A HYBRID NOTEBOOK OF POETICS AND PORNOGRAPHIES

Pornography Disclaimer

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.

28.4.07

PORTRAIT OF AN IMITATION HEDONIST

. . . . .

This week I found Will Self's 2002 novel, DORIAN An Imitation, accidentally on the shelves of my college library. I had forgotten how much I love being inside of the library. A silence so large it is breath, of which I'm only a small version. Libraries for me always feel like a restful futuristic dome, a room at the bottom of the sea, buried in the blue omphalos where I exist, only partially alive, half-blind, floating through the stacks like a ghost automaton, touching and searching.

Self's novel is a portrait of a dissolution of the flesh by decadence, by an age of cultural extravagances, the perils of early debauchery as well as a contemplation and partial criticism of gay culture since the rise of the AIDS epidemic.

"Don't spoil it by renunciations. At present you are a perfect type. Don't make yourself incomplete. You are quite flawless now. You need not shake your head: you know you are. Besides, Dorian, don't decieve yourself. Life is not governed by will or intention. Life is a question of nerves, and fibres, and slowly built-up cells in which thought hides itself and passion has its dreams. . . the world has cried against us both, but it has always worshipped you. It always will worship you. You are the type of what the age is searching for, and what it is afraid it has found."

These are the words of Lord Henry Wotton in Wilde's 1891 THE PORTRAIT OF DORIAN GRAY, and they give us an insight into Self's contemporization of the classic. Dorian, in the original, is haunted by a painting of himself done by Basil Hallward, which embodies all of the terrors of age, anxiety, debauchery, guilt and crime, while Dorian himself remains a picture of an ideal young beauty. He ultimately murders Basil Hallward, and in an effort to destroy the only piece of incriminating evidence, the painting (which now drips with blood and mortality), knifes his own inky image only to break its spell: the police find a mutlilated portait and the body of an old and wasted man, murdered on a parlour floor.




The original novel helped to incriminate Wilde in the (in)famous criminal case in which he stood trial for homosexuality. Wilde, of course, is the first author to be "gay" as such, and Self's version is a contemporary telling that could have been penned by Henry Miller, for all of its vulgar wit, perfect irreverance and its remorseless descriptions of tasteless and frank sexual decadence. It's deliciously sick. In it, Dorian is the "type" of young gay man all of the media attention about AIDS awareness in the 80's, the MTV reality voyeurism of the 90's, and the flamboyant outing politics of this web-lit decade, has made possible. Dorian is young and beautiful, but also out, sexually fabulous, white-party hip, taking part in all the fashionable drug recreations, having almost forgotten that AIDS afflicted generation of the 80's, but still vulnerable to its very real dangers. He's new to the scene, but part of a generation who feels entitled and unafraid of making a venemous public display.

In Self's version, Dorian is the subject of Basil Hallward's avant-garde video installation--Basil Hallward of Basquiat and Warhol notariety--and also the young pupil of Henry Wotton, the insanely wealthy hedonist, closeted and married, drug addicted, brilliantly supercilious Brit. The story ensues: Dorian remains young and unafflicted by age and AIDS. The invention of Self's version is that Dorian becomes a demon, insatiable predator for experience, drugging, corrupting, even raping and murdering, all under that perfect disguise of the charm of his undying beauty. At his own party he infects both Basil and Henry, and proceeds to travel the world like a mogul socialite while his "friends" are left to discover the truth. Basil struggles, rehabs, falls off the wagon, is taken in by New York Dragqueen Trannies, rehabs and tries to turn a new healthy leaf after he finds out he's HIV positive. Henry Wotton, on the other hand, seroconverts and spends his money and time on drugs, drugs, drugs, drugs and drugs. In his sardonic vision of the world, he ironically tells the truth about Dorian, finding a fictitious version of a murderous, deceitful Dorian more interesting than the real, so he thinks, innocent and all too stereotypical, young twink. "I adore destructive spectacles," he says, sucks on a cigarrete and exhales, "they are the last refuge of the creative."

