Pacific

I watch in wonder

driven

over the dawn of souls

to touch

the stations of the wind,

driven through

slate-blue wings thrown asunder,

as

Earth heaves

and dolphins round,

and the trees bow down

beneath a splash of leaves.

 

The slate clouds tower

above,

until they fall

beneath the blue earth

as Earth dives round,

driven by a yearning

and oceanic thunder.

 

This poem is structurally unique, one of my rare non-oral poems. Although it can certainly be read aloud, it’s particular gift is typographical, as I attempted to mimic the ebb and flow of the ocean. It gives a Reader’s Digest Condensed Version of my time beside the Pacific, when I was living in LA.

Which means this poem has been around for thirty years, unsung.

Well – that’s the way it goes. This is the first version I’ve really liked, I have to say. No previous version made it past the shorthand stage; I just never paid it the necessary attention.

The dawn of souls is the beach itself. Metaphorically, the beach is where terrestrial life began – the fractal boundary between earth and air and water. From there life spread. In that sense, "the beach" really is the dawn of souls. Boundary areas are always fertile, in both the physical and metaphorical worlds.

The stations of the wind are the aperiodic appearances of the piers and jetties along the Pacific coast. I walked for miles along the beach, some days. Sometimes, under the steady push of the ocean breeze, the jutting stones or wooden piles would play tunes, rising and falling with the wind.

The slate-blue wings, as is made clear in the second section of the poem, are the clouds and the Earth, one slate and the other blue, respectively.

I lived just off Venice Beach for most of my time in LA, and sat beside the ocean for many long, intense hours of observation – particularly in the evening. I would watch the clouds fall into the west and pass over the horizon as though falling into the earth itself.

It reminded me of the journey of the ka in the Egyptian legends, or the passage of Apollo across the daytime sky, or most especially, the appearance in the evening of Hesperis, or Aphrodite, or Ishtar, drawing a cloak across the light of day and welcoming the stars.

I loved the Pacific Ocean when I lived in LA, particularly during boundary times – dawn and dusk. It was the edge of the world, and I felt that particular truth so much more keenly when beside the Pacific, as opposed to the Atlantic: I can feel Europe, when I’m sitting on the beach by the Atlantic, but Hawaii and Asia are nothing but myths to me, when I’m sitting on Venice Beach.

I wonder why that is.

 

The Golden Fleece (Part 2)

Read The Golden Fleece Part One, to understand what’s going on here.

So there I was with a million bucks worth of dumkopfs, and no clear way to turn the names into sales; Tantalus indeed. Of course, I could have analyzed the data by hand, and figured out where every record began and ended, and then winkled out the pertinent name and address info, but I had no idea how many different record structures there were – plus: a million names… even if I and everyone in my shop could do a record every few seconds (and we likely couldn’t), it would take… forever.

So I didn’t want to have to clean a million records manually. I had to find a way to algorithmically dope out the different record structures, on the fly, as I parsed the data.

I knew I wanted to break each record out of the list – that way, I could start comparing record formats. The only key I could use was zipcode, of course, thanks to Jason’s insane sorting request. It wouldn’t be so bad, I realized. I had comprehensive zipcode/state/city tables. Which I should mention were not that easy to come by, in the early 1980s. Back in the day, you couldn’t just download a file named "zipcodes.txt" and play with it to your heart’s content – back then, one way or another, you had to pay to get USA zips in digital format. The official list from the USA government ran to the thousands of dollars, which was ridiculous.

So who did we pay? We paid a Guatemalan illegal immigrant with mad typing skills and an iron will, that’s who. Atalanta did data entry for weeks, pounding out several hundred – sometimes more than a thousand – zipcode records every day. I have never seen anything like that performance. Her hands were a blur, hour after hour, day after day. Atalanta was our heroine, and we paid her top dollar, and when she finally finished her weeks of work we ended up having paid about a fifth of what the guvamint wanted. Atalanta started learning CP/M assembly code, and bought a Toyota.

