Monday, July 31, 2006

Haunted bed! Or is it in his head?


My bed calls to me, a bouquet
of white roses wrapped in fresh sheets,
sun-white and window-warmed.

Like a cod from the deep I am hauled to bed;
its rumpled buttocks welcome me.

I am drawn to bed by the scent of softener;
its hungry linen mouths my skin.


Clown-faced and innocent
my bed came to me,
grieving over the lost gravity
of my body.

Its button eyes wept over my heels’
impression in the carpet,
its stripes grew crooked with jealousy
at my pajamas’ pant legs.

“You’re too small,” I said,
“my feet hang over your edge
like drying fish.”

“You’re too flat,” I said,
“for me to conform to you
the way you do to me.”

“You’re too soft,” I said,
“I sink into you like a stone
in a bowl of oatmeal.”


My bed misses me and I am afraid.

I hear its anxious springs creaking at night.

There is nothing quite like me to fill its emptiness.

(published in Big Bridge)

This poem is the 12th in the manic section of Sine Wave. The world has become more plastic for the speaker and ultra-personalized, so that he actually believes he is important to the bed. In truth this is the speaker's delusion of grandeur expressed as paranoia, making him more important than he is.

After all the white imagery in the poem's first section, a provocateur posted this in the comments today:

I Bled for C.E. and T.S.!

Last night in my computer room,
trying to print out his major
opus on Eliot's Four Quartets
but realised I lacked enough
paper to fully regurgitate
if from my new HP, I fed
in more leaves, jammed the HP,
got a paper cut! Damn! Now I've
bled for C.E. & T.S.: Four Quarts
for Their Bloody Four Quartets!!!

--Christopher T. George

This may be true up to the volume of blood. If you lost a gallon suddenly you'd die of shock. But if you were bled slowly, very gradually to say 40% of your former hematocrit you could still walk, although you'd move like an old hound dog.

Why Christopher was so eager that I post his response in the body of my blog I don't know, maybe he's running for office or pursuing celebrity. All I know is that this has something to do with Jack the Ripper. As for my essay on Four Quartets , I'll mail it to anyone who wants it. The $25 gift card prize (The inaugural "CE Has to Pay to Be Read")for reading it in its entirety has still not been claimed four months after its posting.

If I don't blog for a while it's because my computer's in the shop. Word has started to decay with antivirus pop-ups. I blame Norton Internet Security for fucking up the software. That program has been nothing but trouble for me, slowing applications like molassas. When I try to thin start menu programs the computer warns me that dire consequences will follow so I always chicken out.

"Don't Look Back," which I posted Friday? was solicited by an editor and I was happy to comply. It's a great thing to be wanted, to be able to skip the audition. I can't think of a time I've turned down a solicitation. I've always felt they were an honor.

I think I mentioned "The Deprivathon" found a home at the venerable Ygdrasil and should appear in its entirety in August. Turns out I was published in Ygdrasiil twice before the new millenium, so here's another link to Ygdrasil.

Didn't catch a fish today but it was beautiful. Kathleen and Kenyon lay down on the peninsular bluff on a navy blue blanket together, soaking some rays. By the speech of the infinite ocean, the jade-blue mother of us all, I cast my line and watched three seals at play.

Still at 2 kilobunnies,


Sunday, July 30, 2006

Facing the War of Weight Loss: Visualizing My Inner Male Model

Good morning. I appreciate all the comments, here and by e-mail, that you send my way, and am scrupulous about answering each one.

Back to the manic half of Sine Wave. The following poem was nominated for a Pushcart by Rose and Thorn. You can see the fountain if you click on the poem's title, but I recommend you read the poem first to see how close we come to imagining it together.

At the Inverted Fountain, UCLA

I sat here as an undergraduate for hours,
water tinkling like a muted xylophone
above the background hiss and glug.
This stump of stream sounded real
as any other, even smelled the same,
mineral-sweet with a tang of leaf
though flowing not to sea
but to a central well whose pumps
fill the peripheral trench
to spill inward over the concrete lip
down to the hollow center.

Today it’s dry,
its circling trench a reservoir
of stagnant water where strands of algae
flutter above bottle caps and newspapers
and a few coins. Its stones,
purloined from nature
have dried dull mustard in the sun.

I think of running water
as the white noise meant to cleanse
the way between us,
the inevitable Tao of running down,
the ultimately indiscriminate lover
flattering every shape by imitation.
Nothing is humbler.

My coin bounces off dry rocks,
my thumb turns to glass,
my hand drops with a splash
on the plaza’s bricks,
my head bursts into droplets
and where my shape stood
sits a pile of soggy clothes.

If I recall correctly, I had returned to UCLA for an Advanced CPR and Emergency Trauma course when I sat on the edge of this fountain and penned the first draft. It drew a certain Wordsworthian voice from me, but I went Strand at the end and lost my identity, then segued to one of my favorite themes, merging with the infinite, an "extinguishing of personality," as Eliot called it.

I just finished updating another ms., For Kathleen: Love Poems. It has grown to seventy pages since I met Kathleen, at roughly ten poems a year, though it was written in spurts and dabs and this harvest only contains the "keepers." I've never sent it out, but I think it's soup.

Obviously we're lucky to be in love after seven years. We can hardly pass each other without some touch of affection. I never thought such a love was possible on earth, though I've read one account of such a union, Sheldon Vanauken's A Severe Mercy, a book I highly recommend.

Although Kathleen hasn't tamed me yet, she's come closer than my mother. As my daughters say, "She's the first woman who can shut Papa up in public." As my father said to me, "Women train us."

Counted calories yesterday, and when I realized I had really eaten a different cut of pork with 280 Calories per 4 oz (I thought it was 180), I knew I had exceeded my daily limit of calories and thus took my revenge on the whole enterprise with salami, cheese, crackers, and a Hostess cherry pie, easily another 1000 calories, putting me way over 3000 for the day when my goal was 2000. On the bright side, I did eat only two country style ribs; a month ago I might have eaten three or four. I binged from frustration and disappointment. It's easy to binge here because we're near Humboldt County. ;-)

I know this is a war, not a battle--"Three steps forward and two steps back." I think I'll start reading women's magazines I see in checkout lines; they seem to have a lot of advice about such things. If I blog about dieting, no doubt I'll gain a larger audience than blogging about manic-depression and poetry.

Ya think?

Near or at the top of all book sales are two genres: cookbooks and diet books.

I'll try to post my weight and "before" picture soon. Let's hope I get to the "after" picture one day. It would certainly help my blood pressure and my stamina, not to mention how clothes look on me. Even at 10% body fat content, however, I'll still have a belly. I don't think I could do enough sit-ups to mitigate the stretching of my abdominal wall by repeated bouts of amoebic dysentery back in Mexico.

I'll probably end up looking like a basketball on stilts.

Visualizing My Inner Male Model,


Saturday, July 29, 2006

Brief Post with New Poem

I usually don't post a poem so recent, and this I wrote only a week ago while still in the clutches of depression. For any who read yesterday's extensive comments it should be obvious why I chose to post this poem.

Don’t Look Back

I see my life as a black road stretching back
through infinite potholes of time
to a horizon where black-bottomed clouds
always threaten to storm, a sinister road
flanked by trees blasted the color of ash,
trunks hollow-topped and jagged.

Those are my trees by the sagging barbwire
between the termite-riddled fence posts.
Those are my cows behind the wires
starving, starving, barely standing.
The reason? They have discovered who they are.
I want to tell them, “You are not just meat”
but they know it is a lie.

I cling to my lies like a fat black spider
hanging from a silver filament.
The lies matter, don’t they? Well, don’t they?
Things don’t become other than they are
just because you want them to.
I close the eyes in the back of my head
and shuffle forward.

And with that, I conclude today's blog with brevity, a quality I sorely lack--but only because I have so much to say!

Thine at 2 kilobunnies,


Friday, July 28, 2006

Groggy in Bloggywood: How I unnecessarily make enemies

Note: the following post exceeds 2000 words and thus may prove too long for cyberlitcruisers, so I'm going to insert in the text where you pass another 500 words, approximately, the way Disneyland puts up signs telling you how long you have to wait for the ride.

I'm amending the post below with an admission: I understand that I may come off as suffering from hubris, and no doubt I do; but there is a psychological reason for this. Suffice it to say that because of my father I use a hammer to kill a fly. I write as if someone's against me, opposed to my opinions, else act cocksure to repel attacks. Truly this is not who I am, or who I want to be, at least I hope not. Although I'm trying to become more self-aware of my defects, like most of us I will die more a mystery to myself than not.

Here's a poem I wrote long ago that explains my defense mechanism better:


My dad turned to me at times,
eyes hooded in drink,
to say, “I love you, Son.”
The words were eerie and eviscerate,
mechanical nightingales of rickety song.
A cigar store Indian
could have spoken them better.
My heart burned anyway.

Late at night, curled on the rug
in a fetal position before the television,
his nostrils trumpeted snores
deep enough to rattle
the fragile beanstalk of my spine.
I could never wake him

Especially in the mornings
I felt my bird-like spirit
unwelcome in his lap.
I might have been smothered
by the sports section
or crushed like a cigarette.

(Published long ago in print, later online--so my records say but I have lost the names of the journals. I only bother to explain this because of what I say below.)


A Bloggywood of Poets

I am a contrarian by nature. My wife defines genius as "being able to see your mountain from another's mountain." Once in a while I qualify.

The hallmark of genius is seeing through a different lens--much like painting the empty space around an object. It has nothing to do with SAT scores. Newton's discovery of gravity may be the single best example of genius. Who else thought about why things fall?

