points in my life some of them have drawn me to them, heart and soul. But when I think of when I was drawn to them it was always at moments of believing (sometimes desperately) that there must after all be a system of self-guidance that I could learn from some wiser source which would help me better to know myself and therefore help me to get what I wanted. The great truth for me at these moments was the clearest truth: I didn’t have what I wanted. I wasn’t whom I thought I should be.
‘Know Thyself’ after all is the great & resonant Socratic admonition. And it seemed to me an incontrovertibly essential mission, if however impossible entirely to carry out. But the promise in that invitation to “know” was my holy grail. It had to be there for the finding, however difficult the search would be. Without it, how could you find meaning in anything? Consciousness was hard work.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the Forum. I lost interest in myself. I had plenty of interests - Judy Garland and Henry James being two - but none of those interests was particularly me. I found I don’t very much care how or why I am who I am. (This, after years of caring very intensely about all that.) Suddenly and interestingly, I didn’t see any clawing reason to change who I was. If I gained weight I ate less and I lost it. Nothing seemed urgent. So why would I care about my phobic reaction to hearing people chewing loudly or my erotic fixations on never-you-mind or why I have such an obsessional passion for certain kinds of vocal vibrato? I just do, that’s all.
So I told my friend I do not disavow the plausible findings my INFP diagnosis offers; it just no longer matters to me what or why or how my Guy-ness operates in the world. I’ve got about 25 yrs left on the planet: it’s as if some sort of psychic continental drift has occurred as a product of knowing this – a product of my current biological stage of life. It mutes many anxious wants in me that once were loud and I suppose enlivens other focuses, although I’d be hard-pressed to say what they were – or maybe more to the point, I feel no overweening impulse to confess them. I think a great untruth resides in the 12 step programs’ general espousal of the saying ‘You’re only as sick as your secrets.’ My secrets are treasures, and I encourage me to care for them.

None of this is to pronounce any of these categories of inquiry as virtuous or inane or evil: as William James said (sort of: what follows is a dumb paraphrase), try it out, if it works then keep doing it. If it doesn’t, try something else. I have undergone wonderfully productive years of life under what I believed while I was undergoing them were the sway and influence of 12 step programs and psychoanalysis. Then and now, I had and have my opinions (cf. the ‘secrets’ business above) of each – but they don’t strike me as urgent to express, nor have I any interest in defiling what I perhaps erroneously see as their source. All I know to do is keep my eyes open. And, if possible (as Quentin Crisp said), remain calm.

Many cases can be made for why we change or don’t change, why we think this and not that, why we do what we do or don’t. I’m waving a white flag in front of this human conundrum of motive and behavior. Who knows? What does it really matter? Actually I’ve quit flags altogether, including the white: put them all down. Now I wander as easily into what one or another hypothesis tells me is enemy territory as I do into the sunlit vales of discernment of which they approve. This does not make me “better,” unless it’s better attuned to whatever the morass purporting to be unity in me requires, or rather permits me, with a largely disinterested eye, to think or do. That approach suits me “better.”

And it’s not like I don’t have my premises. Hooeee, do I ever. Here’s one.

We are very much stranger than any one scheme of self-assessment can do enough justice to explain. It is in the nature of the numinous to be preternaturally sneaky, elusive. I find that to be my current take on ‘truth.’ It meets two requirements I suppose I do set for “truth”. It’s hilarious and delicious. Which generally means I want to have more of it.

