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Saturday 31 October 2009

"First cold winter twilights..."


File:Twilight1 - NOAA.jpg

First cold winter twilights despite this
week’s Richmond refinery fire
never more perfect even the
burned and corrupt air stunning
saffron violet orange indigo
becoming blood red as sun descends
with a delayed shudder or retarded
tremor into ocean fire
and night begins to close in
over the whole sky from other
(eastern) end -- a deep blue bowl

or dish inverted convex
glass dome extruded
pyrex lid over boundless
now starless ozone
depleted spaces of end
times -- last hundred years of
human habitation? -- rendering
in view of coming loss
earth in ever more damaged form
ever more beautiful than before


Twilight, bands of cloud above, ripples on sea below: photo by John Bortniak, 2005 (NOAA Photo Library)
Remains of sunset over ocean at onset of twilight: photo by John Bortniak, 2005 (NOAA Photo Library)

Friday 30 October 2009




a valley
of aspens
and wild flowers

with the wind
dithering in them

Snowbowl Aspens (Populus tremuloides): photo by Doug Dolde, 2009

Fidelity (Later)


NOAA Photo Library Image - corp2987

Fidelity, after long practice, to
The things that have crossed one's path in life,
Moves one to find "history" in a morning,
A moonlit night, a transitory patch
Of sun upon grass, the turning of a cat's
Sleek head over its shoulder to look back
Into one's eyes, a lifelong lover's touch,
The memory of the shy sweet sidelong
Smile of a friend one may not see again
In "this life"--these things define home
To one now that one lives largely in one's mind--
As though there had ever been any other
Place--once born, once having existed--
In which to somehow locate a world

Because brief hours before fadeout life becomes
A late awakening, much as one assumes
Is the experience of "lost" generations
Whose youth is turned back toward childhood by
Dreams; just so one's own dim youth now at last
Appears a kind of slumber from which the slow
Process of waking took a half century
Or so, as time now opens up its eyes,
Yawns, stretches, struggles in dark to discover
Where it is among whirling things, places, years.
But of course one will never fully emerge
From this fog, nor in one's heart wish to do so,
For mere excursions don't suffice on visits
To dead cities--excavation too's required,
Cries out the hungry unborn poem
Within us, demanding to exist as
If alive

File:Falkland Islands Penguins 01.jpg

"King Penguin singing": Two King Penguins (Aptenoydes patagonicus patagonicus), South Georgia Island: photo by Lt. Philip Hall, NOAA, 1994-95 (NOAA photo library)
King Penguins (Aptenoydes patagonicus patagonicus), East Falkland Island: photo by Ben Tubby, 2007

The X of the Unknown



Sweet notes in dimensionless clusters
Eighth notes and fluttering cue balls
And Tibetan gongs in the side pockets
Those are what Charley Johnson heard
When he got his bell rung

He could stand but he could not see
He could hear but he could not talk
He could think but he could not walk
And over his head in the thought balloon
Little birds tweeted

So he continued to stand there
Until they came out and got him
And even then it was hard to lead him off
For he seemed like a man leaving his mind behind him
Somewhere there on the ground

File:Speech balloon 3 types.svg

Meteor crater, Arizona: photo by USGS, 2005
Speech balloon, thought balloon, scream balloon (top to bottom)
: image by EnEdC, 2007

Hardcourt Highlights of 1971



Long trek
Through the lost night
In Randy's van
To the Novato High gymnasium

Psyched for the big matchup
With the Wise Streetboys
Of Marin City

I'm bringing the ball upcourt
Like an educated yo-yo

Feeling this rush of power
I shift into overdrive
And dribble the ball
Off my cheapsneakered foot

It spins away wildly to starboard
Where a skinny guy with cornrows
Plucks it out of the air
With sublime nonchalance
And in one motion
Fires it full court
To the sprinting quick releaser
Who glides in for an easy two points

And we succumb 85-47

Well somebody had to lose
And we palefaces always knew
It was going to be us

Later the showers are cold
And you have to walk a long way
Over cold asphalt
To get to them

And then the long ride home
Under speechless starlight
Through the black January night
On the floor of the defeated bus

Early morning view of Novato, Ca. from Big Rock Ridge Trail: photo by Sophisticatedcat, 2008

Tuesday 27 October 2009

What Is That Bright Star Next to the Moon Tonight?


