Thursday, July 4, 2013

Charles Bukowski a 4th of July

There wasn't much to celebrate,
of course,
our fathers weren't working
and the canned food from the Dept of Relief
all had the same terrible
stale taste.
nothing much was happening anywhere and
there was a joyless resignation
in the air
but I remember this one morning at about
6 a.m. on the 4th of July
1932 or 3 or 4, I don't remember which,
when I heard loud explosions
in the street outside:


my father heard me from
his bedroom

"where the hell have you

"out celebrating..."

"good for you, son!
it's a great country
we live in!"

I walked back to my bedroom,
undressed, got back
into bed.

he's got it all wrong as usual,
I thought,
I was only celebrating

-from a 4th of July in the early 30's, Charles Bukowski
Slouching Toward Nirvana

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Lives of the Alchemists - by Charles Simic

The great labor was always to efface oneself,
Reappear as something entirely different:
The pillow of a young woman in love,
A ball of lint pretending to be a spider.

Black boredoms of rainy country nights
Thumbing the writings of illustrious adepts
Offering advice on how to proceed with the transmutation
Of a figment of time into eternity.
The true master, one of them counseled,
Needs a hundred years to perfect his art.

In the meantime, the small arcane of the frying pan,
The smell of olive oil and garlic wafting
From room to empty room, the black cat
Rubbing herself against your bare leg
While you shuffle toward the distant light
And the tinkle of glasses in the kitchen.

-Charles Simic, The Lives of the Alchemists

Simic Laughing

Simic, you spoke
of a sudden terror and exhilaration
that lures our attention to bite.

I don’t know where you
are now when you toss your
notes down and burst laughing.

And I am sure you are,
bursting, that is,
because no one really hears
precisely what has been written.
~Pat Jr. 5/ 26 / 13


The story of fathers has always been the story of desires.

It is always that next splendid city on the horizon whose shores shine with the glitter of women and money.  It is always that sweet sweet perfume that is only sweet once.  It is the charms of that city, that dear loved city, that draws me into its death. Like a father’s last words.  It is that space that where I seek my own face: This arena of darkness and light. A glittering symphony that really does shine and shine, and sings to your youth.

God had built a temple and had welcomed me there. I was small but happy. Loved.

Did I love back? Was that small inclination to love the same as active loving?

God had built a temple on the hill and welcomed me.  But I was not happy.  I could never love enough.


Youth was free from concerns of infrastructure. A magic force made it all happen, anyway.  I never thought too much about the smell of it all.  Smells are to be covered up.  Ignored.  Sweetened.  It is even more amazing now: The way that we are connected. Not by light cords dangling from the sky, but through the deeper channels, carrying fragments along with them in their pull.

It always called during sleep, when hesitant and weary. It is what can only be in the next city. 

The last time I pursued it, it left a wound like a tattoo that did not heal right. It blisters and peels, its colors are never right. Not the way it looked when I was young.

The city’s currents visit me and I join with them.  It is impossible to ignore the stench, it engulfs my senses.  Somewhere in it is my own identity but I refuse, to acknowledge it as my own.

It is a city like no other.  It houses all of our parents and their parents in a great procession.  A harmony of family ties.  The sweeping of a hand indicates it is there for the taking.  Its infrastructure forms the deep roots of veins.


Reclaiming a lost city is a sacred task. It requires the courage of a god to love only what is here.

So I told him a lie that grew to be its own great city with towering heights and dizzying tunnels. It is scentless, I tell myself, it is scentless.

He was my father and at the time I lacked the courage to tell him it has been lost. I tried prayer, meditation, tattoos: an Om, a cross, and Saint Michael.

My father is a hunter in everything he pursues: Cunning and merciless.

Watch and learn, he tells me and flirts with the waitress, the cashier at the pet store, the clerk at the bookstore. It isn’t so hard. He says. Now, what’s wrong with that one? And to them he would say, my son here is shy, you understand?

My father’s desires are still strong.  His dreams form a solid infrastructure and they carry bits of his past and his hopes along with them, caught up in their pull.


The heroes I remember reading about were those who knew the most about pleasure.  They kept pleasure secure, bound up in their lives, like a mother holds her newborn close wrapped, in its swaddling. 

Pleasure never leaves the heroes: It is always ready at their side.  When their pleasure is taken from them, they launch their thousand ships headlong into the unknown.  They spill over with enjoyment.  They go mad in the chase and lose themselves to their own sword.  It no longer becomes a story of right and wrong or even of fulfillment. Always, it pours over into lecherous indulgence.  Satisfaction remains in the next city.

