Friday, June 29, 2007

"They all go into the dark."

I finally made it back to the gym today, lifted over five tons with various muscle groups, 220 crunches, countless stretches, 50 min on the treadmill for a little over two miles and 734 feet climbed, and finally a mile swim. But I'm not losing weight. I'm actually eating more because my muscle mass has increased and the hypothalamic set point tries to keep us at the same weight. In order to truly get in shape I must radically alter my indulgent diet, beginning with my infamous night grazing. After dinner and a couple of television shows is when I start to do my real damage.

My landlord suggested Dr. Phil's diet. I look at Dr. Phil and wonder what I'm missing. But just because a dude is hefty doesn't mean he hasn't discovered a good diet. As Jesus said, "The Pharisees sit in the seat of Moses, so do what they say but not what they do."

I think I mentioned the Summer Solstice ceremony where I picked "love yourself" off of the tree. What does that mean and how can you do it? I've always felt love must come from outside me unless I'm manic. Love comes from praise for achievement or because someone truly loves you, like my daughters or Kathleen. How does one generate it from within? I don't feel it, never have. One guru wannabe from my men's retreat told me to do mirror work for three weeks, repeating some ten times into the mirror every day: "Craig, I love you and I trust your decisions." This was a bad time in my depression, so I didn't follow through. But it was one of the silliest experiences of my life in retrospect. Who knows, maybe it works. But does a need for self-love justify self-hypnotism? And how deep can that be?

How I do go on. I'm still fragile, tenuous, mostly depressed despite my actions. I need my doctors to file a disability update and fear that my income will be yanked from me. I must get my medical license renewed so I have a chance of surviving without my private disability. Making myself do that is another thing, though at least I did the fingerprinting part.

Enough about me. How about a picture or two? Here's an image of Satan by William Blake:

Here's another version:

Sometimes I believe in Satan more than I believe in God. This world can be so dark. I should really stop reading the newspaper. When I saw the retarded young man in the pool with his braying mouth and short attention span today, forgetting to catch a ball from his keeper in less than five seconds, I should have rejoiced with him instead of thinking of his undeserved defects.

"Dark, dark, dark, they all go into the dark." --Eliot

The ego dystonia from the gap between what I believe and experience is sometimes nearly intolerable. But I get by.

I want Mother Teresa's rose-colored glasses, because I think they're actually lens implants from a truly spiritual nature. But when I pray I feel like I'm talking to a blank wall, an empty room, a starless night.

The most I can hope for is acceptance, acceptance of my judgmental nature and the associated guilt it brings to me. Can I find a suitably dark poem to reflect my state of mind? Let's try this one, twice published:

Demon Melancholy

His cold breath steams up my neck
like dry ice. I never see him approach.

He comes from darkness
where eyes forget they are eyes,

where speech has no conclusion
and touch is without resistance,

where music turns to noise
and selves are emptied of history

and personality like milk bottles
below the ninth circle of hell.

I hear his wild dogs carol
in the burning church of my mind.

Pass the offering plate--
Is that a medicine vial, a gun?

Jimmy crack corn and I don't care,
the light has gone away.

Hope this post doesn't get you down. I'll be better soon. Sometimes I just need to vent about the dark side, young Skywalker.

2 Kilorats,

C. E. Chaffin M.D. (M-D)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Up and Down the Down Staircase

This blog began with adventures in Mexico, segued to adventures in manic-depression, and has since oscillated between literature, especially poetry, and my mood disorder.

When my mood disorder raises its protean head, my interest in other things is effectively eclipsed, as I have no interest in them nor passion for them. This does not mean I quit acting, as in the long string of formal poetry I composed last winter as a mental exercise while depressed. I know most of those poems are forgettable, a few worth keeping, but it's the work that matters.

Since hearing back from Mellen Press that they are willing to look at my ms. on Eliot, I have been laboring daily to bring it to a higher level. Today I finished the revision of the first chapter, "Eliot: The Early Poems," and am mentally exhausted. Next I take on the revision of "The Waste Land," no small task.

Monday, when I lapsed back into depression, I began the process of re-reading the ms., but because I was depressed I thought it was irremediable. After my proper dose of medication Monday and Tuesday, I had hope on Tuesday. My editor, Kathleen, had meanwhile weighed in with, "You're wrong. It's good. What, you don't trust your editor anymore?" There's a reality check, but in depression you can't accept the judgment of others, especially when it's in your favor. Still, yesterday the tome looked more promising.