DORIAN, in effect, is the lens by which Self examines the era of gay political selfhood. Out of mid-seventies sexual liberation of the bi-dolls, into the confusion of the 80's secret epidemic and into the 90's newfound culture of tops, bottoms, fems, bears, twinks and republicans, a crime story unfolds parallel to the original, complete with Basil's murder, the blackmail of Dorian, and the final distruction of the tapes, on which the AIDS ridden, murderous, despicable Dorian dances around like something out of Dante--the ring of hell where people dance and laugh in madness after eating their own shit:


"Dorian sprinted straight into this garden of earthly delights. He not only accepted the hands grabbing at his crotch, the drinks shoved in his mouth and the tongues pushed into his ear, he revelled in them. . . He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of his watch! And that's exactly what he did: he loosed the strap of his chunkily expensive diver's watch and thrust it into the hand of a deranged clone, one who was so taken by Dorian's beauty that he licked the face. . . They were draped in chains, the men who jostled and clinked in the Stygian chambers beneath the bar-room at the Mineshaft. Dorian penetrated this sphincter of darkness. He stopped to try his cock in a gloryhole, he paused to watch while two men fucked a third at either end, he moved to join a circle of happy flagellators, he critically pissed on a naked performer in a bathtub. On and on he went; darker and danker it became, as wonkily partitioned room succeeded warped vestibule, each filthier and ranker than the last with the odour of faeces and semen and poppers. All around was the thwack of flesh on flesh, with its ragged accompaniment--the grunts and moans of effortful coition."


This novel is titillating, and might catch some readers off guard with its sexual deliberateness, but it's also a smart, lyric, racing meditation on the Keatsian ideal: youth and beauty cursed by a human struggle against mortality. Self's achievement is especially satisfying if you're gay, since it comes to us at the speed of our culture these last few decades, that have so rapidly changed how we view ourselves among ourselves, as well as how we stand in relation to others. Critics might surely accuse Self of indulging in a negative stereotype of gay culture, but he is writing a novel, afterall. I, for one, am grateful to be entertained by my own darkness. Sell self-help and political-moral doctrine to someone else. Anyway, it's not as if this novel doesn't accomplish a real vision of the world as it is, underwriting our own complicated relationship to it. . .




What I love about the ending to this novel is its epilogue. Where the novel could easily and satisfyingly end after the fourth chapter, at the apparent destuction of the artwork, Self's ability to take everything a step further with both satire and a strange, disturbing, critical eye for gay life as a culture, ultimately proves immensely interesting. Without giving away the ending, Dorian survives, for a time, distracted from his true nature by a lifestyle fueled by appearances and capitalism, much like some people I know today:

"Busy, busy, busy. In May alone there were 2,456,707 hits on the CATHODE NARCISSUS website (www.cathodenarcissus.com). Visitors to the site could view Baz Hallward's original installation, together with other examples of the late artist's work. Sponsored and maintained by the Gray Organisation, the site featured links to GRAY magazine, as well as a photo-file of Dorian's own career in modeling. . . Dorian wanted Baz's work to become synonymous with male beauty at the end of the twentieth century. Male beauty and a new mature pride in homosexual identity--not a pride based on militant identification with an underclass, or a persecuted ethnic minority, but the true pride that came with assuming the responsibility proper to an era, when for the first time gay men and lesbian women were openly assuming positions of power. . . As he bickered over the bill with friends--some gay, some straight--in a Greek restaurant by Primrose Hill one Sunday afternoon, it hit Dorian Gray with sickening suddenness . . . All of us childless, Dorian thought, looking about him at the edgy bantering of his social sibling-substitutes. All of us--relatively speaking--rich, all of us unencumbered with any true, organic responsibilitiy. What's it all for?"

And, then, there is the snide voice of Henry Wotton to rebuke him: "You're all completely interchangeable: cocks, arseholes, jeans, brains. That joint you were in last night was like a swap shop at the end of the world, wouldn't you agree?"




Even if you're not interested in a "gay" novel, per se, you're sure to be drawn in by Self's re-telling. It's peopled by characters both straight and gay, curious and compelling, decadent and disastrous. The plotline not only carries the arc of the original, but assumes comedy and wit as it invents contemporary personas in contemporary predicaments. In the end, this is a novel of political description coupled with Self's burning lyricism, a work masterfully driven by the polar twins of our sensual being: beauty and destruction.

. . . . .

25.4.07

SPRING ELIXIR

. . . . .

So this spring I've been afflicted with sleeplessness, allergies, fog in my lungs. I wake up in the middle of the night wheezing like a dark, heavy current through a red coral reef. I used to have terrible times in the desert. The spring desert is actually filled with pollen, night blooming and perilous, practically viral in the air. Spring was a reminder of the crudity of the human body, piped together, leaking around like some paradisiacal accident. Basically I fell apart, but only partially, only enough to know it and to suffer.

