Cherry Trees in City Park in Spring

031920152271It was such a perfect day in the park. You might have been reminded of the Lou Reed song “Perfect Day.” The cherry trees were drinking sangria:

Oh, it’s such a perfect day
I’m glad I spent it with you
Oh, such a perfect day
You just keep me hanging on

The second person is often tricky. “Who is you?” the cherry trees sang above the fresh open water of the reservoir.

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9 KJV). But the world will likely not end with a moral but with a song of thirst. “Do you think your cherry blossoms will sink or swim?”


“The depths below the surfaces must be equal.”

Joyce uses the word cherry only three times in “Ulysses,” and he may have thought of cherry as a word that triggers a genre, of sangria fruit and not the white wine of the cherry blossoms:

Did you try the borax with the cherry laurel water?…
always with a laugh in her gipsylike eyes and a frolicsome word on her cherryripe red lips…
she of the cherry rouge and coiffeuse white…

Cherry TreeSit down on the grass and listen. You can hear the water flowing out of the ground pipe and into the reservoir, the waterfall fountain breaking the still blue water white and frothy like surf. Like John Cage, wherever Joyce listened, he heard music:

O, look we are so! Chamber music. Could make a kind of pun on that. It is a kind of music I often thought when she. Acoustics that is. Tinkling. Empty vessels make most noise. Because the acoustics, the resonance changes according as the weight of the water is equal to the law of falling water.

The breeze coming up the hill and over the water was blowing the blossoms off the trees and into the air. If you look closely at the left hand side of the photo below, you will see the blossoms in the air, as dry as your virtual kiss:


Long after Sappho

…forgot herself

that he would be like a princess
blessed across from you
blossomed lips
a breath away,

your laugh leaves
me cold with doubt
still your kindnesses
pink and blue flowers,

long after this dormant grass
past the fires and all the dead
batteries burnt matches
library books soot lathed,

long ago the last picture
show the last ’56 Chevy
out of the drive-in
absurd theatre

audience hammering home,
long after the rearmost look
will we remember
the kisses blown

from open hands
and flippant wrists
dissipating smoke rings
the papyrus of your skin

upon which critics crawled
to carve their handles
to try to lift you back
oomph circling overhead.

What is Hidden: “A Shadow in Yucatan,” by Philippa Rees

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Work often conceals as much as it reveals. This is true whether the work is made by the corporation, at the construction site, in the art studio, or on the page, in writing. The metaphor is the great human hiding place. The poet stores nuts in poems buried in clay pots. Reading is an anthropological dig. A writer often spends as much time working on what to cut or shut out as what to include, to hold within. Readers are seduced by hidden artifacts, by craft and handiwork, also through secrets, gossip, whispers, and shadows. Can the writer trust the reader? Can the reader trust the writer? Writers have the advantage, since they can hide behind the narrator, while the narrator may hide within the story. The narrator may provide a voice-over. There may be other voices.

“A Shadow in Yucatan,” by Philippa Rees, begins with a secret that Stephanie, the protagonist, won’t be able to keep for long. She lives in Florida, calls her mother in Brooklyn, and explains her predicament, asking for help. Abortion is an existential question for the community, but it comes down to an existential question for two, Stephanie and her child. The theme of shame falls with its wet curtain, but Stephanie transcends the community’s efforts to use shame to control her decision. Who or what is the antagonist?

The writing in “A Shadow in Yucatan” is experimental and mesmerizing, experimental because it wrestles simultaneously with both what should be told, when, what kept hidden, and how the story should be told, mesmerizing because the language seems to have been distilled, its poetic form and novella length (divided into two parts and 21 chapters over 109 pages illustrated with 31 black and white photographs) resulting in a potent mixture of page turning pleasure. This is a book the reader falls into. I read the hard copy, having started with an e-edition, and the reading experience is simply different with the hard copy, more satisfying, both the text and the photographs, though there are of course the advantages of e-editions to readers who prefer them. But somehow, with the hard copy in hand, I could better hear the cadence and symmetry of the sentence structure, see the overall layout of the short chapters, hear the strategy of different voices, understand the purpose of the use of italics throughout, appreciate the fall of the black and white photographs, almost all suggesting something hidden as much as something shown.