Today I am thinking less of the book, but my mood is also more tenuous. I have also been avoiding the gym for a week, a lapse in discipline. My routine presently consists of two cookies for breakfast, two or three hours work on the ms., a sandwich, physical activity in the form of gardening or housework, and then the blessed return of Kathleen from work, after which the schedule is open. Sometimes I cook dinner.

I went to my men's group for the first time in over a month last night. I was the only member we didn't have time to hear from personally. I thought it was probably for the best as my summary of the recent past and my current mood would have gone on longer than I wished. Still, it seemed no one noticed that I did not have a chance to speak about myself. Small wonder given man's self-centeredness.

In revising the first chapter of my Eliot book I trimmed almost 700 words, always a good sign, and did some fact-checking as well as running down sources for certain quotes. When I do so on Google, I am overwhelmed by the wealth of opinion and documentation on Eliot, and fear, as an amateur, I am in no way qualified to write about him. Still, I think many of my insights are new, and therein lies the value of the piece. But it also makes it a bit of a liability for an academic press, especially since I purposely avoid footnotes for the sake of readability.

What matters is that I have work to do.

I do identify with Eliot's early alienation from reality, both social and physical. I was very slow to mature to semi-adulthood, lost in my own head just like J. Alfred Prufrock.

Kenyon, btw, is doing much better, perhaps because I found a steel-reinforced splint for his left front lower leg. Two months ago he would not come up the stairs; now he goes up and down them three times a day. Amazing how his condition has improved. It may also be in part due to his daily dose of Previcox, a cyto-oxidase II inhibitor like Celebrex, which helps peripheral, especially arthritic, pain. Try it on your old dog and see what you think.

I mentioned the formal poems I wrote during the winter of my depression. Here's one I revised before I became an ex-poet:


You feel it in your stomach when you wake,
Almost like hunger but not quite the same,
As if you’re being hurried by a flame
Forward and forward and forward until you break
Or want to break—anxiety won’t allow
A total breakdown, it would lose its grip
On your dry tongue and almost trembling lip;
It lets you live in any time but now.
Time future runs ahead, you eat its dust;
Time past is pure regret, paralysis;
And your hard labor of self-analysis
Will never birth in you a basic trust.
You wonder if as an infant it was better—
Not if your mother raised you by the letter.

I am beset by fears, by fears of poverty and old age, feelings of inadequacy that I have no more savings and no longer own a house, guilt about not having "a regular job" and all the rest of my shortcomings. When my chemicals improve my fears will improve, not that that constitutes an excuse to ignore the reality of their challenge.

"Challenge." What a better term than "fear!"

Fools will always be in the care of God, though I have not as yet needed to depend on the kindness of strangers.

My sister-in-law has forwarded a small selection of my poems to Jane Hirschfield, whose horse she also rides. I expect at best a polite response to my imposition, the certain death knell for my former hope of being a poet.

At 2 Kilorats,


Monday, June 25, 2007

Eating Crow on My Overpriced Book: Amazon Error

I wrote the seller on Amazon who was asking $398 for my first book of poems, Elementary. She informed me that Amazon had made a listing mistake, that she didn't have the book and knew nothing about it. I suspected this from the first. Too happily I embraced an illusion without proper research. Good news should be questioned, bad news is likely true.

Although the book now lists for $39.95 from Mellen Press, the home page of the publisher states that it's out of print.

I've tried this before but I tried it again: I ordered a copy through Amazon, who wrongly thinks it available. Later they will inform me that the book is out of print, which I already know, and credit me with a refund. If it is available I will be shocked. Why I care about it is obvious; it's the only tangible proof I was actually an author. I continue to resist self-publishing, although 85% of books are self-published nowadays.

My gig at the Lavender Festival went well. Though the crowds were sparse I was well-received. Here's a picture Pat Jones took of me while I was playing "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" by Bobby Dylan:

Later I got to play on an actual raised stage. The wine and food were good, as they were yesterday when I acted as a volunteer guide for the Digging Dog Nursery tour, where I was able to answer a few questions as a "master gardener" about plants, but mainly pointed people in the direction of the wine and food.

Afterwards I started sliding into a depression, as I was trying to get by for two days on one capsule of my antidepressant again, hoping the order from Canada would arrive before I had to pay fifty dollars for ten more pills. One 60 mg. capsule is the recommended maximum dose, to be fair, but I know I require 120 mg. So I messed up. Again.
Yes, Virginia, this doctor-patient is that stupid. Luckily the medications came in the mail today, so I got my proper dose and hope the miasma of despair will soon clear and relapse will be prevented, provided the generic capsules from India are not bogus. Funny how they smell of curry...