Archimedes, from what I've read, must have been one of the greatest geniuses ever to live. Thomas Edison, with his sixth grade education and hearing impairment, was also a genius, as was Lincoln for different reasons. The list is very long.

But the woman with the highest recorded IQ (210), Marilyn Vos Savant, is not a genius. She makes a living through a column that answers factual inquiries. She's never written a symphony or come up with a fundamental discovery in physics, and she has not supplied a paradigm for analyzing Jimi Hendrix's leads, to the best of my knowledge.

You have now read 479 words

As a same-sex second-born child, I have an exaggerated sense of fairness (my older brother beat up on me from a very early age). So when I see something crappy being praised, or merely damned with faint praise, I get angry, I get on my high horse and want to skewer the phony responses. I can't seem to get over this. Strange that birth order may be the secret to my contrariness. I have the courage of a fool. I'm the senator from Mars, the dog from disobedience school.

I feel the same contrarian spirit regarding this blogging business, especially with regard to blogged poetry.

Most comments on blogs are superficial and cheerful and very short. That's usually a sign that someone with a blog wants to get their picture and link into your blog in order to funnel more hits their way. Such bloggers go to their referral stats and post anywhere that is supplying them hits in order to increase their unique visitors per day. I’m guilty of this motive, I confess, but my comments are usually much longer than average.

Now there are a lot of crappy poets out there blogging. But because of the above, I am amazed at the trifling little compliments showered on mediocrity. It's all good!

No, Virginia, it's not. Much of it is very, very bad.

Like Hollywood and the Karaokepoetry scene, if you know the craft of poetry and are willing to speak your mind, you will soon make some permanent enemies. And that’s because most artists can’t divide their identity from their work. I tell my poetry students to “Wear your art like a loose suit.” If someone can help you taper the suit to better advantage, why not listen?

Now for my confession. Yesterday I left a less-than-complimentary comment at a blog of one who left a compliment here. I could have said nothing. I could have walked away. But after reading all the other facile comments, I wanted to say something. I tried to be polite in deviating from the constant stream of praise, but my last comment was something like, “Your poem concludes with a fatal sentimentality. I’m not interested in watching a Hummel figurines move about.”

I didn’t have to go that far, did I? What possible advantage can this have for me? None. And how does it help the artist? It doesn’t, because he/she is not at a level where my criticism would benefit them.

Anyway, if my opinion was right, all the comments before me were devalued. I may have made ten enemies with one post. I fear to return there for that reason, because friends will come to their friends’ aid and likely accuse me of cruelty. One always hopes that people will act more maturely, but I have discovered that they usually don’t. (Obviously, my need to speak "the truth must be considered immature as well. How I loved the boy who exposed the emperor!)

I want it to be about the poetry; they want it to be about feelings. Few attitudes are more destructive to the quality of art, although it is a pervasive attitude in all the orbits of the art worlds I’ve come across, from drama to music. You know— the eleventh commandment.

If I am in awe of poetic achievement, I am equally irritated by substandard poetry, especially when it is fawned over. And there's more of the latter than the former on the Net, where any nitwit can start a poetry blog and self-publish. I’m not afraid to be an example. Almost all the poems I post here have been published elsewhere.

My mother told me over and over again, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." Still, I felt the falseness of her compliments to others by some inflection or familiarity with her; she went beyond silence into trying to find one good thing to say about something that was marginal at best. That's good breeding. It wasn't passed on to me. Then she was the baby of six siblings, a better place in the birth order.

You have now read 1,176 words.

In the poetic blogosphere I see the same phenomenon: post a brief, superficial complimentary comment at someone else's blog and hope that your appearance there garners more hits on your home site. It's obvious that many people who comment on a blog do so only in order to pump up their own traffic. Rarely is anything of substance said, because this is Bloggywood. Don't say anything negative, that site might drop your link.! Oh no! Everything is good in Bloggywood, just like Hollywood: “Great work, it's a sure hit, a pleasure to read, yada yada yada sis bam boom.”

Having got that off my chest, here's contrarian column about why I quit doing readings in LA and how I was blackballed there.



Last night I did the unthinkable; at a venue in Santa Ana, CA, where I was "featured," I did the unthinkable; I spoke my mind and offended nearly everyone there. My first remark:

"I don't give a shit about what any of you think of me, nor do I mind if you leave now, or later, or go outside to smoke a cigarette while I am reading."

More: "I haven't heard one poem tonight, even from my co-feature, that deserves publication in a quality magazine." Then I employed my now standard cinema metaphor, where if poetry were film there might be one listener in the audience while the rest of the participants holed up in the projection room, desperately hawking their canisters for one projector, just as there is but one microphone.

I did my usual grandstanding of handing out books of poetry to any who came who read or listened to poetry but did not attempt to write it; unfortunately, their were four in the audience, the highest number I've ever found, and I had but two books, hardbacks by Tony Hoagland and David Slavitt-- but may I say in my defense that two of the non-writers were merely the parents of my "co-feature" who had come to support their daughter, though I was still sorry to have run out of books.

I went on speaking freely about the state of poetry today, the lack of a true audience not jealous of my every minute behind the microphone, the woeful standards, the ignorance, the smug Hollywood glad-handing world of the Spoken Word Scene here in LA. At the conclusion, the host did "something he'd never done before" and publicly castigated me from the stage for dissing poetry in general, even my own (I made fun of my most narcissistic poems as I read them.) Though livid, the crowd forced the host to allow me to reply, where I explained the difference between PEMLODS and unusual personal experiences worth recording, or universal personal experiences made fresh by the gift of language. Basically, as chief featured emperor, I pulled my own clothes off and tried to leave everyone else naked. I reminded myself somewhat of the Quaker who lit himself on fire in front of the Pentagon to protest the war, an event that haunted MacNamara for the rest of his life.

You have now read 1,698 words.

Afterwards, the host implied "You'll never work in this town again," yada yada. And by coincidence, he was forced to give me a ride home-- where we continued our argument. It was then that he gave a gift of poetry to me, in terms of metaphor: "CE, we know a lot of the poetry isn't great, but it's like... like... Karaoke."

A light then went off in my brain! That's it exactly; all spoken venues with an open mike are exactly like Karaoke, though the audiences are even less talented-- since writing good poetry, IMNSHO, is more difficult than singing passably. But I understood, finally, why for a year, with about one reading a month (solicited only because of my publications, I didn't go the "open mike" competition route), I more and more dreaded reading in public. I usually left feeling used, soiled and false. So last night I spoke my truth, and was roundly castigated for it. "Imagine," I said to the host, "where the one place you can't tell the truth is at a poetry reading. What does this say about the spoken word scene and poetry in general?"

To make my point about PEMLODS, I tried to refrain from first person poems, but was trapped even by my own work where an occasional 'I' would creep in at the end of a poem I thought safe as external to the poet's self-involvement. But as I said above and in last night's after debate, if the 'I' is universal and invites all into the experience, or the 'I' relates an exceptional experience, these are not to be discouraged. It is the 'I' that magnifies a trivial adolescent world view (depression, romance, discovery of language, poems about poems about writing poems, etc.) that qualifies for my displeasure, even disgust.

After the brouhaha they offered me my share of the hat passing and I said, "No, you hate me, I have embarrassed you, you keep the money. I don't care about it anyway." Afterwards, when they took pictures for the local Orange County rag, I refused to be in the picture because "I had shamed you and should not be included." Yet they insisted I pose with the other "feature," so I did so in penance, at which I am good, and need to be good, especially when I shoot my mouth off. ;-) But for me it was a cleansing and liberating experience.

The spoken word scene in LA, by in large, consists of poets not good enough to be published or win prizes, admittedly in themselves not the best measure of quality, but unfortunately the best measure of quality extant. If you put the words of most "performance poets" on paper they violate the opposite pole of Eliot, that is to say, boring in their repetitive monologues that have to be juiced up for delivery. Spoken word poetry to my mind more resembles the speech contest category of "Dramatic Interpretation," except the author is also the actor-- and lacks a director, or in this case, an editor. It's of poor quality, adolescent, omphaloskeptic, composed of run-on sentences, and not worth my time. Politely enduring this crap, including the "co-featured" if I am unlucky enough to have one, for ninety minutes in order to read for twenty minutes (after the Karaoke Poetry microphone is placed in my hands) is eminently not worth it to me.

So the host, driving me home, said: "Well, you can do what so and so does, and forbid open readings or co-features when you read." And I thought, "What a great idea. I may never read in LA again, but it's worth it. That way I don't have to be false and gushing (as expected of me socially) to a bunch of nitwits who, having followed the example of spoken word poets, write mostly crap, whose chief features are 1) Redundancy; 2) Narcissism; and 3) Cliché'(in a word, lack of craft).

You have now read 2,361 words.

A good poem is hard to write; a great poem nearly impossible, almost a gift, why the idea of the muse has persisted even today. But emptying your guts at a Karaokepoetry venue has very little to do with poetry. My host criticized Shakespeare and felt some LA spoken word poets compared favorably to him, that he was only good because he did it "first." Naturally, after such a comment, there could be no resolution between us, although the young man is earnest and fairly well-read. He has only been ruined by example of a decadent subculture, where celebrity is cultivated in a Hollywood atmosphere ("And never is (publicly) heard a discouraging word.")

My favorite quote about Hollywood: "In Hollywood, it is not enough to succeed; your best friend must also fail." And though there may be innocent souls out there at these venues, hungry for quality, open to improvement, the cultivation of celebrity in self-authored dramatic interpretation has to affect them negatively, and I hope they are eventually driven to read the Greats.

