Tabor Space

At the bottom of the bell tower you poured
yourself a coffee, put a contribution into the jar,
and through the big doors entered the space,
a two story high ceiling of 100 year old wood,
brick walls with stained glass windows, a few
stuffed chairs by the Brobdingnagian fireplace,
tables and chairs spread out in the space,
a lending library bookshelf, a kids’ play area,
and the floor to ceiling folding sliding doors
hiding the dark cool nave of empty pews.
I would sit in a stuffed chair or at a table
and read papers or doodle in my notebook,
sitting on the big couch in the far corner.
Young moms with children came and went,
small group meetings held at the larger tables,
couples hooked up for a coffee & snack talk.
It was mostly volunteer, then went commercial,
then closed as the virus swept through
so many spaces, closing doors and attitudes.

Anyway, Tabor Space has now reopened,
a second location for Favela Brazilian Cafe,
and we visited yesterday, chatted with the
Brazilian baristas, and we sat with a coffee
and we looked around and I took a few pics,
and we’re glad the space has reopened:

My Affliction

Everywhere I look I see
signs of the cross
in telephone poles
at the busy intersection
of the homeless and
the morning commuters
in the brow of the woman
wearing the human billboard
advertising her three kids
and out of work husband
a veteran and a nice guy
trying to get back on his feet
after stepping on a landmine
at the bottom of the cross
and I don’t doubt it and wonder
if she’ll take the afternoon off
and drop the double sawbuck
just handed her all in one place.

I am tempted but the cross
at the local church remains
hidden behind a giant plastic
boastful Jesus his coiffed hair
combed and sprayed by the
altar ladies with their flowers
holy water and broken nails
who come and go they have
come and gone and still
they come and go
and carry their crosses
quietly and secretly
and do not advertise
their own club afflictions
and anyhow don’t allow
admittance of my cross.

Every Friday at three
in the afternoon
the altar ladies
take down the real
Jesus and put up
the plastic one
and Sunday after
masses they hang
the original back.

Meantime at the bottom
of the telephone pole
at the crossroads
the homeless gather
to disperse the day’s
take and affirm
nothing is finished
the kingdom never
comes but the will
is always done
daily bread is not hard
to come by not nearly
so hard as forgiveness
of debts and trespasses
or deliverance from evil.

Jazz on a Summer’s Day

Jazz on a summer’s day
sleepy jazz on a rainy evening
jazz on the night of a full blue moon.
Jazz on a transistor radio in the next room.

Jazz in a whiteout blizzard
jazz on a foggy morning in the surf
jazz on a summer’s day
jazz when the falling leaves fall.

Jazz in a coffee house with wifi
jazz in a clean well-lighted place
jazz high up in the trees
jazz on a yacht in the tranquil bay.

Jazz trio at the wine bar
jazz aboard a tugboat
on the Mississippi jazz live at five
jazz out a picture window.

Jazz on a crosstown bus
jazz at a sock hop
jazz in the cold grotto
jazz in an empty church.

Jazz from a food cart
jazz in a classroom
jazz in Healdsburg
jazz in Drytown.

Jazz in a confessional
jazz working on the railroad
jazz in a sweatshirt
jazz in jail.

Jazz it kind of got away from you
jazz on steamboats fixing everything
jazz at The Coming of the Toads
jazz in and jazz out of a blue collar.

Jazz on a jukebox
jazz at Terre Rouge
jazz in a red convertible
jazz on a Martian moon.

Jazz in the slow lane
jazzy walk around the block
jazz down on Stark Street
jazz at low tide.

Jazz rumbles across the trestle
jazz if you go out in the woods today
jazz between Scylla and Charybdis
jazz on the air.

Jazz in Seattle in a coal car
jazz at a concert in the park caldera
jazz in the near light like a candle
jazz in the faraway dark quiet.

Jazz alone and jazz together
jazz out there and jazz in here
just jazz at a rent party cleaning
up after they’ve all gone home.

Jazz about this and jazz about that
jazz when flat and jazz while sharp
streaming jazz in a steamy heat
jazz on a fine summer’s day.


Whorled weary for this world’s woes
worsened by winter’s whistling
wicked wishes as worrying
as this watch of one’s web life ebb,
and if that’s not maudlin enough,
sick of this car’s cough, too,
its needy changes and fillings,
its overheated tantrums, leaks,
stalls, and traffic jams, the orange
cones and potholes and all ways
waged in fees and duns and one’s
fief windblown like the shabby
tatty cat hunkered for the night
in the trash can gust opened.
Some correlation perhaps:
unhappiness and the automobile,
for there is nothing mobile
that is unwitting.

Accidental and aleatoric lines
alienate awareness precisely
where we desire to go
reading off the water
listening listing cant
in this sham breeze
what would an alien see?
Earthlings have wheels,
their eyes light up at night,
and there are these other
creatures that wash them,
feed them, and care for them.
There appears to be a symbiotic
relationship between the metal
boxes and the asphalt lines.
More study is needed to ascertain
how the Earth benefits.

Weary then of the keen privilege
to sound dog-tired exhausted
old hat hack comes to an end
sidetrack dismantle yard
all you need is love sang John
I’m sick of love replied Dylan
in Love Sick on Time Out
of Mind full of walking
and waiting.

Turn off, tune out, drop in
drop in sometime and say hi
live within walls if you must
but keep the doors open
the windows loosely lighted.
Get on now and move about
nothing just motion one purpose
one motion transforming
breathing energy fizz of life.
This is work, let us not
automate our own motion.

