Before the Mast

I am all wet
wet is what I do to you
with blue and green oils
I fill your valley and canyon
play host to millions of minions
swamp your mountain up
to it its bald peak cooling
your outrages.

I am atmospheric host
to my children who swim
on my skin and burrow
deep below
when one leaves
I cry.

I rise up
and hug the dry bones
and slide away.

I bay and bawl but
I’m not angry but I yowl
and roar and spit
up splash into the sky
drown your bounced boats
I am wet noise.

I know when you come near
and when you go in
as you say
I spread my molecules
and envelop you.

You dive down in me
your bloated body floating
cured with salt
draped in seaweed
and that silly snorkel
you look just like
another funny fish.

I am mostly all body
a bowl of jelly
I won’t lie still
I love my sailing curves.

You can’t walk on me
you talk over me
all your rocks sink
I answer only to the moon.

A Tree Thinks Knot

A tree thinks knot
like we think kneel.
Falling leaf sneeze
and the old oak hip

turns in the midnight
breeze below zero
lights out beneath
full down comforter.

We hurly-burly reach
out akimbo with hug
be underground root
dew moist sensation.

The tree sheds sorrow
and we take a shit
no shave no shower
ready for near wind

’twill blow us off face
of our ease no stress
as we paddle out
absurdly, wildly.

Out about and look back
the trees up on the beach
waving hysterically our
free roots touching salt.

Out of Mind

I think therefor I am
not yet done with it
this out of mind business.

And what of the tree
who thinks knot
the tree is nought?

In a rush to see what mind
is all about I slipped
on the perverted banana
peel and fell head over
heal I fell amongst
the fallen hilarious
it was that one time
out of my mind was I?

Go out of your mind
rush to the sea
there you will find
the blue green anemone
whose lovely
tentacles wave hello
and like us does
everything thru
its nose.

What is out of sight
is best viewed in mind
the drifting dunes
like our minds
slowly change shape.

Garage Sale

The garage sale of my mind was well advertised
signs on telephone poles and online postings
but no one thought to see what they might find.

The mind is a dump full of toxic stuff
tossed flowers blues and greens faded to drab
food scraps bald birds pick at and hot rats scatter
as trash trucks dump squandered load after load
junk heaps smoldering bent metal smashed glass
furniture akimbo wood and styrofoam blocks
book pages torn dogeared magazines ripped
warped vinyl toasted surfboards jelled banners
all absurd plans unrolled blueprint messes
colossal architectural collapse
reductio ad absurdum that’s what
all effort reduced to brood swat and tricks
flood the roads in and out the ear brain zaps
of a blog heap pile to pile one subscribes
lost in here with no purpose no safe pass
age strength twisted steel shafts up and down
leaning precipitously toward the trash
piles of concrete slush crushed and composted
the worms finished their work years ago
today the skies clear ceiling drawn up
don’t let it drag us under these words
will all grow back come spring in new jangles
bright new jungles of fresh piles of junk.

In the Cold

In the still of the cold
when you feel so old
you reach for the one
who’s left you alone.

Your frosty glass rim
shows one pair of lips
another took a powder
now lost in the snow.

No storms rage
if no boats out
no parade today
no lovely waves.

This bitter cold blown
down from the north
now covers our town
white toothed frown.

The mood inside is
frightful the cold
outside delightful
let’s not get buried

in snow
let it go
let it go
let it go.

Wonder of the On-Line Literary World

This month, Berfrois, the small literary magazine, has closed its virtual doors. For the last 14 years, Berfrois, under intrepid editor Russell Bennetts, an economist out of England, has published daily writing, forming over time an eclectic list of contributors and an audience of intercultural competence. The end of active writing appearing in Berfrois comes 100 years after the closing of the modernist journals period, which ran, according to the Modernist Journals Project, from the 1890’s to the 1920’s, ending in 1922:

We end at 1922 for two reasons: first, that year has until recently been the public domain cutoff in the United States; second, most scholars consider modernism to be fully fledged in 1922 with the publication of Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room, James Joyce’s Ulysses, and T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. We believe the materials in the MJP will show how essential magazines were to the rise and maturation of modernism.

Modernist Journals Project, About page, retrieved 15 Dec 2022.

They were mostly referred to, and still are, as small literary magazines, little magazines. Most did not last long. Blast ran just two issues, 1914 and 1915. They were of course hard copy, printed magazines, small publication runs, small format. The most famous now might be The Egoist (1914-1919) and Little Review (1914-1922), which ran installments of Joyce’s “Ulysses.” Harriet Monroe’s original Poetry ran from 1912 to 1922 (still alive today as a kind of First Wonder of the Corporate Literary World).

Is today’s on-line literary world, in 2022, now “fully fledged”? It might be, given the disastrous turn of events surrounding the social media platforms that create, sustain, and destroy – in situ. What can it possibly mean to be on Twitter, for example, with a million followers? Even 100 followers would be impossible to keep up with, even if managing your Twitter feed was all you did. Yet most tweets are never read by anyone. At most, they have the life span of a mosquito, and can be just as viral and vile. We shall be glad to see our current winter of discontent freeze them all in their tracks. For the tracks of tweets carry no real cargo.

Most poems are never read either, but that’s a different story. And I digress. Some of my own writing appeared in Berfrois. Mostly prose, discursive writing. Berfrois published the academic, the non-academic, and the anti-academic. Its editorial voice appeared often to be one of casual interest. In a sense, Berfrois was a general interest magazine, and sought to publish the best it could find of both the best and the worst – for what is often considered today’s worst of writing ends up being tomorrow’s best.