Stephanie works in a beauty salon, where her story opens and closes in the symmetry of everyday conversation infused with irony; everyone seems to know something someone else does not, but all the knowing is connected. And of course a beauty salon is where people go to prepare a hidden course of action, to prepare hair and face and nails to improve circulation in the community. The tones of sarcasm and irony that shade Part One give way to a slight risk of sentimentalism in Part Two that is quickly washed away by inflexible socio-economic demographic persistence, where the demographic form is the child’s story, a nursery rhyme, told with the cadence of a lullaby interrupted by an inscrutable language only those properly initiated comprehend. Stephanie is a member of several communities throughout the book, and the nonjudgmental Miriam is something of a “smithy” of an angel.

I very much enjoyed reading this patiently crafted book. The form and content (the how and what) are perfectly blended. The writing is clear and concise, the diction carefully wrought, the sentence structure always varied and interesting, the dialog compelling, the text artistically cast and purposefully divided to invite reading. The dominant impression is of a sculpture, because what could have been a huge novel has been pared down to its essential shape, but the novel is still there, at once exposed and hidden.

“A Shadow in Yucatan,” a novella by Philippa Rees, Cover Design by Philippa Rees and Ana Grigoriu, Book Interior by Philippa Rees, First Print Edition 2006. Collabor Art Books.

Note: The slide show at the top of this post contains photos from my collection. These photos are not connected to Philippa’s book except through the theme of something hidden.

Casual Theory of Causality

Why pink asks blue whenGarlic at Gilroy
roused whose wheeze
where past just falls
fails new any to augur

When rash throws think
unfolds, unwraps, uncoils
relax what jeers
who held and

Wooden Clappers

Don’t let go of drop
though darkness rooms
and voices blink three
coins in a phone booth

At gas stop stuffed
outside Gilroy near
garlic beer and clown
juggling artichokes

Carriage trails from Castroville.

Anti-anti-anti: The Deviancy of Poetry

Pocket Poet BooksThe most deviant of poets stops writing poetry, like Rimbaud, or tries to change the game, like Nicanor Parra, whose “Anti-poems” must contain the seeds of their own destruction. If poetry is already anti-language, what is an anti-poem? Deviant < Latin: “a turning out of the way.” To turn away from, as great musicians may turn away from their instruments once they feel the deviancy they introduced has been assimilated. What is assimilated is no longer anti-anything, doesn’t sound new anymore, or has become such a part of the din it has lost its resonance.

Another David Biespiel argument afoot, stirring up a postmodern poetry desert storm, right around Dylan’s 30 minute MusiCares Person of the Year acceptance speech, in which Bob explains to his critics how some do it and others may not. “But you’d better hurry up and choose which of those links you want before they all disappear.”

Poets see something the rest of us may see but call it something else. This is deviant behavior, the web of a spider on hallucinogens, but why must it also be someone’s head aflame in the fall?

We might look forward to an anti-essay, an anti-novel, an anti-comics. The ultimate anti-work can’t be read by anyone, including its author. It’s born a mystery.

Intro. to Fragments: Journals claiming they are open to all forms of poetry, but follow with, but make sure you read us to see that you fit. Fit what? Can’t deviate from deviancy, what use is it? Well, but as a group, deviating from all this other stuff. What other stuff? Other forms? Other voices, other rooms. What room? You know, the one “where the women come and go, Talking of Michelangelo.”

In grammar school, the Sisters of Mercy taught us to syllabicate antidisestablishmentarianism. At the time, we thought it the longest word in English, and we learned to say it, touch it, feel it, but no one knew what it meant. There was no Wiki where we could look it up. On a dare, Laurel Hurst stole a glance at Sister Maryquill’s desktop dictionary. He returned, his knuckles raw from a ruler, and rumored it all came down to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. By high school, Laurel would become an anti-disestablishmentprotestpoet, haunted by the postmodern “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” Deluxe words. I’ll take a chocolate malt, fries in a basket, and a cheesepoem deluxe.

Since a reasonable reader’s expectation or assumption is that any given poem may confound, confuse, or obfuscate, referencing some arcane or esoteric or privileged knowledge or experience about how words or ideas work, any given poem that does not do these things might look like anti-fit to a poetry critic, but will it be an anti-poem? What would an anti-poem look like? A poem that aspires to middle class respectability will like water seek its own level. Poetry needs the middle class, but the middle class does not need poetry. If it did, we’d see Poetry next to People at the drugstore checkout stand. But we get our poetry where we find it: Fishwrap.