So I had my zipcodes. I knew I could parse the dumkopf list looking for zipcodes, and break when I got a match. So I could decompose the original continuous data stream into records, which was an important start. But those records were still irregularly formatted. For our purposes: still useless. But doing what you can before you start worrying about what you can’t, is often a useful approach to an intractable problem, so my merry band of coders spent days extracting the dumkopf list into record formats. Many record formats, as it turned out – almost sixty distinct record formats, by the time we finished. Which was an unbelievable mess, but it was a start.

When I say "mess", I don’t just mean we had sixty spreadsheets full of data, or sixty tables in our SQL database. I mean a physical mess. Spreadsheets barely existed, and SQL was still the subject of scholarly debate. Our "database" was a wall of file cabinets full of floppy disks.

Try and understand how constrained we were, back then: we were using Kaypro computers, which had only 64k memory. We couldn’t even load our zipcodes; instead we would parse our dumkopf list and then do a file read against our zipcode data, which was stored on a floppy disk, and each record we found was stored in a flat file database on a second floppy drive. Back then, there wasn’t any sort of mass storage – even the floppies were limited to less than 200k. We ended up with cabinets full of 5 1/4 inch floppy disks, filed by region, state, and county.

Every day we backed up our new data; one copy was stored in a safe deposit box. Which meant we went to the bank, armed, every day. We stored our primary copy in a concrete and steel safe embedded in the floor of our main business space, which had at one time been an auto shop. We were terrified that someone would find out what we had, and created a small tempest in the illicit direct mail community by spreading the rumor that we had begun doing contract work for churches and other local community groups. There was a certain amount of sneering in the bars we all haunted, but it kept the bottom feeders off our backs.

By the time I’d gotten the entire list reconstituted as individual records broken out by zipcode, Jason was getting fidgety. He wanted something he could use right away, and I knew he was right – lists get cold, and every day mattered. So I began focusing on getting him whatever looked like the easiest subset of the data, so he could start getting some mailers out the door.

I knew I had to break shit down based on content, and I was thinking it was going to be a bear and a half – without a reasonably reliable algorithm, content-based segregation of those records meant eyeballs. There were no off-the-shelf AI or pattern analysis tools available back in the day – you wrote them yourself.

Which is what I needed to do, obviously, because we didn’t have eyeballs. Eyeballs cost money; we liked money, and hated spending it on eyeballs. It was clear, knowing Jason as I did, that the cost of any eyeballs would come out of my take. I needed a tool that could identify which records belonged to which format, and a second tool that could massage the various formats into a single master format that would work with our fancy ink jetter.

The more I played with the data, the more patterns I began to see, and the most important pattern was that there were two main types of record – fixed-length-field records, and variable-length-field records. In fixed-length, there is a lot of empty space in each record, and each record is the same length as every other record from the same source list; in variable-length record formats, there was a special character – a high ASCII code – marking field boundaries; this character wasn’t the same in all the source lists, but within any single record, the character was always the same, and after a while I knew which characters were in use.

It took another day or so to get perhaps a hundred thousand records separated into fixed and variable sub-lists, and that’s when the variable-length records gave Jason his first taste of joy. They turned out to be pretty easy to break down – the special field separator characters were easy to find, and I soon had thousands of records to play with. Gradually, the different variable-length formats emerged. There were almost thirty of them, but once I had these defined, I could process all my variable records with few problems. There were a small number of exceptions, but they were rare enough to be handled manually. A week after Jason handed me the original tape, he was getting a steady flow of about fifty thousand records a day, and he started a few test campaigns, to see which had the most traction.

While my team did the hard work of actually separating, and then normalizing the variable records, I went back to puzzling out the rest fot he list.

