Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Death & Times of Ancestor Man, a poem

To heck with it. I mean, really.  This poem, for better and worse, has 
been around for fifteen years.  I have never been sure of it although 
I love Ancestor Man and his long reach to the past (which is probably 
fell behind the couch.). So I'm publishing it here. (I DO like it.)
I was thinking about something (many things) when I wrote this.  
Authenticity. Colonial Hegemony, stupidities, thereof. Its lingering 
presence. Lies. Sleights.

The misdirection of anthropology. Sometimes, anyway.

Physically, Ancestor Man reminds me of Wile E. Coyote. 
(So let's get down to cases. Since you are a rabbit, 
I am going to eat you for dinner.) 

I did see a Dr. Ma, when I lived in Seattle. And he did sell me a  
brown paper bag filled with dead cicadas. A little creepy. 
They resembled roaches.
I boiled them for fifteen minutes, which lent a marijuana-gone-rancid 
air to my apartment. The idea behind the prescription,  
Chinese medicine, was, indeed, I was drinking coolness. 

My body ("hot") in Chinese med. terms, needed a break.
The Death & Times of Ancestor Man 
Where sunlight slips out over there 
cross a yard where a willow cranes, 
watching  lamentation disappear 
over & again—that’s where 
Ancestor Man took leave, not 
in the city like they told you.  
Not Ancestor Man.  Expert teams 
mold casts of his swift tread to read 
truth-in-plaster.  Oh, they pound  
their chests with grief.  Mr. A's gone.   
I will tell you what happened.  
He sucked himself in as if his body 
weren’t flesh & his mother opened, 
just a little.  Ancestor Man sunk in, 
knowing we look only to the past.  
When we were Aztecs & quenched 
our thirst with mythic blood downed 
like Big Gulps, the guy was happy.  Well, good riddance, Ancestor Man!” 
Not so quick.  He’s got his quirks but
would accept a token—roses, a card, 
contrition—to know we still care.  
Okay, it goes deeper than that. 
Ancestor Man was a drug lord 
fronting for a cartel. The drug?  
Something even Dr. Ma, 
who grinds cicadas so their wings 
cool my feverish nights, never 
studied. A generic would do,
but sickness is older than cure.  
by Sarah Sarai (and none other)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

My New Goods: 3 Stories

Three new stories, two published in the last few days (one online, one in print), and a third (online) last month.  Most recently published is "Far Star Girl," although I wrote it a while back.  Editors at Seventeen Magazine once told me they'd wished they could publish this story. (I've heard that before. No, I mean it. And I never quite understand, but anyway.)

"Curtains" is a far newer story, written in the past two years.  I'd  tried to quit writing fiction (the above paragraph might explain why) but there I was, writing again, first "Lillia," then "Curtains."

"Far Star Girl" is in Pangur Ban Party. Editor DJ Berndt goes the extra mile to create spiffy e-books.  First paragraph:  
She thought maybe an angel had called out her name. She wasn't sure. She was waiting for her older sister to return with Jujy Fruits and bonbons. The theater, neither light nor dark, was to Cassie's ten-year-old mind, an appropriate-enough setting for a visit from an angel. Cassie knew better than to mention her divine suspicions to Dot who was five years older and sour.
Also new is "Curtains," in Belletriste Coterie, a new print journal edited by Kimberly Lojewski and team.  The narrator observes from after life. First paragraph:

