Friday, April 03, 2009

Here's today's poem:

Another Definition

Two Stellar's jays perched
beside the blackberry bramble,
black Mohawks shining
above metallic blue feathers,
Mendocino-blue ocean behind.
Such beauty wed
to such an irritating squawk --

Like a beautiful woman
with a high nasal pitch
and a strong Bronx accent
who won't stop talking
until her defects collect in your mind
and you are forced into
another definition of beauty.

I know the stanzas lack verbs to make them complete sentences, but hey, poetic license. But surely both men and women know the phenomenon of which I speak, where the outward beauty of a person transfixes you until they open their mouth, whereupon the pitch or accent or absence of any substance slowly deflates your initial impression until you wish they were just a silent Playboy doll.

Real beauty is often not symmetric; think of Ingrid Bergman's nose or Meryl Streep's face, women I consider beauties, or how everything about Sophia Loren's face is too big--nose, ears, lips, eyes--but the whole leaves you with such a wonderful impression. Pretty faces are a dime a dozen; true beauty includes character. In fact, until someone reaches their mid to late thirties, can beauty even be intuited without character? I suppose so.

Back to Meryl Streep. Or Glenn Close. Angelina Jolie is sultry but is she beautiful? Besides her pumped-up lips, she has nice features--but she does not strike me as beautiful, or handsome, or even pretty--more sexy, alluring, even a little wicked.

I was once considered good-looking in my pre-pubertal days; in second grade ten girls even held me down, struggling, so Loretta could kiss me. But after puberty my looks went, somehow--all our features get larger as adults, and it's the premature bags under my eyes that really did me in. Besides, my face (except for character) is so terribly average, as this picture will show:

This in turn reminds me of a poem that has not been published, maybe never will be, but as it is virtually my only self-portrait I post it here:


See mine, in the window there,
beard quilled in white?
Above, a vast forehead like a desert
as if the skull were pushing through?
Right, a scar from cops' batons
extends my eyebrow, and my mustache
is split by a brass knuckle's kiss.
The right eye's green, the left is blue
with crow's feet spread out
like shatter-proof glass shattered,
then all the luggage below, harvest
of late nights drinking.

Nose, flat and aboriginal,
strong even teeth but yellowed
by smoke and coffee, wide smile,
full lips upcurling at the corners.
Laugh lines outnumber other furrows
though puzzlement grooves much.
Not a rich man's face, it lacks
a certain earthly satisfaction
I hope is free of envy.


The poor you have with you always,
the rich man can't help but rub it in,
his mere existence fathers envy
which powers ambition
which feeds achievement
which seeks comparisons
which breed dissatisfaction,
giving birth to envy.

It's not the thorn against the rose
but both against the deer;
the deer make them equals
and the sun, confederates.


On and on the human engine runs
toward the swimming pool
purchased on credit
from a second mortgage,
toward the notion
that having all
might cure not having all.
On we fly like wasps
disturbed by a lawnmower,
no furies needed
but our lusts.

The ouroboros of desire,
lugubriously predictable.

How much is that Buddha in the window?

Again I would remind you of this month's contest: send your best poem, published or unpublished, to cechaffin at gmail dot com for a chance to win one of two signed hardback copies of my new book, pictured above.

3 days off cigarettes and I made a mistake today. I had been saving a fine Onyx cigar for the occasion of my quitting cigarettes, but smoking it this morning on the porch while reading William McNeil's "World History" only inflamed my desire for tobacco, duh. If I had a terminal illness I would take up smoking again, truly. As I prefer the best hand-rolling tobacco, on April 1 the taxes on it went up astronomically by $5 a pound. Packs of cigarettes will now exceed $6 in California; as I recall, New York is even worse. But what can you do if you're an addict? Quit, pay the price, or make contact with smugglers from Mexico where cigarettes are still under $2 a pack.

Some of you may remember when I posted my long poem, "The Deprivathon," here. It was all about quitting but I managed to start again. Here's a link to the page where the poem appears entire for any interested. It is not my best work, though inspired (pun intended) in places. In fact, here's one movement from it:


I saw the spirit of fire,
in her coronet of coals
dancing in a leaf skirt
of golden brown,
her incendiary thighs

burning burning burning

Before her only God breathed fire.
Afterwards came dragons,
venomous snakes and toads.
Finally man's penis swelled
and woman's labia grew
bloody-purple, pink and wet.

I heard Tobaccohontas speak:

"I burn for you, Brave.
Do not forget your love.
Cleave me with your tomahawk,
undo the seam so lightly stitched by nature
or my own nails will ream it,
drive your spear into the ravenous slit
beneath the golden curls of my mons,
pound me as a bear ruts a sow in a ditch
littered with acorns and salmon bones.
My mouths have swallowed
the seed of many warriors, come."

Ah, Tobaccohontas,
I once fingered your moist fragrance
in blue pouches of Drum tobacco.
Your scent still calls to me
from the tent of the elders
with their pipe of bone and feathers
but moderation is beyond me.
I must devour and be devoured.
Hear me now:

My lava grows hard in your ocean.
Your undersea cleft shapes me.
My tip breaks off like a coal in your wet purse.
I shudder, deflate and die.
You are the siren of my death.
I stub you out in ashtrays
as if they were vampire coffins
through which to pound my filter.
Now I can only inhale
the memory of your forbidden pleasure
and cast its usage toward some future
beyond obsession. Forgive me
Princess; you were the best.

Now I've certainly given you enough to read for one day. The key to quitting smoking, I've discovered, is not to smoke no matter what. And if you do stumble and bum one, get right back on the horse--don't globalize and say, "Oh, I've started again." No, that is what your unconscious wishes through its chemical addiction. Reason tells us that we can quit again and again and again and if we quit enough the moments shall be sewn together and formed into a pleasant curve as in the Calculus.

At 1 Kilobunny (though feeling a little edgy despite the nicotine patch),



  1. I love the "Definition" poem, describes her perfectly...especially those last lines. She does that to all she meets, you know?


  2. Ah, I feel stupid as the poem had the opposite intent--not being about K, but the kind of woman who looks superficially beautiful but is betrayed by her idiot mouth... neither applicable to my one.


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