Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The One

Recently re-discovered the copy of CURBSIDE REVIEW (I guess now defunct) in which this appeared, way back in 2003. 

The One


            Tu es pure, tu es encore plus

            pure que moi-même



If I say I have given up nothing

it is not true

and the smoke doesn’t care

if I go


her mouth

her eyes

I may be the only one to speak of them

the only one to have been surrounded

and choked by the heat


and fire has a face

a hated face

a hating face

your face

you who I will not name who other men have known


the dirt says: on me

the ashes say: on me

embers sense your presence

and our best moments

still burn


the sadness of knowing you

the sadness of having you

or not


the impatience of waiting

the corruption

you who forgets


who brings absence and takes me from the world

I hate you for crying

which destroys me and creates itself

like fire



Sunday, August 9, 2020

Movies I've seen at least three times

 Movies I've seen at least three times

and have somehow formed my life

1. Star Wars

I saw the first movie thirteen times in theaters when it came out. It's a space opera, perhaps cheeseball, yet at the time, visually, it was amazing. I felt like Luke in real life, living lonely on a desolate planet. I still feel that way. And I wanted to be Han Solo. I still feel that way.

2. Aliens

The first, Alien, is also a classic, maybe even visually and artistically more so than Aliens, but there is something about this one, the non-stop action, but I love Vasquez. Ripley too, she was even smarter, but both offered me the strong women of comic books, strong women I've always looked for since. But more than one other young man I knew in the 90s loved Vasquez too, and her call to action has been mine for my life: "Let's rock!!"

3. Monty Python and the Holy Grail

I'd even argue The Life of Brian is better, but The Holy Grail was the first of theirs I saw, and changed how I saw humor: mockery and satire, above all to oneself. As a D&D nerd, this one hit home.

4. Blood of Heroes

With Rutger Hauer and Joan Chen. My group of high school friends, boys and girls, all loved this one, though I'm not sure how popular it ever was. That scene at the end—Joan Chen: I don't want to lose. Hauer: Then win.

5. Rollerball

All three times in my teens, I think. With James Caan. It spoke to something in the soccer player of my younger self: "This isn't a game! It was never meant to be!"

6. The Seven Samurai

I would be one of the group of misfits, wanting to do the right then and defend the defenseless.

7. Blade Runner

Any version, though the Director's Cut (without the voiceover) is best. Combing sci-fi with noir is genius. But the question of what makes us human (memories? emotions?) is still relevant. Loved the sequel too.

8. The Piano

The only woman-directed film on the list, I know. All three of the actors are intense powerhouses. Holly Hunter (without speaking!) gave me the first real look into women's desires and fears and the balancing acts they have to perform. I would be (am) Harvey Keitel putting his tongue in the hole in her stocking.

9. Casa Blanca

Probably on everybody's list. The choice: he could get the woman, but gives her up for the greater cause. I want to love people because they serve a greater cause.

10. Barfly

It's gritty. It's about the lowlife class which rarely gets representation. Which is what Charles Bukowski was always writing about. The beauty and the despair of being poor. Creating out of that.

11. Apocalypse Now

The original, not the Redux version. The extra footage doesn't add anything. I don't even like Martin Sheen or his performance—he was added late, was supposed to be Harvey Keitel I think and imagine that—it's everyone else in the movie, and it's the madness, not just of war, but of life. In a sense, and I just thought of this, Sheen works because he's so blank: he just wanders through the quest, already damaged from life, already shut down emotionally.

12. Spinal Tap

I remember seeing the bass player Billy Sheehan give a talk, and he said, "I didn't think Spinal Tap was funny. All that stuff has happened to me." Which makes it funnier. The deadpan humor, everything played straight. I think it's somehow a mockumentary about men, in general, somehow. And not just musicians, but anyone who loves rock/metal music loves this movie. Because it's true.

13. Sex, Lies and Videotape

I relate to James Spader's character, his distance and desire, and I love the contrast between the people who are having sex but who are not connected/intimate, and his desire but fear of intimacy.


Honorable mentions:

The Company

Man On Wire


A box of incense—micro-fiction

 My micro-fiction, "A box of incense," now up at VOL. 1 BROOKLYN:

Monday, June 22, 2020

Desert Cabal by Amy Irvine

This review will appear in the 2020 issue of Deep Wild: Writing from the Backcountry. Order here!