Truly, managing my mental illness is the most important task in my life. But like other humans, if I feel well for even a little while I begin to forget why and risk foolish liberties. I should have refilled my local Rx Saturday when I was first forced to reduce the dose.

There's no fool like an old fool. There's no poet like an ex-poet.

I sent a query to the publisher of my poetry book about a second book, but they no longer publish poetry. So I sent another query about my book on Eliot and they said to send it. But in my depressive mode, upon reviewing my third draft of the book, I found it awful. They will never publish it. It is literary criticism in no man's land, somewhere between an academic treatise and an undergraduate student's hypertrophied term paper. And the prose style is much too dry; I had hoped to engage readers, but it bores me to death. Can it be fixed? Probably not. Will I try? Probably. Because it's work, and that's what I need, even if it's pointless. Consider it a basket-weaving class at a mental hospital.

Also, in signing up for a local writer's conference, in my depressive state, I had a great deal of trouble making decisions as to what to attend: Poetry? Prose? Memoirs? Publishing? Fiction? Non-Fiction? As I have unpublished books of poetry and prose, fiction and non-fiction, I don't know where to go. Mostly I just checked anything to do with agents or publishers. In my present mental state it wouldn't matter if I published a bestseller; nothing will help except improved brain chemistry. I hope the Indian medications work; if they are defective I'm screwed. No--wait--I'm not. I just have to pay for the brand name in that case. See? I can still think somewhat rationally. Let my boulder of sorrow be a grain of sand.

Suddenly at 3 Kilorats,


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Crash avoided...You can't afford my book!

I obtained on Tuesday, through tearful anxious phone calls, a refill on my antidepressant, Cymbalta. The substitution of Prozac for two days wasn't cutting it; I switched back to my shrink's recommended dose of Cymbalta, twice normal, of 120 mg. Tuesday afternoon.

Soon after I began to experience akisthesia, a peculiar symptom where you can't become comfortable, where your body must constantly move, twitch--where there is a supreme discomfort in stillness and you must keep moving--your feet, your legs, something. You can't watch TV or read; you can't concentrate; mostly you indulge in various irresistible writhings. Naturally this physical phenomenon drives Kathleen crazy in bed so I had to sleep downstairs. But I knew it was a sign that the antidepressant was working again, or about to work, unlike the thousands of psychiatrists who hear this symptom from their patients and think it means they can't tolerate the medication. I find this "ants in the pants" feeling in my body almost always precedes an improvement in my mood, and have observed the same in countless patients.

Although not confident Wednesday, I didn't cry. And Thursday I worked out for hours at the gym. Today I was afflicted with a little melancholy but managed to get a lot of work done despite it.

So, gentle readers, I didn't mean to leave you hanging on my decompensation--I'm doing better. The downside is that the damn Cymbalta capsules, of which I need two a day, cost about $5 apiece here until the discounted meds arrive from Canada. That's an expensive habit, especially when you combine it with Lamictal, of which I must take two a day, when each tablet costs $4, even at Costco. Until the patents expire on new medicines you need, you're truly fucked without insurance, and as I have previously blogged, I can't obtain insurance, medical or life, because I am a bipolar: bad risk).

The pharmaceutical companies have a limited window to recover their R & D money, and I don't see them as villains, more occasional saviors who must recoup R & D costs on all the drugs that didn't work from ones that do. Accusing them of malfeasance is like attacking "big oil"--wrong target. I'm no Republican; it's just so easy to blame the nearest elephant. The reality is much more complicated.

I've added another paying poetry publication to Byline and and Contrary now; I just got a check from Valerie Polichar's Grasslimb for "The Gloaming." Since I quit writing poetry and started marketing it, I'm not doing half bad.

Even more amazing, an original copy of my first and only book of poems, Elementary, which sold as a paperback at $14.95 in 1997, is listed by one seller at for $398. My eldest daughter told me this but I couldn't believe it. Go figure. Did the rumor of my death exaggerate the price? There are likely book speculators out there, some who are betting that I might be important someday. Or maybe it's just a fluke. Curioser and curioser. (I've never received a single royalty payment from the book.)

This fact gives me hope that the same concern, Mellen Press, might consider publishing a second book of mine. I should take the time to send them an actual query now that I'm a marketer and no longer a poet.

In the spirit of marketing, I'll close with a poem I wrote before I was an ex-poet:

Homo Promo

You who huddle under billboards
happy in your anonymity,
grateful to avoid the rain,
how I pity you!