Since I've moved to the beach it's been clear. A cure. Sea-elixir. Surprising because everything here grows year round. It's lush and cool enough to maintain wild lilies, roses, palms, lush green paddles, cactus, sunflower, cyclamen, clock vine, marigold, baby's breath, lavender, bromeliad, nasturtiums, poppies, wild thyme, birds of paradise, orchids, succulents, tromp de oro, tulip, agave, purple namas, fern, velvet paws, bougainvillea . . . the list goes on into the winter. . .

Not this spring. This spring is a disaster! But only at night. . . I don't know what to do, really. I pop the pills, try breathing exercises, meditation and all while I hack my brains out, feel my sinuses loading up like two islands floating on my face. What a bitch. Instead I'm up, 2, 3, 4 a.m. frustrated because my classes this semester are earlier than god. Last night read Attila Joszef, one of my secret saints, who cut his throat when he was my age, 32, and wrote nihilism into a beautiful ditch-shine.

"Just like a pile of split wood
the world lies in a heap;
so does each thing push, uphold, keep
every other thing in place,
so that everything is determined.
Only what is not can become a tree,
only what's yet to come can be a flower.
The things that exist fall into pieces."

Joszef wrote in the early part of last century and much of his poetry has a Marxist feel, poetry for the poor who have nothing, who are commanded by the pleasures they cannot have for themselves. . . there's something about this center that feels familiar: isn't this our human state too? to be afflicted by something beyond ourselves, that we wrack and hustle for, to uncertain ends? Isn't the revolutionary always struggling against the very air we breathe? Isn't revolutionary another name for a poet of mortality? . . . But Joszef's is a less philosophical approach, less about ideas than about the life that has to do while time swings off its pendulum.

This morning I walked through campus in a half-shuffle, still a zombie, mad for coffee--I saw myself reflected in the glass building all the way up into the breathspace and couldn't believe it! What old man is that? Coughing, shuffling, bellied, angry? My god! I've become some stuffy academic! All day I refuse this somnabulent version of my life! In the new Poets' & Writers there's an article, "Phd the new MFA"--and I just about cried. All this business of poetry has become part of the capitalist wallpaper that surrounds us. The life of a poet is beginning to sound to me like a commercial.

Thankfully I've my ailment to keep me up late. Thankfully, Friends and Strangers, I've got my secret saint:


TO SIT, TO STAND, TO KILL, TO DIE

To shove this chair away from here,
to squat down in front of a train,
to climb a mountain, with great care,
to empty my knapsack over the vale,
to feed a bee to my old spider,
to take an old crone, and carress her,
to sip bean soup, and eat cake,
to walk on tiptoes in the muck,
to place this hat on the railroad track,
to promenade around the lake,
to lie, all dressed up, in waters deep,
to get a suntan as waves leap,
to bloom among the sunflowers,
to let out at least one good sigh,
to shoo away a single fly,
to dust off a dusty book,
to spit at your mirror, look,
to make peace with all your foes,
to kill them all with a long knife,
to study how their blood flows,
to watch a young girl as she goes,
to sit still, and curl your toes,
to burn down the whole city,
to feed the birds and have pity,
to hurl stale bread to the floor,
to make my good gal cry for more,
to take her little sister in my lap,
and if the world wants reasons,
to run away, not give a crap--
oh you binding and dissolving,
at this moment poem-writing,
laughing, weeping
life of my own deciding!

. . . . .

Poetry, at least, is the outrage of beauty against Nothingness.

Inexplicable. Miraculous. Revolutionary. Our heart's artifact.

Even if our heart is destined to become a bulb of soft, warm mud, washed completely away by a spectacular spring rain:

"Now the peacefulness of seeds lives
in houses, horses, people,
the peacefulness of seeds that goes deep down
where all things are akin, made
of mud, everlasting, soft and warm.

How good it feels to plunge blindly
after all my thrown-away kisses!"

. . . . .

21.4.07

KAZIM ALI: DANGEROUS QUEEN

. . . . .

Friends and Strangers,

here's the account of a too real read, too absurd event that happened this week to a dear friend of mind. If you knew Kazim, you'd find yourself wondering if he were taking part in a re-enactment of some obscure Kafka play. Instead, he's in his real life, and finding our administration's paranoia deeply sinister, as it finds us with its long blind tendrils. We might take a second to think about what's happened to our country's prisoners still being held in Guantanamo Bay, without lawyers, without being told what they're accused of.

Remember the first line (and if you can, the final beautiful, haunting sentence) of Franz Kafka's THE TRIAL:

"Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning."