So you might have heard in 1962 Fidel Castro let Nikita Khrushchev store missiles on the island of Cuba which isn't all that far from the U.S.A. which I am in more of a position to know than you are. Other stuff happened that year like John Glenn going around one of the planets, earth or moon or sun, I've never been sure which even though, again, I can see more than you can. And those people back when James Meredith decided to go to college in Mississippi, I saw them on t.v. and their faces looked like dried apple cores going moldy. I was twelve. I'm thirteen now because I'll always be thirteen because I died in 1963 because my bike flipped because I barreled down the hill, loop-de-looped and landed in a ditch. The hot asphalt guy helping the ditch-digging guy didn't hear the steamroller guy shout. The hot asphalt guy isn't up here yet and I've done everything I can for him (which isn't much of anything but it is something) because he was really sorry about the whole thing.
And here's "Lillia." (In Devil's Lake, published by the University of Madison-Wisconsin.)   I wrote the first paragraph when I lived in Seattle. where the story is set, around 1995. Then I tucked it away only to chance on in a recent tidying frenzy. The editor accepting this story, Marian Palaia, was sharp and supportive.  Here's the first paragraph:
There is nothing I love so much as a fat person, or admire. The largeness of their soul demands abundant sufficiency of casing and, further, because they are so grand of psyche, so much more than those who are skinny (not I!), they need—require—that formidable heft to anchor them to our earth. I fence-sit (or would), between unmistakable plumpness and hands-on girth. Lillia Fly-Eagle was a big one too, and for that I loved her, briefly and dearly.
 Honestly, people. I want to publish a collection of short stories.  Maybe these recent pubs are promises it will happen.(Or not.)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Joan Larkin's 'Vagina' Sonnet; Argos Books

Ljubica Denkovic
Last night I stumbled, intentionally this time, into a simultaneously cozy and lush club, well, venue. It calls itself a club--The Oracle Club--but there is no House Music. THANK YOU, GOD!!! The music of the house is played on L.P.s with album covers of Bessie Smith, Aretha Franklin, jazz from the thirties. Also heard are musical stylings of Pierre and Edith, chirping plainchant from their light-filled birdcage.

I was there to join Argos Books in celebrating its four most recent publications, stylish chapbooks by Joan Larkin, Bianca Stone, Brandon Kreitler, Dorothea Laskey (who wasn't present, so the artist for her chapbook, Matthew Fische, read). I went with a friend. The event was a party, the party was easy, graceful, a gift of art.

The Oracle Club is in Long Island City-ish. Its precise neighborhood designation wasn't clear to me. That's a lie. It was but I can't remember the name, something like Hunter's Point, but not. The first stop on the 7. That works.

Argos' chapbooks are, as is the nature of chapbooks, delicately crafted creatures. And although the following poem was published several years ago, prior to brilliant Joan Larkin's current chapbook, it is most worthy of sharing and resharing, especially in light of the idiots in Michigan who are so afraid of life they are afraid of its vessels. 

‘Vagina’ Sonnet

Is ‘vagina’ suitable for use
in a sonnet? I don’t suppose so.
A famous poet told me, ‘Vagina’s ugly.’
Meaning, of course, the sound of it. In poems.
Meanwhile he inserts his penis frequently
into his verse, calling it seriously, ‘My
Penis.' It is short, I know, and dignified.
I mean of course the sound of it. In poems.
This whole thing is unfortunate, but petty,
like my hangup concerning English Dept memos
headed ‘Mr/Mrs/Miss’ — only a fishbone
In the throat of the revolution —
a waste of brains — to be concerned about
this minor issue of my cunt’s good name.
Joan Larkin. Not printed with permission but with hopes she won't object. From the Ms. Magazine blog.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Thanks to Roxane Gay for Adding a Few Years to My Life

(The Rumpus used a very cool abacus,
as illustration. Different clip art,
above, but same concept.)

I suppose if I were to keep a daily accounting of how I spend my time I would be forced to acknowledge hours and hours devoted to FUMING. I get rankled, lots.

For Example.  Recently. My entire cranium, except for portions assigned to personal hygiene and paying nominal attention to cabs steering toward me at crosswalks, has had within it the 84th Academy Awards.  Did you see it?

Did you?  Do you remember?  I do. A humongous auditorium of the beautiful (fair enough) and young (okay, what's new) and all white (what!!!!!!!!!). 