You should be up there
above the freeway
in a red bikini
with a high-end tequila
in your happy fist.
Don’t you get it?

Become a commodity
hawking you 24 hours a day:
be your own infomercial!
Celebrity is the only currency
and the Dow is measured in air time!

The first human infomercial was Muhammad Ali,
who became the most recognizable man on the globe.

To become your own spin doctor,

1) Wrap yourself up so tightly nothing hurts.

2) Like Rome, let every conversation lead to you.

3) Although you were never loved the way you wanted to be loved,
there's always a chance if you please your audience!

4) Always sell the product.

5) You are the product.

If Marx and Nietszche could see us now
united in the strife which divided us
at once worker and robber baron
it's hard to find good help anymore
no longer alienated from the product
nobody told me there'd be days like these
I'd love to see the look on their bearded faces.


Wish me luck as I perform solo at the Lavender Festival tomorrow. I hope the wine tasting goes quickly to loosen up my audience; I'm no James Taylor or Cat Stevens, that's for sure. But I do alright.

Thine at 1 kilorat,


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Dr. Chaffin Crashes-- Briefly, We Hope?

I had planned upon our return to have refills of my most needed medications in the mail from Canada, namely my antidepressant, Cymbalta, and my pain medication, Celebrex. To my horror and surprise, neither had arrived, only an old telephone message that both had been "back-ordered" from Europe. "Both?" I said, calling back. "Solly, one wasn't weady yet and dey don't like to ship dem together." Cheap bastards, I thought. I urged them to get them to me ASAP, whereupon the Hindu pharmacist said: "Den you would accept generic?" Of course, you bubble-headed booby! I thought.

I try to keep such thoughts to myself today, because uttering them doesn't help anyone. In private with Kathleen these past two-and-a-half weeks on the road, I have often sat in a motel bed and said, "I hate everyone! I hope they all die!

"Bite your tongue and ask for forgiveness," she would say, especially if I mentioned a family member by name. So I would do what she asked, but the prayer always sounded disrespectful with the lisping effect of teeth on tongue. Nevertheless I did comfort myself with the knowledge that all would die, if not soon enough to suit me.

Why these near nightly rages on the road, I don't know; they were not manic, just a feeling of general anger towards everything, cheap motels, fast food, ungrateful children and obtuse others, all the while suffering pain, emotional and physical, while on limited means on what seemed an interminable road trip to Long Beach, CA, even if no major snafus occurred.

I wouldn't have missed my baby's graduation, but I wouldn't do it again, either.

I think my anger may have been warning me about my grief, particularly over the fortunes of my eldest daughter of late, whose care on the trip exhausted me. But I'll keep her secrets for now, even if she is fond of broadcasting them. Every time I think I have come to accept her as she is, she finds some new hot buttons to push. She's gifted that way. Yes, she's the redhead in the picture at the top right of the blog.

Back to the meds. When I had no Cymbalta for two days I sank into a depressive episode, weeping for half an hour, struggling not to let any verbal equivalents enter my brain, as in "You're worthless. You suck. You've never done anything. You despise your own children." No, I didn't let the lies of the frontal cortex insinuate themselves into the vortex of my lizard brain, thus was proud I could recognize my depressive seizure as just that, an uncontrollable outpouring of emotion unrelated to any specific thing. I also had the wherewithal to call my doctor for a short-term supply until the cheaper meds from Canada arrive; I got these yesterday afternoon and then proceeded to twitch so badly I had to sleep apart from my wife. This is an early side effect of some antidepressants, but thank God, it means they are starting to work.

I sometimes think that part of manic-depression is a complete disconnect, in time, between the emotions one should naturally experience and a safe time to let them out. So, for example, I could go tight-lipped through a funeral and weep at a video arcade a month later. Once I even thought I had come closer to integrating my emotions better in regard to circumstances, but I fear for us bipolars this is a chimera. It's as if we build up mountains of rage and chasms of grief of which we are consciously unaware, and one day we smack into them and all hell breaks loose. Chemically, from the standpoint of the actual illness, this likely holds little scientific truth, but it is a useful metaphor for conceptualizing how the phenomenon sometimes feels. In the end manic-depression is really just bad genes and bad luck.

In the face of yesterday's weeping seizure, I found a poem by Fred Pluto that spoke to me of the matter:

The Fever Marches On

There can be no refund
for your parents or your children,
no jeweled compensation
for their liver-piercing defects
though your hepatic perforations
leak like Christ’s wounded side.