Mending Walk

     on and on the walk       the low wall climbing       of something not

the walk and come       bestrewn the hill       a wall of lifted stone

and come to a low          or down the hill       a noisy neighbor

to a low wall built       ascending or descending       harmonica

wall built of loose       so much depends      on blazing a path

of loose stones       deep ends       to hegemony

some fallen       on perspective       from lines

fallen strewn       which comes        from punctuation

strewn dry weeds       seasoned start       to and fro

on this side       of a mending       walk     meandering

maunder and you reader on the other side other side

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Some Comics Explained

Words were never so simple as we were taught to believe. Tricksters of the trade make things look like all the chess moves were preordained. And if we are reading second hand, through the prism of translation, so much the better for our lack of understanding!

and I quote
“You said, ‘”and I quote…'”

Words are not to understand, but to experience, to share, the ordinary daily world we work so hard at from being cornered.

The face prepared to meet the faces.

Do we understand the invisible string of musical notes? What do they mean? Already heard and gone, and where did they go, these industrial sounds?

apartment house

Words work within their industry, economy, structures.


Dust particles, falling, drifting, piling up, the tongue the only rule, the teeth, lips, mouth.

moon sea creature
The moon looked like a banana.

The poem is an old thing, some kind of tool, maybe, an implement, but what was it used for?

eye floater
Eye floater.

He started off so serious, as if he were out to save something, someone. But first he had to persuade there was some danger. These comics, by the way, these unsophisticated, small-scale drawings, are made with fingers on the simplest of phone apps, with just a few basic colors, and no tricks.

But mostly at night, in the middle of the night, when sleeplessness becomes comical.

The Phenomenology of Error

The Phenomenology of Error[i]

A solo Mission at the Ranger Station before group poetry night, hoping
for a good napkin poem. When we read like police we make a criminal[ii]
shot with red pencil corrections, the poet apprehended, booked.

Pull over the rotting rhymester! Handcuff this conceptualist clown.
Arrest that academic asshole. Ticket the doggerel running off-leash.
Slipknot a sleeping surrealist. Deny the pop songwriter his award.

We might read like Mother Theresa[iii] anointing the sores of lepers,
becoming the other for the time saving takes then letting go.
The poverty of poets paves the way to the cornucopia of poetry.

Line 14 stops and a pretty woman[iv] hops off in bright orange shorts.
She’s poetry in motion[v], no idea of me, and could not care less
what I’ve done to this napkin. For her, a perfect reader, I must error not.

[i] “The Phenomenology of Error” is a study by Joseph M. Williams showing when we read self-consciously we do so with bias from personally invested conventions that often have nothing to do with the reality of the text at hand (May, 1981).

[ii] In “Seeing Through Police” (n+1, Spring 2015), Mark Greif says, “Police spend a large part of their time distributing crime to the sorts of people who seem likely to be criminals.”

[iii] Mother Theresa was canonized by Pope Francis in September, 2016, amid ongoing criticism of the quality and quantity of her work with the poor.

[iv] Any resemblance to the Roy Orbison song (1964, “Oh, Pretty Woman”), or to the Julia Roberts film (1990), is purely coincidental.

[v] Line 14 is the Hawthorne bus. Poetry in Motion places poems on buses.

Reading Roland Barthes’s Writing Degree Zero on Line 15

What would Roland Barthes have said about the snippets of poetry published among the ad displays, public service announcements, and caution notes headlining the interior of local bus Line 15?

The poetry placards please riders through a program called, somewhat fancifully, Poetry in Motion, though the poems move relative only to someone off the bus. For the rider/reader, the poems move at the same speed as everything else on the bus, with the exception of the rider just boarding, stumbling down the aisle in the opposite direction of the bus lurching forward. It’s a good idea to wait until seated before trying to read the poetry. In any case, why not call the poems, simply, “Bus Poems”?   

But what’s remarkable is the number of riders and therefore potential readers of the poetry, “reaching an estimated 15 million daily [countrywide],” according to the Tri-Met site. Poetry never had it so good.

Readers may be reminded of Johnny Tillotson’s 1961 hit song “Poetry in Motion.” The refrain of Tillotson’s song seems particularly apt to the riders on Line 15: “…For all the world to see.

a-woe woe woe woe woe woe.” Find out more about Poetry in Motion at the Poetry Society, or at the Tri-Met site: Selections for 2007, or check out the British original Poems on the Underground, including Autumn/Winter 2008 selections, which celebrate the 1918 Armistice.

A random search adds to the randomness of the entire enterprise with this from Charles Bukowski, the bard of beer, on poetry and motion– locomotively, as Bukowski is seen displaying his full critical license (not for the poetically squeamish). We’ve not seen any Bukowski poems on the bus – though there are times on the bus when we feel we are in his company.

Which brings us back to Barthes, who found deconstructing poetry difficult, since the pieces already cover the floor in various stages of disassembly: “…what is attempted [in modern poetry] is to eliminate the intention to establish relationships and to produce instead an explosion of words…since…modern poetry…destroys the spontaneously functional nature of language, and leaves standing only its lexical basis” (p. 46). This sounds like a bus ride. “The Hunger of the Word, common to the whole of modern poetry, makes poetic speech terrible and inhuman. It initiates a discourse full of gaps and full of lights, filled with absences and over-nourishing signs, without foresight or stability of intention, and thereby so opposed to the social function of language…” (p. 48). “…modern poetry destroyed relationships in language and reduced discourse to words as static things” (p. 49). Maybe that’s why they decided to put some on the buses.

The audience on the Line 15 bus shifts slightly at every stop, and every bus ride is already a poem in motion, riders hopping on, hopping off, each a word, or a line, some a full verse, the bus curtsying occasionally, its caution bell bleeping, as it leans down to pick up a rider unable to hop, poems and riders waiting patiently motionless, the big scurrilous bus a measure of notes transpiring.

"On the Road," a Bus Poem by Ted Kooser on Line 15
“On the Road,” a Bus Poem by Ted Kooser on Line 15