La Solution à L’insomnie

À Edward Seymour
I once knew a fellow called Eddie
Who in order, for sleep, to be ready
Had to go to bed hugging his Teddy
But one day his mother said 'Ed?
I'm sorry but Teddy is dead.
His stuffing fell out of his head.’
Calamity struck for poor Edward.
He cried when he tried going bed-ward.
‘Sleep’ had become the most dread word.
Then he heard, en français, Édouard?’
It was his bear’s voice! From a star?
Well, he knew it had come from afar.
‘Ne t’inquiète pas, mon petit!
Je promesses je serai ton ami.
Pas seulement, Édouard, aujourd’hui –

Nous serons les amis pour l’éternité.
tant que tu continue à parler français.“
Aha, Edward got it. Français was the way
to - Teddy Bear? No. Il est l’ours Théodore!
Il dit ça à maman une fois et encore.
Maman sourit: elle répond 'd’accord!
Le français est la solution à l’insomnie.’
« J’adore Théodore! » dit-Édouard chaque nuit 
Est’ce qu’Édouard dort bien? Tellement oui!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Provenance of My Art Today

Hi, I’m something new.
I came right out the back of you.
I am an untried parvenu –
of obscure origins but clearly
destined to enjoy celebrity –
because my novelty
is so excessively regaling
to whoever happens to be sailing
by. They feel they would be failing
were they not to stop and stare
at me, and pass on all the blare
of me to friends of theirs who swear
with them that it is absolutely true:
I’m something new. I am askew
with the attention, but ado is due
me, they agree: more than right,
in fact, that I should get the light
I’m getting day and night.
Thankfully the medication
that you took for constipation
worked – allowed for the dilation
that relaxed the crack of you
somehow to find the knack in you
to push me out the back of you.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

With a Marionette on a Tether

“Well, I never,” she said,
as she walked straight ahead
off the stage at the end of the act
with a marionette on a tether.
The play was a bomb, and she
couldn’t be certain how long
the dull thing would go on,
but she’d wanted what seemed
like forever to have the occasion
to say in a play, “Well, I never.”
She’d longed for this line
like a coke addict pines for more
lines of cocaine or a masochist
pleads for more pain.
If she were a desert, this line
would be rain. And now in this
terrible play it had fallen to her
every night to be summoned
to say it. And now, every night,
at the end of an act,
with a marionette on a tether,
she once again felt his first
breath wafting down like
a feather: the heat in his
mouth – the fur on his chest –
the unrest had unraveled her:
worse, it had promised
to banish the curse, fill the lack,
as he breathed on her back,
“Well, I never.”

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Another Overt Opportunity

Poetry is sculpture by an alien who somehow catches visions
of a species no one in her circle knows, could know, or knew,
to which the poet (arguably inadvisedly) could not not grant
a view. Knowing that she’d get the gong, missed a crucial clue,
could not account for why it suddenly took over as the all but
senseless business she is driven to display to you. Motionless
protuberances with a strange alacrity – oxymorons which,
with an immeasurable unseen swiftness, somehow managed
powerfully to move. Had she come upon new unforeseen
additions to Existence’s capacities? Veracities to somebody
somewhere? Which to her were too devoid of any sense
to think that anyone in her contingent (which at its center
featured her) would even try to want to be aware? But they
were what she had to work with: she had to take the dare.
Title it ‘Expressions’? Whose, though, and of what? Hers,
too obvious to say. But she felt – and feeling was an overt
opportunity – that this had had to come her way, and she
had had to give it form, short or long, however inexcusably,
confusedly without a point, all its machinations out of joint,
perpetually wrong. What’s more, in all its blunders, gusts
and fuss, she knew she’d always have to send the thing to us.