But if you were the Christ
would you suffer any more?
And what about the spikes
you drove into their palms
you thought justified,
now long forgotten?

Your hands are not uncontaminated.
Think what infections linger.

Now it wasn't entirely my fault that I was out of meds, but first a cautionary note: if you respond to an antidepressant and go off of it, your chances of responding to it a second time are much reduced. Since Cymbalta was the only thing I responded to after a year's misery, even missing one day was inexcusable. But that's all I missed. So whoever reads this post, remember to take your medications faithfully, especially if you suffer a mood disorder.

Thine as ever,


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Back from Sarah's Graduation

Beat, bedazzled, befuddled, bewildered, bamboozled, benighted, bebabbled, bylaw-exhausted, bemoteled, befastfooded, and glad to be home but too tired to clean it up...

This is what we went to see:

Sarah, of course, had several musical numbers including a solo at her arts HS grad performance. Such stage charisma!

I could say much but will let this post belong to Sarah before I go back to my life as a manic-depressive ex-poet.


Monday, June 11, 2007

My Daughter Sang for the Queen!

I see my brief foray into pop culture has resulted in little attention, but given the overwhelming presence of the Sopranos' last episode in the blogosphere, I am not surprised. But I was right about Tony, Sil and Phil. And culture accretes so quickly; in Ray Ratto's column in the S.F. Chronicle today, he opined that the Giants were "as flat as Phil Leotardo's head." That came out in print less than twelve hours after the earlier showing of the Sopranos finale.

On another front, I polished a previous blog into a respectable essay: "My Struggle with Literary Narcissism," now appearing at a fine new online journal, Umbrella, about which Norm Ball informed me (his essays have appeared in previous issues). The essay is confessional, theological, psychological and literary. (What you have come to expect from me?)

I may have mentioned it, but I also have upcoming poems in Byline and Contrary, two paying journals. I have quit writing poetry for the nonce and now introduce myself as someone into "marketing."
That is, I am marketing old chestnuts instead of harvesting new ones.

Tonight we head for my eldest daughter's, where we shall soon see our rambunctious grandson and afterwards proceed south for baby Sarah's high school graduation. Here's a picture Sarah again:

As poet Teresa White wrote me, "When I met her she looked like Alice in Wonderland; now she looks like Helen of Troy."

Sarah hopes soon to be in her own digs with friends, employed while auditioning for further roles in her acting and singing career. I just found out from my sister on Saturday that Sarah had been in an elite choir to serenade the Queen at the commemoration of Jamestown. My other daughters may be so inured to her success that they left this morsel out, but I was still a little hurt by it. No matter. I'm a proud papa, even if my last teenager doesn't think of calling me. She has a lot on her plate, and her peer group, at this stage of development, is more important.

If this sounds like the intellectual defense of rationalization, well, it is.

At least, due to my psychiatric training and modicum of honesty with myself, I know which defense I'm using!

All for today,

C. E. Chaffin

Sunday, June 10, 2007

12 Questions about "The Sopranos"

1) Has it truly been TV's greatest drama or is it overrated?

2) With all the Italians in the mix, how much credit for acting and how much type casting?

3) Do Carmela and Dr. Melfi adequately counterbalance the sociopathy of the main action, or are they insignificant appendages, or foils?

4) Do you think the sensitive A.J. was the right son for Tony Soprano, or did the writers blow it?

5) Will Paulie Walnuts' hair style take over the rave/punk world, and why hasn't it started, or has it?

6) Wasn't the actual business side of the mob neglected, save for a few negotiations, references to construction and preying upon cigarette trucks? Why weren't the lawyers and accountants more prominent, so central to a modern business?

7) If you missed a couple of episodes, did it really matter that much, or did the general milieu sustain your interest without all the threads?

8) Does anyone not have "Pine Barrens" as their favorite episode?

9) Are Dr. Melfi's calves really that big or is it the camera angle? And why does she so often wear short skirts with a male patient?

10) Given the phenomenon of the show, why were there so few "name" guest stars, when no doubt many actors would have given their eye teeth to be on an episode, as in the more accommodating Simpsons?

11) Would your life be any different if there had been no Sopranos?

12) Finally, who will be whacked and who will be spared in the final episode? I say Phil goes down but Silvio and Tony survive. Then there is also the breaking of the code; you don't whack family--which may result in some surprises.

I'm not a huge fan, missed a lot of episodes while in Mexico, have rented some seasons but can't quote chapter and verse. Still, cynically, to participate in pop culture today it was a choice between Paris Hilton and the Sopranos, as "American Idol" is over for the season (but don't miss "America Has Talent" this summer which I find very amusing so far).