What would an anti-essay read like? What would an anti-photograph look like? Or an anti-speech sound like? Is the anti-form always mistaken for satire or cartoon? Aesthetic standards of the neighborhood. The propaganda of advertising. Deceitful come-ons. Pathos. What’s the point of saying something virtually everyone will agree with? Those churches are empty most of the time. Who moved my assumption?

Consider Queen Mob’s TeaHouse, where you can read movie reviews by reviewers who have not seen the movie; this is theory uncrated from the academy, both feet off the ground. Alt, alt, mea maxima alt. Eliot: “…like a patient etherized….” Toto, I don’t think we’re in the Victorian Age anymore. Irony, satire, and sarcasm tools of the modernist trade. What’s the difference between an idea and ideology?

Biespiel in his post-rant and Dylan in his address are saying something similar when it comes to a moral evaluation of the use of language as art. Dylan sums it up with the quote he references from Sam Cooke:

“Sam Cooke [Dylan said] said this when told he had a beautiful voice: He said, ‘Well that’s very kind of you, but voices ought not to be measured by how pretty they are. Instead they matter only if they convince you that they are telling the truth.’ Think about that the next time you [inaudible].”

300 Lines from a Walk on the Beach

Manhattan Pier

300 This our endus now loops our open
299 Fall far below, leap over, gambol
298 Careful of grinning Grendels
297 Trolling erasures, elite elides, slow spindles
296 Check under bed and closet before sleep
295 Fear not these claw dark deep
294 Divertissements that ballet
293 Like games of crooked croquet
292 Changing rules as quickly as played
291 Which wicked witch of them
290 Twisted the meme of please
289 Sordid sorcerers in putrid pits
288 Filling upside-down mouths with salt
287 Redacted and redressed in uniform
286 Theatre ushers marching down aisles
285 Espousing enhanced punctum bias
284 Punctuated torts by loco pilot ghost lamp
283 Misfortune’s cunning smile
282 Chained he was to a thorny bush
281 A fire which would not burn
280 In a land of milk and honey tubas and butter
279 Stirred with dollar tallboys
278 Who did a good job revising until all
277 Edited for good PR
276 Like Torquemada the Grand Inquisitor
275 Asking greedy questions no answers satisfy
274 An open hand flat smacks a desk
273 With a question
272 Yes of course it’s why we’re all here
271 About these numbers
270 Each line coded
269 Beginning with 300
268 Moving backwards down to 1
267 To make suspect the lines trouble
266 Can be read up or down vertically
265 Top to bottom or upside-down
264 Or begin on any line in touch
263 Lag a coin upon a line
262 Hopscotch up and down
261 Any pause-positional phrase
260 Allows tracking and trending
259 Where each line presents
258 Measured headway phrenological proof
257 Human nature has not improved
256 In spite of pills and e-gizmo devices
255 Echoing down our hours
254 Speaking of numbers and rhymes
253 He said he was not a party to wit
252 He’d seen better times
251 He danced he sang he twisted
250 In bed pan pain
249 He’ll tell you another thing
248 About this throb and swing
247 How machines must go on clicking
246 Up or down
245 Just so no one falls too fast
244 Goes with subjects trending
243 Each line then fixed
242 In time by dovetail coordinate
241 Number rhyme logos pathos and ethos
240 So readers can shuttle and bounce
239 In and out of these digressions
238 Where we were when were we
237 Oh, yes, Line 275, Q&A
236 About to address
235 Rebuttals, opposing viewpoints
234 Handles in the hold of winter argument
233 Sick of scald cold move quick to summer
232 Surf seen from silence of dunes
231 Where two true blue lovers walk
230 The ice plant garden full
229 Soft flutters, breeze of roses
228 Red petals dropping into sea
227 With flop swish white waves wash
226 Through the quiet blue dunes
225 Where plum flowers float in the air
224 Drizzle down aswoon in color
223 Brimming on curly burled branches
222 Wilting immortally
221 Into plum flower dew
220 Booming shore pound in the distance
219 While in the backyard chess games play
218 And Gnip gnop, gnip gnop, gnip gnop and
217 Baseball, sitting quietly talking
216 The father, Cactus, poking
215 The mother, Twisted Cypress Shadow,
214 Alone on a hill in sensational California
213 The sun cooling off behind them
212 Tendril circles grape the overgrown yard
211 Where kids run to tatters
210 Breezes sprinkle Muscat dust
209 Arms and legs
208 Light up like firecrackers
207 Off they go! Off they go! Off they go!
206 Around and then and than this and that
205 When they stop no one will know
204 The kids dance until the moon glow
203 Soothes their sunburned toes
202 Sleep beneath scrubby oak trees
201 Across the sandy tan foothills inland

