This is a an imaginary diary of facts, confessions, or messages. This is a notebook of working but broken ideas, lines, images, notes on books I'm reading, writers I admire, and brief fantasies of language. Here unfiltered all mannerings pseudo-private, publicized, ur-. Here I am art and unrevealed: poetic, political and pop. These are my moonlit rough beginnings and should not be taken literally, directly, truthfully, reliably, and none of it is legally binding. These lies are all choreographed, but only haphazardly. Beware.
BURIAL OF THE STORM
Two nights ago around one a.m. we had an earthquake here in Southern California, 4.6. It was north of where I am, and our area sort of ticked a bit deeply. I was awake doing my usual middle of the night internet surf, procrastinating with wandering fascination. There was a sound like a hoof in the ground, but from far off, and leviathon-sized. The gallop came at us and disappeared. The earth pronounced itself. What's the Plath?
All night I shall gallop thus impetuously
Till your head is a stone, your pillow a little turf
Friends and Strangers, we live in paper houses. Pollo was scared and ran from the bed, where he was sleeping, and into my lap at the desk. Earthquake! I scooped him up and ran out to the beach to see if we should head higher. . . Now I'm swept up in thinking about King Lear and Salmun Rushdie's novel, THE GROUND BENEATH HER FEET.. .
The most striking thing about Lear is the role of nature. Bloom says something about it being the archetypal mother which Lear rages against becoming, as he tries not to weep, but I love it for the uncontrollable chaotic power that it unleashes. Lear hasn't been able to control himself, he suffers the fate of his own personality, rages against being, against the unfairness of being old and mortal and powerless, and Nature answers him, both inside and out. I think this is our struggle too, always with nature, our own, the world's. . . By the time he learns humility, it's too late to save himself or anyone. In Rushdie's novel, the major earthquakes of the decade lead him into a strange contemplation of theoretical physics, and tears in this world where an earthquake is a kind of doorway people can disappear into, open up and swallow us. Song for Rushdie is part bacchanalia and part death-summons. . . Then there's this new one by McCarthy, THE ROAD, which is primordially dark and difficult, people are homeless and thrust into the unforgivingly harsh mouth of the natural world where creatures have to eat and find shelter. People are strange, rough survivalists, and our loves bear us abstractly.
In LA there's always talk, and sometimes a good t.v. movie, about the next Big One, a major quake right in the middle of the city (which lies directy atop the San Adreas fault). The quake is inevitable, and overdue!, and every once in a while I get myself in a panic. Buy a bookbag and fill it with necessities: dry foods, cash, clothes, water, pens, a little journal, and a few books. Funny that the books trouble me most. If my room collapses, this bedroom by the sea will be the perfect grave for me. It's got my art, and my books, and my bed. But leaving it. . . I guess I don't have a question about being stranded on a desert island, I have a question about the three books you can carry in an earthquake, in an apocalypse. Friends and Strangers, what are your three books? I take that back, if you were forced into hiding, into flight, into exodus, into night--what is the single, manageable book you'd steal with you? It has to be realistic! No hardbacks, no large books.
I switch mine out all the time. I find they have to be small to fit in the emergency bag, and three is really too many. It's terribly unfair. I know there are more important things to save, and I'd probably like to grab some Homer, sometimes an Ovid, but for me. . . right now . . . Beckian Fritz Goldberg's LIE AWAKE LAKE, a little copy of MACBETH, and Jean Genet's MIRACLE OF THE ROSE, oh kay and I just threw in a little novel by Clarice Lispector, HOUR OF THE STAR (it's smaller than a book of poems, so I don't care). Now they really just don't fit. They're too heavy.
I'll have just a copy of Jaroslav Seifert's poetry. Yep, that's it. That's my one book. Because he writes things like,
I still return to the places
I used to love,
and I feel as if I were stroking
an amorous fold of velvet
What we now see in the sky
is just a dead satellite
and the jaws of its craters
chew upon nothingness
and all in the same poem!
This whole thing makes me feel cruel. It's picking from your most beloveds and saving one of them from the dirt, the dark execution. Reynaldo Arenas is not happy with me at the moment. . . maybe he'll have to be resurrected.. . Who to give back to the wall in the ground? I feel like a mother saving one child over the rest, on one my hip, the rest smothered in the earth. O horrible, horrible. Most horrible. We leave this world too quickly, and how are we to take it with us? How do we not die? To live is to be in exile. To live is to bury your life along the way.
I'm burying my loved ones alive!
. . . . . .
My work has been awarded the Katherine C. Turner Prize from the Academy of American Poets, a Swarthout Award, and has twice been nominated and shortlisted for the Pushcart Prize. My first book, A Book Called Rats, was selected for the Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry (Eastern Washington University Press 2007). I'm curating editor for the online journal of poetry: PISTOLA and my poems and reviews most recently appear in Massachusetts Review, Beloit, Ploughshares and RAIN TAXI. I currently teach writing and literature at Santa Monica College in southern California.
FRIENDS AND STRANGERS
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