Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I see now that it's been over a week since my last post, which was only a poem from my poem-a-day discipline during National Poetry Month. I suppose the struggle to come up with a poem daily has superseded my natural return to my blog. And I have so much to report. But I don't know where to start.

First, I have my second reading coming up April 24 at the Mendocino Gallery Bookshop at 6:30 PM. Readings sometimes fill me with trepidation because I don't know how the poems will come across, and I am surprised at the intensity with which they hit me after I read them. I think it was Fellini who said, "All art is autobiographical," and when you read a finished poem out loud to an audience, memory strikes. I know when I have an audience in my hand because it becomes deathly still as everyone concentrates on the next word--ah the pressure, the pressure!

Most fun is attending a reading by a poet with whose work you are familiar. Then you can sort of coast and enjoy your favorites in context.

My middle daughter, Keturah, at 29-yr.-old high school biology teacher, is visiting us this week for the first time in our new domicile with the ocean view. She's relaxing over her spring break, and we've been hiking all over the place, most memorably the Fern Creek Trail Loop at Russian Gulch. We are so spoiled in Mendocino to have so many beautiful places close at hand. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else, truly, though the economy here makes it difficult for many.

A lot of homeless adventurers pass through the coast this time of year, many of them Rasta adherents. I never get over the signs, however, that say "Help feed my dog." Why subject a dog to starvation in your travels if you can't feed yourself? The best sign I've seen was a young woman who proclaimed, "Need feminine hygiene products." I'm sure she did, but the thought of contribution was not alluring, however necessary.

In my poem-a-day discipline I have no idea of what quality the poems will eventually assume, as they are all essentially drafts. But here are two new ones, the first a free verse sonnet (a welcome oxymoron):

Praising the Dead

It is easy to praise the dead, to count their deeds
Intentional, heroic. Retrospect
Polishes the blackest silver bright.
Yet to have witnessed them sweating, unstable
How would it feed our need for Shangri La?
We don't want truth, we want legend and myth
As if our ancestors knew what they did
Stumbling through rain with the gift, a coal of fire.
And when they coaxed it in those filthy caves,
We dream of adoration and consensus
Against the yellow eyes that riddled night.
The longer dead, the easier to praise
When almost all were doing what they had
To do and nothing more. God bless the few.

Easter 2009

I've always felt it less than deferential to the Jews
that on our holiest day we crucify a ham with cloves.

Do I need a chocolate Jesus? Do I want a chocolate Jesus?
Dark chocolate for Good Friday, white chocolate for Easter?

And would I bite his head off as with bunnies,
or start with his wounded feet--
they would be wounded, wouldn't they, for realism?

I don't know realism. That's only Hollywood.
But a chocolate Virgin in blue and white foil?
Hail Mary, Mother of sweetness!

To devour her on Easter, yes,
how chocolate, like love, increases its intensity
with each bite, the last propels the next
past need, past any other desiring
until the body shakes with guilt or pleasure.
A woman's love is beyond human measure.

The idea of a chocolate Jesus came to me while driving back home with my daughter from the Oakland airport. I thought it was funny but did not think it would turn into a poem.

Moodwise I experienced quite a dip with smoking cessation on April 1, though I've been using the nicotine patches liberally. Still the patches don't raise your nicotine level to what cigarettes have accustomed you to. And the fight goes on. I'll always be a smoker at a deep level but I want to achieve the consciousness of a non-smoker at another level.

I had my Martin acoustic guitar set up by a local luthier so that now it plays much more easily under the aegis of my disabled left hand (disabled since last year's motorcycle accident). The neurologist tells me that nerves grow one millimeter a day, which means the connection from my spinal cord to my hand will take some three years to recover, but I think to myself that it's better than surgery. I always told patients to avoid surgery if possible; it does violence to the body and recovery is always slower than one expects. Having major surgery is like going through a car crash.

From all my bumps and bruises and major accidents in my life, I sometimes wake (as I did this morning) with generalized pain from my feet to my neck. Aging is not for pussies. The older we get, the more the pain-pleasure principle leans towards pain avoidance. But there's no avoiding pain in my case, just enduring it with the meds my doctor has me on. The lure of painlessness, however, makes me long to smoke opium, something I've never tried and likely never will, because a temporary absence of bodily pain only yields greater pain when it wears off. This is the conundrum of short-acting narcotics--the landing is rocky afterwards.

My new book of poems has now had six reviews, and I'll list the links below. I am hopeful that a groundswell of publicity may eventually increase sales, but selling poetry in America is a slow business, especially on the net, where playing on poetry boards breeds familiarity, and yes, familiarity can breed contempt. "Why should I buy his book? I just critiqued a poem of his I didn't like." Or so I imagine. One friend even wrote me to explain he just couldn't squeeze the cost of the book into his budget, what with the mortgage on his home and retirement property, and despite the fact that he and his wife are both employed. He obviously felt guilty but did I need a financial statement to tell me he was just too cheap and disinterested? LOL!

Of what value, then, is a book of poetry? Of inestimable value when the poet speaks to your heart, though many may miss it and make you less eager to purchase a new volume by a relatively obscure author like myself. At least on facebook I haven't asked anyone to be a fan!

And what is it with all these networking platforms? Twitter must be the ultimate vicarious living, getting updates all the time on your mobile communication device, knowing what the faux celebrity had for breakfast, yada. Isn't it time we started living our own lives? Or will our culture settle for faux lives?

Glad I got that off my chest.

Here are the links to all the current reviews of my book:

Hobble Creek Review

Rose and Thorn


Loch Raven Review

Centrifugal Eye (pg. 71)


All for today. Enjoy the spring!

Barely Kiloneutral,


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