Wednesday, November 11, 2020

What I Guess I Came to Say

 What I Guess I Came to Say

(the video is maybe worth seeing, mostly because of the light that dims at the end, exactly on cue, which it did entirely on its own recognizance.)
The practical reality of doing what I do
seemingly impracticably makes me climb
back into reinventing plans to mimic who
I think I was or what I did the last time
I believe I had succeeded: that’s a pain
with little prospect of a gain: “again”
is not a notion to rejoice in: but to feign
a former me, to re-ingest some madeleine
to re-inhabit memory - may be the best
maneuver I could conjure up to shoo in
inconceivable catastrophe, to fail the test
of being serviceably human, ergo ruin
the renewal of what had been an ability
I now had lost: to render calm accord
from those so rageful with malignant incivility,
no calm could now arrive except by sword.
But that would be uncivil and untoward.
Then, at last! I now recall their favorite condition.
“Hit the ground!” I yell as I move forward.
With great relief they do. They love submission.
One twists and turns and burns
to find a serviceable way.
I suppose that’s how one learns.
I guess it’s what I came to say.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Bubbly Ding Dong




City stone is mostly what my art observes

to find its way. From 1880s scroll and column

on my block I heard today what bell deserves

my notice, and for whom it has to toll. Solemn


though this business may appear, New York

fears nothing about death. It plays ping pong

with it, and life - can’t wait to pop the cork

to toast the art it spawns with bubbly ding dong.


Hence the pitcher and the lizard here, I think:

who find themselves in lurid hues a city bell

would welcome. They’ve drunk the drink.

Feeling well. Not in hell. Art’s rather swell.


It’s amazing how little things matter. They

don’t matter at all, and they matter the most.

Every life we bring on we will shatter. Hey!

But don’t leave in a huff. Make a toast!

Sunday, November 1, 2020


Snide Little Tease




What are all these terrible proclivities, anxieties?

In how many guises of exuberance do quakes

of terror hide? Life can be a snide little tease –

an acrobatic malady, a viral wheeze that makes


us watch trapezes full of inept fliers falling

from the ceiling. These unfunny circuses reach

into all our psyches, hearts and eyes, appalling

anyone who pays them any mind. Spirits beseech


you: offer to whoever wants it, all you’ve got –

your marriageable self, your favorite raccoon,

a chicken-burger-fries chain with a parking lot –

offer it to God or the woman in the moon,


or a brilliant astrophysicist, or witch on a broom.

Give your every penny, Eurodollar or doubloon.

Divest yourself of everything: empty every room.

Do it years and years from now or do it very soon.


Or hoard it all forever in a cellar in your house.

There may be worse and better things to do as well.

Some will parade themselves, some hide and grouse.

Some make a boring heaven, some make a happy hell.


Saturday, October 10, 2020

We are Candy Bars and God is Crazy


Boundlessly unfounded chaos would appear to be

the order of the day today from Speonk to Bombay.

It’s not that any thing might happen but that every

thing must happen which contrives to drive one

mad. “Does it serve justice that such coconut-

stuffed heads as ours be driven nuts as well?” or so


the clan of crania I’d just impelled to sprout up

from my neck and shoulders into an incarnate form,

now queried God. Who out of mirthless laughter

hollowly replied, “Because you cannot be dissuaded

from believing there’s a cosmic truth, your reality

both must and cannot happen: you’re Ambivalence


made flesh. Maybe, baby, you’ll discover you have

never lived. To see if you exist you must subject

yourself to infinite varieties of ands and buts and ifs.

Recall infinity knows nothing of ‘before’ or ‘after’.

And candy bars are lazy.” (As I, albeit vainly, have

implored you to accept, we are those candy bars


and God is crazy. There’s more (God’s hungry for

us sundry sweets!) but it avails us little to explore it –

undermined and undermining, all the rest at best

is hazy (God’s synonym for hellish). He wants His

valedictory goodbyes to ring with language we will

relish: He does orate them stirringly, then – oh, with


what relief! (but no surprise) – He dies. Ambivalence

personified to such a pitch, God couldn’t find a way

to scratch – alleviate – that old hellacious itch. Ergo

the Universe he made could not stay made. That’s

the skinny on why we’re no longer here, though it

may seem we are. They’ve bedded my eight crania


into a comfortable and capacious booby hatch. Every

being “here” appears to think God’s busy running

worlds as usual and all is fine. They’ll find out

soon enough that nothing anymore belongs to God,

long gone. When we sit down at dawn at breakfast,

I perceive the real design. Everything is mine.



