Tuesday, May 28, 2013

i have to keep reminding myself i am not a robot

How hateful my tenuous survival depends upon these multitudinous factors:

The 100,000 miles of blood vessels of my body.

My blood travelling 50,000 miles a day. 

30 trillion cells.

DNA, which stretched out would go to the moon and back 6,000 times. 

The 100 million neurons of my brain. 

My kidneys pumping 400 gallons of blood a day.

Taking 5 million footsteps a year.

More bacteria in my mouth than people on earth.

2 million red blood cells dying every minute.

My ribs moving 5 million times a year.

My eyes actually part of my brain, 1/6th exposed. 

My heart beating 5,000,000 times in my lifetime. 

20 million cells in every square inch of skin.

As an early fetus, neuron growth being 250,000 each minute. 

Losing 100 hairs a day. 

My nose smelling 10,000 odors.

My eyes perceiving 500 shades of grey.

My tongue having a unique print.

11,000 liters of air a day.

5 million white blood cells.

My skin losing 600,00 particles every hour.

My liver, 96% water, completing 500 different processes!

My digestive system processing 50 tons of food and liquid.

300 muscles helping me to stand still.

An 8 lbs head with 500,000,000,000 atoms. 

45 miles of nerves in my skin.

My spine working with 100 joints, 120 muscles, and 220 ligaments. 

And that's just the beginning. Now I'm looking for a brain transplant! Can you help?

   Reference: Robots Have no tails, a play. 1964, the subject preying on my mind for almost 50 years:


Thank you! Thank you! My prayers immediately answered. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

if you fall in love with a process, you'll have a good life

Failure has gotten a bad name, 

hanging out in all the wrong places, 

joining gangs of hoodlums, wearing 

leather. Failure doesn't know how

to improve his image, even when 

we'd all love to love him. I met 

Falure last night playing jazz

in a seedy bar. I said to him, 

"Failure, you've got a problem." Failure

said, "I don't have a problem, I am

a problem, my own worst enemy.

Everybody tells me, 'Get a coat and tie, 

clean up your act. Even if you can't 

be a success, act like one. 'Do you know 

how much I hate all those successes

driving their fancy cars, going home

to wives and dogs, loving their children

because it makes everything go so

easily? No, I'm not about to get braces 

on my teeth. I have no intention 

of getting a shampoo and shave, let alone

shining my shoes. Failure is its own

reward, it gets you out of the game.

Now I can play my trumpet like nothing

else in the world mattered. I can search 

for the perfect note in the void, having 

eliminated all superfluous sounds." Yes,

I left Failure leaning up against the bar

with a smile on his face, and I felt

ashamed of myself. I still wanted success, 

to be like everybody else, though I knew now

the true price that must be paid. 

                 Selected Poems: 


Monday, May 20, 2013

Americana: little life-lessons to ignore

He had a really nice funeral but he didn't enjoy it. 

Happiness can only lead to tragedy.

The interesting thing about sex is it's not interesting.

Someday you'll be free from thinking you matter.

Husbands can only be raised in captivity.

The idealist doesn't look when crossing the street.

Embrace delusion, it's your only hope.

Ecstasy: enjoying yourself when you know better.

Sometimes you have to deny yourself the pleasures of scratching.

Calling your mother on your deathbed - can she save you from oblivion again?

Every time I felt sorry for myself, I knew  I merely wanted my mother.

She never suspected the secret: hamburgers.

He became so enlightened he blinded people. 

Why should you believe in yourself? You don't exist.

The only cycle I ever found was bi.

I rose to low expectations.

In making mistakes children learn everything.

Therapists can't dance.

She was sure he loved her until he tried to. 

I'm someone who's passed from innocence to ignorance.

Hippos are not nice guys.

We need to learn to forgive the victims.

Every step you take changes your future. 

Sure, you can make a choice, if you want to be wrong.

He finally felt safe enough to be somebody else.

                                          Americana: glenn county fair: 


Saturday, May 18, 2013

i'm chagrined. it's not the first time. i talked about myself way too much, telling many things i'd never told anyone. now, of course, i'm embarrassed. being old, you should be wise, exclaimed one of king lear's nasty daughters. alas, it really doesn't seem to work that way. i know better than to reveal the soul and overwhelm a listener with personal details. who wants to hear them, really?as they say, i forgot myself, even while elucidating an autobiography. of course, i know the truth can never be told. any honesty about ourselves a distortion. 

i guess that's a good example of overdoing it. the source, to impress, the explosion of latent ambition. along with most people, i believe i can become somebody. fat chance. the most i can do is amplify what i've been given, broadcast it as though something totally new in the world. can i really be a creative person without feeling i'm a god? after all, poetry the short-hand of heaven, love and death on the same plane, a cryptic translation of a canonical text, a successful reduction of our dualistic language to the one-celled creature we once were, swimming in the brine. 