Ranting with Pleasure,

C.E. (blackballed in LA?) Chaffin

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Poetry Thursday: Carrots and a Salad

This week the poetry Nazis at Poetry Thursday have called upon us blogging poets to post something on food. As I am presently engaged in the battle of the bulge, this topic is not particularly welcome, but in the spirit of cooperation I'll post something old and something new.

The Secret Meaning of Carrots

It was nearing winter when I pulled
the remaining population,
their green shuttlecock hair tipped with gold.
Some were large, manly,
others delicate, womanly,
some had not reached puberty.
I grasped the whole tribe firmly, lovingly,
and set them on the kitchen cutting board.

After their greens were shorn
I bathed them in a colander
as if sifting for gold--
they washed up like nuggets.
I placed them in a yellow bowl
of cold water. Sweet,
I crunched them in my teeth.
Rich in Vitamin A, I knew
my vision had improved
and I could see
the secret meaning of carrots:

They begin from the smallest seeds,
vegetate through summer
and by storing the sun grow fat and sassy.
Tubers, they groove
on the slow conversion of energy
into the sweet bacon of their bodies.
Their central root aims
for the earth’s center like a heart worm.
Uprooted, the same wire
dives into the dirt of our mouths
and by their sacrifice we eat the sun.

(This appeared in in the now defunct Tintern Abbey, and in my first and only published book, Elementary, which is out of print. In other words I'm just a cyberghost with no bread crumb trail, just memories.)

Burying a Caesar

I made it on a Saturday
with romaine and green leaf lettuce
stems crisp and firm
fresh-boiled eggs in slices
the rose-white flesh of radishes
mushrooms cut kidney-style
spinach with that suede feel
and chicken strips grilled in garlic oil.

If they'd eaten it at the party
or I hadn't added dressing
I wouldn't be standing here a week later
fearing to open the blue ironware pot
inside the refrigerator
where Hansel and Gretel get lost
in the furry forest of the fungal underworld
where spice of meat and greens are married
to the wilting tatters of Miss Havisham’s
spider-riddled dress.

I must throw this mutant gallimaufry out.
I bag it blindly and drop it in the trash,
holding my nose, but as I do I become
curious about what alien stews
must be composting in my neighbors’ trash.
See how the imagination festers?
I swear I'm not going to lift a lid.

(unsubmitted, unpublished)


Yesterday I caught my first rockfish. I hiked two miles to a fairly deserted cove and finally managed to land a fish. I took it home and froached it (fried and poached, my term) and it was delicious. It tasted a bit like wild trout. It's such a satisfying feeling to catch or grow your own food. We've been eating some fine salads from my vegetable garden as well. I am the world's unluckiest fisherman, so I won't tell you how many times I was skunked before my triumph.

My mood is holding at one kilobunny. I worked a great deal on the order of another ms. yesterday: For Kathleen: Love Poems. If you go back to last Thursday's post, you can read one of those. But who goes back? Isn't it the nature of blogging that folks only stop here for three or four minutes to see what's happening today?

This blog has a history. It started near San Diego, continued in Mexico, then found new life in the redwoods and turned intensely personal during my depression.

Then we only have today, we only have this post--- Nonsense! With modern recording capacity we could document our entire lives 24/7 if we wished. Just get a Boswell with a video capable cell phone to follow you around.

Now that might be a colossal bore, but it is technically possible.

If man can now record himself completely, all the more reason to believe in the Akashic record, a Tibetan conception of a book in which everyone's life, living or dead, is completely preserved.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of decay, I will fear no Caesar.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Jacob, Bible Experiment, Nonsense Prose-Poem

This is one reason to live, my grandson, Jacob Alexander Chaffin Wall. The kid is a corker, a live wire, a handful, very self-determined and adventurous, a real boy's boy. God I love to see him up here in the wilderness where there's nothing to worry about. As for his name, a lower birth rate may be influencing some parents to add more names. Ya think?

As for my children's generation, I like the new label: the entitlement generation. Perfect, yes? Inflated self-esteem expecting easy rewards, ignorant of how the world works. Eeek. I've met a few like that. I think they're entitled to a smack up the side of head, and Life, no doubt, will oblige.

Here's the next in the Sine Wave sequence, mercifully short, but one can see the increasing grandiosity of the speaker, along with his bizarre experiment, though he hasn't lost his sense of humor. In mania every result is interesting and there is no such thing as failure. In mania and hypomania one doesn't make lemonade out of lemons; one makes 50 year-old Johnnie Walker.

Bread upon the Waters

I cornered divine immanence with a shotgun
but it slipped away, almost present.
Its silence fooled me because it wasn’t silence
but the frozen stutter of a blank expectancy
guarding some deeper sentience
so I designed an experiment to see
if the world might grow conscious
of its unconsciousness:

I tore up a Bible
and fed its leaves to the wind.
They scattered without purpose.
I tracked them for months
until just one sheet was missing.
When I found it I laughed—
All genealogies!

My mood continues at 1 kilobunny, a term I have thought of changing to kiloraven because of my fondness for the bird, but it wouldn't wash because black birds aren't associated with happiness.

Now for a prose-poem, an entity towards whose existence I am utterly opposed:

Drung me, I'm flaxed. The Kiddishcat rumpled with great noisomeness the custard of my belly. Preserve the face through masks. I'm not free-associating, this is just one channel of my mind, hardly freeborn with an Alaskan stake. There are many parallel and contiguous other channels, such as how my testes feel at this moment (a little cramped) or how's Ratdog on the Grateful Dead Hour? Doublescoot, doublescoot to work O thrall with that leash dangling from your collar, phallic control by insidious institutions. Swallow your penis. Sorry, down the snatch. Kiss your own ass one for the money two for the show. A really big shew! Should I have said it in just that way? Way down in the bottom of my throat where the carbon whales sleep beside the plastic bon-bons equipped with nuclear-powered spy cameras? Cameramen never take my picture, I am not picturesque. Also too tall too tall too tall for the frame. Photographers and journalists are Pond's pond scum, verily in their majority, self-rigtheous gin journalists chewing cheap Swishers, in debt but loving it like peppermint loves Christmas, like Catholics like blood, like steel craves an edge.

I am not James Joyce nor was meant to be.

Did you find today's post mildly entertaining? I hope so. And having hope again is one of the greatest boons in coming out of depression, which is easily defined by a sense of hopelessness, helplessness, and worthlessness.

Thine at One Kilobunny,


Ravens; Dare I say I'm at 1 Kilobunny?

I forgot to post two raven poems a reader looked forward to. I have a third but it's not soup yet.

My Spirit Guides

Withered in the sizzling afternoon,
black smokestacks of glisten,
dark wings dumbstruck silver:
wet ravens exfoliating steam.
I grok their raucous caws, listen:

Not the kookaburra in the eucalyptus
nor the turkey vulture in the date palm,
more the great heron stabbing fish
at the center of all birds, a calm
so large no feather raised
against the wind denies it,
no pinion, quill or tail recedes
without shifting the air's resistance
toward it.

Ravens on rooftops and rails
shine bright silver to other birds.
I bless the gin rummy of their tails,
black angels with their secret wurd,
but I won’t trust them. Signs
follow wonders, wonders, faith:
these birds are not divine—
psychosis and poetry are twins
while prophecy's another thing.



Raven pecks a pine,
click click click like a woodpecker
to fool me, then cries
craah craah craah and flaps
black-fingered wings away.

An iridescent sheen
creasing the neck
betrays his monotone
like a film of oil on water.

Black eyes see no color,
though black beak eats anything,
going where vultures can't--
in the middle of roads, quick to rise
before wheels arrive.

The Tlingit Indians
have two clans:
Either you are a raven
or an eagle.

I want to be a raven.

(published in my first book, Elementary)


I'll return to Sine Wave tomorrow.

My mood is holding--dare I venture to say I'm at 1 Kilobunny? To assert such a notion scares the dickens out of me, because I know how thin the paper is on the closet door where the monster hides, waiting to devour me. I have an immense respect for depression, the kind of respect Sigfried must have for tigers--or was it Roy? Whichever one was dragged across the stage by the neck. I'm never safe and I only have today. It is through my actions that I live, while remembering that speech is an action and that inaction is also an action.

Thine in Truth and Art,

Dr. Craig Chaffin

Monday, July 24, 2006

Faux Photographer Apprehends and Displays Naked Woman: Poem, "In Your Hands."

Today's poem is the tenth in the manic half of Sine Wave and the 36th poem in the ms. It's also one of my personal favorites, though to explain that would ruin the poem.

In Your Hands

The desert two-lane flashes
its white segments so fast
you forget the asphalt discontinuities
and think the dashes connected
toward some future rendezvous
where night and morning join
in a secret sunrise of stars
that explains all the causalities
that propelled you here—
but your eyes are sucked back
to this moment, furious and finite
as a fly seizuring against a screen.

The yellow smears on your windshield
are souls you’ve hurt without knowing.
The whistle through the window
is your suspicion of yourself.
The radio plays country
because you really are that simple.

When it’s time to pull over,
you are no closer to but no farther
from your goal. In a waking sleep
you imagine topiaries of exhaust
in the shapes of visionaries:
Jesus, Blake, Jules Verne.
Were they just as rooted to the moment?
Or did they veer off in the underbrush?
The wheel is in your hands.

(published in eclectica)


Yesterday our neighbor, "I'm Not Creepy," was noted at dusk on his outdoor patio in only a white towel, while a naked young woman ran out his door and back several times. She was, well--very good looking, her body athletic without losing the requisite curvature.