Tuesday, October 6, 2020

We Like to Think We’re Taken Care Of

...Being Cared For

Has anything caused you to consciously reinvent yourself in a way you never could have imagined?  (question on Quora)


Now there’s a question you can take to bed with you - really only to subject it to every measure of sensual persuasion you’ve got to see how long it will take to succeed, and to what degree you and it will convince each other you have succeeded, in prodding, seducing or cajoling each other’s substancelessness - yours & the question’s - into one of only two possible manufactured ‘emotional’ outcomes: feeling excruciatingly exposed or hopelessly beyond any chance of ever being understood. There’s a kind of aching ecstasy to be had here for a very short while.

The most obstinate kicker of a single word in the question arrives in the form of its lethal adverb ‘consciously’.

Consciousness of oneself is an entire impossibility, at least if the condition sought is framed for you as some version of ‘objective’. The great lie we cannot help sustaining about ourselves is to believe (pathetically in the effort to keep sane) that we can in any way - say through the agency of the great fabrication so many of us ferociously refuse to refuse - the substanceless abstraction ‘Soul’ - manage to separate from our thoughts and physical sensations in order thereby to ‘see’ what manner of thing they (and we by the illusion of contrast to ‘them’) may really be. The circumlocutionary syntactical maneuvers we attempt in the cause of finding and inhabiting a ‘stance’ of clarity of perception which can permit this impossibility are heartbreakingly vacant of power. They are little whiffles of swish in an imaginary wind which of themselves harbor no wish to help or hinder, heal or infect, add to or subtract from any of the arbitrary forms or imagined principles governing the ‘substance’ we are convinced are what gives us shape and shadow. Language inevitably breaks down in the face of any mission foisted upon it to describe a single ‘thing’ definitively. We are and we exist entirely as Unknowing. We are remarkable for our persistence in face of this Unknowing. All there is, is Unknowing. That’s it. There’s nothing to make of anything else. If you don’t end with your mental exertions dissembling in and into a blithering heap - well, there’s no other way out but that. The heap will deconstruct into a blither and be what it only ever was or could be: Unknowing.


I wrote a poem ten years ago, September 30 2010, which I dare to suggest may offer a little peace in these troubling matters: it entertains a notion I still am unable to clasp completely to my soul and heart but which tenaciously retains a sort of hold on me. I can’t banish it to oblivion. It traffics in the sentimental notion of faith. I abide with its possibility.


We Like to Think We’re Taken Care Of

Being blankets and suffuses, underlies and overlays; nothing

doesn’t have a cover from which nothing isn’t made: everything

is anything you like: constellated atoms spike and swoop

and promulgate their warp and woof to keep you fizzing

in a grand and infinitely busy camaraderie. Biology is physics:

sentiment is quarks. Everything’s a spinning whiz: whirling like

spaghetti twirls on forks: proximities in endless overlapping

families of probabilities and permutations of exacting essences

of star. We like to think we’re taken care of. Perhaps we are.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Sorcery's Zeitgeist - 2020

Sorcery's Zeitgeist - 2020
Comes around, goes around, but it won’t come back.
Systems we relied on insubordinately crack,
attacked by rabid forces we had not dared to predict.
Kittens’ wounds, although assiduously licked
by mama cats won’t heal. Everyone’s attacked by rats –
decided, undecided – Republicans and Democrats.
Treasonably trapped by an intentional iniquity,
unreasonably wrapped into occasions for obliquity.