Friends and Strangers, read on:

POETRY IS DANGEROUS: BY KAZIM ALI

On April 19, after a day of teaching classes at
Shippensburg University, I went out to my car and
grabbed a box of old poetry manuscripts from the front
seat of my little white beetle and carried it across
the street and put it next to the trashcan outside
Wright Hall. The poems were from poetry contests I had
been judging and the box was heavy. I had previously
left my recycling boxes there and they were always
picked up and taken away by the trash department.

A young man from ROTC was watching me as I got into my
car and drove away. I thought he was looking at my car
which has black flower decals and sometimes inspires
strange looks. I later discovered that I, in my dark
skin, am sometimes not even a person to the people who
look at me. Instead, in spite of my peacefulness, my
committed opposition to all aggression and war, I am a
threat by my very existence, a threat just living in
the world as a Muslim body.

Upon my departure, he called the local police
department and told them a man of Middle Eastern
descent driving a heavily decaled white beetle with
out of state plates and no campus parking sticker had
just placed a box next to the trash can. My car has
NY plates, but he got the rest of it wrong. I have two
stickers on my car. One is my highly visible faculty
parking sticker and the other, which I just don’t have
the heart to take off these days, says “Kerry/Edwards:
For a Stronger America.”

Because of my recycling the bomb squad came, the state
police came. Because of my recycling buildings were
evacuated, classes were canceled, campus was closed.
No. Not because of my recycling. Because of my dark
body. No. Not because of my dark body. Because of his
fear. Because of the way he saw me. Because of the
culture of fear, mistrust, hatred, and suspicion that
is carefully cultivated in the media, by the
government, by people who claim to want to keep us
‘safe.’

These are the days of orange alert, school lock-downs,
and endless war. We are preparing for it, training for
it, looking for it, and so of course, in the most
innocuous of places—a professor wanting to hurry home,
hefting his box of discarded poetry—we find it.

That man in the parking lot didn’t even see me. He saw
my darkness. He saw my Middle Eastern descent. Ironic
because though my grandfathers came from Egypt, I am
Indian, a South Asian, and could never be mistaken for
a Middle Eastern man by anyone who’d ever met one.

One of my colleagues was in the gathering crowd,
trying to figure out what had happened. She heard my
description—a Middle Eastern man driving a white
beetle with out of state plates—and knew immediately
they were talking about me and realized that the box
must have been manuscripts I was discarding. She
approached them and told them I was a professor on the
faculty there. Immediately the campus police officer
said, “What country is he from?”

“What country is he from?!” she yelled, indignant.

“Ma’am, you are associated with the suspect. You need
to step away and lower your voice,” he told her.

At some length several of my faculty colleagues were
able to get through to the police and get me on a cell
phone where I explained to the university president
and then to the state police that the box contained
old poetry manuscripts that needed to be recycled. The
police officer told me that in the current climate I
needed to be more careful about how I behaved. “When I
recycle?” I asked.

The university president appreciated my distress about
the situation but denied that the call had anything to
do with my race or ethnic background. The spokesperson
of the university called it an “honest mistake,” not
referring to the young man from ROTC giving in to his
worst instincts and calling the police but referring
to me who made the mistake of being dark-skinned and
putting my recycling next to the trashcan.

The university’s bizarrely minimal statement lets
everyone know that the “suspicious package” beside the
trashcan ended up being, indeed, trash. It goes on to
say, “We appreciate your cooperation during the
incident and remind everyone that safety is a joint
effort by all members of the campus community.”

What does that community mean to me, a person who has
to walk by the ROTC offices every day on my way to my
own office just down the hall—who was watched, noted,
and reported, all in a day’s work? Today we gave in
willingly and whole-heartedly to a culture of fear and
blaming and profiling. It is deemed perfectly
appropriate behavior to spy on one another and police
one another and report on one another. Such behaviors
exist most strongly in closed and undemocratic and
fascist societies.

The university report does not mention the root cause
of the alarm. That package became “suspicious” because
of who was holding it, who put it down, who drove
away. Me.

It was poetry, I kept insisting to the state policeman
who was questioning me on the phone. It was poetry I
was putting out to be recycled.

My body exists politically in a way I can not prevent.
For a moment today, without even knowing it, driving
away from campus in my little beetle, exhausted after
a day of teaching, listening to Justin Timberlake on
the radio, I ceased to be a person when a man I had
never met looked straight through me and saw the
violence in his own heart.