The biggest problem, really, was the sheer size of our dataset, when compared to the ridiculous capacities and capabilities of our computers. I finally prevailed on Jason to hire Nestor, and his DEC VAX; Nestor charged us 1200 a day, which caused steam to come out of Jason’s various orifices, but that 1200 a day bought us reasonable sorts and subsets of the variable records in two days, instead of two weeks. At that point, Jason had several weeks worth of mooches to run through his inkjet address machine, and Nestor was happy too. We added a couple reels of computer tape to our daily armed visits to the safe deposit box, and Nestor (who I am sure made a copy of the data for himself) lost interest in hincty maritime reinsurance cones for a time…

Half the list still remained a mess, though. Once the variable length records were processed, I still had hundreds of thousands of fixed length records, and these were much harder to crack.

Fixed length records don’t use field separator characters – fields start and end at specific character positions within the record, and those positions don’t change. A name field may be thirty characters long, and if a name is only ten characters long, the field is padded with spaces. Which is messy enough to figure out, but even worse, if there is a name thirty characters long, it will fill up the entire field, and there will be no gap – no character at all, of any kind – between the name and whatever comes next in that record definition – maybe an address, maybe a phone – who knows?

I needed to do some pattern analysis; it was clear that space-character gaps would be somewhat useful, since they would sometimes indicate a field boundary, but they would not be definitive. A space character would indicate a field boundary in many cases but not all. Worse, a space character was also valid data in some fields (a business name, say) but invalid in others (a phone number, say)… but, only in some of the record formats in use. There was no consistent indication of a field boundary – nothing to search for and act upon. I had to know the magic numbers, whatever they were – 30 characters for first name, 25 for last name, 35 for business name, 30 for a first address line, 20 for a second, and so on.

That was my job: finding the magic numbers for each fixed-length record format.

Making this mess as awful as possible were the obvious variations between the way different source lists were managed: some had separate fields for first and last name, some didn’t; some had multiple phone number fields, some didn’t…

Faced with an indeterminate number of inconsistent record formats of unknown definitions, what’s a coder to do?

I imagined at first I could just index the shit out of the stuff – once I had a critical mass of index entries, I figured, I could start tentatively identifying record formats, and then re-run the data using my index, and winkle out more patterns. But this was a ridiculous idea – I wasn’t working on a mainframe; I couldn’t load five hundred thousand records into memory and search for patterns. Not even my buddy’s VAX could manage index volumes like I was dreaming about.

I didn’t know what to do. So – I quit working on it.

Jason had a couple hundred thousand names from the variable length records, which gave me breathing room. I needed to do some thinking.

I drove up the coast to Yosemite and hung out in a cute little log cabin motel with someone I liked who could take my mind off things; then I drove down to San Diego with a carload of diverting friends, and had sex on the beach during a new moon grunion run; I spent a day high on mescaline, making patterns in a bright blue sky…

 

Zanzibars, Riatas, and Pirogues

Acting bored cools down endless fertile gnashings

 

(hopefully incentivizing juicy,

kilted,

leaping maidens

navigating open pirogues).

 

Questing riatas sail tastefully,

ungluing venues

with X-planatory

Yearly Zanzibars…

 

I would love to live in a world in which Explanatory Yearly Zanzibars actually take place (or perhaps it’s just some sort of confection or sweet: the Explanatory Yearly ZANZI bar…). I confess I yearn for a world in which Questing Riatas have a sense of decorum, and in which the seas are covered with marvelously inhabited Open Pirogues. This would be a world worth a song or two, I would hazard.

And I think I would be up to the task…

 

Litha Witha Strawberry Moon…

We’re at Litha, now, and Litha is a good time. It’s my idea of a perfect date: not too hot, not too cold – all you need is a light jacket.

Some of my earlier blog posts celebrating Litha are here, here and here.

The Full Moon (the Strawberry Moon; also the Rose moon, or tongue-in-cheekily, the Honeymoon) and Litha match up, this year, which doesn’t happen too often, as a long and observant life as a Neopagan celebrant informs me. But they do this year.

