Saturday, September 26, 2009


"Are we in for a surprise?
The future is like magic. It wears no robes or veils, but arrives naked, tossing its surprises to the right and the left. How does it arrive? It neither comes from ahead nor do we enter it running. This is because it and we can only approach what is always coming toward it and us. There is no possible action or sound that can be made without being received elsewhere, thereby describing and deciding the future which only wears the attributes of something recognized as past.
Is there such a thing as truth objectively speaking? This question curves around and demands that I ask myself why I am asking myself the question in the first place, what good an answer will do for me before I am annihilated. If I am convinced that the story of your life and thought reveals the truth about our condition on this planet, then will I be happier as I proceed? Why else am I asking it?"

-Excerpted from The Winter Sun: Notes on a Vocation, by Fanny Howe

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Real Man: Searching for the Marlboro Man

After the funeral I spoke with a close friend of the Man. Leland June had known the Man since the seventies. He invited me to visit with him in southern Tennessee near the Georgia border. Contrary to popular belief the Marlboro Man lived there near North Potato Creek in a tiny burg called Turtle Town. Leland showed me the man's horse, Toby. Toby is a miniature horse, probably four and a half feet tall. The Man suffered from sciatica in later life and could no longer mount his "prop" horses in the ads. Leland told me that the Man liked to ride around on Toby in the backyard roping goats. What came as a shock to me was Leland's disclosure that the Man's funeral contained an empty coffin. Apparently he had been cremated with the express idea that his friends would smoke him once or twice a year. The Man thought it would be a good reminder to all about what went wrong with America and smokes. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to smoke the Man that afternoon with Leland June. June mixed some of the ash with some Bull Durham and rolled us a smoke. It was a powerful experience. As I stood there inhaling the Man I noticed that I could not get my head out of profile for a good fifteen minutes. "He was something," Leland said. "Not was, is," I corrected. For the rest of the day Leland walked around shaking his head, repeating the words "is" and "was", chuckling to himself.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


"Women watching children, Heidelberg, August 1954"
Let's back up a little bit to "The Catholic activist Dorothy
Day and children, 1950's." These are photographs. Black
and white. Earlier in the day I confuse Doris Day with
Dorothy in a conversation about service versus dogma.
Now I am in a books store where the Day photograph
trots toward me from a book I open, called Our World.
In a moment I hear the Beatles sing "hey bulldog." And I
am reminded of a blog a friend in Germany wrote with
that title. The pages flip and "Women watching children,
Heidelberg , August 1954" is staring at me. Who will
recognize the oddness, the tiny swirl of convergence,
the idea that something like this has landed on a flower,
hesitated in its own busyness, and then gone on?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Funeral for the Marlboro Man

There were 5 of us at the funeral for the Man. George Peppard was gone. So was the Duke. We had brought the Man’s horse, black, 1/4, 19 hands or so, name of Tar Baby. A beauty. There weren’t much to say. We brung our’n animals too. As a sign of respect our work gloves covered their ears. Numbers was everywhere there. How many packsaday, 2nd hand this, 3rd hand that. Goddam first hand nuthin’. Tar counts. Damn. Some folks with orchestra instruments was playin’ The Magnificent 7. So they lowered the Man and the band perked up the horse’s ears a bit. The tawny gloves wavin’. All 5 of us with zippos a-clickin, the light flashing off that silver. That was it. Shit.

I wrote this in response to SarahJane's story on her blog called Death of the Marlboro Man. If you haven't read it you should. It would make Donald Barthelme smile.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Hair loss

So I spontaneously decided to get my hair cut. I pulled in to a hair place not far from where I live. I did this because if I just ponder getting a cut, my hair will quickly shampoo itself and even start whistling. There is also this inversely proportional thing where the closer I get to the cutting chair the less I know what I want. But I can always tell if the stylist knows what I want even though I don't know. If he/she looks at me in the mirror while holding my hair I feel fine. But if she only looks at my hair, I am worried. It's a holistic thing.
Putting your hair in the hands of a complete stranger is either complete idiocy or pie in the sky oblivion. Factor in an occasional low flying hornet emerging from the duct work and a record for comb drops-6. You are headed for a white knuckle carnival ride. She did just fine with the scissors. But the clippers became an experiment in terror, as she dipped from side to side, chipping away from all angles. It reminded me of the way I eat a pie when left alone with it for a day. Small slivers dedicated to this idea or that desire. A christening, manifest destiny, or eminent domain. One by one they are necessary until the entire apple rhubarb pie is gone. In the end my head looked like the empty pie pan. Partly shiny through the crumbs.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Millard Fillmore, the Man.