I poked my head out the door to say, "Is everything OK?" Mike (INC) said, "Fine. Come, meet my girlfriend" (was standing outside naked at the time). But instead of greeting me, she ran back inside. I heard no shouting or signs of distress.,

The woman could not have been over 25, while Mike "I'm not creepy" is on Medicare, pot-bellied, with sticks for arms and stringy white hair streaming from his scalp in two big patche--like Larry from The Three Stooges. Mike's socially impaired and Kathleen and our neighbor, Noel, swear he stinks almost all the time from body odor. (Being over a foot taller than he, I haven't noticed.) So how does he snag a hot chick?

We think Mike's scam is as follows: He seeks out young female hitchikers and asks them if they'd like to come home and pose for some "artistic" photographs. And he, no doubt, has to get close to the subject for the sake of art.

Usually in a photographic session the photographer keeps his clothes on, yes?


I hiked five miles yesterday with Kathleen, brutal climb near the end.

But I pigged aoout last night and lost any advantage from the exercise.

Still, careful observers may have noted that I lowered my weight from 270 to 260 in my profiel.

Mood holding--I can tell because I irritate Kathleen now.

Thine in Poetry and Adventure,


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Back on the Bus but not in the Back

Below, the next poem in the second section of Sine Wave. I wrote this in 1999 on a Grayhound Bus in 1999 heading to Toledo, Ohio from Moorhead, MN., in the pre-dawn.

On the Bus II (Ohio: Dawn)

A mist lies over the lake
like a blanket of visible breath
outside my tinted window
and a line of inky clouds
spells something in dabs and blots
along the orange horizon.

To the west, monotonous clumps
of monochrome trees are ruled
by undifferentiated blue.
Metallically foul, though pure,
the smell of a skunk seeps through.
I find it strangely addictive.

Somewhere along this stream
beavers slap mud on sticks,
waiting for ice to form.
Where is the emperor
with his hundred-year-old cricket
to explain these sleeping faces?

A water tower looms,
its hydrocephalic head
perched on a steel stem
like a rigid pollywog.
And I am a talking fish
in search of a species with ears.
I must see to the heart of things
whether you do or not.

(published in the Adirondack Review

I incidentally entered the ms. in two contests last month--contests that charge you money, of course, which always makes me suspicious that it might be a scam. One contest used my entry fee to allow me to pick one of their publications. And there, to my surprise, was a book by a winner of the contest who was my former student. So ordered her book.

Maybe I teach better than I write.

Other good news: "The Deprivathon" was accepted by a venerable old e-zine that antedated Melic and continues. I'll reveal the name when alle ist in ordnung. Of the ten zines I queried, only this one responded to me in less than ten weeks. Maybe others dread telling me how much my work sucks. Maybe I'm on the cusp, made the first cut. Damned by faint praise? Maybe they're lazy and like to publish their friends. Maybe nothing, something, it's all possible in the wacky world of writers.

I've also got a poem coming out in the Philadelphia Enquirer Book Review today, so if any of you live back east and can get me a copy and mail it to my address, I'd be much obliged.

C. E. Chaffin
P.O. Box 2436
Fort Bragg, CA 95437

I think I mentioned my essay in the Redwood Review? (Local literary mag.) Niederngasse took another love poem from me. What else? Just waiting for feedback by editors who have not answered.

My mood is holding.

Saw a special on my spirit guide, the raven, tonight. In one sequence a lady's pet raven actually hopped into the front of her car and turned off the ignition. They steal from eagles and live forty years. I've wanted a raven for a long time, I think I'll look into it. I want him to say stupid things so I don't look as much the jerk. He'll improve my social standing. My feathery, abrasive mouthpiece--I'll turn you into the Don Rickles of ravens and we shall all live to forget it.

I have poems on ravens, maybe tomorrow.

Love to all who have been through this horror with me. Each day I can feel hope I know I am not in the clutches of Demon Melancholy--though he still seems just outside the door at this juncture. Can't afford to be overconfident.

Thine in hoped-for humility,


Saturday, July 22, 2006

"Running Away"--and mood update.

I don't need to write about my depression today, thank God, since it has been in abeyance for three days. My mood transitions, once the right medications are put in the gumball machine of my brain, are spectacularly sudden. As Elisa posted yesterday, "Welcome to Oz in technicolor."

And it's just like that--I step out of a black and white movie into technicolor. I'm suddenly on the other side of the interrogation room's one-way mirror, no longer in the room with its gray Formica desk and steel chairs barely softened by aging vinyl. It's like jumping off a cliff with the intent of suicide and suddenly discovering you've sprouted wings like Dedalus and can fly, or a fish out of water who suddenly discovers he can breathe air and tolerate the sun, a bear who steps into spring, forgetting his long, dark hibernation with the taste of his first salmonberry. You get the picture. I should mention the little bobble-headed statuette of St. Zyprexa I've glued to my dashboard. Give credit where credit is due.

Incidentally, and I just realized this, "Tonic" (the poem I posted yesterday) was actually the next in the rising to mania sequence of my ms. Sine Wave that I had been posting daily before my relapse. So, hoping my mood will continue euthymic, I'll post the next one in the sequence today, a poem I was not going to include in the ms. except that my editor, Kathleen, put it back in.

Running Away

I tried so hard today not to be depressed.
I bought my wife a mink,
told my boss he was a genius.
gave my shoes to the poor,
then took a bus with no destination
to wherever it didn’t go.

It dropped me in the suburbs
where hedges clawed and lawnmowers
growled at my chinos.
I took refuge in a garage
next to an old Lincoln
who smelled of rubber and oil.

“If you park at Disneyland,” he said,
“you can meet a lot of cars.”

I told him I wasn’t a car.

“Too bad,” he said.

When the garage door opener hummed
and sun puddled under the door
I pressed my bus transfer
to the Lincoln's windshield
but the driver ignored me.
Barely I bellied beneath
the descending door and ran
back to the bus stop.

The driver looked at me tenderly,
like a mother.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “but I recognize you.”

“No harm done,” I said. “Did anyone else?”

“Everyone,” he said, and tore up my transfer.


Thine in gratefulness,

Craig Erick

Friday, July 21, 2006

A Miracle Occurs

I'm posting a picture of me and my brother at a beach. I find the picture uplifting, though at the time it was taken I was seriously depressed. Yes, I'm the brother who doesn't smile. I also post below a poem that's worth sticking on your refrigerator, though I think it's a cut above Blue Mountain Arts:I do this to celebrate the miracle of my mood change that began yesterday.


I will love myself today.
Here are some fuzzy slippers
and a lollipop,
a warm hug and a wet kiss.
Let me tuck this
old familiar blanket
around my shoulders
and read this poem
before I nap.

Whatever I do today,
I’ll approve.
If I spill milk, I’ll clap.
If I button my shirt wrong
it’s a new style.
If I wet my pants
it was on purpose.

My, how well I walk!
How well I speak!
It’s so good to be
good to myself.
Where have I been
all these sad, long years?

(published in Tryst--there's a whole lot of my work in this issue.)

Unbelievable! After suffering a serious depression for nearly four months, I've felt well for two days. Medically I'm sure it's due to my increase in the Zyprexa dosage along with an increase in Wellbutrin. Truly, I was close to calling my old psychiatrist in Orange County for outpatient ECT, though lacking insurance that would no doubt be beyond my means. Even the medications below I can hardly afford. Lamictal costs about four dollars a tablet at Costco, the cheapest pharmacy I know. For me that means eight dollars a day, but I gotta have it. Prior to this depression it was the only medication I took regularly for my condition.

Here's the cocktail that turned me around, though I don't trust my footing just yet.

Zyprexa 15 mg. at bedtime.
Klonopin 1 mg. at bedtime.
Lithium 900 mg. at bedtime.
Prozac 40 mg. in the morning.
Wellbutrin 300 mg. in the morning, 150 mg. in the afternoon.
Lamictal 100 mg. in the morning and afternoon.

All the literature maintains that a manic-depressive's depression is the most refractory of depressions to treat, especially if it comes on the heels of mania. I post this list for the sake of other sufferers.

Them's a lot of damned drugs, but sometimes it takes a big combination to reverse the neurotransmitter deficits. I discovered the synergistic effect of Prozac and Wellbutrin in my last bad depression of nearly a year. My shrink had me on 40 mg. of Prozac, then switched me to Wellbutrin. There was still a lot of Prozac in my blood when he gave me he Wellbutrin. I remember my mood flipping just like it has now. Suddenly I appreciated flowers and the roundness of women's posteriors, something I couldn't do for 11 months prior to. My depression vanished in three days and I resumed taking the Prozac because the Wellbutrin only worked in conjunction with the Prozac in my case. Later I read in psychiatric journals of studies that confirmed this. But my experience predated those papers.

In medical school I was taught by neurologists, in treating seizures, to keep adding medicines until the seizures were controlled. I think the same applies to treating mood disorders. William Styron in Darkness Visible thought depression too mild a word to describe the condition. He thought "brain fever" more appropriate. Thus the model for seizure treatment I think also applies to serious mood disorders. Just keep adding the meds until something breaks. And when it breaks for me, as in these last two days, I go from minus to plus in a flash.


Enduring the depression was soul-crushing, but I've now had two good days, amazing days. When Kathleen sent me to the store yesterday for fruit I had no trouble making decisions. That was amazing. And my anhedonia is poof! gone. I'm back in the wonderful world of color, freed from my black-and-white prison.

May my euthymia continue. Hallelujah and amen!

I should mention my beautiful and compassionate wife, Kathleen, who took excellent care of me during this illness. Having her near helped me endure the snow inside the fire of willful self-abnegation.