Monday, January 14, 2019

A Gorgeously Liberal Infinite Art

[Prose & rhyme (mostly prose) which makes flagrant mention of discarded pizza slices and artist and friend Adam Kurtzman, and the uses to which all the above might be put.]
There were a number of such slices of pizza as this
strewn about the sidewalk and street on the lowest stretch
(just above Houston) of First Avenue this morning –
I envisioned pizza slices like ammo shooting out the door,
flung by someone who’d flipped out in a high drama LES snit
in L’il Frankie’s at 3 a.m.- anyway I quick-shot a pic of
a particularly representative slice a moment before one
of those big noisy street sweepers on rollers scarfed it up,
because it seemed to me it would be wonderful as the model
for the prototype of a ceramic pizza slice - I could show it
to Adam Kurtzman so he could make and multiply it into
triangles that might profitably be featured, say, between
and among Wegman’s glittering mosaic Weimaraners
at the 6th ave 23rd Street Subway Station. It further struck me
as an accomplished phenom that pizza had become
the Food Most Turned To By Reflex in New York (influenced
by shops for 99 cent pizza which, by the by, is helping to keep
untold numbers of hungry people alive) - it has long outrun
bagels and Nathan’s hot dogs as the iconic comestible most
now to be associated with New York City.  I think therefore

it ought to be on New York City municipal flags and notices
and stationery and official mayor’s office reports and every last
little civic bit of what the city proclaims it is, wants, does
and will do. And then some chic civic food artisan can come up

with an edible morass of Oedipal PizzaApplePizzaApple
and serve it all the time, gratis, everywhere to everyone and
maybe, finally, at just the moment the first somebody slurps
up a spoon of it, the shift we’ve awaited to a new paradigm

will slip into gear as effortlessly as Helvetica seemed overnight
to conquer any notion that there could be any more quintessential
American font for Volkswagen and Barbie Dolls: something
unlooked-for in the looked-for thing you found would once again
become our Arbiter. But as nothing ever had and nothing ever
would, it couldn’t succeed in swaying us into identically nervous
marionettes, were it even to want to do so: no, the Apollonian
rod up our ass would always split and divide simultaneously

with great clouds of gas catastrophically whooshing forth
randomly (not seemingly randomly) from that ass
to obscure the whole business, erase every finely
etched line and then there’d be time for rhyme,
and all would therefore be well
when the certainties got back
to looking like certainties –
which let them get out of Hell
to regale us, to detail the features
Of Kurtzman’s jeweled pizzas:
an opaline prism and jism parade.
Bodies and souls may be made
and behave, if you like, like a fart
but in fact, both in toto and part,
they’re the product and source, 
and the end and the start
of a gorgeously infinite liberal art.


adam kurtzman, opaline glass pieces for lamp shade
Instagram image

Sunday, January 13, 2019

My Muse, Some Random Views

She ministers to shimmering unlikelihoods,
persuading them to congregate and conjugate and flow –
she gathers all-but-slaughtered colors so abused
by notions of il faut they’d long ago forgotten where to go –
she gives the great grand quantity of the ejected
some experience, not of the stodgy condescension
of respect, but of the gladder gallantry of no-holds-barred
affection – baking in the sexual contextual
expression of Imagination’s oven: she’s a card, seducing
just by introducing any rank unpalatability to any other –
to permit another coalesced impossibility a swooning
entrance to the coven which, as witch, she rules.
She remonstrates against unquestioned tastes
and vindicates most fools. She wears embarrassments
like jewels. I’d like to let her loose in schools.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Annaliese and Perdita

Huddling’s a reflex reaction to lack
with too many possible meanings to crack:
just try to imagine what leans and presses,
besieges and stresses, assuages and messes
with these two sisters, Perdita and Annaliese,
whom you see huddling here. Do they
huddle against a fear, the cold, a painful
memory? – do they huddle toward hopes
of love? Do they huddle about who lost
a glove – or where they should go for lunch?
Annaliese means “graced with God’s bounty.”
Perdita means “lost.” Whose soul belongs
in the happier county? Whose soul can’t
meet the cost? As you watch this tight-knit
bunch of two: the serenely golden girl,
and the frazzled hag in blue, we bet you’ve
got more than a hunch. And of course you do.
Most sensible folk would agree with you.
But Annaliese and Perdita brim with surprise.
They’re working out lies to cover their plans
to murder their dad, and to murder their
mother, too (in disguise). Oh, and Annaliese,
in blue, is the fun one – not Perdy, in gold:
she’s a shrew. Ha! And you thought you knew.