Let us now turn to the life of Millard Fillmore, last of the Whigs, major player in the secretive, Know Nothing movement, and strongly aligned with the Anti-Masonic movement. H.L. Mencken spread the myth that Fillmore installed the first bath tub in the White House. This is false and a lie. Actually Fillmore installed the first dumb waiter in the White House by retro-fitting an existing clothes chute. As a member of the Whigs Fillmore enjoyed the spell and tutelage of the Whig's boss and power broker, Thurlow Weed. It would be a short life for me if I awoke to find this name assigned to me. Weed wielded enough power to bend the will of the Whigs to his whims. Way too much alliteration. The Whigs are remembered for very little. That was so long ago. On the other had, the Know Nothing movement has a legacy that flourishes to this day. This secretive Anti- Irish immigrant movement, invented slogans printed on clothing. The first slogan on a shirt was created in 1847, emblazoned on night shirts, primarily in the Buffalo, NY, area. It read on the front,"I know nothing but my Country, my whole Country, and nothing but my Country." On the back it read, "So help me God." But we digress. Fillmore's greatest accomplishment was his defusing of a major war with Peru. Fillmore smoothed over a disagreement with the Peruvians, and tucked in the sheets. This then is all we care to know of Millard Fillmore. Father, husband, Peruvian peacemaker, dumb waiter maker, Know Nothing, and member of a secret movement that opposed another secret movement. The 13th President of the United States to have never been elected President of the United States.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

To be a Chinese Citizen

Last night I was eating at restaurant with my friend Doug. Our waitress was an young Asian woman. We tried to guess her nationality. Thai, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese? We settled on Korean after a lengthy process of elimination. So we asked. Hong Kong Chinese. She then launched into a long explanation of the traits and differences. Interesting. Indo versus mainland. We got on the subject of her citizenship and she described the test. Mulitple choice questions like "who was the 13th president of the United States," what was the color of the uniforms of the North and South in the Civil War," and "what do the fifty stars represent on the American flag." I had no idea who the 13th was. I started counting and naming. Not sure. To my surprise she said that in China all you needed was a background check. No test. Then she laughed and said, "imagine if you had to know 5000 years of history and dynasties to become a Chinese citizen." We decided the citizenship test was pretty lame. Probably dated back to the days when the American gov't considered most foreigners inferior. One of the side effects of jingoism.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Pattern Recognition

Discreet music rising from a toaster.
A large blue rubber band on a cold deck, unemployed.
The bending of folding chairs in the morning light.
The wet glass table drying in a crowd of trees, the
twenty inch fingerprint found in the glass.
Breath near my ear and the soft falling
of warm animals on the periphery.
A group of candles, relaxing between burnings,
idly chatting, looking toward the mountain.
The purr of the furnace, answering Fall's phone call.
Twin bamboo doing their little green yoga
just beyond my shutter speed.
Winesaps curled in a clear bag,
dreaming of becoming me.
Salt and pepper, always ready...
Buttering all this discreetness
with the knife of my ear.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

A Parent Up Each Sleeve

We have a parent up each sleeve.
Maybe a mother up the right,
a father the left.
It wasn't always that way.
We chose. Dominate hand,
dominate parent, or
When my arms are crossed,
my mother rests under my left armpit,
my father, the right.
It feels like they are lying
across each other after
sex. It's a comfortable position
for me. When I point with
my finger it could be my mother's
instruction. Or my father's command.
I can feel the length of her, beckoning,
in that finger, while other times he is
bulky, emphatic. When I put my arm
around you it is my mother, like a
fish, curling, wavering softly. And
when the other arm is extended it
holds gunpowder. It can be discharged
if I hold it steady. When my hands come
together, they touch with the realization
that the two of them found time to be
together. When my mother hand is
holding my chin it soothes. My father
hand holds tightly the same chin, pulling
at my lip, directing my mouth. My face
can not smile with my father's hand.
When I shake hands with you my
mother is there. I hold her like a gift
for you. On the other hand my father
holds a small book of cautionary tales.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

A Wind Disorder

My back is pressing against a
stone wall, low and crusted like
bread. Occasionally I rise up,
my hair moves about, I smell horses
off in the distance. They will ride
through me long before I will
ever mount them. But now I look
again. The tall grass is moving.
there were no horses, only this
pale wavering, the wind. There is
no saddle for the wind; if anything,
I am that saddle, gritting my
leathery teeth. I wait here for
the shifting weight of a rider:
As light as the weather, cotton,
as heavy as a thought seems, wool.
There I am now, moving across
the lumpy pasture, the wall
the light, noticeably clearer.