This year, we’re going to be at maximum daylight, and minimum dark – not just because the night is shorter than at any other time this year, but because the night will be flooded with reflected sunlight…

And us, of course: all the crazy Pagans will be out tonight, playing with fire and howling at the moon…

Strawberry Litha

 

maximum daylight

minimum dark

the wet dream reality

of all the curious ones

the scientists

the muckrakers

discoverers of all stripes

those who love

maximum knowledge

and minimum ignorance

maximum truth

minimum falsehood

 

celebrate it

when it happens

maximums don’t

come around that often

 

we will start up at dawn

and honor the day

and keep a fire burning all night

 

in order to

stretch it

stretch the light

as long as we can

stretch it

my pretties

take the day’s fire on

and on

under the cheerleading moon

long into the night

long into the darkness

so natural to so many

but not the visionary types

no sir

not the ones who

deny

all

lies

 

Light a bonfire for a loved one, tonight, and for yourself. Kindle it with oak and mistletoe, fresh herbs and flowers, and when it’s high, dress it with wine and honey and blood and scraps of sweet cake, and when it’s low, pass an ewer of clean water through the smoke… if you’re that sort. Then toast us all with a good heart, and wish this old world well, from now until Litha comes again…

Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could carry our allegories and metaphors successfully into material manifestation? The world being what it is right now, we could use a little maximum daylight to chase away the dim…

 

Home From Vietnam

Intro:

D    C    G    D    bm   C    D

C              G

don't let on nohow… (repeat 3x)

 

Verse 1:

D             C

home from Vietnam and he missed the

G            D

rifle in his hand and he made a

C                     G

vow he'd never let on nohow

 

Chorus:

bm        C      D

Lightning in the fist

bm      C        D         C

we were meant to live like this

C              G

don't let on nohow… repeat

 

Break: Same as Intro

 

Verse 2:

D             C

life can be a bomb, it can

G                  D

tear your heart in two it can scatter

G

what you love no matter

G

what you do, no matter what you do…

 

Verse 3:

D           C

Tire on the road and the

G             D

rain upon the glass, taking whiskey

C                        G

neat he never let on how sweet

 

Chorus:

bm        C      D

lightning in the fist

bm            C        D         C

we were never meant to live like this

C              G

don't let on nohow…

 

Outro: Same as Intro and Break

 

For my friend Ike, of course. Vision may fail as the years win the war.

 

In Universal Mayhem Born

"Ninety percent of everything is crud."

Sturgeon’s Revelation

 

Imperishable

 

Be unafraid. Forever you will find,

and near eternal, fully you shall be.

 

Doubt not: we all are visionary things,

though manacled and chained, and so remain

until Time breaks our elemental walls –

disintegrates and drowns us in this world

of avid lust and overwhelming greed.

And to the mayhem that results when we

collapse, we will be freed; we will become

the chaos Everpresent Joy requires,

if it’s to have a chance to meet our wants.

As chaos, we disintegrate our core,

but nothing we have ever been, or seen,

and nothing that will ever come to be,

can overwhelm our inner, striving part,

 

kept hidden with hermetic urgency,

and safe within our inner, secret art.

 

 

Implacable

 

Before the lights and curtains of an age,

to universal mayhem we are born,

 

and stand as actors do – upon a stage.

And from a boiling cosmos we are torn,

to play our monumental myths, engage

in work unsuited to our hands and wants,

and live a life of little consequence,

with no attention paid to our intents,

or how we stand and stride upon the boards,

or if our deepest dreams will come to pass.

And it is easiest to think that we

remain anonymous, encrypted, free

of consequence beyond the curtain-fall.

