IMG_7361The novel Clio’s Mobile Home is a facet of my creative work. Several characters in my novel write poems; I am serious about writing poetry. I also work on short shorts, and short stories. They are all modes of thinking about identity, transcendence and beauty in contemporary life. Art keeps us aloft, but it is more than decoration. Its force can be astounding. The artist becomes an instrument, and art lives to tell the tale.

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“What Me, Cruel?”

April stares back at us and asks: 
What me, cruel?

Because mournful windows
rattle in my winds

and pots tip over, green 
with rust or lichen?

Because hairs on your bare legs
shiver like crocus?

She finds us in her glassy eye
and springs: 

You are morose, but life revives 
on my terms (her smile impervious)

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The Heavy Click

Because the couch didn’t mean anything to him –
the guy I knew in my 20s who hightailed it
every time a girl moved her couch to his place. 

Because he was foul-mouthed and funny, 
it stuck; I high-tailed it also, living
on my wits, always freelance, perpetual traveler.

Surprise!  The couches now add up, 
and all that indifference– things lost every day – 
turns inside me – 

clicking of a tongue in the strike plate 
of a door frame 

over-miked in the movie of our lives 

mother’s house, door closed, don’t look back. 
Don’t trust my nonchalance. The hard poem is yet to come. 

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In-Betweens of Mud Season

Change of season: vital transition:
Material transfusion: new juice. 

How does the introvert welcome that? 
Mixed.  Don’t make me give up
heavy curtains pulled to nurture
my wild interior!  My own twigs being burned
for my inner heat and observation.

Observe what comes up
from winter’s meditation. 
Attention to what comes up:
ground seethes: undigested.  
Knuckles and roots.  Women’s bony
fingers scraping for their rings;
from the mud everything breathes.

What bones rise alongside tulip shoots;
what shame to resolve; what liquid transitions, 
connective tissue, whatever rises, as gunk 
or random stuff — all holds clues.  

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The Dirty Socks Part of March

We’ve entered the dirty socks part of March, the dingy linen stained grunge metal time when winter’s rough hide pokes up in earth’s skin.  It’s the shoulder season – not white shoulder, not tanned shoulder – the prickly wan unexercised but already slapped into a strapless dress season.  

You can see it in the raw mud and thawing wood planks, the expanding pot holes. The cheeks and legs of twiggy yards are in bad need of a shave.  They have been caught off-guard – they are still thinking winter, and no one told them it is time to emerge!  

In a way, it’s fabulous…there is physics of sorts in the works.  A physicist on the radio explained that not every part of an organism gets news of change at the same time.  There’s an information delay.  The head of a slinky knows it is falling and begins to collapse after a hand has released it.  But the lower rings defy gravity, hovering and remaining in suspension for a fraction of a second.

So the information delay about spring…my plants, in the final stretch of indoor captivity, seem to be giving up, dropping their leaves, and one after another, my fingernails are breaking.  Yes, daylight lasts much longer.  But they haven’t gotten the memo yet!  

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Passion of the Slighted Chapbook

Once we become aware of something, we start to see it everywhere. The long-ignored thing, which existed but meant little to us, asserts itself with a vengeance, a passion of the slighted and overlooked.  

Thus my relationship with chapbooks, small book-objects, often handmade, that slide in your pocket, call to you whimsically because they’re cheap and they can.  

A panel at AWP literary conference sparked my appetite, reminding me of my days when I preferred indie records to corporate labels.  Last week when I uttered the words aloud – “How can I get into this world?” – it seems the chapbooks heard me and said, let’s give the chick a ride.  I sparkled to wonderful names such as Carrion Bloom, Eulalia, Small Orange, Sibling Rivalry, Ethelzine and my favorite name, Rinky Dinky.  

Immediately afterwards, I fell into a Webinar about the role of Jewish artists in Dada and Surrealism.  Jean Khalfa, professor at Cambridge, gave a wonderful lecture about outsider artists whose contributions and agitations were central to European modern movements.  In the First World War era, Romanian artists Samuel Rosenstock (Tristan Tzara) and Marcel Janco mocked and disrupted traditional art in small editions, disposable ephemera, etc., With ferocious wit and steely eye, they made Dada an underground force that shocked those stuck in a single language – “a minority wakes up a majority language.”  Isidore Goldstein (Isidore Isou), Moïse (Maurice) Lemaître, Benjamin Wechsler (Benjamin Fondane), and Salman Locker (Gherasim Luca) followed later, in the ‘40s, restlessly inventing vocabularies in the trenches of Surrealism, Surautomatism (Luca), existentialism (Fondane), Lettrism/Situationism (Isou). The work of these artist/thinkers has been rediscovered, visited with scholarly and public verve – I encourage anyone to go beyond this truncated listing to discover more.  

Finally– Paul Celan.  A little vellum popped up from Small Orange Press that recreates the world of Pierre Joris’ translation of “Todesfuge/Deathfugue,” Celan’s most famous poem.  (The recommendation came from Aviya Kushner’s “Being and Timelessness” substack.) Yet another example of a cultural migrant who was fierce about the recomposition of language (in this case German), leaving dominant linguistic forces in the wake.  

One quote floats from the lecture: “The totality of what is to be known allows anyone to create anything.” It’s scrawled in my notebook, separated from its “author,” a watchword of creative faith.

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Fat Drop Song

February gives us thinking waters
trees of dessicated lace
reeds hanging on memories of yellowness

The pause, the somnolence,
the hard work between the desert
and ecstasy

Then shoots of crocus grow fresh nerves
in last night’s snow banks.
And fat drops of melting snow slide
from the pitch of a roof, washing the 
lines of the parking lot slot white.

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Of Fiancés and Saplings

Poor fools!  Shivering but starting its 
percolation, sap begins to rise in February.

It has listened to the light, like others:
young shoots and lovers in strappy gowns 

with bare legs and backs who beat the dull
winter ache; no badger in a snug, earthen den

or splenetic suffering impacted cold.
They are visionaries, line of other-sighted

folk touching each other’s shoulders,
taking deep steps together in the dark.  

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Secret Face – Upon Observing Barbara Kruger’s Installation

A parking lot with rain:
How jagged the concrete
How silken its puddles 
Its poured-out watery silhouettes
Magic concentric circles
Fast like a dazzling tap dancer
Whose moves outpace the eye
Or a spinning vinyl in black light

How the mind anticipates what it sees
How a camera reorganizes pixels differently 
How a Barbara Kruger slogan reveals digitally
What the eye doesn’t see: 
An angry face in a vinyl LP
Sometimes the camera will unveil
Sometimes the surface is scrambled
That hidden message in the “White Album”
“Paul is dead” when dragged concentrically 

Backward.  Remember the walrus.  
Turn me on, dead man.  Kruger on
The collision of looking & being: 
The eye is the major player.  A threat 
to that eye is a threat to what it means
to live another day.

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Wind Chill Symphonic

Frost from people’s mouths, and vapors
like chilled aerosol rolling across a blurred surface,
and wind, a muffled character from offstage 
unwinding its repression; now sandals won’t do.

An artist made me hear silence with his
violin; at first, the irritation of a bow bothering
a string – people coughing, dropping pens.
But then ice shards talking?  Longer shards

with more between; the breath of dreamers
in the spheres, spectral celebration
and those who ease noise into quiet presence.

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Winter’s Other

Lushly, thickly
a polar bear hibernates
under our infinite skies, 

in our midst:
bristling white 
visiting behemoth.

From my tiny pane,
I see its heavy

see its lungs, and fir
rise and fall

in branch 
and mind
and rise again.

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