Monday, September 21, 2020




Things devolve, reveal themselves to be extraneous

extremities, eventually obtruding obfuscating

tender slender and insensate lines that bunch up

like the spines of broken babies’ bodies thrown into

a common grave: little ones whom nobody can save;

geometric chaos waiting for a wave to sluice them


back into the sea in which, disintegrating, they will

find escape, at last, from obloquy. Is contempt

the generating force that drives the green fuse through

the flower? Dylan Thomas didn’t promise happiness.

Who can promise that? And yet, and yet, I rise

to shave my head in public and to dye my beard


a tawny brown and raise an arm alluringly so it can

frame my gleaming pate, somehow rendering to it

a lyric sense of biceps you would be attracted to,

if things like that attracted you. My drawings start

as sketches and then grow to wretched and unruly

size, indefensible: complex for no good reason, or none


beyond a treason in the soul which strives to hoodwink

roaming eyes into regarding its thick overlays of colors

given texture by the random sticky use of crayons,

bleeding markers, pencils, waxy, wet, fat, thin anointed

implements of my decision to provision space with

something I can bear to see, as wise. I like them when


they’re done. They seem to have such fun, all blundering

and wondering, caring not a whit that their multiloquy –

the quality of never being other than excessively

loquacious, never shutting up or saying anything that

matters (bodacious and capaciously rapacious are

the sorts of rhymes whose visual equivalents it traffics in)


– more than deserves that obloquy those tender slender

and insensate lines that bunch up like the spines

of broken babies’ bodies thrown into a common grave

nobody can save. Sometimes I wish my drawings would

behave. Other times I don’t. Indeed, I must confess

I rather love it – much prefer it - when they won’t.


Tuesday, September 8, 2020

The Thing You Think You're In (spoken and sung)

(spoken & sung)
Today go do the things you say
and say the things you do.
Try to find out in your usual way
if anything new is true
about the thing you think you’re in,
or if you’ve made the cut.
If not: at least you’ve blundered in
to find at last you’ve shut
the door on ambiguity
and found one truth intact:
agleam with sheer congruity –
your empty head’s a fact.
Keep your final act at bay,
blithering toward the abyss.
Get on your knees midday to pray,
slithering forward like this.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Articles of Faith

Articles of Faith
I just came across a piece of writing I posted about a year and a half ago about the German side of my family. Somehow, in this zeitgeist, this odd dissociative covid moment, such musings seem to have more than usual force. As the last member left of my immediate family, I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that I feel the desire, maybe even the mission, to re-discover my provenance - kind of see my place in the cosmos, a mission about which, right now, the cosmos even more than usually probably couldn’t care less.
Oh well!
Feb something-or-other 2019
I had another moment — not the first, but they’re rare — of contemplating the German half of me, more particularly the Kettelhack half: prodded by someone on Facebook who said he’d enjoyed seeing a photo I’d posted of my father as a toddler held by his mother Elsie, his father Herman’s arm around both of them and his sister Elsie sitting at their father’s feet: a formally posed at-the-beach scene I suppose may have actually been taken at a beach such as Coney Island (since they’re wearing beachwear) but was the sort of thing in the 1910s often staged in a photographer’s studio. Formal studio family portraits were clearly fashionable then and the Kettelhack family featured here were for the moment well off enough to afford the life that went with them. Herman had a successful import/export business he had come to the New York City area (they first lived in west New York, New Jersey, then to Amsterdam Avenue at 110th Street) to pursue. However, it had to have been tough going almost immediately since the War broke out in 1914 and presumably anything run by a German (although he and his wife quickly became American citizens) in New York in trade with Germany could not have fared well. If my father was 2 or 3 yrs old in this pic, this would have been 1915 or 1916. After the war Herman took his family back to his home town of Bremen in northern Germany to see his own relatives and presumably to repair his business contacts there so that when he returned, as he did in 1922, to the USA he could rebuild his business. It was a mission fate decreed he wouldn’t accomplish. Only months after he got back he died of a sudden heart attack, falling over while shaving in the bathroom. Hard years ahead for his wife and children.
But what put me in mind of the Kettelhack family that preceded mine was my having rearranged the display items on the shaky spindly étagère I’ve inserted among their faces: it seemed to me more German than Victorian - which recalled my father’s intricate imagined charcoal cartoon figures and the ones I draw inspired by him - and how different they are from my mother’s clean cool uncluttered views of sky and bay. Also pressed into service here is a photo ça 1899 of my grandmother-to-be, then Elsie Hilgen at 17 or 18. A glimpse at the turn of the century northern German cultivated girl she was. There’s also a photo quartet of me, 2 in my 30s, 2 in my 60s. (Unnecessarily making the point that there are a lotta me’s.)
I’ve decided these amount to articles of faith identifying my father and his family’s influence on me as ‘German’ - which opens up the possibility that I am as much the child of Bremen as I am of New York. I like ideas that enrich my sense of provenance, a word I use to excess because it somehow organizes the chaos of influence into something elegantly speakable.
We invent ourselves with every word we utter and mutter.
All those forebears are dead. My mentioning them and showing their pictures and celebrating them gives them a kind of life no one else is left to give them. When I’m gone, so (in every likelihood) will they be. Their details - those few I have, in pictures, memories and artifacts - avail me so easily:  they help me make their lives up, imagine who they were, what they were like. Apparently I need them. New York is where I can have them. They all knew this city, found their lives here. In that way we align completely - my mother’s Blake family and the Kettelhack’s and Guy. What other family do I have?
Well, the indifferent Cosmos I suppose. Which of course I’m not just the child of but am. You are too. Wanna see it? Look in the mirror.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