Who says America doesn't have culture?

No television critic, just a hack waiting on a whack,


Friday, June 08, 2007

TIVO: "Only through time is time conquered."

Obviously "The Whole Thing" did not play well to my invisible audience. Not that I play for an audience. But if I did, I would suspect the great Zen-ness of my Boethian concept of the giant dough ball was above them. Or below them. Or beyond them. Or all around them.

There is no way to grasp the whole thing. I mean, multitask all you want. Your brain can't even wrap itself around the average species extinction quotient, as that has never been determined. Thus when climate prophets proclaim the rate of species extinction, you have nothing to compare it to. What if the average was nature's average? Hmmmm....

I recommend Michael Crichton's book, "State of Fear," as a contrarian riposte to Al Gore. Quite fascinating, Crichton's argument. The book is not a novel but a shill for delivering scientific/social rhetoric, much like B. F. Skinners "Walden Two" or Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged"--both books I thoroughly enjoyed. I guess that means I like my philosophy light, the way Plato did that there cave thing. Makes the whole thing more palatable. Pure philosophers, like Kant, can be boring in the extreme, since unlike current trends in poetry, they are loathe to give concrete examples. They like to build their philosophical castles from etymology and logic. Hell, I prefer a parable at least. Give me Jesus over Kant. I prefer the crucifixion of pure reason to its critique. But I cop to being lazy-brained and shiftless unless I'm cross-dressing.

Back to my topic. I'm house-sitting for my sister and she has TIVO. So after watching the first game of the NBA finals, which I had tivoed while attending a gallery opening, through which I fast-forwarded past commercials and the inevitable grind of the final outcome, I turned on Conan O'Brien. Live television! Suddenly the frustration set in: Why couldn't I fast-forward through his commercials? Why did I have to put up with all the boring bullshit?

Now I see why I must get digital recording of TV programs. If I have it all I have to do is wait for one or two hours before watching a show, and I can watch it commercial-free and pause it whenever I want.

So what?, all you TIVO experts out there say. Yet to me it feels like the Twilight Zone, where some guy has a stop watch that can stop time, and he can wander through a jewelry store of frozen mannequins and steal all the diamonds with nary a witness.

With TIVO (or its equivalent) I can master time. I am the master of time.

And if I master time, mass and energy can't be far behind!

Sorry, my brain is moving near the speed of light. Which makes its mass infinite.

I'm free, I'm free, thank heaven I'm free! (even if extremely fat-headed under the circumstances).

Still I have to figure out what Direct TV, my server, charges for this recording feature, and whether the time is worth the money. Time may be money, but only for those who are actually working and not on a fixed income like I am. ("Fixed?" Sounds like I'm a pet or an illicit gambling scam.)

I had "twice-cooked quail" tonight at an Oakland restaurant; it was so dry and stringy I didn't know whether to send it back for a third cook or ask them to go back and only cook it once. With TIVO I could have re-wound the whole process and tasted the little bird raw, once cooked, twice cooked, or thrice cooked. And no one would have noticed as I ruled them with my remote!

Ah, technology I love you! I have conquered time! And if all time is relative, whether live or recorded, whether in time past or time future, the time I conquer through TIVO is just as valid as any other time conquered or deferred, as in reading The New Yorker in your doctor's office.

It's late I'm done. Beware the blue-ringed octopus of Australia. Very venomous. Then you have to read the book.

--Ex-poet CE

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

"The Whole Thing": re-posted for Norman Ball

Regarding the whole thing. No one can see the whole thing.
A very few can imagine it. No one can deal with it.

I imagine the whole thing as a great ball of dirty dough rolling and bouncing over an old dirt road through a green valley. Everything it touches sticks to it and subsequently becomes part of the revolving show, much like the wheel of fortune about which Boethius wrote in his Consolation of Philosophy And everything that sticks to the dough can ride along for a spell or be plastered back on the road or thrown out to the fields.

I used to think that the reason I wasn't more successful in managing the whole thing was that I wasn't rich or famous enough to afford help with the whole thing.

Celebrities of every stripe have managers, maids, valets, lawyers, accountants, trainers and more, so I reasoned, to manage the whole thing for them with little supervision. Thus I lived in hope of becoming a celebrity to better deal with the whole thing. But each time I approached the cusp of fame I was so worn out from the swim that I missed the boat.