Keep your fingers crossed,


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Sexy Poem for Poetry Thursday

Poetry Thursday has requested sexy poems this week. Here's mine:

Beside the Sleeping Tiger

Come with me, love
across this field of crimson poppies
to a bed of rushes
where the old tiger sleeps.
We will not wake him.

Do not bring your purse or make-up,
shed your jeans and bra.
Let your creamy legs
part the scarlet meadow.
Let the great pearls of your cheeks
tease me as you glide ahead.

Then lay your head down
on the heaving stripes
of this old killer's belly
and be at ease because
he no longer dreams
of violence but generation.
Sleep that I may admire
your vessel at my leisure.

Softly you’ll stir
as I lick your pebbly areolas
and tongue your nipples until you wake
with that infantile, angelic smile
of the truly loved.

Aroused you'll straddle me,
breasts grazing my chest.
Your moistness is better
than cheating death.
Flex your magnificent thighs
quietly, as if in prayer:
We will not wake the tiger.

As for my mood, aren't you tired of reading about it? Yet the good news is, after increasing my Zyprexa to 15 mg. at night (always under the supervision of a physician), I haven't cried for two days and nature looks beautiful again and I can hug my wife naturally. But I have come here before in this depression only to relapse. For today, however, it is truly a miracle. Criticize the pharmaceutical industry if you will, but I praise them for their innovations that can save folks like me.

Thine in Hope,


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Are the meds workng? Moose Turd Pie

Unbelievable. After increasing my Zyprexa dose for two nights I feel better, though certainly not out of the woods. I didn't weep yesterday.

I'm having trouble getting to sleep, however, because the drug makes my legs twitch, not to mention that I increased the Wellbutrin dose as well. I'm maxed out on my meds, and if they don't work, I'll have to drive four hours down to San Francisco to see a good psychopharmacologist.

I don't want to say anymore about my kilorat wattage for fear of jinxing myself.

Instead I'll share a joke I heard on Dr. Demento. It was told in the first person so I'll try to do it justice from memory, full well knowing that a written joke is never as funny as a spoken one. It might be better to read this aloud to a friend.

"Back in Alaska, working for the railroad, I was a Gandy dancer. You know what that is? We had these long-handled shovels, Irish banjos, and we'd stick 'em under the railroad ties or rails and then bounce on the handle end to raise the tracks, so the other workers could shove gravel and dirt under the ties. Anyway, that time passed and now they'd send three cars to work on a stretch of track: a bunk car, a tool car, and a kitchen car. But the company never sent a cook. So what happened, and I was a newbie, was that whoever complained about the cooking would have to become the cook until someone else complained. Not knowing the ropes I was naturally appointed cookd.

"Now I hate to cook. So I bethought myself how to get out of this responsibility. I was walking out in the woods when I saw a huge moose turd, I mean really big. So I rolled that puppy back to the kitchen car and decided to make a pie out of it. Someone was bound to complain.

"I covered a big pastry pan with dough, pinched it, put in the moose turd, covered it with fancy strips and a little mint on top and shoved it in the oven. When it came out it was a thing of beauty. I set it down on the table for the hands.

"Big Jack came in and sat down, he was a mountain of a man. Immediately he dug in to the pie. A strange look passed across his face and I thought he was going to wallop me. But after swallowing the first bite, he said, "Moose turd pie! Not bad."

Thine in hope and haute cuisine,


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Mock Turtle Weeps While Fishing

Yesterday was a tearful day, tears without reference, just a chemical sadness. Knowing that it's chemical doesn't make it any better, although it does help with intellectual hope.

I had made up my mind that when Kathleen got home from work I would go fishing. I am the world's unluckiest fisherman, and I never catch anything, but I like the process. So there I was, above a beautiful blue cove on a bluff, tossing my bait--and I teared up and started crying. I've never cried while fishing before. It's some kind of a low mark, I think.

I recall the thought I had before I started to weep. I had thought of God briefly, and began to offer a limp prayer when the idea of contact with God made me unutterably sad. Given the Christian conception I've inherited, it makes sense, because often the most painful thing in a serious depression is contact with those closest to you; there are no words to express the depths of worthlessness one feels when confronted by love, because one can neither appreciate love nor reciprocate.

I didn't cry when I woke today. I attribute this to the increased dose of Zyprexa I took last night. The bad thing is that I didn't move in my sleep because of the dosage, so I woke with pain in my left hip and the capsulitis in my right shoulder was intensely aggravated. But I would much rather endure physical pain than emotional pain. In my deepest depressions I have always been grateful for any physical pain able to distract me from myself. Since I suffer from chronic pain, my back can actually be a blessing in this dreadful state.

The self-absorption of depression is definitely narcissistic, but constitutes a very unhealthy, regressive narcissism: the narcissism of abandonment, of being abandoned to oneself, encased, enbalmed, encorpsed in an awkward body with all its fluids and needs. One feels as vulnerable as a white grub on asphalt; the birds are sure to come, all the birds are looking. And the fear of the predator extends to all; I am literally more afraid than glad when Kathleen gets home, the person who most loves me. Tears streamed down my face when I told her I was going fishing. Still, I went. It was a good outing because I only lost one lure.

I'll close with a link to another great poem on depression. I've already posted Coleridge's "Dejection: An Ode," and Jane Kenyon's "Having It Out with Melancholy." Today's link is to Gerard Manley Hopkins' "No Worst, There Is None."

Who am I to put a kilorat value on my condition?

In the Belly of the Beast,


Monday, July 17, 2006

Depressed People Are Boring and Irritating

I actually woke up depressed today, despite two nights on the antipsychotic (Zyprexa). Usually there's some attainment of consciousness that precedes the leaden feeling, but within fifteen minutes of waking I began to cry. About nothing. Just sadness spilling over, sadness not attached to any particular loss.

Depressed people are boring. Their loved ones, ultimately, can't help being irritated by them. Here's what happened yesterday:

We took Kenyon to a nearby beach to swim. When we thought he'd had enough he began to shiver and Kathleen took him to the car to escape the wind, as she was getting cold, too. She told me "I'd like to leave in a little while." I wasn't ready to leave. Lying in the sun by a chorus of waves I found soothing, and I prefer open vistas to closed spaces no matter how sick I am.

Yet eager to be compliant, or rather desperate not to displease, I packed up and got in the car. I drove home, and after bringing the van into the garage, I told Kathleen that I was going back to the beach. This made her angry. "Why didn't you tell me at the beach? I could have sat in the car and read the paper. We're married, you know. We're supposed to communicate. And it's a waste of gas!"

And here I thought (is it depressive thinking?) that by getting her and Kenyon home quickly I could avoid any conflict and return to the beach as well.

I've told patients' friends and families that it's OK to get angry with depressed people. It's what they expect anyway. I advise Kathleen to treat me as she normally would when I'm sick. The last thing a depressed person wants is to be singled out for special handling, which is more painful than blending in and passing for human.

People who have survived severe depressions are tough. We're not made of glassware. The mentally ill are some of the toughest people you'll ever meet. Do you have any idea what it is to come out of a psychosis? Have you ever had to step back into this world from an alternate world that seemed more real than this one and have to adapt all over again?

Obviously I'm worse today, say 5 Kilorats. I don't want to go lower but I have no control over the disease. I write to distract myself. If it distracts you as well, it has served some purpose.

It's terrible in the midst of depression to have the certainty it will come again, that "soul mutilator" of which Jane Kenyon speaks below.

When you step on a piece of concrete with a hollow space beneath and hear the clunk and shiver, I am the echo below.

Here's something really worth reading, a poem by Jane Kenyon, "Having It Out with Melancholy."


Sunday, July 16, 2006

Picture of Kenyon; at 4 Kilorats

This is a picture of Kenyon and two friends. For those who don't know, Kenyon is the dog we fought to recover in Mexico (an adventure I blogged about from August/September 05 to February O6). Thanks to Kathleen for this shot.


I'm too depressed to write today.

I get the weepies between 12 and 3 PM.

Life's the indigestible wrapper around the imaginary candy.

Those who believe in the candy are happier.

God is a computer whose law is randomness.

Randomness devolved on me.

I preach acceptance but I'm not listening.

At 4 kilorats,


Saturday, July 15, 2006

Drugs, Not Hugs: Training Your Psychiatrist

Kathleen took this picture of me after we first moved in to our new place where my current depression began on April 1. Notice there is no comfort in the pillow, only grotesquerie. Two slim futons like the one pictured were our only furniture.


Yesterday I had an appointment with my new psychiatrist. I had asked for one because I was slipping. He's not big on psychopharmacology, it appears, as I tell him what I need and he writes a prescription, or better, gives me samples, without comment. Then he tries to engage me in a therapeutic conversation.

His hands are very expressive when he talks, almost hypnotic. And his glasses magnify his eyes in an owlish way.

If I weren't depressed I would have ended the session after the medications were taken care of. Instead I let him go on to fill the hour, during which he explained to me how performance could never achieve love, a concept I have trouble getting, but concern for an inner construct does not matter to me at the moment. I'm underwater.

I tell him Kathleen makes me a list of things for me to do each day, and that this helps keep me sane.

He says that my performing said tasks is another way of earning an acceptance that can't be earned.

I say, "No, Doctor, these manual tasks help distract me from myself. I'm way below the level of trying to earn anything with them."

And so it went. He wanted to talk psychology, I was only interested in biology.

The worst of it was at the end of the session, when he gave me a big bag of samples and said, "Merry Christmas"--whereupon I shook his hand, but he said, "Up here we do more than that. We hug." And he wrapped his 60-year-old freckled arms around me at roughly the level of my navel, and I tried to hug back, feeling awkward. I wanted to tell him that he had violated my boundaries by coercing me into a false intimacy, but I didn't want to imperil the samples and prescriptions. I have no insurance.