What the Academy, the liberal Hollywood elite, presented, quite accurately given its track record within its gated and red-carpeted community, was the essentially all-white event representing an essentially all-white medium.  Sure, sure, sure.  I celebrated Olivia Spencer's Oscar. I haven't seen The Help but reliable friends tell me was terrific. (I can't imagine any actress better than Viola Davis, but, whatever.) I ha ha ha-ed at Chris Rock. He is very, very funny.

But really. Tell me you didn't see a sea, an ocean, the planet before the seas were parted, of white people.  Tell me t.v. listings don't reveal overwhelming white casting. Tell me movies don't recycle the same white actors over and over. I AM SO TIRED OF THOSE SAME THIRTY-SOMETHING FORTY-SOMETHING SO-CALLED FUNNY GUYS IN EVERY MOVIE I COULD, well, get peeved. Gender inequity is also legion, yup, but my concern here is race.  I am  dumbfounded at Hollywood's racism, support for Obama notwithstanding. (Another topic.)

I don't have high blood pressure but other essential elements of my intimate chemistries are stressed as I, every day, think about my beloved movies so abused.  In fact, I'm ashamed for my country. Hollyqoos sure isn't representing my world or America's world.

So that was the example.  The case-in-point is the New York Times Book Review. I stopped reading it with any regularity a few years back. I didn't want to, over and over, expose myself to its chosen cosmos of over 90 percent white (male) writers.  That's not my cosmos.  Whatever "white" means by the NYT reckoning, it doesn't even represent me (and I'm "white") (I'm even one-quarter "Caucasian").

Writer and professor and generally cool, not to mention astute, social critic Roxane Gay looked at the stats. You can read her critique of the NYT in her The Rumpus article, Where Things Stand.  For instance, to quote Gay:

Of those 742 [books reviewed], 655 were written by Caucasian authors (1 transgender writer, 437 men, and 217 women). Thirty-one were written by Africans or African Americans (21 men, 10 women), 9 were written by Hispanic authors (8 men, 1 woman), 33 by Asian, Asian-American or South Asian writers (19 men, 14 women), 8 by Middle Eastern writers (5 men, 3 women) and 6 were books written by writers whose racial background we were simply unable to identify.
The Internet, by way of access to so many sharp news sources, is robbing The Times of its "paper of record" status. Thank you, Internet. Ho hum, NYT. And thank you, Roxane Gay. Secrets and unspoken truths are unhealthy to body and spirit, corpus and soul. I don't know how efficacious truth is, but without, we get no where new.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Few Notes About Writing

Redon's "Homage to Goya"
A few years ago two friends gently yelled at me. Remonstrated, perhaps. They insisted the first thing I had to do every morning, once ablutions had been made and coffee dripped, was to write here. And I did.

And now I don't, not frequently, not daily, and to my loss, because readership notwithstanding, I discovered that writing some assurance--the Google statistics I can consult--my quick jottings were read at least by one person. The sense of contact served to boost my spirits. Most simplistically, it made me happy and set me up for a good day. An hour well spent beats vagrant time (I'm not sure what vagrant time is, but I like the sound of it).

Writing poetry also boosts and antidepresses but in a different way than writing in a blog, in the way stormy weather forebodes and then the storm breaks and there is sunshine, skies blue as the English countryside's (I rely on the Nineteenth Century novel for the shadings of blue).

Breaking that down, my spirits feel heavy, raincloud like. I don't understand it, I never do, I think I'm upset. And then I write a draft and I'm no longer heavy. Like storybook enchantment my intention has to be honest. I can't stage things, can't realize my sadness can be remedied by picking up my pen or laptop. I have to chance on the cure.

Each time it is required I forget what will work and each time I discover it.

I would like to remember in the essential way memory and work collude and start writing here more.  Who knows if that will happen but at least there are three drafts of poems and perhaps more on the way. I'm not a pretender in at least one sense. In at least one way, the way of writing poems, I'm a poet.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Jack Gilbert Poem. & To Read a Book I Must Read It.