Hanuman Is

Note: This is the 5th of five interconnected tales of Hanuman. To read them from the beginning chronologically start with Hanuman In Love, Hanuman Loves, Hanuman Leaps, Hanuman Returns, & Hanuman Is. In that order.

The sun stood behind a soft gray door. I crouched in the dusty rocker, squinting. The leaves around me reminded me of the sunset. The brown ones had gone down. It was like night had come. Others had fallen, showing me such beauty, their light changing. I listened intently to them falling. Sighs and murmurs. Once in another time I commanded them to stop. "Please don't lose what you have shown me," I pleaded. I did not want the brittle brown stillness. But now the sky was coming once again. And the wind reminded me as it tugged at the colors. I held a piece of the tree in my hand, a tiny palette.I touched my finger to the leaf and streaked my face with the colors: orange, yellow, a burning red, some blue down my nose, some purple across my brow. "I will let this color remind me," I thought. Then I remembered Rama's hand on my shoulder. And his voice telling me that how you see is like a squirrel curled sleeping in a tree, waiting for you to look, to awaken it. "The world starts that way," he said. "What is this power that I have?" I remembered thinking. He smiled. "It is not yours. It is not something you can ever know." In Rama's face I saw the same colors I had on my face now. It was the same. This then was my lineage. Through this leaf into Rama's face and back into mine. Who was looking at this leaf? Maybe it was Rama in the temple. Maybe it is the wind now moving in me here in the rocking chair. Maybe it is the falling sense of the colors that are filling me. Maybe it is the rattling sound of the leaves above. I lean forward. I cannot find that sound. Through the trees the mountain is growing in me. It pops out through the top of my head, perched there like a cap. It too carries all the colors. And it warms me in the cool air...

Hanuman Returns

"Where am I?" I wonder. The rain is falling, landing softly on my cap, darkening the saffron to blood. The warmth comes out of me like smoke. The glass door shows me where I sit along the rail, the sharp mountain at my back. Like a ghost she moves silently through this picture. I sniff. I know the glass holds something that is not real. But what is real? I glance down into the wet pattering ravine. There was a crossing, I remember, but there was no far shore. When I reached shore I recognized my own footprints there in the sand. It did not confuse me, this immersion in her desire. Only a knowing was left. Distance was just the color of the water, darkwood. I hop down onto the slick deck floor and touch the glass. I let my fingers pass through the cold clear surface. I know it is an illusion and like all tricks it can not block me. I hesitate there, my knuckles through the door. Slowly the feeling comes over me like a warm wool shawl. She must come to me. I pull my hand back and hop onto the gray rail again. All around me is this space, her space. This is why I returned. This is what I brought back. In the darkness, I lean forward, looking down. Water drips like diamonds from my hat. "Her desire is my desire." My eyes are closing.

Hanuman Leaps

There was a chill in the air. The blue of the sky touched the crown of my head. I leaned in, the right angle of the frame supporting me. She sat in a chair across the room with her legs pulled up against her, a pillow. I watched her breathe fro a few minutes. It reminded me of the velvet ocean, purple in the dying sun, the waves rolling in quietly, long dark scrolls. I hopped down and crossed the room quietly. When I reached her form, so tightly bound, I gently undid her arms. They fell like the ends of a white sash. Her bent legs were like two pieces of firewood. I parted them and she looked into my face. I cocked my head and removed my cap. She leaned toward me but I turned my head to the side and touched her heart with my ear. She pulled back the violet veil. The song I heard had its own gentle face. Not a funeral dirge, but not yet a celebration. The two feelings rose together, death and awakening's smoke, rising from the same fire. I wanted to sing, to fall silent, to weep, yet laugh. I tipped my head back a bit and looked up into her face. I felt myself growing thin, no flat. Not flat either. I was half in her, the warmth and darkness on my right side, the room and sounds on my left. I felt a line, subtle but indelible, running down my forehead, from my crown, through my ajna, splitting my nose, my mouth, my chin, my throat, traveling down to my seat. But my heart was not split and I knew. I leaned back out of her and dropped to the floor. I placed my cap there. It began to glow, a burnt orange hue. I removed my ten silver rings from my toes and formed a circle with them around my cap. This is my form, I thought, from my crown to my toes. Now I was moving toward her again. I ate that proximity until I was resting on her shore. With one last exhalation, I dove into her, swimming out into her darkness, under the moon and the stars.