Sometimes it's hard putting up with psychiatrists just to get the medications you need. It takes a while to train a new one.

Thine in Oppression by Professionals,


(still at three kilorats)

Friday, July 14, 2006

Dr. Chaffin's Tips for Enduring Depression

An old friend asked me to post my tips for enduring depression. I developed these for the Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association, where they were published in various newsletters. Here goes:

1) Accept your depression. Do not fight it. Do not think of yourself as a failure but as sick. You are in the grip of a serious illness. You can only do what you can. If that means lying in bed all day, that's fine. Just because you don't have an amputated limb to show the world does not make you any less sick.

2) It's better to do something than nothing. For instance, it's better to go for a walk than sit, paralyzed, thinking about going for a walk. It's better to take a nap than blame yourself for being tired. It's better to go downstairs than stay upstairs all day long.

3) It's better to do something active than something passive. It's better to wash the dishes than watch TV. It's better to drive than sit in your car. If you can stomach it, it's better to go to work than stay home on sick leave. If you have to stay home, however, that's OK. This is a debilitating illness.

4) It's better to be with or around people than to be alone. I have found just sitting in a mall surrounded by the motion of strangers more comforting than staying home.

5) Try to set a small, achievable goal each day. Mine is, "I'm going to try not to hate myself too much today." Make sure the goal is attainable for a depressed person. Don't saddle yourself with cleaning out the entire garage--that will just bury you under a sense of hopelessness and failure. But you could consider sweeping out one corner of the garage.

Note that these principles are meant for enduring depression, not necessarily improving it. The best treatment for depression, short of ECT, is medication and cognitive/behavioral therapy.

Right now Kathleen makes up a list for me when she goes to work--simple things like wiping the refrigerator shelves. Doing the tasks enumerated doesn't necessarily make me feel better, but I do feel slightly more useful. In the worst depths of depression, I'm always amazed I can do anything. For instance, when washing dishes, it seems like each dish I wash is a miracle--I can't believe I did it! And the same reaction obtains with every dish.

For those who fear ECT but may need it, the memory loss from ECT, in my experience, is much less than the memory loss induced by a soul-destroying depression.

I hope these tips may prove useful to the afflicted.

Thine in Mood and Madness,


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Coleridge, Kenyon and Depression

Today's bipolar poet is Samuel Taylor Coleridge. That's his death mask in the photo. Like many poets, he is right hemisphere dominant, which you can see by the increased expression grooves worn into the left side of his face, along with the lips downturned to the left.

In conversation, at least, he was regarded as the greatest genius of his era. Unfortunately, depression undid him, which doctors treated with opium, to which he became addicted, and he was dependent on others for much of his life after age 30. His literary production did not reflect the genius of his creative mind, which he described as "a great Surinam toad sprouting other, smaller toads as it moved forward." (loose quote) I recommend his "Dejection: An Ode" as a great description of clinical depression, interspersed with memories of past highs, and a courageous attempt to overcome his mood, though many take this poem to be about his opium addiction. Guess what: 60% of bipolars are also substance abusers.

As for myself, I continue in the same state. I did go to the gym today and took a "body sculpting class for elder boomers," where I was the only man and also the youngest in the room. It was nevertheless a good workout for my out-of-shape frame. I discovered, as a depressed person, that it's much less pressure to simply attend an exercise class than to try to work out on your own. I hope to return tomorrow.

Kenyon's arthritis is getting worse. Not only his left forelimb but his left hind leg is now showing stiffness. Yesterday we took him for a hike and had to stop short because he looked exhausted. Afterwards, swimming, he lacked his usual stamina. I hope it was only the hike that reduced his swimming stamina; otherwise this represents a significant change. I dread the day we shall have to put him to sleep. He is Kathleen's familiar; they are joined at the hip. When I came home today after dropping Kathleen at work, he greeted me at the door but continued to sit and wait for Kathleen, emitting a low whine when she didn't appear. I really worry about Kathleen when the dreaded day comes. I fear she will be inconsolable. But isn't this scenario exactly the kind of thing a depressed person dwells on? Enough!

Holding at 3 Kilorats,


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Still at 3 Kilorats

Yesterday was pretty damn bad. I was fragile and frightened, almost unable to make any decisions. Nevertheless I drove Kathleen to work at 5:30 AM, went online at a coffee shop in order to download updates, washed the car and vacuumed inside, picked up a fuse for my amplifier and bought a pair of used overalls at the car parts store, made sun tea, did the dishes, fussed around the garden, picked Kathleen up from work, went shopping with her (choosing types of bread was pretty overwhelming), renewed a book at the library and returned two others, prepared and mailed off child support documents to have my false arrears reduced by $2500, and sent two more essays off to a print journal that just took one. Afterwards watched part of the All-Star game at my neighbor's, interspersed with the movie, "Playing God," which diverted me. (We don't have TV and we need one for my mental health.)

These don't quite sound like the activities of a depressed person, do they? But that's the point. No one knows unless I tell them. Just like a light-skinned black in the 50s, I'm "passing." But "If my thought dreams could be seen, they'd probably put my head in a guillotine." --Dylan

I am an alien but I look human. I come from the land of deep darkness where shadows pass for light. The tail of my whirlpool has no end, it just gets smaller and smaller. My cells are dying as I speak. I am death walking. I am a mannequin propelled by tears. But I pass. One thing I do is to avoid eye contact; I find that extremely daunting. I don't want anyone to look in my eyes and vice-versa. "The eye is the window to the soul," quoth Jesus.

I won't commit suicide no matter how many people despise this blog. Because they couldn't despise it more than I do.



Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Brief as a Blog Should Be

The End of the World

This is the end of the world, my love,
This is the belly of night,
A savage stillness of universe
To smother our short loan of light.

Do not take off your clothes, my love,
Do not tempt my desire;
The vanquished earth is tired of us,
She is tired of us, she is tired

And the vanishing stars are disinterested
In any affectionate play;
They look to the weighing of everything--
I tremble to see what we weigh.

--CE (written 1978)

I searched Google for "bipolar + poetry." After reviewing 230 web entries I realized that sites by bipolar poets are cliche'. Mine wasn't among them. But in searching for blogs, mine is currently at the top of the list only because a recent post included the two key words (July 8).

Forgive this blog, I beg you. The little discipline of writing in it each day gives me a brief respite from the devils in my head.

In my depression I am disgusted with and embarrassed by this blog. Why dance around in my psychic underwear? Feel free to throw tomatoes. If they become lodged in my shell like Kafka's cockroach, I'll ignore the stench of their decay. My soul smells worse.


Monday, July 10, 2006

At 3 Kilorats and Slipping

Rather than dwelling entirely on myself, I thought I'd post a photo of two people more important to me than myself, if anyone can truly say that: My red-headed first-born and her red-headed son, Rachel and Jacob. Don't they look happy? Aren't I lucky? And I have two other daughters besides.

When I first became depressed in April, Kathleen left for New York and I went south to be with Rachel and Jacob for about a week, helping out as best I could. What was great about Jacob is that when you're taking care of him, you have no time to think about yourself. At four years old he's very physically active and self-directed, which makes for a difficult combination. But not for me. Every distraction, every need, every threatened behavioral violation by Jacob helps keep me out of myself. No rest for the depressed. The same obtains to a lesser degree with Kenyon. Since Kathleen went to a new job today, I had to make Kenyon's breakfast when I first got up. Washing the dishes helps, too. Mindless physical tasks to keep my soul in the material world and out of the whirlpool of madness.

Oh, talked to my younger brother last night. He has too much noise in his head, and anhedonia, is going to see his shrink today. My sister is a bipolar II, but doing very well. Our father, an alcoholic manic-depressive, committed suicide at 62. Both my grandmothers were manic-depressive, both hospitalized at least twice. Bipolar disease in our family has been named "The Chaffin Curse." I recently had a Betti Chaffin write me from Missouri about the curse. I have no direct relation to her except our last name, but she had questions about the disease in relation to her Chaffin family.

It was yesterday I started to break down again. I was fragile; just a little normal sarcasm from Kathleen questioning my decision to try to reach an ocean cove from the headlands down a steep bluff took all my confidence away. I could have made it down, but not Kenyon and likely not Kathleen, since she didn't bring her hiking boots. Afterwards I gave the car keys to Kathleen and resigned from any leadership role. Then we went to our usual beach and watched Kenyon fetch his bottle over and over again. My emotional hurt came from Kathleen saying, "How many ticks you got?" while she waited behind on the bluff. My reaction to that slight mockery of my attempt to find a new place for Kenyon to swim was way out of proportion to anything my normal self might have had.

I called my shrink for stronger meds today; looks like I went off the antispychotic too soon. In Andrew Solomon's The Noonday Demon he credits Zyprexa, a new atypical antispychotic, for keeping him from depression, which is strange because he isn't even bipolar, he's a unipolar depressive. I took it recently but it extends the QT interval on the cardiogram and I get off-beats in my heart and my stamina goes to nothing; climbing the stairs exhausts me, and my heart seems to hesitate when recovering. Still, the pain of depression is eminently worth the risk of taking the drug.

Sorry I wrote so much. I'm verbose. It's hard, by long practice of writing essays, for me to sit down and write less than 1000 words. I know blogs should be brief; unfortunately, I am not. Anyone who read to the end of this deserves a medal. I will try to be more brief tomorrow. This is no way to engage readers.

At 3 Kilorats and slipping,


Sunday, July 09, 2006

Sadness Is Not Depression

Good morning. In writing about my mood fluctuations, I do not for a minute consider my experience unique. And I don't write primarily for therapy or renown. I think, given my training and literary bent, that perhaps, as in poetry, I may be able to capture something in words that other sufferers may lack words for. One function of poetry is to say for others what they wish they had words for.