No doubt I should have seen this coming but I didn't, I didn't this this coming. What I saw was merely a notice that the book I'd reserved was being held for me on library shelves.

I'd waited at least two months for it to show. Truthfully, the informational e-mail, such and such by that guy is now ready at your branch library, was more a nuisance than anything. Yeah yeah I was still interested but in the way I'm interested in sweeping the kitchen floor. Doing so is good for the soul, bad for the insects, probably works a few back muscles, though ever so briefly.

Given my questionable attitudes everything is at some time a chore or homework assignment. Unless it's drinking coffee in the morning. Coffee and pink grapefruit. The rest is commentary.

Where was I. Okay, so I had the book in a stack by my bed and realized I had to open it because there is no other way to read a book with pages. My osmosis technique, book under pillow or palm of my hand pressing on the cover of a closed tome, is not even in a beta phase.

I paged to the first poem. And was hit by all the fires of heaven and hell, truth's unsparing divinity, winds of sorrow and joy, hurricane-strength.  The book is Refusing Heaven, poems by Jack Gilbert. The first poem is here, and double-spaced by me, not because I think I can improve on it, I can't, but because there was some font weirdness in copying/pasting my typed single-spaced in Word version.

A Brief for the Defense 
Sorrow everywhere.  Slaughter everywhere.  If babies 
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else.  With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dew would not
be made so fine.  The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well.  The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick.  There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lesson the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight.  We can do without pleasure
but not delight. Not enjoyment.  We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of the world.  To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafes and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.
Jack Gilbert,  Refusing Heaven, Alfred A. Knopf, 2005.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Between my body and the day ... W.H. Auden's "Prime"

by Iker Spozio*
I woke up too early yesterday morning; not unusual. And I worried. The tension in this scene arose from my wondering if I'd be able to fall back to sleep or if I'd have to soldier through the day on five hours.

Then in a blip of time I was gone, swept into a cavern, a chamber, an infinite joining with my other community--of near hallucination which shadows my life, distorts it or riffs on it. 

And then I was awake and rested. Three hours of deep sweet sleep, or transitory death, had passed.  I had gone somewhere and I had been returned.

Here is a poem by W.H. Auden. It might be relevant to what I just wrote.


Simultaneously, as soundlessly,
Spontaneously, suddenly
As, at the vaunt of the dawn, the kind
Gates of the body fly open
To its world beyond, the gates of the mind,
The horn gate and the ivory gate
Swing to, swing shut, instantaneously
Quell the nocturnal rummage
Of its rebellious fronde, ill-favoured,
Ill-natured and second-rate,
Disenfranchised, widowed and orphaned
By an historical mistake:
Recalled from the shades to be a seeing being,
From absence to be on display,
Without a name or history I wake
Between my body and the day.

Holy this moment, wholly in the right,
As, in complete obedience
To the light's laconic outcry, next
As a sheet, near as a wall,
Out there as a mountain's poise of stone,
The world is present, about,
And I know that I am, here, not alone
But with a world, and rejoice
Unvexed, for the will has still to claim
This adjacent arm as my own,
The memory to name me, resume
Its routine of praise and blame,
And smiling to me is this instant while
Still the day is intact, and I
The Adam sinless in our beginning,
Adam still previous to any act.

I draw breath; that is of course to wish,
No matter what, to be wise.
To be different, to die and the cost,
No matter how, is Paradise
Lost of course and myself owing a death:
The eager ridge, the steady sea,
The flat roofs of the fishing village
Still asleep in its bunny,
Though as fresh and sunny still, are not friends
But things to hand, this ready flesh
No honest equal, but my accomplice now,
My assassin to be, and my name
Stands for my historical share of care
For a lying self-made city,
Afraid of our living task, they dying
Which the coming day will ask.
W. H. Auden, 1907-1973

Hypnos, by artist Iker Spozio, from