Out late and looking again to the hazed red urban evening sky for a sign
What is that bright star next to the moon tonight?
Asking myself this among other questions of fleeting consequence
I watched Jupiter the great fluid king of the night
With his rude belching gases and submissive fluctuating moons

His swashbuckling bright streaks flaunted like sans culottes
Boiling firestorm spots and magnetic auroras
Cozying up, it seemed, to the chaste and shying
Waxing gibbous Lady Luna -- seeming so close,
Though in reality far more distant and intense,

With nothing of her ethereal luminous
Silent running beauty, her unearthly milky violet glow --
Challenging her brightness perhaps
Though hardly her pulchritude --
Until my view grew occluded under the constellated neons

Of the Pyramid Ale House

File:Hubble Spies Jupiter Eclipses.jpg


Waxing gibbous moon, with Saturn, Venus and Jupiter: composite photo by Michael Myers, April 28, 2004
Jupiter eclipses (shadows of three of Jupiter's moons in alignment across the planet's face, two of the moons visible)
: image by NASA/ESA/Erich Karkoschka (U. of Arizona), 2004

Aurora borealis on Jupiter (bright streaks and dots caused by magnetic flux tubes connecting Jupiter to its largest moons, Io, Ganymede and Europa): Hubble Space Telescope UV image by John T. Clarke (U. Michigan)/ESA/NASA, 2000

Sunday 25 October 2009

"A child's things speak..." (Joseph Cornell)


A child's things speak of the shock enigma world forever
star charts movie actresses ballerinas soap-bubble sets

marbles toy birds seen though the magic prism
a child's vision the mind assembling a cosmology
a bricolage of bits of this and bits of that
maps pieces of cloth illustrations in encyclopedias

the child grown alone noting down on scraps
ephemerae envelopes cafeteria napkins slips
of paper inserted into books each particulate
of dream and wanderlust

explorations obsessive quests for the materials
to objectify dreams and then for the systems to order
to contain
those objects in assemblages

boxes private universes of buttons movie photos stuffed birds bottles globes corks liqueur glasses elusive texts mystery things

sequins toys feathers spools of thread in the dead season prowling
five and dimes
in Flushing and Manhattan an unexpected
"flowering in the teeth of winter" (a Woolworth's window display)

Angels fairies "sylphides" populating "shadow boxes"
windows facing in
facing out -- searching for dreamgirl
shop clerks waitresses librarians "sales girls"
"Courtesy Drugs check-out girl -- seen in Food Shop
Piled up hair again -- warm light

brown corduroy slacks, no socks
but the same dreamy docileness remembered
the immense innocence + beauty of expression"

Intense imaginal "relationships" longings mood
swings violent turbulences creative
elations out of nowhere lifting the undisclosed soul
into the clouds in the suburban
back yard

"temoignages" moments of witness to a condition
of sudden grace marked in diaries
by a star as "special signs" the gold threads in the weave
the inexpressibility of life's fleeting moments its transitory
a brief shading of light on the side
of a building

the abrupt rising of a flock of birds into the air
a piece of classical music heard on the radio
a face on the bus a brother's smile the odd buoyant
being-alive quality everywhere a rare harmony and calm
as if a dark sky opened suddenly
to reveal with wondrous clarity the constellations
he so loved

Dec. 9, 1948 (Wednesday)

the "all over" feeling that makes of the incidental a never ceasing wonder and spectacle of the spiritual

(Diary entry from Joseph Cornell's Theater of the Mind)
Joseph Cornell boxes:
Cassiopeia 1, c. 1960 (Estate of Joseph Cornell)
Untitled (Soap Bubble set), 1936 (Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford)
Untitled (Penny Arcade Portrait of Lauren Bacall), 1945-46 (Collection Mr. and Mrs. E. A. Bergman, Chicago)
Untitled (Paul and Virginia), c.1946-48 (Collection Mr. and Mrs. E.A. Bergman, Chicago)
Grand Hotel Semiramis, 1956 (The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation)
Untitled (Solar set), c. 1956-58 (Collection Donald Varshan, New York)
Untitled (Pharmacy), c.1943 (Collection Mrs. Marcel Duchamp, Paris)
Untitled (Grand Owl Habitat), c.1946 (Collection Mr. and Mrs. Richard H. Kaplin, Toledo, Ohio)
Toward the Blue Peninsula, c. 1951-52 (Collection Daniel Varenne, Geneva)
Verso of Cassiopeia 1, c. 1960 (Estate of Joseph Cornell)