Eric and Joe in Ione Nov 2007 124_4118564776_l

200 Near Meone, Jockson, Cutter Creek
199 Wettown below the melted mine
198 The yellow hills of old rust rush country
197 An orange must buries cast aside graves
196 Panning for nuggets off the cliffs of Meone
195 Outside the tavern
194 Where four women sit talking, patiently waiting
193 Wreathed with lavender and rosemary sprigs
192 Vitis californica
191 Four men come forth from the bar
190 Little prairie oysters swelling
189 Following one another out the pub
187 Need ride can’t drive you reading then ready for what
186 Like sheep and shamed they all were too
185 A few pints and darts at the bloody pub
184 A red hot game they all thinking go now for a goal
183 Tupping and that one was naked shorn head
182 Coat he forgot in the cab the little lost lamb
181 A couple of pinks and he would think himself lucky
180 She would if her Leo came home growling
179 Grabbing at her nape punch his lights out
178 And what when he’s not drinking he’s napping
177 Comes licking and purring he does
176 But he knows she means business
175 Imagine that poundage going at you forty times a day
174 Him scaring the bejeezus out of the little ones
173 With his botched teeth horrid breath and moody books
172 Bloody ignorant tongue drooling from his mouth
171 How much did he drink as if he could remember
170 Walking on his knuckles hunkered all thick brow lost eyes
169 You’ll catch your death of pneumonia
168 She told him he was actually in the gutter
167 Oh my god yes in the muddy scummy gutter the snipe
166 Scooted by his sweatshirt covered in cake she jumped
165 Moving slowly toward his prey the domesticated cat
164 His huge orange head lunging his lion ears
163 Accruing all that sounds like dust
162 The one with the long tooth stood on his hind legs wobbling
161 Warbling and pounding his chest falling into a deep fit
160 Coughing and choking and falling all over her
159 Hog boring slipping and suckling into the mud
158 Root for what for a cold carrot or radish she took
157 Some muck to dip it in jay suds they ought to
156 Shut that place down for the good it does anyone
155 Four housemen of the cover-up
154 The bum with his rhetorical situation
153 Punctuated equilibrium audience
152 Faces in the occupying crowd
151 A hem for a hat, a this for a that
150 Trade and barter, deceive and trick
149 For a bite for a ride
148 Take all of it all the wave the foam
147 Rye knot kneaded loaf laze and loll
146 A penny a line for a true one, half price otherwise
145 Who thought to make copies
144 Some greedy scholarly degreed griot
143 A self word-made bard
142 The verdure wort
141 In the rise of the root
140 She’s getting ahead of herself
139 Nowhere near the start or finish
138 Some swelling by the wayside
137 Some rappelling down on the face of it
136 Some scaling mixing a podium
135 In each line a toehold though explicating
134 Some hanging, still, resting on their exegeses
133 Reading solo rock climbing
132 Into the pleasant roped pipes
131 Don’t look so absurdly cold
130 Pour hot lead, drink salt water
129 Ale’s gone sour, grass dried frizzy
128 One man’s ears another’s kazoos
127 She hates it when people do her like that
126 Not too much around here mama don’t allow
125 Eating pig’s knuckles with sauerkraut and malt
124 The air clear and a rich flourish of waves foaming
123 Over beakers, the sand berms brushed smooth
122 Nightlong offshore blow, calm now
121 The wave surface rigid glass
120 The whole scene as clean as an experiment
119 The thunder of the closed out barrels
118 At the end of the pier past the break over the swells
117 A rush of fish smell mixing with surge and smoke
116 Bunsen burner to keep the fisher warm
115 The clock above the bait shop points up and down
114 Below the pier the swells emerge from deep water
113 A hooded wine the swell’s slow purr
112 An outlier swell appears bullish reaches
111 A clapping point and a seagull flaps off
110 Spontaneous symmetry breaking
109 Flying up to the pier alights atop the clock
108 One surfer predicts another and at sunrise
107 More surfers appear and at noon
106 Flocking to the south side of the pier
105 There are more surfers than can be accurately counted
104 Entering the waves random wanton
103 They disappear under the rushing foam of the inside
102 Breaking waves and emerge laughing and paddling
101 To reach the swells outside the break