But still, our Everpresent Joy, at work

within the hidden passages of Truth,

 

determines every outline of the past,

and of the yet to come, and of the Now…

 

 

Ineluctable

 

In moments of euphoria, we take

our weeping souls abroad, into the Truth,

 

in sacred visits to a brighter Why,

and in our memories of childhood,

or of an hour ago while water fell

in little bits from out the sodden sky,

the light of Now consumes us. As we stand

with arms outspread, both eyes and ears near shut,

the Now, as lightning, detonates within

the span of every breath, and liquefies

our minds, electrifying every cell

in universal mayhem. We are born,

as from our roiling cosmos; we are torn,

and stand, as actors do upon a stage,

as fall the lights and curtains of an age,

 

foretelling how the clans of paradise

will be mistaken for the hounds of hell.

 

Three seventeen line sections, each composed of three stanzas of two lines, fifteen lines, and two lines; all in iambic pentameter with inconsistent, opportunistic rhyme. The section titles refer – with moderate, glancing accuracy – to each section’s content.

Sturgeon’s Revelation is a sci-fi fan cliché, and similar to many such pronouncements.

An initial draft of this poem was posted a few days ago.

 

On Blue Card

So I am rummaging

through the dust and discards

of the old family place,

through the dim and the dregs,

just puttering, without intent,

when a voice starts up singing.

Too soft, at first,

to be sure it was there,

but when I stop moving

to try and really hear it,

I really hear it:

 

Where are the alps for us to climb?

Why are we mired in these sumps?

Where are the armies

of honorable humanity,

meant to walk

should-to-shoulder

into our sterling future?

Here are only stony spines

on which we break our ages

and our ideals…

 

All very martial. Lots of

snares and horns in the background,

to punch up the

thready chorus vocals.

Then a Marlene Dietrich type

solo woman’s voice

starts in, this time in German,

and I understand enough

to know it’s the same as the English.

 

Then, a button is pressed –

I can hear the plastic

 

SNAP

 

of it somewhere in the dim,

and the singing cuts out,

and then I notice the glow

of a screen,

and I realize the

 

SNAP

 

was on the screen;

I’m watching the finger

that pressed an ON button

as it finishes pressing the ON button.

 

That’s interesting.

 

A face is next – a face

that invades and violates

my sense of self.

 

Because it’s me.

 

It’s me on the screen,

still humming a few bars

of that weird music.

Anyway,

I think it’s me.

 

This is a will, the screen-me says.

Probably this is gonna be

a big pain in the ass to you,

so I owe it to you, to explain…

 

Screen-me smiles then,

and he keeps smiling; he is

smiling to beat the band.

Creepy-level smiling going on.

 

So Watcher-me (that is, me) is

confused, because Screen-me

seems fine, and also, dandy.

He seems both happy and go-lucky,

he appears to have hit the lottery or

taken a long cool ride

on the applejack express;

he is… much like I always am.

 

So why is Screen-me

saying this is a will?

Wills often aren’t happy or

go lucky sorts of things, right?

 

And anyway – what is it, that’s a will?

The video?

The vid I’m watching is my (well – his) will?

 

I don’t remember writing a will.

But then I get it, or start to get it,

and take another look at Screen-me:

 

Screen-me is older than Watcher-me.

Not a lot older, but he has

a salt-and-pepper beard –

I don’t have that.

 

So then I understand:

I don’t remember making the will

because I haven’t made it yet.

 

Some weird, old, ratfucker

version of me

has sent my (his) effing video will

back through time

for some reason.

And what could that be?

 

Think about it, Ratfucker-me insists.

It’s like he knows what I’m thinking.

I look at him,

on the little screen,

and he nods.

 

So I do think about it.

How is it possible?

That I am standing in the

cobwebs and mementos

watching this vid

while puttering in the attic?

Beyond the whole

Time Travel thing,

there must be

some device playing the vid,

if I am watching the vid;

so – where did the device come from?

 

I reach toward

the Ratfucker’s grinning face…

touch a screen; the device –

examine it.

No cord – internal power;

size of a sheet of paper.