The Multi-Species Family

The multi-species family
get my vote for the prize –
they don’t fall into anomie
and nobody tells lies.
Marry dogs and cats and birds,
bring up a mourning dove.
You’ll all be happier by thirds
by widening your love.

What I’m Careful to Say

(from a response to a dear friend who was concerned because one of my recent poems seemed to indicate I was maybe feeling bleak. As is usual with such expressions of concern I started to pontificate in the usual way about the usual ‘suspects’ - aspects of the natures of Creation - but which I kinda liked when I was done so here it is.)

What I’m careful to say (because it strikes me as true not as any conscious coverup) about any drawing or poem for which I seem to be the sole generator is that they seem respectively to draw & write themselves. I don’t know where they come from or even what their mission is for themselves: I’m just the hired hand who wields the physical instruments of their construction or destruction. I don’t write in a ‘trance’ but I am aware that I do everything (I mean in every moment of my waking life) in a kind of slightly altered state; I was tempted to say meditative but that’s too loaded a word. It is a condition of attention which has no connection I can feel to whoever ‘me’ is. It is a self-forgetting not a self-‘finding’ - whatever that may be. The ‘self’ doesn’t exist except as a word made of letters from a vocabulary - a sort of stand-in (as all words are) for an existentially both precise and immense ‘felt’ human experience so powerful that it pushes you to the brink of attempting the ridiculous task of describing it, to do it justice. Experience is immune to description.

Those artists known as great are those who through some deeply magic sleight-of-hand are able to bring to life the illusion that something can with any justice be said. Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson being two. I don’t count myself among them but I do dare to say I am sometimes afforded what seems like an intimate glimpse of what they do - catching them undressed in the act of doing it, sort of. But that’s probably still my hubris.

They both come to mind because each refuses to say what he or she ‘believes’. They (via each’s style: and “style,” as Quentin Crisp reminds us, “in the broadest sense of all, is consciousness”) are abundantly present - who could mistake either of their ‘voices’ for any other - but their business is not to ‘bare’ or reveal themselves. ‘Self’ is the least interesting aspect of what they do. They’re too busy creating autonomous worlds. They’re less like writers than “God” - another silly word or stand-in for Creation. Who cares who creates anything? Who can’t care about what is created?

So I’m never the poem or the drawing I do. I especially give Emily the nod here for demonstrating how to appear to be speaking in first-person - the single letter word “I” is to be found all over the place in her work - but I defy anyone to put an equals sign between it & Miss Emily D. Who in the cosmos knows who that is? Or who any of us is?

