A Doodle in Portland

Like things that go bump in the dark
night these sounds are not quite
like what we think they are like
old bent and dusty books shelved
in empty house plant pots like books
of poems used to start tomato seeds
in hopeful spring before the last frost
shoves the soil over and worms awake.

Just so like I jump into the fray
with big plans for a newsletter
about things that are not
empty hotels atop sidewalks
full of homeless and fat cats
full of fur surrounded by mice.

On Instagram I post a skinny guitar
and instantly hit the delete button
and just as quickly bring it back
like an usher flicking the auditorium
lights on and off like a strobe light.

And so so on I flicker and go
with the flow now here now there
always nowhere in the act
of writing, of whirling στρόβος
twist about and birl about.

I go for a walk around the block
and step on a glob of adhesive
caulking and my shoe picks up
like a magnet all manner of muck.

Which like a bad sign awakens
me to be more cautious of where
I step like into a newsletter
and so so on I doodle here
while the sun comes
closer more and more near
like a full moon on this
the hottest night of summer.


They said rowboat
lost untethered
with the ebb tide
one day late Fall.

She was to wait
but waded off
he back for the basket  
she in search of shells.

He forgot the sandwiches
in the car up the road
and the redundant bottle 
of purple pinot noir.

From the pier end
she fell hell bent
and got her into
the boat and off

waddled he oaring
she at the tiller
crossing the bay
to the picnic beach 

the old couple
coming years said
but the new owners
did not know them

said better keep
an eye out
not a good day 
for crossing the bar.

Subbing in Substack

I spent a few hours this week delving into Substack, the online self-publishing venue giving independent writers the opportunity to build a syndicated portfolio intended for a dedicated audience of subscribers who read for free or pay, often on sliding scales, the writer usually offering more content to paid subscribers. It’s a little like busking, where the musician sets up on a busy street corner and pulls out the axe and puts out the tip hat.

One great plus of Substack is that there are no ads, few distractions. The presentations I’ve seen are clear and clean. I was already a free subscriber to Caleb Crain’s “Leaflet,” a combo newsletter of his bird watching photography and his lit-culture-watching writing, and of Julian Gallo’s “Cazar Moscas” – wonderful title that, which means to catch flies, or to fish with a fly, apt metaphor for Substack. When Substack began, in 2017, not too long ago but maybe a long time in online years, the idea was to establish a newsletter, so that with every Substack post an email notification went automatically to subscribers. And that’s how I still read Caleb and Julian’s new pieces. And this week I discovered and subscribed to Patti Smith’s Substack. I had become aware of podcast capability at Substack, and when I found Patti there, I saw that she was also putting up short videos, which I immediately found attractive for their simplicity, honesty, clarity. They didn’t seem to be performances, but downhome one way conversations, personal, if you will, in of course an impersonal, voyeuristic way. For example, I saw her in her everyday place in Rockaway, and it looked exactly like a lived in beach house might look if it indeed was lived in.

Anyway, I had been interested in moving my “Live at 5” guitar gig from IGTV to some other venue, not really all that interested in seeing my seventy something selfie on the silver screen anymore, and growing tired of Instas addictive format, and I thought about podcasting, that is audio only, some guitar, song, story, poem, conversation. Then I became aware of Substack’s video capability and before I knew it, I was going live on Substack with a “Live at 5” show. Or so I thought. The whole enterprise ended in disaster. As near as I can tell, Substack does not enable live streaming. You have to upload either audio or video, and the videos are limited to, it appears, under 10 minutes. I had by Substack “Live at 5” showtime 16 free subscribers. I’m not sure what they ended up seeing or hearing, if anything. And then, late last evening, I discovered the “Live at 5” video I had made for Substack in the photo gallery of my Samsung device. It was just over 5 minutes long. I watched a bit of it, stopped it, and deleted it.

Interested viewers may check out another version recounting my subbing at Substack experience here. I’m reminded of Dylan’s famous words, “and I’ll know my song well before I start singing,” an admonition I’ve never paid much attention to, and also reminded of the Nobel Prize time Patti forgot the lyrics, which was no big deal, but of course everyone had to make a big deal of it, as if pros never get nervous or forget the words.

Where do I go from here? IDK. Real time with real people might be nice.

If Less Is More

If less is more
how much more
will it take
to make nothing?

One’s self-knowledge
must be told

If less is more
brief is the life
of flatulence.

If less is more
terse the maid’s
toil at the toilet.

To say
too much
is as vulgar
as goatshit.

If less is more
how much
more or less
is nothing?

Of the sages
of long ago
the coin fits
seven no more.

If less is more
how do you know
you’ve had enough?