When I saw Whitney Houston looking like a Holocaust survivor in the tabloids, I realized that life can become unmanageable even for celebrities! Imagine that. (I do think Whitney would be well-served to hire a new drug counselor, one not afraid to slap the bitch around!).

Let us admit that not even a celebrity with support troops can manage the whole thing. The thing is--it's just too--too too too--gigantic to approach, this nightmare of a dough ball thundering through your green valley like a pale head.

Even with a personal trainer, you have to do the exercises. You have to decide what shade of white you want your teeth. Someone can shop for you, someone can dress you, but no one can sleep for you. And it's precisely in these unprotected moments that the whole thing comes to smash you and hoist you above like flattened gum on its sticky, inexhaustible surface.

There is no escaping the whole thing. The whole thing doesn't care if you have a personal trainer. The whole thing can make you fat if it wants to. We are talking about the very elemental forces of nature.

All matter, including sentient beings, is subject to the whole thing. And just when you reach the top of the spinning sphere with your beautiful wife and wonderful job and a ranch style house and 1.5 children, down you go. The whole thing will cram a Mercedes down your throat and a mortgage up your ass at the worst possible moment. As for children, there’s always leukemia. The wife? She can have an affair with your boss. If you're the boss, she can always have an affair with your secretary. The whole thing, the giant turning sphere of sticky dough that supersedes our most cherished plans is always there, ready to turn our existence inside out at a moment’s notice. It has and will.

There is no protection from the whole thing. Psychiatric medications may smooth out the gut-fluttering ride, but they can't protect you from being stuck in the dough and whirled about.

Occasionally the whole thing will drop you on the road and you feel a strange relief in getting off the randomly revolving spherical insanity without getting lost in the adjoining fields, where your inconsequentiality, as in death, will torture you and tempt you back to the unendurable ride. Trust me, this won't last: this is the whole thing psyching you up into a lack of caution before it swallows you again, plasters you to its surface, and takes you down the valley to the next dumping point, where contentment briefly threatens but ultimately eludes.

There is no escape from the whole thing.

Love Poem: Last Stop

After I met Kathleen on my bus trip back East to do a couple of poetry readings, thanks to Shann Palmer, I was absolutely smitten. I stayed with her as long as I could, then took a 36-hour express bus back to Long Beach, CA. Las Vegas was our last main stop, where I penned this one. Usually I write poetry at my computer, but on trips I resort to pen and paper. I sometimes think my penned poems better, and except for laziness and my current abdication from poet ingloriate (semi-permanently; upon reflection I am likely addicted to the art so I plan to take a year's break, as I think LKD suggested). In any case I'm on a trip south to Long Beach to see my baby graduate from HS. I would put her picture up again but fear if I did, no one would read the poem, due to her charismatic beauty. But if you go to my archives you can see my dolly-wolly. Enough Papa talk: here's the poem, written in a more contemporary manner than my usual reified "classicism."

(Remember that when I thought myself a poet, the most common criticism leveled at me was that my poetry was "inhuman." I understand that now. I must engage the reader more conversationally, as in this offering. I have dwelt too long in Eliot's formality and Yeat's Byzantium, not that I ever approached their eloquence, only that I thought in writing for the ages, as Eliot said, "And every poem is an epitaph." I thought the only poetry worthy of writing was that which deserved being carved in stone. Now I think the effect was to petrify my verse. As Sam Rasnake said, "If you have to call yourself an ex-poet, you must be a poet.")

Last Stop

In Vegas on a bar stool,
between buses, I watched
cocktail waitresses cinch halter tops
and women divers on TV
swathed in spandex, twats like vises,
balanced impossibly ten meters up
before they flipped and knifed
into their up-hurtling reflections
like cormorants, scant froth sucked
under by a slant of toes.

On all these women I imposed your face
like a mercury dime.
All I wanted was you beside me,
mocking my commentary.

Later, kiloneutral,


Monday, June 04, 2007

How popular Is this blog? Love poem by a ex-poet.

Short answer: not very.

But I should add the biblical story about when David decided to number the troops of Israel; on God's part it was considered an act of pride, of trusting in someone beside the Lord by measuring one's own strength; afterwards God gave David three choices for punishment, of which he wisely chose plague, the most easily blamed on God for political reasons.

So if this post results in reduced visits, so be it. I can accept God's judgment in modern cyberspace just at easily, though I don't think it would apply, since this is no righteous enterprise endorsed by God, unlike the surety of suicide bombers.