Friday 23 October 2009

De Ira Dei


File:NGC7293 (2004).jpg

Anger may be a necessary element in the character of God.

In fact given what is to be looked upon
In the mirror of an ever more exposed creation

With an eye that shines through the hole
In the ozone, clouded by thawing tears, perhaps

It is difficult not to make out iris and pupil in
The envelope of gas expelled by a dying star.

File:160658main2 OZONE large 350.png

"The Eye of God": Helix nebula, NGC 7293, a gaseous envelope expelled by a dying star
: Hubble Space Telescope image by NASA, ESA, C.R. O'Dell (Vanderbilt University), 2004
Largest Antarctic ozone hole ever observed, Sept. 24, 2007 (area 11.4 million square miles)
: image by NASA

Moira, or Fate


File:Lightning striking the Eiffel Tower - NOAA.jpg

A flash of the spinning hand of Moira at the head
Of the bed upon which bolts crackle and strike,
A flash of the hand of nature in the genetic chain,
Divine anger signifying energy, law
Destiny of all men being the same, death

One doesn't argue with this any more,
Amid the blasted neurons, than a bell with its flaw:
The crack of determination under the hood
Of the chromosome. Her messages get lost in the soft
Blue dust left by the memory of light.

File:Lightning storm over Boston - NOAA.jpg

Lightning striking the Eiffel Tower, June 3, 1902: from Tonnerre et éclairs, Camille Flammarion (image via NOAA, 2000)
Lightning strike over Boston, 1967: photo by Boston Globe (image via NOAA, 2005)

Thursday 22 October 2009

The Commanders


File:Demolished vehicles line Highway 80 on 18 Apr 1991.jpg

When the Medina Luminous Division marched into
Divine Anger in the Energy Refuge Theatre --
Bottle green starlight chaos,
Blood rivers in the sand, dust flecked with bits of Sumerian gods --
The Commanders felt good about themselves,
They said Say hello to Allah
And the Medina Luminous Division said hello to God.

File:Sumerio orante (M.A.N. Madrid Inv.2001-110-1) 01.jpg

Next the In God We Trust Division was drawn out of K City
It was Bravo-20 on the Basra Road
Rockeye and Hellfire lived up to the instruction manuals
As the fireballs digested the convoys of the helpless
The Commanders paused to gas up
Their F/A-18s, their humvees, their Apaches
Then moved out to incinerate the Hammurabi.

File:3 F-111 1EF-111.jpg

Demolished civilian and military vehicles lining Highway 80 (aka The Highway of Death), route taken by Iraqis fleeing Operation Desert Storm, 18 April 1991: photo by Tech Sgt. Joe Coleman (US Air Force)
Figure in prayer: Sumerian statuette, 2550-2520 BC (National Archeological Museum of Spain, Madrid)
Three F-111 Aardvark and one EF-11 Raven, First Gulf War, 1991 (US Air Force)

Tuesday 20 October 2009



File:Gaza children horrified.png

The world not
the abuser, the
poor single
thing inside
the person's skin
not the
abused. And
yet, and


Sufferings of Palestinian children during Israeli attacks on Gaza, 27 Dec. 2008-19 Jan. 2009: Gaza hospital video via Al Jazeera
Gaza girl killed by Israeli forces in Israeli offensive on Gaza Strip, '08-'09, Day 14 of the offensive: photo via Al Jazeera

"Who needs Apollo..." (with Ted Berrigan)