. . . . .

20.4.07

RAIN HALO

. . . . .


I woke up this morning in a cloud. My sleep was still receding like a stone into the bottom of a pond, the planet falling became a seed. . . The birds chipped away at it and then, just before I was fully out of its atomic pull, the sky fell through its middle, torn violently by a purple scar, the scar shocked--disappearing.

I'm captive in my room by the broken cages of the rain, all the pouring of the light into these lucent explosions. A cool electrocution. We need the rain so badly here in Southern California, and I think I need the day to work.

I prefer the stormy prison to the light one. I think of Jean Genet in his childhood prison of Fontevrault, a prison without fences, a blue autumn surrounded by dark hedges that seemed to glow like an evil halo over his life: "A man must dream a long time in order to act with grandeur, and dreaming is nursed in darkness."

I remember another rainstorm early spring, some years ago when I was living in Tempe, AZ, and missed my friend:
a small poem to my friend Cody Lee Cloud:

CLOUD

The rain is soft as script. I can feel it
inside. Opening
the door to the street--it's
a hail of silver stones, even louder,
everlasting--a crisp
apple split apart. Can't you hear me,

Cody? Shouting your name across the Light?
The seeds dark as letters
trailing my fingers with their luminous oil.
Smell the clean world of petals
shocked to bliss by each
little barb of the mirrors! O Spirit,

I taste like pinecone. It hurts to
feel good as a blossom disrobed
but I do
give myself to all
little sumptuous mouths.
I take off my shirt

to search for you. I drink the blue halo of these tears.

. . . . .

18.4.07

WHEN I SPEAK TO YOU MILTOS SACHTOURIS

. . . . .

I am not a tree
I am not a bird
I am not a cloud
the dream rotted in my blood
the dream rotted in my bones
once in the dream I slaughtered a girl
beside a cypress tree
now I stretch out a piece of cloth
and lie down under it

I had loves
I had battles
and I lurked in corners
my nails grew long
my lips grew swollen
my face grew black
I am not a tree
I am not a bird
I am not a cloud

. . . . .

Friends and Strangers, it is spring. The winds here are blue and cold. The nights are clear, raked by stars, wild scything palm fronds, and the scattered glittering edge of our city's constellation. The mountain in the north is black. Underneath the storms of light, it is night. The waves file in, and out, and in. The body is a tide pool filled again with a darkness of faceless things. I haven't slept all week. I crawl on my back and pace the geometric stairs of the eucalyptus tree. A billion doors the size of leaves are green. I accomplish nothing. The money, nervous and black, rabidly adding itself in the mean breeze. Everything nervous is shining in the dark. Blood, leaves, numbers, the young. The mirrors are everywhere and won't reveal a thing. With my cup of coffee I think of you, on your beaches, in your woods, looking at the blue prison of your sky, shrinking into the earth with your own self understanding. I'm a monster, too. I look at myself, and can't believe the indifference of these now silent hands.

. . . . .

16.4.07

BEAUTIFUL GROTESQUE: A new accessory for the UGLY EARRING

. . . . .

Natsuo Kirino's new novel is a brilliant contemplation of the idea of beauty itself. As in Goya's charcoaled atrocities, her book skillfully portrays gruesome human intimacies, offering us the troubling character studies of Japanese school girls turned prostitutes.

The unnamed narrator and older, uglier sister of the mostrous beauty and destructive nymphomaniac Yuriko ("My first man was my father's younger brother Karl") begins the novel:

"Whenever I meet a man, I catch myself wondering what our child would look like if we were to make a baby."

Already we're on the scent of some Freudian destiny like a curse! This is a murder-mystery that is as much an inquiry into the biology of human hatred as it is a contemplation of the sexual-political dynamics for women in our time.

Throughout the novel the relationship of the narrator and her sister Yuriko (half Japanese, half Swiss) paints a portrait of sibling loathing, from childhood jealousies to Yuriko's eventual murder. Where Yuriko embodies the superficial, but socially real superiority of those deemed physically beautiful, our narrator represents an intellectual master who seems to plot all of the figures of the book against one another like chess pieces as she descends into a personal game of emotional disaffection. Here, she deftly explains the dynamics between Kirino's character types:

"Not yet adults ourselves, we sought to protect ourselves from potential wounds by turning the tables on our perceived aggressors and being the ones to launch the attack. But it grew tiresome being a constant target, and those who clung to their injuries were surely not destined to live long. So I worked on refining my maliciousness. . . "