100 One waves to another, they look up and wave at the fisher
99 Who waves back, entangled in the waves
98 Of nothing missed passing between them
97 The pier trail fails ahead
96 Across an ocean of chaos
95 A test which will not be measured
94 A failed word wrongful malediction
93 Only in so far as language goes
92 The wave performation syntax repeats
91 With a constant rote result, and that’s something
90 At the end of the pier there appear two solutions possible
89 Combining polymorphously into a molecule of nonsense
88 The ocean empties of meaning permitting accidents
87 Smoking and drinking joints
86 Below the jetty on the south side
85 Sea wrack and brine gulls down
84 Broken sand dollars
83 A beachcomber for miles
82 Pockets full of shells and small rocks
81 At the end of the pier at the end of the roundabout
80 A plank, in the shape of an h
79 The fisher walks out with gaffe
78 To aid in landing an unusually large catch
77 A halibut, a barracuda
76 Bait bucket alive with bubbles
75 The waves split around the pilings
74 The fisher walks out onto the h plank
73 Something jumps in a rush to the water
72 Disappearing into the slushy grey soup
71 Waxing waves scouring the beach
70 Leaving the pier to its sleepy creepy decay
69 While the ocean supreme creams
68 Barnacle covered pilings
67 All that muscled beach
66 At the end of the railway crossing
65 Old men wizened as raisins stuck on the strand
64 The wiriest of them fingerpicks a guitar
63 The only other sound the wheeze
62 The tavern door spins
61 As to the tap they go
60 The women rocking to and fro
59 As if on a boat putting out to sea
58 And then went down to the pub in shifts
57 Factories now running night and day
56 Knitting and crocheting
55 An assortment of needles and pins
54 It’s an old yarn an old man’s tale
53 The homonym got the best of him
52 His reflection in the salt water
51 As he fell to pay his visit
50 The year the waves broke over the pier
49 Surely an end was near
48 400 blows and the sea divested
47 The year of the great flood
46 The land sinking easily away from the sailor
45 40 worried days and 40 sleepless nights
44 Wood filled would the old tug hold
43 The oxpecker kept watch while the rhinoceros slept
42 The old books would serve as ballast
41 On the deck he built an altar
40 Which worried his wife
39 Later in life
38 Fish appear in her sea
37 Little wheels of fog reeling out of the water
36 A bead of sweat on his brow
35 Somewhere during the rosary
34 The rummy one
33 Sticks out his tongue
32 Ad libitum
31 Ad lib scat
30 Noise
29 Into silence
28 All this sand, ashes
27 Out of the moonlit water
26 Comes a procession up the beach
25 Rings and in vestments weary
24 Music, erratic mutable jazz
23 Haloes his balding plate
22 A host the size of a deluxe
21 Where the surfers eat and drink
20 Fish burritos and beer at Serena’s Seafood
19 It’s too late now to stop
18 They keep after these questions
17 He knows the answer but waits
16 Waves closing in closing out
15 Leaks reveal nothing
14 Later he’ll call the plumber
13 Taps pipes lightly with ball-ping hammer
12 The night sinks stink
11 Reveille revelry diesel bus starts up
10 Still dark draft out of the water
9 Bags the grounds for the morning
8 Barista in a long green beard
7 Two cappuccinos with foamy angel wings
6 Dodge into a coffee house dive
5 A couple of horned larks warbling across Eden
4 Blinding flashes in camera obscura
3 Paparazzi at the Gates of Paradise
2 One was never enough
1 In the beginning was the wand and wave