actually, i need to celebrate my tutor from college who recently died, jack gilbert. here are a couple of articles:



he certainly was stubborn, in a good and inspiring way, i think. 

and that brings me back to being. i discovered the other day, feeling like i could just sit still and soak up nature for the rest of my life, basically doing nothing,  i felt like a fully-grown man, a most unusual state-of-being! unfortunately, it didn't last. my nervous energy asserted itself, the searcher, the explorer, the person who's always believed he'd find the truth of existence somewhere, in a movie, a book, a guru, the bad cat of ambition bristling. 

okay, i have had a realization.  a life without romance a dead, meaningless one. going thru old love letters, i understood those encounters enlivened me, brought out the spontaneous and foolish child, who enjoyed being totally ridiculous and off the wall, emotionally over the top, blinded by the glitter and sweep of goddesses. settling down cost me my vision, my willingness to be uncomfortable. no wonder i could throw out a truck-load of diaries kept in this town. 

as everyone knows, circulation, of all kinds, the key to a vibrant existence, and nothing sends the blood pumping like the wonderful illusion of love. not true love, certainly, where you encourage the best in a mate, rather an attempt at ecstasy, doomed to fail and be revived with someone else who seems descended from olympus, until i see the human being (disappointed) inside. since the soul-mate may never arrive, at least i've suffered the touch of magic,  to feel i've lived and have the will to go on, to try again, even though the odds of the house are all on its side. 

Searching For Pittsburgh

The fox pushes softly, blindly through me at night,
between the liver and the stomach. Comes to the heart
and hesitates. Considers and then goes around it.
Trying to escape the mildness of our violent world.
Goes deeper, searching for what remains of Pittsburgh
in me. The rusting mills sprawled gigantically
along three rivers. The authority of them.
The gritty alleys where we played every evening were
stained pink by the inferno always surging in the sky,
as though Christ and the Father were still fashioning the Earth.
Locomotives driving through the cold rain,
lordly and bestial in their strength. Massive water
flowing morning and night throughout a city
girded with ninety bridges. Sumptuous-shouldered,
sleek-thighed, obstinate and majestic, unquenchable.
All grip and flood, mighty sucking and deep-rooted grace.
A city of brick and tired wood. Ox and sovereign spirit.
Primitive Pittsburgh. Winter month after month telling
of death. The beauty forcing us as much as harshness.
Our spirits forged in that wilderness, our minds forged
by the heart. Making together a consequence of America.
The fox watched me build my Pittsburgh again and again.
In Paris afternoons on Buttes-Chaumont. On Greek islands
with their fields of stone. In beds with women, sometimes,
amid their gentleness. Now the fox will live in our ruined
house. My tomatoes grow ripe among weeds and the sound
of water. In this happy place my serious heart has made.
Jack Gilbert
and more flowers: http://www.pbase.com/wwp/iris

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

can you really live one day at a time?

i'm ashamed to admit i never have, always suspicious of these popular NOW 
philosophies. they seem to leave me in limbo, no power over the future, nothing to get excited about, very passive. okay, for whatever reason, perhaps desperation, i decided to give it a try. so far i've lasted a week and this is what i've learned.

it definitely means accepting my demise and no worry. this is disgustingly difficult for me, as i've always, always, always lived in anticipation of something way out there, especially death. this gives me a lot of nervous energy: do it now, while you have the chance. maybe i lied about the aversion to NOW which i declared above. no, this focuses on a grand gesture, creating a masterpiece, laughing at my picture on the front of the new york times: "He Did It, Finally, After All" whichever it was supposed to be. 

throwing out 125 diaries, unloading 3000 books, casting into the trash six boxes of picture disks, this must have done something to my consciousness. i admitted to myself i wouldn't be around to collect the accolades. no university would treasure my papers, and i'm doomed to a pauper's end, my ashes scattered on a mountain. 

okay, that was the first step. i took what's left over to where i'll be house-sitting for the summer. rather frightening i'm finding it to be down to eight boxes. what was i thinking? where did that grandiose identity go? obviously, a good bit of it into the trash. who am i now? NOW AGAIN! that evil presence. what am i to do to re-establish a me on earth? 

you can see into what depths i had to cast before even considering living one day at a time. how the hell t0 do it? what i'm discovering after a decisive week: i need one activity to accomplish each day. that's it, so simple. for example, it might be doing the laundry, or meeting a friend for lunch, or visiting a class on the history of roman art, all of which i'd done in the past seven days. hallelujah! no great project like 'paradise lost' hanging over my head. and in fact, i've picked a goal for today which i already accomplished last sunday: to see the movie ren0ir about the painter and his son jean, who became a famous film-director. 