Desert Cabal
by Amy Irvine
Torrey House Press 2018
ISBN: 978-1-937226-97-8

If there is a patron saint of backcountry enthusiasts, it is Edward Abbey. And if there is a book that has ruffled the feathers of Abbey fans recently (especially men, and especially men who haven't read the book) it's Amy Irvine's Desert Cabal. It's a short, fast, informal, read—perfect, say, for carrying with you into the backcountry, which is where her imaginary conversation with the ghost of Ed Abbey framing the book takes place. Mostly this talk takes place around his most iconic book, Desert Solitaire, though also Abbey in general, all his contradictions and hypocrisies and grumpiness. Desert Cabal is not an attack, but Irvine asks important questions, not just for Abbey but for all of us lovers of wilderness, though she is definitely claiming a place at the table, as an equal, and genuinely wanting to understand a man and writer who meant so much to her.

Each chapter focuses on some aspect of Abbey's thought, with Irvine's commiserations—we get her experiences in, and thoughts about, the backcountry too. And Irvine may prove to be a little prickly to some readers, just like Abbey—she's no fan of Republicans or Democrats, no fan of upper-middle class environmental activists who look down on the working poor while driving SUVs, and she at least has some grudging respect for the occupiers of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge for standing up to the federal government. And she carries a Glock.

Of course, Abbey can't answer back, and Irvine does make some suppositions about how he might react to what has been happening recently, most of which I agree with. The one big one I question is thinking that he in fact might be in favor of Trump's border wall. As evidence, she invokes Abbey's (in)famous quote about sending mexican immigrants back from the border with a rifle and a box of ammunition (which I have always thought is misunderstood by most). My thought is that Abbey would have hated the wall, not because of the humans its supposed to (symbolically, at least) keep out, but because of the wild spaces it divides. Because of the jaguars and wolves and pumas.

The biggest question Irvine has for Abbey, and the biggest revelation of the book, is why Abbey took out references to his wife and children from Desert Solitaire. Irvine has access to the original typed manuscript, and sees first-hand the sentences mentioning them crossed out. As a writer, it's clear she understands the conceit, or concept, of the solitude of Desert Solitaire, the Romantic (with a capital R) experience of the writer/speaker in and against and with Nature (also with a capital). But as a woman, and a mother, she can't help but take that (not just omission, but a) crossing out personally.

We'll never know if by keeping his family in Desert Solitaire whether it would have been the bestseller it was (and still is). My guess? Yes. It certainly would have been different. With the inclusion of those few sentences, the entire vision would have been changed. Which is Irvine's point. She sees a missed opportunity, which women would have seen—saw—automatically: "Solitude, for women, is a different animal entirely." And, a little later: "we [women] seek not so much solitude as solidarity, intimacy more than privacy. But it's the way of wilderness—in a thriving ecosystem, integration matters far more than independence." In other words, what if we'd had a bestselling book that shaped decades of activists and nature lovers which advocated for solidarity instead of a leftover sense of American rugged individualism?

Again, Irvine still values Edward Abbey as a huge, good, influence. I was happy to read that in fact, like me, the book of his that really meant the most to her is his novel The Monkey Wrench Gang, for its spirit of activism. It was there she learned that she "could resist authority...on behalf of...these beloved public lands!"

Which brings us to the 'Cabal' of the title. Irvine prefers the french, and female, version, la cabale, but which in either case is the (perhaps conspiratorial, perhaps witchcrafty) group of us, all, who love the wilderness but also want to save it from our governments (local and federal) and tourists and maybe from ourselves. Her invocation (her 'calling in') to us is the reverse of the famous Abbey proclamation to his readers not to get bogged down in the activist part of life, but to "Get out!" and enjoy the wild. Irvine does not deny that at all, but suggest to us (and Abbey's ghost) that, decades later, maybe it's time to 'Come back!':

"So I say to you, go solo, into the desert. Yes, do this and love every minute. But then come back. Come back to the cabale that has joined together, to save what we know and love."

Order Deep Wild: Writing from the Backcountry #2, 2020, here!

The West Will Swallow You by Leath Tonino

My book review of Leath Tonino's non-fiction collection, The West Will Swallow You, now up at QUARTERLY WEST.

Friday, June 19, 2020