Warm best from

The guy who calls himself mostly for convenience sake, Guy.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

An Ideology of Shock

An Ideology of Shock
Fantasies occlude, and block: they seek
an ideology of shock – rude systems
to insure a thrill no matter what must
be endured: that we can make the face
of anything sublime if we would only,
for example, just imagine ourselves
free of space and time. Fantasies fester –
promising a meltdown: dangerous
in prospect but benignant in effect –
at least until we help them splay into
the wreck of actuality. Maybe radio-
activity is what it’s all about: to twist
and shout and act our toxic natures out.
Please understand it’s for your good
as well as mine to take my hand and do
just what I want. Look me in the eye.
Don’t behave. Ask wassup. Be my slave.
When we’re done, we’ll clean it up.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Anatomy of an Impasse

Two circumspect smiles come at me —
but more hands than faces arrive.
Their fingers come faster, inordinately –
suggesting not four hands, but five.
What do these hands want to do?
And how does one read human eyes?
I feel a warm madness about to ensue
that might burrow beneath their disguise,
if it is a disguise. I make the mistake
of assuming that truth is submerged.
Or is it that this is the innocent break
they must take so they’ll have emerged
to converge the point of their flight?
Five hands not four give one pause.
Homonym! Paws with claws in a fight?
Is some pact underway with a cause
that I will not much like? It won’t be
the first time. Won’t be the last.
I recall a small mantra: “Don’t be
the impasse.” I am the play and the cast.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Much Worse Things You Could Be

The prospect of expulsion
from the only realm of being
one had known to some
unknown zone,
without warning –
say, the zone of floral
quadrupedal hominids,
which, had one thought
it possible, was what
one would, at all costs,
have done all one could
to have avoided - eh bien,
screw that, honey, it’s a blast
to be a sunny spiritual paragon
in caravans of other floral
quadrupedal hominids
all fêted as divinities
by those unfortunate
enough to not be them.
There are much worse things
you could be, my sweet
petite verisimilitude
of pater-noster

Friday, August 21, 2020

On the Inadvisability of Annoying Endora

Though “Bewitched” reruns upset him,
he seemed to have to let them vet him
with the rabid Agnes Morehead as Endora
besetting him with her nightmarish aura
mostly for re-naming Darren Dum-Dum
(which he’d been labeled by his stepmum).
Swearing once too often “Fuck you, bitch!”
at her is what we think incurred the switch
when his shocked face, with dispatch, had
been torn off to reside inside a scratch pad
and reconstituted as you see it here –
where he’s now been encoded for a year.


Can’t Awaken a Thing Without a Song

Carefully, resourcefully retaining plural forms of every noun,
this sorcerer was wont to say, “Geometries have lyricisms,
which, by nature, tend to calm the human fear of schisms,
upsets and cacophonies that seize and swat our spirits down
and keep them from their aim, which is to realize a miracle.”
This meant: to sing! – “to toss the tune up, over, in a spherical
smooth swing.”  “Can’t awaken a thing without a song”
became the lyrics he’d apply to any melody not wrong
for them, confident its dance of words would serve empirical
intentions to enact unprecedented ecstasies of magical elation.
Soon every sound you heard from him was a conflation
of whatever rhythms, pitches, high or low or fast or slow
absorbed his genius inner ear to hear new harmonies to show
him how to make incarnate, and keep pace with, fresh creation,
the fresher for his singing “Can’t awaken a thing without a song,”


Tuesday, August 18, 2020

So, hey!

So, hey! Is everybody sure they’re real?
How do they know? Because their noses blow?
Because they have nowhere to go? Because
they can’t say no? Because they’ve got an
outer glow that they believe will soon achieve
an answering response in lusted-after Joe? –
whom you just saw advance upon that red-
head Mary, secretary to the Moonshine Girls?
He’d gladly pay the IRS to go away with
pints of his own blood if it were necessary.
And what’s the IRS to do with this? You may
well ask. Questions tend to make things clear.
Ask one and you’ll start to think you’re here.
Ask another and the whole gestalt of what
you think about yourself will come to haunt
and worry, hurt, deceive, desert and taunt you.
See that giant lady praying? I’m just saying.