File:Apollo 15 Rover, Irwin.jpg

Money is boring
Who needs ideas

Who needs hot tears
Which drown ordinary joy

Who needs Apollo 15
Not me

File:40 A15Sta8.jpg

I need the moon
To remain free

I want to go on
And to be on

A silver dollar
Still alive

File:Peace dollar.jpg

I want to be on
My human feet

Spending my days
Like sunlight, opening

The people
And talking to them

File:Apollo 15 Space Suit David Scott.jpg

Poem: TC with Ted Berrigan, August 1, 1971

Jim Irwin and the Apollo 15 LRV, before the Mons Hadley rille, Palus Putredinus (Marsh of Decay), Mare Imbrium, 31 July, 1971: photo by NASA

Apollo 15 landing site, panoramic view: photo by James Irwin, 1971 (NASA)

US Peace dollar, 1921

Apollo 15 space suit of astronaut David Scott, Smithsonian Museum, Washington, D.C.: photo by Jawed Karim, 2004

Saturday 17 October 2009



File:Clouds 080807b.jpeg

One dreams up metaphors -- bright light,
Deep shade, shifting animal information
Patterns coalescing, changing, thoughts too swift
To "read", if intelligible at all
Then only as curious complication
Felt and lived: kaleidoscopic window
Mosaic of colored glass and agates,
Years remembered, days, moments, gathering clouds...

File:Clouds 080807a.jpeg

Cumulonimbus, Japan: photos by Yamato, 2008

Shadow Play



The thumping you hear -- if you can picture it --
Is the footfall of Beauty as she goes
Her morning rounds. A sound may be a picture
Of reality as we imagine it,
Or should I say desire it, dear.
And then, blink, we are our grandparents
Physically, yet estranged in our minds
From all but this, now. North wind, power goes out.
A candle's lit creating shadow play.


Click Memory, unwanted, unexpected
Images Display; pasts come flooding in, slow,
Flicking yellow glow on endarkened wall. Hello
Interior landscape we've always
Traveled, Dear One, by a Lake of Dreams -- looking
For that light-in-window fleeting house
Now a cottage haunted by passing strangers
Who were never there. The night's cold,
Bells do not toll here at midnight any more.

File:El Greco - Allegory, Boy Lighting Candle in Company of Ape and Fool (Fábula).JPG

Cottage window: photo by Jackie Ohlsen, 2009
Candle wick burning: photo by Matthew Bowden, 2004
Allegory with Boy Lighting Candle in the Company of an Ape and a Fool (Fábula): El Greco, 1589-92 (National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh)



The "I" and the eye
A glass for seeing
Always cloudy
The days go by
The world spins round
The subject is always moving
The mind can't keep up
It's all a blur
The eye and the "I"
A glass for seeing
Always cloudy

Every two hours I wipe off my glasses

File:2005-12-25 Magnifying drop.jpg

Colorful blur created by moving subject, moving camera and 1/13 second exposure: photo by Robert Lawton, 2006
Golden Gate Bridge refracted in rain drops acting as lenses: photo by Mila Zinkova, 2007
Magnifying and light collecting effect of a drop of oil on a glass plate held a short distance above a text: photo by Roger McLassus, 2005



File:Morning Fog at GGB.JPG

Slow cling of gray white rain at oyster dawn
As if thin cloth were being continually torn
Inside outside, soft sizzle of wet rubber
Hugging four lanes of blacktop traffic back
Firing bridgeward over this slicing sluiceway
That cuts slick and gleaming as a blade
Through dull wool light leaking from blue pleura

The locked in aqualung silence of what?

Advection fog at the Golden Gate Bridge: photo by Grombo, 2005

All Saints, Revenant


File:Homeless New York 2008.jpeg

I've found all saints lost at midnight in the rain
Seek shop doorways fit to lay their bodies down
And dwell upon the sins that have expelled them:
Those sins, O Friend, which they perceive as wounds

Inflicted they know neither why nor by whom,
Nor in defiance of what remorseless laws.
The wind that rakes the street is unforgiving,
Warmth but a memory, winter coming on,

The concrete cold, the cardboard pallet sodden,
God far away, but unfortunately not Man,
Who motors past to get to bars or home,
Completely unaware they're bedding there,

Splashing sheets of grey water out of puddles
That wash over them in chill waves they may
If they so choose trust to wash their sins away,
Dimly aware at last they're given something.