admittedly, i did set my sights on this particular film due to a personal memory, the aged film-maker walking up the aisle at the university of california, berkeley, his son pierre teaching in the english department, of all places. ah hah, a celebrity sighting from over fifty years ago stayed registered somewhere in my soggy brain. as for this second viewing, it's driven by the gorgeous actress naked among the flowers! 

day by day, it passes. i even took pictures at a local ranch museum and antique show, satisfying my creative drive in a miniature way. they did their duty, NOW i can set them aside and offer them to you, all in a day's work:


Sunday, May 12, 2013

do everything you really want to do before age 30

this morning it's come over me again, how lucky i've been. not liking being restrained by anything, period, i hope this doesn't happen too often. it makes me feel like i have to share my good luck. i have absolutely no idea how to do that! infuriating, isn't it? not that many things in the world don't need doing. children need books, inspiration, medical care, and hugs. in fact people who liberated the german concentration camps found the surviving little ones wanted hugs more than food. 

trouble is, i'm an extreme individualist, all my good thoughts go to encouraging one person at a time. for some reason i don't have the urge (since being a teenager) to solve all the problems of the world. for one thing, i don't dare decide what they are. secondly, as a poet, photographer, what have you, i'm a dictator, i somehow believe in perfection. if only everybody would do as i do! you see what i mean. every theory applied whole scale leads to tyranny. the leaders who emerge - fascist, Communist, and so on - end up using the system for their own aggrandizement.

okay, being a theoretical person, or theoretically a human-being and not a robot, i do keep evolving ideas to apply across the board. trouble is, nothing is right for every single person on earth. what a conundrum! in every day language that means 'damned if you do, damned if you don't'. maybe it's lucky you broke your leg and couldn't serve in the war (the russian poet, boris pasternak, for example). or maybe you were adopted out to caring parents you resented, only to find out your birth-mother a schizophrenic and your bothers jailbirds (happened to a friend of mine). where do we draw the line?

we can't, alas, that's the ultimate answer. that said, the main advice i give to the advantaged youth i know rests in the title above. you may never have another chance. life ultimately throws you into the tar-pit of responsibilities, and the rest is history: raising kids, serving a jail-sentence, struggling to regain the sense of yourself you had when young. this list is endless, all-too-human, and, i hope, obvious. 

so, do everything you really want to do before age 30. you will never again be able to be so careless! and saving that trip to nepal for retirement, you'll very likely make it in a wheelchair. my dictum makes you 1. figure out what you want after all that necessary and detouring education. time to go for broke. and 2. really feeling your basic desire, you'll be motivated, come hell or high water. 

granted, this mostly for kids who've had it all. what if you grew up on the street, having to make your way as best you could? i would maintain this doesn't kill our dream - until we feel too old to make a change. anybody can make the leap, provided they have one thing: a mentor. it's weird to think my whole life decided by a couple of teacher comments. one happened in high school when the peroxided blond, gay english teacher said after i wrote  a piece on bowling for the school newspaper. 'my god, this kid has imagination!' it had never occurred to me imagination a good thing. here's something worthwhile i had by accident. 

the other not so much a single comment, as a teacher's attitude. miss clark, the algebra teacher, let me stare out the window as much as i wanted. somehow she knew i was destined to make my living this way, and she didn't put it down. i do think she told my parents i was an okay kid. i've had many teachers since then and i wish at least you discover one of them who says, as i would, i've know six kids who died before 25. they never lived to 30. if that happens to you, you want to know you've been fulfilling your deepest desires when the ax falls.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

on the beauty of ruins

I've learned you have to live a long time to forgive everybody. 

Inside of every artist is a nervous person trying to calm down.

I don't have to do anything, and I'm  doing it. 

An artist keeps trying to finish herself. 

Once you've created a masterpiece, relax. 

We've all been exiled from childhood. 

The greatest artists have the museum of their own mind. 

How nice not to have anybody waiting for me!

We turn to art when we want freedom from our own story.

Art teaches you what you've been seeing isn't true. 

Too much truth goes a little way.

There's nothing more comforting than an old person with bright eyes. 

Yesterday used to be the future. 

Poetry can escape depression only through sexual satisfaction.

The object of art is stillness.

Art is what's left after you've drained the pain from nature. 

How would we know happiness without the birds?

Education violates our own sense of time.

How can I be wrong? i'm still here.

If you realize other people exist, you've taken a great step. 

How debilitating feeling sorry for yourself is. 

If you don't want to make the journey, forget the destination.

Only a blind man really knows what he looks like. 

Just give them something to think about. It will rectify most states of mind.

Don't get anyone under 50 interested in spirituality.

I could have died at 41 and not missed myself. 

This is the last time it will be the first time.

When will you learn to say, "I've done far too much"?

     Roses for Suzanne (july 9, 1986-may 6, 2012): http://www.pbase.com/wwp/suzanne2

"There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so, he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted."
                                               Henri Matisse