I resolved: I want to explore the world with sex on my mind.


My first time was just to see how it might feel on my skin.  The first time: The black Om on my right forearm.

I went in to the city like I had been there a hundred times before, but actually not having any idea where the dark streets led off to.  So many desires pressed tightly together and the intertwining avenues linking each to the other.  My heart raced.

The girl at the reception counter was thin as the tip of a needle, but covered over in the most beautiful ink I’d ever seen.  Her slight chest was alive with ruby red and terrible greens, the complete picture, whatever it was, disappeared underneath her bright red tank top and emerging again at her naval in a dark blue.  Down her arms were peacock fans and violet pedals, on each of her shoulder blades was holstered a smoking six-shooter and between them the Greek word Agape.


Justun, was tattooed on his hand and that was the name he went by. The Virgin Mary was depicted on his body at least five times.  A large cross stretched across his back starting at the middle of his neck, and then there were countless other crosses done in free-hand everywhere on his body, as though it were just something he did between customers.  The Sacred Heart was placed over his own, wrapped in a crown of thorns. On his left arm was an infant’s face in light blue ink with the name Taylor and the date 5.17.08.

Justun tells me his own story while he sets out to work. His life is beautiful. His life is devotion and faith.  Years of homelessness and hunger. Many more years of trials. Unpaid months spent at tattoo parlors.  He lives in every city that I can think to ask, if only for a week.  Always, he is praying, and always he believes he is provided for. His life, his work, his faith, his love, it is all there for the world to see in every one of his tattoos.

His voice is soft and compassionate, full of sincerity and a love that I had forgotten since those days in God’s church.  I do not feel the burning or the scratching at all. When it is over, the Om is completeness, is wholeness, it reflects the calm but passionate skill of the artist. I leave the city.


My father frowns, shakes his head, is unsure. Om? He asks, confused.  And I tell him it is God and it is peace. And he asks me to go to church with him the next Sunday, and no doubt he must be afraid because something is escaping him.

Before long, though, my father is trying to sell me on more desires.   He has found a waitress with piercings on lip, nose, and tongue. He flirts for some time between drinks, while inserting my son here just got a tattoo, in a not so casual way before finally asking her, Did you do it to make your father upset? And she says that there was no need. She had done that already, long ago.


Now my bed is too full of books to be of any practical use. Its sensuality is nullified.  It sits squat, numb and dead. Its sheets are scentless. Disgraceful.

But that does not get me where I want to be, that study of ethics.

Identity can be summed up by a great confusion perpetuated by a loss of faith, I write in a notebook, at the end of a poem.

I pray I could return to the Temple again.  To being small.  To look for love only in that other city, in those other starry lights.


At the city, again, I return to meet with Justun, for another tattoo: a Celtic cross.  The girl at the reception desk is new, she has no tattoos. She talks to her boyfriend about choosing her first one.

This time Justun works silently, in greater concentration.  This tattoo, unlike the Om, is in color, green and gold. The shading hurts.  The burning gets more intense as he works on.  It feels like he’s scraping into my forearm with a fire poker. Here is one for the Irish and the Catholic in me, I think over again.

Justun is almost finished when he says, sometimes, I find myself asking God how I might end my work.  I have always found myself to be the one chaining together yearning and hope in small pictures on flesh. It is courage that connects each link. He is finishing with the Celtic knot in the middle of the cross.


The terrible strain of courage when at last I face the reality of what I am and am not: Of those things that were a dream and a myth, those that are told to give us breath.  Now I have to exhale and have the courage to inhale again, having the courage that my lungs are enough to complete the act.  To breathe to have strength.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Wallace Stevens, Sunday Morning


Complacencies of the peignoir, and late
Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair,
And the green freedom of a cockatoo
Upon a rug mingle to dissipate
The holy hush of ancient sacrifice.
She dreams a little, and she feels the dark
Encroachment of that old catastrophe,
As a calm darkens among water-lights.
The pungent oranges and bright, green wings
Seem things in some procession of the dead,
Winding across wide water, without sound.
The day is like wide water, without sound,
Stilled for the passing of her dreaming feet
Over the seas, to silent Palestine,
Dominion of the blood and sepulchre.


Why should she give her bounty to the dead?
What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Shall she not find in comforts of the sun,
In pungent fruit and bright green wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?
Divinity must live within herself:
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
Elations when the forest blooms; gusty
Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;
All pleasures and all pains, remembering
The bough of summer and the winter branch.
These are the measure destined for her soul.

from Sunday Morning, Wallace Stevens