Yesterday I was tearful most of the day. If I began to speak to Kathleen about how I was feeling, tears would start. I did my best to halt them, as in my experience, as a manic-depressive, when tearfulness turns into crying jags you're worse off than before.

But yesterday was different; as I said, I'm at 1.5 - 2 kilorats. (For those new to this blog, that's a measure of depression. It's explained in a previous post.) Yet my tearfulness was not from despair; it was not the chemical hopelessness depressives know. I was still human. I was grieving about my past. I had objects to be sad about, history, and my life stretched back like a dark road between blasted trees narrowing to a sky pregnant with black-bottomed clouds. So my life appeared. But I was not in despair; I was grieving. "Regrets, I've had a few." Grieving feels so much better than the black hole of despair, where tears are pointless because they are disconnected from any objects. To put it simply, I was feeling sad more than depressed, a distinction many bipolars have trouble making, since our sadness is too often a gate to despair.

I wrote yesterday about how coming out of a depression is like being born, like having a new personality, indeed being a new person. At first it's a bit frightening and you try to re-acquaint yourself with the simplest things in order to get your bearings. Below, a poem from the second half of Sine Wave about coming out of a depression after electroconvulsive therapy, where the simple thing is my moustache.


“That’s me in the corner, losing my religion.” –REM

Each day for years
I sacrificed my heart to God.

My smile got so tight
I had to eat through a straw.

Every sin in my head
brought the same familiar sirens

until I recognized myself
in the silver lenses of a policeman

who looked like me. It was then I knew
all the wanted posters of Jesus were meant for me.

I peeled them off like a bad paint job—
underneath was a darkness more terrible

than a starless, starless sky,
the pupil of a salmon’s eye

staring through display glass, black as hell.
After the electrodes and the gel

and two weeks at Hospital Hotel
it was enough to finger my own face.

Was that my moustache?
Will anyone recognize me on the street?

Prepare a face to meet the faces you will meet.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

How this Blog Came to Be About Bipolar Disease and Poetry

Naturally I don't share everything here. I share what I can while preserving a modicum of privacy, because of this medium; and I don't want to pander to Peyton Place voyeurism. But today I think people thirst for the authentically personal because their lives are inundated with impersonal information.

It's odd how this blog has evolved. I started with humorous essays, of which I've published dozens elsewhere. They weren't very popular. Then I related our difficulties in Mexico, where Kathleen's hearing-ear-dog was held for a $10,000 ransom. I would have paid the money if I'd had it. Instead there were six months of captivity in a land I have come to detest. People were interested in that struggle.

Finally, after that stress was over, and we got our own place back in California, I sank into a depression. It's somewhat typical for a bipolar to react after the stress is over, much like migraine sufferers get their headaches when the final is over. How I wish I only suffered migraines! But suffering is not ours to choose. "Adventure is chosen, suffering is imposed."

So now my blog has morphed into two streams--probably the two things I know most about on this planet--manic-depression and poetry. I dread the former and love the latter. The fact that the two are inextricably linked through history makes for a nice fit, though I'd rather talk about poetry than mood disorders.

I teach poetry online. I also counsel bipolars. And many of the poets I know are also bipolar. One student, long since graduated, has been in the bughouse nearly 30 times, and she goes on. But she's in that "lucky" 15% of bipolars who suffer more from mania than depression.

On the net I'm best known as a poet. Yet in my bios I pointedly included my bipolar disease for the sake of honesty. Am I proud to be a bipolar? No, that would be like being proud of my height. I had little to do with either; they were the cards I was dealt, along with lumbar scoliosis, and later, severe degenerative disk disease.

Frankly, I resent the hell out of being manic-depressive. It has been a curse and also the strongest single determinant in the major choices of my life. My great burden is that I have been able to function at a high level even while psychotic, which prevented treatment. I've won many academic awards while essentially psychotic and wondering why they were given to me.

Thus I came to treatment late. In my psychiatry residency I was the golden boy so no one on the faculty considered the possibility I might have major mental illness when I got sick and had to drop out.

So, in a sense, my intelligence and the stoic endurance my mother instilled in me have worked against me. I never knew when to say "uncle." When I was finally diagnosed it took a good friend, also a psych resident, to persuade me to come to his hospital for treatment. And in my 30th year I finally met a doctor who made the diagnosis in all of half an hour. And so it goes.

Today I'm probably at 1.5 kilorats. On the bright side, when I awoke, I did have feelings of love for my beautiful wife. It's good to know they're still there, since depression reduces all feelings to a flat landscape of obsidian squares beneath a brass sky.

I'm laying off posting poems for now. If any readers wish for me to post them more often, I'll be happy to comply.

Thine in Truth and Art,


Friday, July 07, 2006

Crawling out of depression...

I was a bit melancholy today, maybe at 1 kilorat (or a little more) of depression.

There has been a push in psychiatry of late to determine the success of treating depression by complete remission, not merely improvement.

I am not in remission.

Depression always hits me like a ton of bricks. I wake up one day and the world has gone black-and-white and my core has been removed. Luckily, for years I've been warned by depressive dreams to increase or augment my medication a number of times. This time I can't remember a warning, and I've been struggling for over three months.

Although for me the onset of depression seems instantaneous, coming out of it can be very gradual.

For those who have not experienced it, being depressed is like a being hollowed out. Afterwards nothing remains between the dead walls of the log that encircle what never was.

With treatment, the log has to imagine it's being filled with wood again. But that wood now has a ghostly quality, because bipolars and serious unipolars, though they regain their lives, can never forget how their lives were so easily snatched from them. Life never has the same solidity again. Which makes one's personality feel very much like a construct even when one's mood returns to "normal."

A bad depression is a death and a birth, For example, as I improve I'm trying to get to know my wife again and why I love her so much--what it feels like to love her instead of acting intellectually as if I did. That's how I survive depressions, by the way, "having to construct something to hope upon"--pretending. Pretending in my chemical despair until my neurotransmitters recalibrate and life becomes real again.

I write this today because it's rarely talked about. There's much more to say about it, but I'm done for now.

Thine in Kilorats or Kilobunnies,

C. E. Chaffin

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Poetry Thursday: "Already"


If you haven’t filed your taxes in years
and with a dry throat call the 800 number
to be put on hold forever while dying to hang up,
tempted to one more dereliction in a life of derelictions,

or if your teenagers grieve you by apathy
and drug abuse, reminding you
of your own adolescence so you can’t draw the line
without feeling hypocritical,

or if you cultivate a false smile over coffee
because you went to bed angry at your mate,
pretending to polite conversation
while entertaining fantasies of divorce,

or if you write a hopeful piece
instead of your usual blue ramblings
and fear others will find it facile, your art
of no account, just therapy for the overeducated,

then reach out through the stillness
for a thimbleful of light poured
into your words without measure.
Look! It is already in your palm.

(published in Kimera (print))

This poem is the fifth in the second part of Sine Wave, showing the gradual elevation of the speaker's mood. I love saying that a poem is "self-explanatory," like this one, because that means I didn't overdo it, didn't require too much of the reader, didn't obfuscate my meaning by overindulgence in form. Those who have taken my poetry tutorial know whereof I speak. Speaking of which, I'm still teaching the course and the link is on the left, below. References on request. I think most of my former students will say it's one of the best bargains on the net.



Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Bipolar Poet Approaches Normal Mood

I'm approaching that blissful state of normality where I am neither moving too slow nor too fast, where I laugh but not too much, where the Tesla coil of my mind only throws out one bolt of blue lightning at a time. For most people not under the influence of some drug, that's how it is every day. Anxiety can get them riled up and moving too fast, but that passes, just as they might be slowed by grief--failing an exam, missing a promotion, losing a pet, but that passes, too.

For a bipolar the mind is either filled with devils running in Dantean circles or hyperactive angels bouncing off the cranium. And those angels are not "the better angels of our nature," no, just dopamine/serotonin/noradrenaline-powered sprites.

Bipolars are often mistaken for being smarter than they are because their minds can move so quickly--think Robin Williams or Jonathan Winters, two sufferers (although Williams has not come out of the closet). These high-octane comedians can only do what they do because they have the gene. If you overwhelm someone with information at high speed, they're going to think you're bright.

Beware: there's a big difference between bright and quick.

Although tomorrow is "Poetry Thursday," I'm going to post a poem today that, like "American Zen," tries to capture that neutal plane between depression and mania, retardation and hyperactivity, that has been so hard for me to maintain in life--why I take multiple medications and once had to undergo electroshock.

Other folks take drugs to feel different; I take drugs to feel normal.

Here's the poem:

Nothing to Say

I have nothing needful to say,
no comment on the glittering bay
or the dark, snow-topped wall
of the San Gabriels.

Things used to be pulled from me,
uprooted lilke weeds from a garden.
I let the weeds bloom now.

The red-throated bird
that lives in my chipped balcony light
sings for a mate I have never seen.

I let my words run like watercolors.
Time runs only forward.
Why should art be different?
Here is the last line.



Tuesday, July 04, 2006

1000 Rats Euthanized: Vogon Poem: Feeling Nearly Neutral

I'm really coming close to neutral, mood-wise, and it scares me. My mind is fairly blank. Depressed, my mind works overtime on the same insoluble problems--no, I wouldn't call it work, more like useless ruminations, while in better-than-neutral moods, say a touch of hypmania, I have too many ideas. It's a pleasure to have fewer ideas knocking around in my mind.