One of the most attractive features of Berfrois was the lack of advertising. It sought to be reader funded before its time. It might have found a good home at today’s Substack, where we find everybody that’s anybody cashing in their lotto tickets. “Thousands of paid subscribers.” Sounds lucrative, but a poor warrant to join a new fray.

A bit of money but a lot of time it takes to run these endeavors. And we run out of both, lose steam, wonder what all the fuss is about, what it might be like to go for a walk down Broadway unnoticed or dismissed, or to wander to and fro with no desire whatsoever to be followed. In the meantime, a heartfelt thanks to Russell Bennetts for his contributions via Berfrois to the life of modern journals.

Out of the Heart

Out of the heart they climb in trunks
into cold sweeps of wind and ocean
rain waves hearing for the first time
trains pausing at the rotting depot.

The silence catches our attention
creates expectation who will get
off who will go away who has come
home to stay surfboard on hip.

Some succulent and juicy tales
and coffee of the road cafes
the strands swept with sand
the cold duffle bags for beds.

Nothing much at home has changed
the cat has slowed to a crying crawl
Mom wears her frayed shawl all day
long and Dad looks like he hears

a screaming coming across the sky
the strain of the streets texted
into the ether a cartoon masks
his bowl of nuts cracked shells.

His heart opens like a walnut
two halves and one have not
together all three squirrels come
to rest and stay the cold season.

La Dolce Vita

Jesus returns to Earth in his space soot
lands near a vineyard swarming with on-scene
reporters and a poet drinking wine
with a comely girl like in an old dream.

Bright lights big city and the poet cuts
out pieces of his heart installs plumbing
pipes in and out his body for his loves
to and fro rich and poor pub and nightclub.

Paparazzi poets loiter about
and caricatures party at a news
conference where Jesus is forgotten
dawn the city emerges beautiful.

From a cathedral altar the poet
lectures on gypsy jazz guitar grammar
and Jimmy Smith plays the Hammond B-3
while nine nuns discuss floral arrangements.

Visions of the Madonna go viral
but she disappears into a crazed crowd
crying out for miracles and passing
deep probes by the church and city fathers.

The poet visits a custom made home
paid for from funds of the company store
views of the city lights from the dark hills
and children run and play games safely.

The poet paints through the day en plein air
ocean views from the El Porto sand dunes
while Lily waits tables at House of Pies
with Marcella both flirting with the cooks.

Lily’s father visits dropped by a cab
and teaches the poet how to handle
a steering wheel on the San Diego
freeway to Long Beach everyone silent.

Lost feelings of forlorn hope and lovelorn
forgetfulness as the poet cruises
up Highway 1 past Malibu beaches
away from the ruins of the city.

An explosion rocks the morning beach town
an El Segundo Blue butterfly lifts
away from its warm studio setting
eriogonum parvifolium.

Endangered by human cravings the poet
absconds but returns sometime later
to a marketing and sales derived party
fueled by money libido and ego.

In the morning the poet washes up
on the beach caught up in sad fisher nets
Lily from the Strand smiles falling waves crash
the poet untangles and follows her.

No Way to Git Along

– This ain’t no way to git along, Honey,
no way to git along. There’s plenty’ll
get in our way, Babe, so let’s git along.

– Life’s no song and dance, it doesn’t
rhyme, and it’s get not git.
– Git is the cowboy variant.
– I once knew a guy named Gil.
– Was he a cowboy?
– Cowboys spell same’s everybody
else. You’re just a romantic fool.

– Git along home, git along down
the line, git to bed, git up and running
coffee and runny scrambled eggs.
Pull out a paper and jot this down,
no way to git along, weary Deary,
no way to get it all back home.

– I ain’t no doggie and even if I was
I don’t like to git get nor gat for
that matter. And this singing
cowboy gig of yours ain’t
worth a saltine cracker
in a bowl of filé gumbo.

– This is no way to git along, my
Shepherdess, no way to git along.
Come ride with me and we’ll mend our
fences and bring the doggies home.

A Hard Fall

A hard fall separate and divided
the returns bags of bottles
and illuminated cans
set lists of dying songs
and a guy in a brown study
disquieted over how much
everyone paid coprophagous
possum grin pocket change
and beer in his beard.

Heard not smelt nor sniped
learning to relax and unblame
to understand every Tom
Dick and Harry and Sue
Jane and Mary their woes
worries whys and wherefors
until the body oak cask aged
slows to a broken bicycle crawl
drink from a cold army canteen.

In fall when worry turns
to gold and rust the lorry
covered with lurry tarps
and no leary ear longing trips
by the river down the valley
to the coast faraway swells
ocean crossed turn to waves
everything that ever came
breaks in this only moment.

Rubato

One rues the day on pillory display
one’s last tweet skids street stocks
to ad-lib a life one means to loose
the self from one’s love’s strictures
with daily tinctures of absent mind
edness not mindfulness mind you
on free range one affords to ignore
the pranger to be clear (for once)
contempt for public humiliation
only worsens one’s foot whipped
condition and enlivens passersby
to come closer and reach out not
to help but to tickle taking easier
forms of torture of clean beatings
this the dunce cap prepared you
for the report card without wit
and those sounds in the distance
coming over the mountains over
sand dunes and from far down
under the railroad tracks a dark
portentous prattle of pompous
importance back home to roost
one plays out of time for only
so long usually in fact for just
instances in time such that we
often don’t even notice a slip-up
especially in our time when time
has already been so economized
compromised clock punch drunk
now thirsty now dry now thirsty
in the twilight I see glow
blue eyes turn to gold.