I started a stats tracker eight months ago. We just reached 10,000 "hits." I say we for obvious reasons. In terms of universal knowledge exchange, it's very much mom-and-pop, you-and-me-baby here. This projects to 15,000 visitors a year, and I don't know how to decipher unique visits. (Maybe someone can explain to me how 23 different domains and 46% IP addresses sorts out in this regard.)

If I should ever rise to the level of a celebrity, I promise to remember everyone I stepped on to get there, and the imprint of my size 13 shoe on their dented spines. My real feeling about "unique" visitors is that most of you are retreads, because once the reader has tasted of my unique vision, he is forced to return either to confirm my insanity or marvel at it. I can be addictive.

Then there is a whole group of those misdirected by Google, as in my mention of therapy above. When therapy is combined with David's dilemma in the Bible, it guarantees I will now be visited by puzzled fundamentalists asking God's permission to see a psychologist. How the web works! (Strange how much that sounds like "wet works," a term all you Sopranos fans have long since mastered).

I won't bore you with page views. The current average is 50 visitors/day, inflated, I think, by the current debate and my recent resignation from contemporary poetry. 40/day is more realistic. I am truly grateful to you, the readers, for making my solitary existence less pointless, though naturally protected behind the gates of cyberspace, as few of you know me as a meat person. But I am open to meet anyone who reads me in meat space. That is preferable in my mind.

Except for Kathleen, none of my immediate family reads this thing. But I know if I dwelt more upon the foibles of my siblings and children, chance would have it that one would alert the others until I am roundly crucified. There are some places I dare not go. But if you are a close relative and reading this, please let me know, and I promise my Christmas card won't be late this year.

Still, 40/day is more than a standard high school classroom, and not a compulsory audience--so even if a few are entertained, I'm happy. The irony is that when I edited and published The Melic Review, with all its awards and Pulitzer winners and la di da (if I can speak of a magazine in the magisterial we), we got less hits overall--excepting the poetry board, which was, of course, instant publication for the literarily impaired. That was the big fish that pulled Melic, not the other way around. But back to life's basics.

We (Kathleen and I, not the magisterial we) hit the road on Saturday, June 2, and I played a brief gig at the Benbow Lake Festival in Humboldt County, where I was essentially ignored--due to the engineer's bad miking of my guitar and the next band's bassist playing too loudly in warming up behind.

Meanwhile Kathleen had an allergic reaction to something in the grass, we think, and I don't mean the inhaled kind--though that is always a possibility at such affairs-- so she became miserable with systemic itching. Afterwards we were ripped off by a motel posing as a hotel through Orbitz, a service I now roundly condemn for the wallet-impaired. And whether my chronic back pain, the chief reason for my disability in practicing medicine, was increased by the drive or packing or loading I don't know. Suffice it to say we were both miserable when arrived to house-sit at my sister's in Burlingame.

If I have to be in this kind of pain for the rest of my life, I am happy Kevorkian was just released from jail. Happily, pain tends to improve over time, though the waiting is often fatal.

No comments on the love poem I last posted. Oh well. As an ex-poet I will try again with another poem CE wrote when he thought he was a poet.

We need something to break the reader's granite heart; is the theory of contemporary poetry so much more interesting than the same, same, same bleating of the human heart, already known in all conditions so that it takes a miracle of style to render anything fresh?

If the human heart has not changed, and it has not, how have Homer and Dante and Shakespeare maintained their hold on us? Because they are poets.

There's the rub. Aye, if the poems I post as an ex-poet do not elicit comment, it confirms my suspicion that CE was never a poet. He's not asking for comments; their lack confirms his suspicions, thus he rejoices in his failure.

Here's today's verse, as I cannot anymore call what CE wrote "poetry," though love remains, however poorly communicated:


If I said I would disembowel myself in public
for one last benison from your sea-green eyes

or clean the Augean stables with a toothbrush
to touch your white vase, what does it mean?

What does it mean to say, "Without you I am not,"
when I was here before you and content?

You make me a blushing boy, an adolescent
feigning diffidence while desperate for a kiss,

an old man begging forgiveness of his only daughter.
I would be closer than the lace that ivys your hips,

seal all your skin with my marauding tongue.
It is a delicious irony, this blurring of borders

in two so strong. Would you rather
we sat in citadels and sent ambassadors?

It is obvious CE thought he could write something fresh about love. The silence that follows (that is, lack of comment) reminds me of the silence in heaven in the Book of Revelation, when nothing is really happening (remember that God was the first to take a sabbatical). Ex-poet Craig Erick accepts that judgment.

If nothing is happening, not even the angels can gossip about it.


Craig Erick

Unexpected Light

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