First, go have a poem produced by the BBC Hitchhiker's Guide Vogon machine. You'll love this. It's easy and you'll smile at the result.


For those who haven't heard, Roger Dier's nation of rats was euthanized. Apparently his naive hope that most humans would find rats delightful pets may have been in part due to his missing the Middle Ages in school.

Rats are things people pay other people to keep away! Scientists buy them just to torture them. They are useful as one of the last mammalian links in the scavenging of garbage, a useful pursuit if only it didn't produce more rats. An absence of garbage in a city would soon put an end to rats. Rats and garbage are like home prices and interest rates.

Roger told us "rats were clean"--except under his care, sinch health officers found a near unbearable stench when they broke into rat nation. They were properly careful of white rats with shaved heads and swastikas.

Did you know that Roger Dier is an ex-con who was involved in Frank Sinatra Jr.'s kidnapping and served time for it? Rat Pack, meet Rat Man!

As for the rats being euthanized, I don't know the method. One assumes gas would be most efficient. Hmmm...I see a comfortable little dentist's chair with Muzak playing where each rat is led and a tiny mask applied. They think it's nitrous oxide but it's really fatal!

And the beauty of it is that none of the rats in the waiting room suspect it. They think they're going to have their teeth sharpened like Ferengis.

Out back waits a 1000-rat hearse lined with disposable plastic. And at the end of this brutal day the black ambulance drives to the rodentorium. Que sera, sera.

At only half a kilorat,



Monday, July 03, 2006

New Photo; Depression Update

I had to post this picture in order to have a URL from which to transfer it to my profile's photo. In it I'm younger and thinner but it still bears a fair resemblance to me, and I think it's not quite so doughty as the others I've borrowed from various e-zines who were good enough to include a photo.

I'm at about 1000 kilorats of depression, where I can work in my garden or schlep 250 lbs. of rat food if need be. But I still somewhat recoil from any affectionate touching by my wife. I fear intimacy and don't understand why anyone would want to be affectionate towards me.

I am getting better, I know the signs. At times Nature almost appears beautiful, but I have as yet no inner response to the sublime, no overawed appreciation of the redwood coast where I live, which my NY-raised wife says is the most beautiful place she's ever seen. I can see that it's beautiful, but the consequent feeling is as yet lacking. It will come, I'm sure.

This has been my worst and longest depression in 10 years, near as I can remember. The last one followed a mania and resulted in my last hospitalization and also, eventually, my retirement from medicine. This one's already past three months in duration but the meds seem to be kicking in, thank Pfizer!

In view of my hoped-for recovery, I'll need a new measure for feeling above average, or hypomanic, or God forbid, manic. For this I propose another rodent, a happy, bouncing, soft, cuddly one: a bunny! Mood above the mean will now be measured in kilobunnies. I look forward to that day when I tell you, dear reader, that I'm feeling around three kilobunnies.



Celebrate blog's upcoming birthday; poetry, zeolite, and magic beans.

Hi! Come July 27 this blog will have a first birthday.

Until June of 2006 I didn't know the first thing about blogging. I thank Carl Bryant and Cynthia Bagley for schooling me in how to get a stat counter, how to back-link, how to participate in the online community.

I'm a little surprised that videoblogs have not taken over yet, but perhaps the Net is a more literary medium by nature. Most of us have televisions.

One thing I have yet to learn about blogging is how to be brief. It's hard for me to sit down and write less than 1000 words. Most blog updates are not more than 200. I'm a natural bloviator.

Tonight at an open mic where only singer-guitarists played, I recited my poem, "The Deprivathon," for the second time (it appears earlier in this blog). It's a diary of quitting smoking. The crowd was not prepared for it but they treated me well.

I was the unexpected poet. Kind of nice to be in a singular category at a music-oriented open mic.

I made myself go read although I was tired. Why? Because in my still lingering depression,though now mild to moderate, I tried to behave on the basis of commitment, not feeling. I didn't particularly want to go. But as a poet I need to commit myself to whatever outlets invite me. It's not like poetry's a paying gig, so you don't have the dollar driving you. You have to drive yourself.

I've probably gone beyond 200 words now.

I met a fellow on the beach today who told me zeolite would cure all forms of cancer--how he beat it himself. I went home to the Net and disovered one animal study suggesting zeolite might be helpful as an adjunct to Doxyrubicin, a standard chemotherapeutic agent.

I love the human capacity to believe. More than half of us would trade our cow for a bag of magic beans. Isn't that just the way it goes?



Sunday, July 02, 2006

Sonnet Sunday: Psilocybin

My depression continus to improve as my weight continues to increase.

I didn't mean to skewer poor 67-yr.-old Roger Dier out of SchadenFreude, I just thought the whole thing worth a dark laugh, although some of you may want to see LKD's comment on that column.

Having only recently learned of "Poetry Thursday" as a blog tradition, I want to challenge other bloggers to join me in "Sonnet Sunday." The sonnets don't have to be that good as long as they fulfill the form. I have noticed, however, among my poetry students, that many have difficulty with traditional form. It is still my antedeluvian contention that no poet should write "free verse" until he has mastered form to some degree. The course I teach (see link left margin below) first forces form upon my students before letting them become "free-range" poets.

Below, one I just wrote, of no particular merit, I suppose, though based on real experiences in Mexico.

Not My Drug of Choice

We walked on Mushroom Mountain and found
Two varieties of psilocybin-
Laced fungi; one was orange and one
Was white, small and bland for toadstools’ kin.
We found the most in cow pies near the shade,
Their pale stalks rising from manure green.
The cows that milled around were unafraid,
Small-brained herbivores, mainly Holstein.
My son collected more and ate a bunch
Without washing; I declined for hygiene’s
Sake (and in order to keep my lunch),
Also because I hate the rainbow sheen
That coats everything when I’m tripping
In an oily film, light prismed and dripping.


Saturday, July 01, 2006

Picnic Ideas for the 4th of July Weekend

For the Fourth of July weekend I'm pasting in excerpts from a previous column that, like much of my work on the Net, has been depublished. It's meant as an aid to menus for Independence day. (Or every dog has its day.)

From "Running Chicken":

Does "free range" chicken sometimes make you wonder where they get all those little cowboys on rabbits to round them up? Then there's the Chinese solution. They have, I'm told, genetically engineered a chicken with a body like a cube-- with one feather, no wings, a head and feet. It's about a half an inch wide and can be raised in bureau drawers and teacups. It'll eat anything, and when fully grown (which may take up to a week depending on which steroids one employs), it's easy to dress. Chop, chop, pull one feather and voila! There you have it-- a chicken cube, or 'nugget' as Americans prefer to call them. So if you order orange chicken at a Chinese restaurant and you find yourself looking at small cubes united by a lot of batter, at least you'll know it's genuine Chinese chicken, not the herded variety now popular with yuppies.

I did eat rabbit recently and I want to say, unequivocally, that it does not taste like chicken. The meat was longer and stringier, and there was a hint of sage and grass in it, some reminder of a sunny meadow from its past life. I really like rabbit. Yet if they invented rabbit nuggets I doubt they would taste as good. Then nuggets are never served as nuggets except when breaded to look like parts of a natural animal, and of course, "Parts is parts."

Curiously, in Korea they have two kinds of dogs—the small, yellowish short hairs they keep in pens to sell for the dinner table and the regular varieties we call pets. One thing I learned from reading about the World Cup this year is that Seoul has about 400 restaurants that serve dog. I've never eaten dog, but I think it's odd that the breed of dog raised for Oriental consumption ended up roughly the same color as chickens.

For those who don't know, dog was a favorite food of the American Indians, so I think we should add it to our Independence Day menu, along with our venerable hot dogs, to honor the Fourth of July. Yet although our (pet) dog is yellow, or golden, it is not a short hair. I fear if I cooked him my wife would go to prison for murder although my troubles would be over. I can hear my pitiful excuse as she holds a gun to my head: "But honey, I didn't mean to really cook him, I was just demonstrating, you know, and we got to talking… and then after a couple of beers we noticed his fur was burning and he wouldn't wake up so we skinned him to make it easier on everybody."

Of course, if Cher and Madonna and Barbara Streisand and Sally Fields all started eating dog, everyone else in Hollywood would try it. "It's not as if they're pets," I can hear Ed Asner saying. "They were raised for food."

How about a dog nugget? A little more complicated for bioengineers, given the four legs and a tail, but certainly not an insurmountable challenge. You put enough batter on something and people believe there must be meat in it.

To these thoughts I'll add an appropriate poem from one of my favorite poets, whom we featured in The Melic Review twice. For more of his work, click on his name below.


Censored from Larousse Gastronomique

To cook a puppy, hang the carcass from its hind feet
with a nylon rope--eighth-inch will do: it's strong
but pliant too. Now slice around the ankles
with a boning knife (unless you have a flenser,
which is better still.) Part the skin along the thighs
and join these cuts--a sort of wye--to a clean incision
crotch to chin. Take care not to break
the peritoneum: it's a mess if all the guts get out.
Pull off the skin in one soft piece. You'll need to tug
to get across the head. Think, "Child's pajama top,"
and you'll have it right first time you try.
Sever the rectum from the anus and the stomach from the throat.
Gently scoop the entrails to your waste pail. Puppy sweetbreads
are a different recipe, as are the heart and lungs
which we discard as well. Truss the carcass you have cleaned
to a roasting spit and rub with sea-salt, crushed garlic, sage.
Cook turning often, as you would a capon
or a suckling pig. Serves two for puppies aged six weeks,
three for larger breeds.

--Scott Murphy

Read more Murphy

Unexpected Light

Unexpected Light
Selected Poems and Love Poems 1998-2008 ON SALE NOW!