Everything Begins The

The ocean, the cellular, the crawling creature
the blue ball, the yellow beach, the great divide
the tree down the road in the August breeze
tall in the open sky the dry leaves olive, the

Pill, the body, the smooth quiet morning
the block, the coming and going, the type
ography, the distribution, the arrangement,
the management, the workers working the

Night, the day, the night, the day, the night
we went out walking in the moonlight the
shadows the pearly waves the rushes
brushing cat tails on our legs the

Hope, the restlessnesses, the talks
the drives, the radio, the magazines
the intervenings, the televisions
the shelves, the house, the street, the

City lights in the desert distance
below the perimeter the parameter
the fatigues, the background
the text, the mean measley mind, the

Second cup of coffee – would you
like some more, the kind and the
unkind the words blowing the gale
the strong gusts the apples falling

The squirrels, the crows, the cats
the dogs, the possums, the racoons
the weeds, the books, the bananas
the rugs, the floors, the high roofs

Still Life with Onions & Bottle

The bottle wormed open dark and furry
glass greens and purple dried oils
cork on the table crumbling aside
five onions not moving or meowing
and a peach plastered wall blistering
in light from a dirty cracked window
and the room smells of fresh onions
pungent and biting squeezing eyes
onion dry skin flaking in whispers
soft petal whites like dark moonshine
spill over the table onto the floor.

On the Patterns of Pairs

Humanism begins with making connections
which is drawing technique taught and ends
with constellations for classroom discussion
cafe conversations or solo contemplation,

technique how guitar held and strings plucked
plectrum or nails or La Pompe with tooth comb,
poetry chords of thought arpeggio aligned
necessary for navigation to & fro up & down

back & forth, pitter patter, pitter patter
this & that, that & this, pig and pepper
pants the hatter all that matters as if
as if nothing whatsoever has happened.


Put down the phone
and write us a poem
nothing to say
the cell has not.

Laptop almost
too old for this
slow prose style
inelastic cat.

The lazy morn
the otiose
slow afternoon
the heat taut night.

No notifications
come this far
from the signal
symbol sacramental.

Parts of thought
the universe yet
exploration sits

Fictional Photography

Yesterday, we cruised on foot an antique, theatre, and tavern storied section of Sellwood then drove to the north facing cliffs where we looked across Oaks Bottom, where still lives lively the Oaks Amusement Park, “where the fun never ends since 1905,” the Oaks Park Roller Skating Rink, East Island, Hardtack Island, Ross Island, and across the Willamette River and above the trees to the tops of the taller downtown Portland buildings, looking smaller than nature in the distance.

Downtown Portland from Sellwood Cliff

The walking tour of Sellwood came after a trip to the Ledding Library of Milwaukie where Clo returned a book and Z checked out a new one and where I purchased from the library discards store a copy of Gordon Bowker’s 2011 “James Joyce: A New Biography.” Ahead of his Preface, Bowker quotes from Bernard Malamud’s 1979 “Dubin’s Lives”:

“The past exudes legend: one can’t make pure clay of time’s mud. There is no life that can be recaptured wholly; as it was. Which is to say that all biography is ultimately fiction.”

p. 5

In a similar sense, all photography might be considered fiction. Certainly that view of Portland above is only distantly related to a view of what’s going on in the streets below and between those tall buildings. One problem is how quickly things change, grow, recede. But photographs stick, or they used to. Maybe memory itself is a fiction – without which nostalgia couldn’t thrive like it does. Sellwood is currently an interesting blend of the old and new, of change. Imagine a time when it was necessary to build and display a gargantuan grandfather clock on the street. Did no one carry a watch? Today it’s one of the local antiques, and like a true grandfather tells a fiction all day long about what time it is.

On No Progression

The plough divides
a worm multiplies
where two + two
equals five.

To see a beach
in a grain of sand,
hold time in a glass
filled clock.

The privileged are due
the poor overdrawn
the middle class

The selfie shatters
the looking glass
the valleys are empty
bathtubs slowly refilling.

Politics is a rich ugly
old man’s courting
the priests and the

Put out dearth stats
in a year of death
wear a mask
and walk asunder.

Walk in the morning
nap at noon
fast in the evening
lap the night long moon.

Culture cars cruise
the city strips
radios talk blaring
the end of days.

The wise avoid likes
links and comments
while fools post poems
almost daily.

The fool prepares
to like a scholar
a celebrity hires

Devils eschew
angels desire
melting ice
feeds the fires.

Who teaches the tree
to drink the child
to nurse the old
to appear free and easy.

Too Late Too Little But For A Banana

too late
(bugged & rugged)
& too little
to compose.

Moon long gone
its ring through
(fully foolish too)
the open window
I let it go.

I don’t have to be
anywhere but here
(not new and worn)
so to thee my love
on the icebox door

this note:
“Awoke & forgot
litter box, but
poppy seed cakes
& coffee

your awakening.
I’m on the porch
writing with a banana
so soft & mushy.”