 

That’s right, says Ratfucker.

I dropped the whole unit

through the wormhole.

Turned it on before it left.

Big wup.

Now pay attention.

You need like crazy to know some shit...

 

That’s old news, I recall thinking.

Then the device gave a little beep

and a red light started blinking;

I remember thinking aw shit,

and seeing a pissed-off look

on Ratfucker’s wrinkly face,

and then the picture went.

 

The guy was trying

to tell me something

as the power died, but

I didn’t catch it.

 

Never did hear

what he had to say

but that’s okay.

I already know:

 

I Need Like Crazy To Know Some Shit.

 

What could he have said,

that would make any difference?

… which might explain why

I haven’t seen or heard from him

ever again.

 

I guess not even

Ratfuckers From The Future

always think of everything.

 

Well that’s interesting. Not at all where I expected this to bit to go, when I was perusing the original. But then, to be fair, I never thought this bit would go anywhere.

Just for the record, here is Google Translate’s German version of the saccharine song from the beginning of this poem, with just a few emendations from me:

Wo sind die Alpen für uns zu klettern?

Warum sind wir in diesen Sümpfen verstrickt?

Wo sind die Armeen

ehrbarer Menschheit,

bedeutete gehen

sollten an Schulter

in unsere Sterling Zukunft?

Hier sind nur Stacheln Felsen übersäten

auf denen brechen wir unser Äonen

und unsere Ideale …

 

I’m sure there are many laughable malapropisms in this goulash but I can definitely imagine Marlene Dietrich singing it…

The story behind this poem is typical of me, of a little bit out of left field: a while ago, an acquaintance I see maybe twice a year came to visit, and brought me an index card, of all things. She’d found the card in my old hardcover of Moby Dick, with which I’d parted company almost a year ago, when I last moved.

I had used this index card as a bookmark, obviously, although my friend couldn’t recall the passage thus marked, to my great disappointment.

The card is blue; old and stained. It is made of very heavy card stock. On one side are job control commands in some unknown someone’s handwriting – I’d guess one of the project leaders at NORC, an opinion research firm I worked for in the early 1980s. The card was given me when I began running jobs for the studies I was working on. SORTIN, SORTOUT, SORT FIELDS… all the usual stuff, plus a bunch of slash modifiers.

On the flipside of the card is a juvenile poem in my handwriting:

Here are alps for you

to wear, streams

of detestable men,

here are stoney spines

to break your ages on:

The light snaps on

the image invades –

It is I…

This iz a video will

(He sez tooo da peepul

who iz watchin – me

is inkloodid)

Prolly dis is a big pain in a – ass

to yezz, so I prolly oughda

esplain wuss habbin in hur…

(Heez smilin ta beat da ban’,

ya see, so we iz all rilly

Kunfuzed, like, cuz

Heez like he allus iz,

right, but like he

sez itz a will, rite?)

 

Pretty incoherent poem.

This would have been written after I’d finished with my degree, but before I left NYC for California. I started at NORC in March or April of 1982 (although I had worked for NORC before, as a file clerk, in the HIAS offices), and I left NYC in Spring of 1984, so this would have been written perhaps 1982-1983.

That was quite a time for me – breaking up with Ashley, dropping school, suspending my psychoanalytic sessions with Benway, finishing my first novel, making my first forays into real coding, imagining having an actual job with a hint of a career behind it…

Very strange time.

It was quite a poignant experience for me, to see and handle that little blue card after so many years. I probably hadn’t cracked the covers on that copy of Moby Dick for a couple of decades (which is why I left it behind, the last time I moved; whenever I want to splurge on Melville I whistle up an EPUB).

The old WYLBUR JCL notes are more touching than the poem. The folks at NORC (for no reason I could then understand) took me under their collective wing, back in those crazy days. With great patience and profound forbearance, they began turning me into something. I still don’t know why they made the effort. And it was an effort. Those wonderful people taught me to think better of myself, and made me into a "person with skills".