File:RNC 04 protest 96.jpg

Homeless man, credit crisis: photo by J.M. Suarez, 2008
Homeless man sleeping on street: photo by Jonathan McIntosh, 2004

In the World (Wittgenstein)


File:Agelaius phoeniceus -standing on wood-8.jpg

6.373 The world is independent of my will.

6.374 Even if all that we wish for were to happen, still this would only be a favour granted by fate; so to speak; for there is no logical connexion between my will and the world, which would guarantee it, and the supposed physical connexion itself is surely not something that we could will.


6.4 All propositions are of equal value.

6.41 The sense of the world must lie outside the world. In the world everything is as it is, and everything happens as it does happen: i
n it no value exists -- and if it did exist, it would have no value.

If there is any value that does have value, it must lie outside the whole sphere of what happens and is the case. For all that happens and is the case is accidental.

What makes it non-accidental cannot lie within the world, since if it did it would itself be accidental.

It must lie outside the world.

6.42 So too it is impossible for there to be propositions of ethics.

Propositions can express nothing that is higher.

6.421 It is clear that ethics cannot be put into words.

Ethics is transcendental.

(Ethics and aesthetics are one and the same.)

-- Ludwig Wittgenstein: Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 1921

File:Agelaius phoeniceus 0110 taxo.jpg

Here is a blackbird. How many ways are there to look at a blackbird?

What are the word associations of "blackbird"?

Are neural entanglements possible, with so common and simple a word?

Could such a word be imagined to have unintended, even unsuspected connotative aspects?

Is there a difference between a good poem and an exquisite mechanical toy?

Are those nominations, "poem" and "mechanical toy", merely indications of two aspects of the same thing?

A language is a picture of a world.

In a language game all the plays made by each player of the game are in some sense tricks.

One may imagine language as an element in the infinite game of life, the game whose sole object is to keep playing. Competition, in this regard, would represent a false image. In a game of catch, the object is to keep the game going, not to win. Is there a winner in a game of solitaire?

The object of the language game is to keep the world going.

File:Agelaius phoeniceus 0123.JPG

6.431 So too at death the world does not alter, but comes to an end.

6.4311 Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death.

If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present.

Our life has no end in just the way in which our visual field has no limits.

The grave of Wittgenstein, at the parish of the Ascension Burial Ground in Cambridge, is interesting in that it is, at Wittgenstein's wish, not imposing at all, yet receives constant stealthy attention from mystery visitors who scatter pennies and other small objects (a lemon, a porkpie, a a cupcake) upon it, at various times, in curious patterns. Sometimes these votive objects bear an oblique symbolic relation to Wittgenstein's work. In the photo below, Tractatus 6.54 is recalled by the miniature ladder someone has left. These collections of seemingly random objects have replaced one another repeatedly over the years, giving the grave of Wittgenstein, like certain other reminders of the steady presence of the infinite within the finite and the eternal within the temporal in this obscure duck-rabbit picture we call the world, a continuous quality of aspect change.

6.521 The solution of the problem of life is seen in the vanishing of the problem.

(Is not this the reason why those who have found after a long period of doubt that the sense of life became clear to them have then been unable to say what constituted that sense?)

6.522 There are, indeed, things that cannot be put into words. They make themselves manifest. They are what is mystical.

6.53 The correct method in philosophy would really be the following: to say nothing except what can be said, i.e. propositions of natural science--i.e. something that has nothing to do with philosophy -- and then, whenever someone else wanted to say something metaphysical, to demonstrate to him that he had failed to give a meaning to certain signs in his propositions. Although it would not be satisfying to the other person--he would not have the feeling that we were teaching him philosophy--this method would be the only strictly correct one.

6.54 My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them, on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has climbed up on it.)

He must transcend these propositions, and then he will see the world aright.

7 What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.

File:Wittgenstein Gravestone.jpg

Red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoenicius) standing on wood: photo by Bob Jagendorf, 2008
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoenicius): photo by Walter Siegmund, 2008
Red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoenicius): photo by Walter Siegmund, 2008
Grave of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Ascension Burial Ground, Cambridge: photo by Andrew Dunn, 2004