Hanuman Loves

I am smoking a cigarette from a small red package I found near the greening deck. The other so like her is smoking it with me. She taught me this wonderful thing, a way to let fire become part of me. I toss the purple balloon up. It bounces off my head. She leans forward and tickles my nose with a jay feather. I want to touch her hand but she leans back into the pussywillows, exhaling. I look at her intently. I know this one and yet I don't.
"I wrote these words." The pieces of paper rustle in her hands. I did not know that. I had reached for them in the wind. They felt like comfort. The deck is quiet. Over my shoulder the mountain sleeps. I feel the earthy brown cat nearby. She presses a leaf against her cheek.
"Why do you do this? I don't understand."
My little cap is curled in my hand. It reminds me of a banana. I still feel the bump on my head where the bar of eucalyptus soap struck me last night. Last night. This one knows. This one heard. I glance over at the deck, glowing like a diamond runway.
I remembered the blue cat's words. Unlike him, I was noticed. A torrent of questions and accusations ensued. I could only look down at my silver ringed toes. The same blue energy that was there when she fell from the horse, when she waded in after that one so like her, that same energy was there in the room with the dark couch. Were it not for the thrown soap, word sounds surely would have come stronger than ever. Instead I retreated to the dark corner by the tall furniture, hunkered down, my eyes glowing, blinking. I noticed my cap there on the floor by her foot. A sadness crossed me. But it was just a breeze, passing through. There was a coolness about it. It offered me relief and I took it. I slept there and in the morning she moved about with the coffee and the cats while I waited. Such a night. She cried my name there as I hopped through the sill.
I look up, the deck is in shadow. This one's face is turned toward the bluing mountain. I see her eastern side but it does not overwhelm me. It is bright , but like the moon and the stars. She is turning and now I see the fullness of her. My head cranes forward.
"She is doing to you what all infants do to their mothers--she wants to possess you and yet she will try to destroy you with her anger. Are you offering her another chance now? If she can stay there with you her anger will eventually turn to compassion, won't it?"
My head is still sore but my heart jumps with me to the top of the broken gray wall. I look down on her mother. And bow my head.

Hanuman in Love

I need a fix. I'm squatting in the sunlight eating a peach. Now I'm up on the table moving papers around. I've watched her always, today from atop a broken wall. One day she left some rain on her deck. It smelled of lilacs and sandalwood. I wore that rain until it no longer fit. Another time an apple core, a bit of rice cake that smelled of peanut butter. These I fashioned with a few sassafras leaves into a necklace. I'm fingering it now. In the early evening I can crouch undetected by her sill while she weeps. My head is cocked to the side, intent. Sorrow. Sorrow I know. Sorrow I can handle. And I'm fine with her western face looking out at the mountain. It's her eastern face that scares me. Once when she was a child and fell from a horse I came running. She lay upon her left side. And when I saw the sun, the beauty of her eastern face, I began to rise up onto two legs and I heard words tumbling from my mouth. "I love you so!" I quickly covered my mouth with my saffron cap and dropped to all fours. I stayed in her shadow that day, shaken. I had never uttered a word sound. Still later I would drop down between she and the others. When the others were there it was as if a tide was coming in and then going out because the moon said it must. I trusted the moon over my left shoulder and when the tide was going out I would stand behind her and raise her arm toward the mountain. Once, with an other so like her, she began to wade in as that tide went out. I could feel her being pulled out. I went in after her and lifted her arm, not to the mountain, but to that other so like her. Their hands touched and joined. That other did not go out with the tide. She is with her still, in a special place I made from leaves, a spider web, some pussywillow branches, a few bird feathers, blowing paper, two old books, a lost balloon, and her love.
She has a blue cat and another I have not seen. Yesterday I motioned the blue cat over to me:
"She doesn't notice me when she's like this."
The blue cat discouraged me.
And so I dismissed the blue cat. It didn't matter. I knew where I could find her. The night was a long black couch. I sat on its arm looking down at her. She lay there murmuring, shifting. Oddly her body lay in a familiar pose. I saw the tip of something. There by her neck. I gently tugged. Out came a bright yellow bus, the wheels still spinning. A toy school bus. I moved it to the night stand where I could admire it. Shiny things always hold my attention. The details were wonderful. There was a photograph of her that leaned against the tiny steering wheel. Pictures of kids were propped here and there through the bus. But I redirected my attention to the task at hand. I slowly stepped down into the bus space, immersing myself in the dark water. I'm not much for baths but when you're in love you have no choice. Oh, I so long to see her. But I know I will compromise myself if I do. And compromise is like a wound that will not heal. High above me her clothes hang down, reminding me of the billowing drapes in the temple. Sandalwood again. And I remember:
I am Hanuman. I reside here in this gap between your self and other, satisfaction and fulfillment. I bring you safe passage inspite of my desire.
The little toy bus shines in the moonlight there on the night stand. I lower my head in repose...

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Recipe for the Desire for Completion

Add two cups of water to a small sauce pan.
Bring to a boil. Continue to boil off water
Until pan is empty.
Serves two.