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.



Early November's a good month for painting your guitar like a bullfighter's suit of lights, black as the night sky littered with constellations. Throw in a few beheaded marigolds, a human heart pierced with a sword, a white rose laughing like a skull's head, and a rooster scratching a bit of fire into the dirt. Throw in a paletero like a blonde christ with wet wounds in his hands.  Throw in the virgin wearing her headress of knives and bare tits and opened arms. You could be painting the velvet interior of my cousin's lowrider Impala, or the tattoo across his back. Let's write it in Old English, Vivir Mata.

Something about the new cold taste in the air. My Day of the Dead. And here comes Lila Downs' weeping singing in the lower register about a bolt of lightning that withdraws like a lover's betrayal:

quiero a dios a ti te pagen / con una traicion igual 

para cuando t'emborraches / tu sepas lo que's llorar

songs on days like this have taught me / sorrow in revenge is true

love, or maybe it's all the badgood / telenovelas of my childhood.

. . . . . . .

"Who knew chopped bone could sing?"

It's a perfect day to re-read Rigoberto Gonzalez' new book of poems from Four Way Books: Black Blossoms. His interests remain romantic and grotesque, the fable that is not so much elegy as it is the song of the flowering undead visitations of memory, memory that rises "like lavendar, the fierce blossoming of beauty and mortality."

I still have my zombie fetish left-over from October, in case you couldn't tell.

The first thing you'll notice about this book is how carefully crafted it is. Each poem asserts a rhetorical force in its chosen form: poems of strict stanzas in tercets or couplets or quatrains. Also the recurrence of the sonnet. I can't help but remember Frost's complaint that free verse is like playing tennis without a net and Gonzalez' web here is built into the book itself. In four sections and 62 pages it's a focused read that offers the reader space to really appreciate the work. The third section is a single long poem, "Vespertine", and I love the weight of it there on its own, this elegy for a dead friend whose memory returns to the author while he's driving: "simple mercies / love silence though the engine / has its own sordid tale".  The "tale" is of utmost importance to this poet, who never misses a chance to remember real experience into a kind of Grimm's fireside fable. But Gonzalez's fables are not tales of morality. They appear and revel in that horizon in which Eternal Enemies, as Adam Zagajewski has called them,  get married. Love and Time play dead together.

It's the locomotion of Gonzalez' imagination in these poems that's so attractive, the dead have new lives spilling out of his enjambments, and they come back with all of the gruesome wreckage of their bodies, hopes, demons, their sense of humor, their lusts and dreams. The first section is a gathering of dramatic monologues or ekphrastic poems, the second a sequence of sonnets "Frida's Wound" and the final section a sequence of "Mortician" poems, a character reminiscent of say, Komunyakaa's Thorn Merchant, or  Vasko Popa's The Little Box or Zbigniew Herbert's Mr. Cogito.  What we find in each poem is the fact of Gonzalez' imagination peeling outward in re-creation. Metaphor in his poems is a doorway to the life of a fable, and the black flower is an inverted meditation on death as life. Death, Gonzalez reminds us, is something the living do.

. . . . . . . .

Flor de Fuego, Flor de Muerte

            Los Angeles

            Cempoalxochitl. Marigold. Flower,
the scent of cold knuckle delights you, as does

            the answer to death's riddles:
What's the girth of the hermit tongue once it retreats

            into the throat and settles like a teabag?
What complaints do feet make when they tire of pointing

            up and fold flat like a fan of poker cards?
Where do the dead hide the humor of the ass crack

            when the buttocks unstring their fat?
When you sprung into the earth, all other colors coughed

            and gave you the gift of sick-bed
sullenness and the contagious texture of tragedy:

            Once there was a widow who exchanged
her heart for your head, but you outgrew her body,

            protruding from her chest like an unsightly tumor.
Despite that she carried you, cradling you in her hand

             during mass, a solace in the memory
of her husband's scrotum. If she heard a hymn

             in your petals it was the sound
of trousers unzipping. If she could name the smell inside

             the folds of your corolla,
she kept the word wet against her tongue. The widow

             held you tighter then. So you stung her
palm in protest and then crumbled when she flung you

             like a shooting star--
all awesome arc and damned glory of evisceration.

             To pay her back you pierced the shivering
heart she balanced on your stem. You loved her

             all over again because she turned
yellow with death, because she was like you,

             something dry to come undone
in pieces in the pitted ground. Flor de muerto, flor de fuego,

             you humble down life
to the last ember. Even the phoenix tired of sewing

             its bird bones together
and couldn't outlive you, oh mortality muse, oh end.

                                                                               for Maythee Rojas

. . . . . . . . .

I've got the book under my pillow like ripped starlight under a stone.

Friends and Strangers, steal it if you can.

. . . . . . . . .



It's a pale shield that stabs and shakes out of the dark moment of a tree. All the shrubs and armaments open in the rain and shudder. Little kings in the dull monotony of the rain. Limelight on the Glass. The moon is green. From what other galaxy.

I don't know why the rain brings me here. I love the bruised sky. The hysterical vanishing, and from the black streets a kind of dawn. The constellations in the grass are made of broken brittle glasslike mercury.

Listening to songs that sound like the names of flowers: Sweet Louise, Princess of China, The Sun Will Rise. Folksy fingered guitar-strummed stereo-licks. Loud. Roughly Petaled.

Norman Dubie's latest book The Volcano from Copper Canyon. I haven't yet read a review of his recent work that says anything I care to repeat--no one knows how to talk about his work. They talk up his intelligence, his historical gravitas, his visionary detail. What I love about his new book is his sense of fucking humor! The human being lit up by a bit of starlight is monstrously funny. He's intense and playful, and like a monk of something sublime, he knows the instant is to flash and perish, and we flash and perish to know it.

. . . . . . . .

It's November but it feels like Spring.

Poetry is a funny king.

. . . . . . .

"The Song of the Strangelet"

The sailors are proper envoys
to a picnic table, hard-
boiled eggs
rotating in a field of salt--
chrysanthemum petals
like a discharge in the trees
and the abduction in the evening,
whole stadia of magnets
showing teeth. Two swiss
playing basketball
with rifles and cigarettes.
The algorithm in an open field
abducted by a romance of wheelbarrows--
science like all superstition
fondles the grim ignorance
that is chance, chance
of course is the teakettle
waking father by the fire
that could be a particle accelerator
liberating its first ghost,
a machinist extrovert
standing at the end
of a lensing
twelve thousand galaxies in width--
he waves at the youngest of sailors
who shows
him the middling digit of proverb's three,
our very ether
ruptured by it. Who could
eat at Joe's
                  after this?

. . . . . . . .

I stole it, and I liked it

and I liked the secret hold of it

. . . . . . . .

The ragged white roses
grinning wet

and faceless in the growing darkness
have skeletal poses

on the corner of Olive and Fountain Boulevards

. . . . . . .

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.