One thing I really loved about the novel was Kirino's marvelous scrutiny of beauty as an ideal that results in an underscored commentary on the relationship between disparate social figures: upper-class politicians, middle-class workers, and the poor turned criminal. In her book, the layer of perception that affects romantic attraction between individuals also affects stereotypes for classes of people who are marginalized, especially prostitutes and illegal immigrants, who may lead unsavory lives, but who are faced with real economic and political struggles. The Chinese convict and murderer Zhang is ironically the only man in the book capable of offering a Japanese woman a real orgasm and the only person in the novel able to inspire real love. In this book, those on the edge of capitalist conformity must struggle with the whimsical fantasies of the inner circle of superficially rich (and symbolically attractive "beautiful people" marked by their wealth and political status) who have determined the hardships of the poor, forcing them into criminal depravity. On the other end of the spectrum is the character Kazue, who might be a feminist so extreme she ruins herself with her own sexual mobility as she transforms into a successful business woman who also prostitutes nightly simply because she can.

Much has already been written about the fact that Kirino's portayal of Japanese life is less than romantic, as it has been recently idealized by the U.S. media with portrayals of ancient refinements and emotional restraint, but what's really astonishing about this book is how her character studies offer us a post-modern but equivalent contemplation of the themes that obsessed Mishima and Nabokov in their era. Each of the girls in this novel pursues a different demon to equally devastating consequences. Kirino's prose is fresh and accessible, and her notion that human desire is itself a curse transforms girlhood into variable greeds of classical descent (sexual, economic, spiritual, political) each of them destructive and vengeful.

Friends and Strangers, Kirino's GROTESQUE is a real tragedy for contemporary audiences, complete with Shakesperean darkness and psychological warfare. This is a book of unexpected but timely Ophelias, returned from the drowning waters, stunningly alive, fully garlanded with opaque but ruinous obsessions, to take their place as major players in the outcome of our troubled kingdom.

If I had the money I'd buy you a copy!

. . . . .

5.4.07

MY BLIND MOTH

. . . . .

Friends and Strangers, working lately to summon my own authenticity, to write from the world when I am that alone--alone enough to find out what intimacy really is when it is a knowing blindness, a knowledge of something beyond this shore of words.

Visiting us kindly from some beautiful half-sleep

What deep light our dark phantoms return

















MOTH

by Paisley Reckdal

Hours after the storm and still I don't know why I'm caught
on my porch before the body of this moth,
big as a plumber's thumb and bullet-shaped,
shoulders covered with fine and surprising fur.
Everything about it, down
to the crossed and modest-seeming legs,
paddle-shaped antennae and the wings
slick as variegated satin
beckons, holds me to it: the eyes
glossy pinheads inside which
thousands of small cells bristle, rimmed with gold,
rimmed mercury and onyx:
a rich multiplicity from which
to no longer see the world.
It is cold and late, I am tired but cannot stop
staring at this shadow growing in my hands,
long as a dog's paw, skin and hair
so articulated as to be rippling in stillness.
The hollowed belly tapers to a bee-sting point
off which only the tiniest gray tuft of hair
bursts, as if the body were incapable of defending itself
through any means other than deception
or pleasure. Which makes
the sudden underwings' tabs of pink
more poignant a discovery,
a shredding of lipstick, silken powdering.
I want to scratch away at it, drag this color
with me, paste its scent onto face and hair
and clothing. I don't know why
I hesitate to bring it into the house,
to prop it on the kitchen table where the light
is better, nudging apart its stiff legs.
I can't stop stroking the wicker hooks growing
out of its face, imagining how a chain
might be threaded through them and the whole thing worn
as a necklace, a charm
for the cats that will soon appear, and then the owls,
more stars and clouds; even for the moon
rolling her stone face up to the black surface.
I'm not afraid of death, Im afraid of all the years
leading up to it. Still, I'll be thinking of this moth
all week, and the weeks after, remembering
how I wanted to kneel before this ancient furred body,
to slip it into my mouth,
savoring the heat of whatever last light
might have killed it.
The moth is frail. It feels like nothing.
And the rain wihdraws its wet cape
slowly from my shoulders as I continue to stand here,
looking and looking at what I won't release,
to watch it shake its ice of walkway dust
and start once more, back to the lamp
on the kitchen porch, to lift again and linger at a source
from which there is no dark.

. . . . .
My photo
I've got one foot in the grave and the other's in my mouth.

Poetry Disclaimer

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.