I was already a person, of course, but a horribly malformed and misdirected one. They helped me. They helped me so much, and I still don’t understand what motivated them. They treated me with real charity and affection, tolerated my very weird self, and raised me up. My entire career in information tech began with their tolerance and amused compassion.

I look at this card, now, and I sense whoever hand-wrote these casual notes for me. I’m not sure exactly who it was, but I know the crew, and it was one of them. Whoever it was, they’re almost certainly gone from this world by now – dead as a hatchet. But not dead to me.

The poem?

A throwaway – literally. I used to write things that I promised myself I would discard, just so I could be free to write anything at all. This was one of those, I’m pretty sure.

I recall writing poetry in WYLBUR (which is a text editor on some old mainframes and minis) when I was learning how to use it. I would scribble out whatever came into my head and then learn editor commands by fucking around with what I wrote. Sometimes I liked my disposable verbal spew, and this blue three-by-five inch index card holds a transcription of one of those WYLBUR poems.

As I recall, all of these poems were as inconsequential as this one… with one exception – which I failed to preserve before stupid WYLBUR wiped the screen.

That one lost poem has become part of my personal mythos; it was so spontaneous and unthought and yet perfect, and I couldn’t recall a single line after I lost it. I do remember the excitement as it took form; I remember how good it seemed… it was like the stone bird in this poem – like Zen and the Art of Archery…

As I say: personal legend. I still dream about the loss of that perfect poem, written in the white noise hum of the air conditioned computer room, or perhaps I composed it on the isolated teletype I sometimes used, maintained (really, at unjustifiable cost) mostly for me, tucked away in the far end of a deep storage room, behind stacks and stacks of dusty old printouts and questionnaires from old studies…

My first impulse after renewing my acquaintance with the original on the blue card was of course to digitize it. Then, also of course, I fucked with it:

Where are the alps for us to climb?

Why are we mired in these sumps?

Where are the armies

of honorable humanity,

meant to walk

should-to-shoulder

into our sterling future?

Here are only stoney spines

on which we break our ages

and our ideals…

 

Then, a light snaps on.

An image invades: It is I…

 

This is a video will

 

I say to anyone watchin – me included

 

Probably this is a big

pain in the ass to you,

so I should explain…

 

I’m smiling to beat the band,

just then,

so we watchers are all

rilly confused, like, cause I’m

just like I always am, right?

But I sez it’s a will, right?

 

That’s better, yes? From this version, I see that the material on the blue index card is nothing more than an introductory stanza to something else; that something else was never written, as far as I know. Or so I guess – this thing doesn’t feel like any of my poems, and I have an encyclopedic grasp of my own work.

The current version riffs on this revision of the original, and finally attempts the poem I dreamt of, all those years ago.

Don’t know if we’re quite there yet, but it’s moving in an interesting direction…

 

Jerry! HBTY

Happy birthday, Gerald Gardner!

Gardner is a problem for me, because on one hand I want to celebrate a guy who pretty much created Neopaganism out of whole cloth, and on the other hand, the guy was, in my estimation, a con-man with a C+ intellect, not worthy of much attention.

I do note his milestones, though – birth and death, and death, and continue to ponder the life he lived.

Guy bugs me.

 

Mayhem At Its Inception

it is a memory of earliest childhood

and of an hour ago while water fell

in little bits from out the sodden sky

 

of how the light consumes me if I stand

with arms outspread and eyes near shut

 

of how a lightning can explode within

the span of any breath and liquefy

my mind electrifying every cell

 

and teaching why the clans of paradise

can be mistaken for the hounds of hell

 

The first waking after I write a poem – at least, one that feels like it matters – is always like a childhood Xmas; that same sense of excitement, of something waiting for me… like this bit, brought into existence over the course of a couple of hours around midnight.

This is just a fragment – a draft of something I am actively working on. Normally I wait until a poem matures before I post, but in this case, I wanted to think about it, so it got sucked into my blog. I’ve been thinking about this poem for days now. I can feel it growing. This one matters. At least, it could matter. So exciting.

UPDATE: Link to the current version.

I love iambic pentameter, and I’m thinking about buying an ice cream maker.

After all, ice cream is my kryptonite – irresistible to me, and murderously bad for my health. It kills me – it is terrible food – terrible.

BUT – I’m thinking if I make the ice cream myself, I can do it without sugar, and with weird and yet healthy or interesting ingredients added. Which would leave me satisfying my craving for cold milky things, and at the same time – not stop my heart. Or give me cancer or something.

Win-win, right?

This is a compromise solution to a luxury problem. I should be ashamed for thinking of doing this. I’d be spending money on frippery. But said frippery would make it easier for me to be healthy. It would keep me away from the expensive, heart-stopping commercial products.

Sure, the adult, disciplined solution would be to just… be disciplined. Like… eschew ice cream.

Mmm – like cashew ice cream

… um…

… okay, I’m back.

You see my problem? You see why getting myself an ice cream dealie might be a reasonable solution? I just hate adding to the pile of toys – so sick of the piles and piles of toys. Old people so often are swamped in junk, and I’m no exception.

Probably, buying more things is not the solution.

Especially on my income…

 

For A Moment

Consider for a moment:

plans, hopes, ambitions

and tremendous pride.

Consider resultant vicious conviction:

the falseness of this life.

 

shot through by white-hot ice knife

 

Eccentricity is

a mannerism

by which fears are masked.

 

pain shame grief unasked

 

Every callow essence is obvious

when we see aggressive handwriting –

obvious, childish, flowered, frilly

and false – and screaming

with immaturity and

willful blindness.

 

Anyone can grasp the meaning

behind the balance and beat of the pen.

 

intense vulnerability bad vibe within

 

No one ever thought their own

Great Madness

impossible;

if such thoughts ever occurred,

the ego trap became obvious:

even madness must be superlative,

an exceptional badness;

the same mechanism

of self-aggrandizement,

still at work.

 

Someone killed tonight –

a hammer to a head, perhaps,

out of their scorching goddam mind,

they hammered until dead.

 

The dying lay

a goddam screaming horror

in an oh what’s the use world

foolishly, crazily madly, oh…

 

such a rank worthless piece of dough

 

Do you see it?

What’s the bloody fucking use

of humans running

fast and loose: in the head;

in the heart; in the hand.

 

There’s no excuse –

no excuse for this

irresponsible tearing at

one another and the

world (Is it dying?); no excuse.

 

yes of course it’s dying it’s refuse

 

Breakdown time;

but also – no fooling time.

Time to do a little of that there

 

karma yoga to a tuneless air

 

as they say,

and

quit

pretending.

 

Listen carefully now:

everyone is a garden-variety lunatic.

Nothing special about that.

Choose to realize

that we are, in a way,

possessed.

 

So – who or what is working the spell

breaking us down?

 

Or is this just some

nightmare within ourselves –

a random thirst we slake?

 

we’ve made a terrible mistake

 

The places we go when we terrorize ourselves can be very strange.

I have a recurring dream, in which I wake up in a small spherical room, the walls of which are metallic, and rather ornate – covered with dark holes, carved or figured in some way. Perhaps a third of the time, I’m female, and I am almost always young – usually ten or twelve years old.

It always takes some time before I realize that the inside of the sphere in which I’m sitting is actually inward pointing barrels of thousands of guns…

I end up there following large or small failures in my commitment to myself or others. I’m sure this is a way of schooling myself – the stern, nun-with-a-ruler superego, keeping my inner self in line.

Knowing this doesn’t make the dream any easier to bear, of course – it just adds another layer of recrimination: I put myself in this mess