Friday, May 19, 2023

Tripod Lookout Blues

My essay "Tripod Lookout Blues" now up at THE JOURNAL, the literary journal of OSU! The editors were very cool to work with, and encouraged me to get wierder rather than conventional. Essay is, of course, from the end of my summer at Tripod Lookout in Idaho.

 (Cover art: "Airborne," by Ana Prundaru)

Friday, May 12, 2023

haiku for Musuem of Northern Arizona bus lines program

Just found out that a haiku of mine was accepted into the Museum of Northern Arizona's bus lines program, where a poem is paired with a piece of artwork from the museum and appears on a city bus. (I think that's how it works.) And check out the art they paired my poem with! "Sunset Horse" by Paul Dyck. Follow the link to see all poems and artwork, including a poem by my barefoot friend Thea Gavin.

Friday, May 5, 2023

Polite Society movie review

Polite Society

written and directed by Nida Manzoor

Part of the pleasure for an American audience is the sort-of ‘come out of nowhere-ness’ of Polite Society: none of the actors are well-known here, and most are relative newcomers. Even writer/director Nida Manzoor is somewhat new—she directed the British tv series We Are Lady Parts, and a couple Doctor Who shows in 2020. She has crafted a quirky comedy about Pakistani-British teens trying to fit in in contemporary London, and there is a higher pleasure in how all these relative newcomers can come together and make a good, funny, movie with, incidentally, characters and a cast of (secular) muslims.

Ria Khan (Priya Kansara) is a fifteen year old immersed in western pop culture, with plans to be a stuntwoman and work in Marvel movies (Or, as they say in Britain, apparently, to work in “a Marvel.” She attends a private girls school (which, in England, confusedly, are called public schools) and takes karate lessons, while posting videos (“vids”) of herself reciting Marvel-esque lines combined with martial arts moves, to her website (not Instagram, actually) which is titled, Kahn-Fu.

Her older sister Lena (played by Ritu Arya) is eighteen to maybe twenty, an art-school dropout in low-grade goth depression, frustrated that she’s not ‘good enough’ as an artist, but unsure of what else to do. Ria adores her older sister, and looks to her as a role model, so when Lena is set up in an arranged marriage with the handsome rich Salim Shah (played by Akshay Khanna)—and actually ends up enjoying his company and becomes happy quits her artistic aspirations—Ria is devastated: If Lena gives up her dreams, then how can Ria hope to accomplish hers? Thus, Ria goes into superhero mode in order to rescue Lena from this sinister arranged-marriage plot.

The funny part is, of course, that there might actually be a plot, beyond the arranged marriage. Thus, Polite Society nudges into an homage-to-Marvel action movie, all the while still keeping with Bollywood-ish conventions: there is still a dance scene, in which Ria sings with the overdubbed voice of a much older woman. But also martial arts! With women in full traditional (gorgeous) Pakistani-muslim marriage dresses whirling and twirling in the air.

After Ria has convinced her nerd friends to help her rescue her sister from marriage, all three of them raise their fists and yes, “Down with the patriarchy!” What they don’t realize is that they’re actually taking on the matriarchy. In British-Pakistani society, or at least as it’s portrayed int Polite Society, the mothers have all the power and the do all the scheming. Ria’s dad (played by Jeff Mirza) is just a middle-class office cog, deferring to his wife in all matters, including the arranged marriage—the most interesting line he has is when the whole family attends a soirée at the Shahs. On their arrival, looking at the huge Shah house, he says simply, “Shit.” He’s fully aware of the class difference between the two families and doesn’t feel worthy. Ria’s mom (Shobu Kapoor) is also fully aware of the class difference: that’s why she wants to get Lena married, to marry up and into the Shah lifestyle.

Ria accuses Lena “going Jane Austen” in going along with the arranged marriage to a rich man. Lena counters that, like Austen’s characters, she’s still choosing to do so. The appeal of Austen, and of Polite Society, is the feeling in young people that they’re still not in control of their own lives and that parents still push their children (especially the girls) into lives they don't want. This is amplified in Polite Society. After all, marriages from the Indian sub-continent are still mostly arranged. writer/director Nida Manzoor’s agenda is obviously that Pakistani families should embrace the freedom of choice, in marriage and, as it’s put in the movie, in what one wants ‘to do’—meaning a job but also a life. These are issues that most people still go through, so that, even in this supposed unique sub-culture of British-Pakistani families, there is a universal appeal, even as Manzoor celebrates the differences too.

Polite is always a façade, society in the ‘high society’ sense is always a façade, which covers up what people really think, otherwise society would collapse—according to society. Ria speaks freely, speaks her thoughts—she’s not polite. She doesn’t want to fit in to polite British-Pakistani-Muslim society. To Ria, Lena becomes the example of what becoming polite means, or what happens: she goes from impolite goth-muslim to something else—something designed by adults. And though polite gets her the handsome rich Pakistani boyfriend, is also gets her conformity, just like what happened to her mom, and all the other older Pakistani women. Ria senses that the creative life isn’t so much a goal, as a process, a life, a way of living. The tension in the movie is of course, like it is with young people in any society, whether Ria and Lena can choose their own lives, and be supported in that act. That process.


Saturday, April 22, 2023


Ithaka (2022) (also now up at SPLICE TODAY in slightly different form, under the title "Chronicling Julian Assange and Wikileaks."

Directed by Ben Lawrence

The new documentary Ithaka assumes viewers have a decent knowledge of Julien Assange and what has been done to him by the US and UK governments, though curious newcomers can learn the highlights, through news clips and interviews: Assange is being tried under the US Espionage Act, ostensibly for publishing classified documents—which revealed US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. That was back with Democrats were fine with Wikileaks, the organization Assange founded, because the war crimes were committed by the Bush Administration, back when Democrats hated Bush. What really cause the US government to go after Assange was when he published the leaked emails of Hillary Clinton advisor John Podesta, which Democrats claimed tipped the election to Trump. Lest people forget—because Americans have very short political memories—it was the Trump Administration (or, the State Department within the Trump administration) which actually went ahead with the extradition request, and the espionage charges. The Obama Administration at least knew the consequences of charging a publisher of leaked documents.

Ithaka follows both Assange’s wife Stella Assange (née Moris) but especially his father, John Shipton, as they work each do what they can to raise awareness of Assange’s situation. Viewers also see some of their daily lives, which have been disrupted ever since Assange sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he probably would have then faced extradition to the United States. The movie doesn’t go into the nuts and bolts of the actual legal process, and in fact at the time of filming, not many journalists—or people at all—were allowed either in Belmarsh Prison in the UK, nor into the courtroom, with COVID lockdown protocols providing a convenient excuse at the time, but also because that’s the way authorities want it: Assange is not allowed to give interviews, or have a voice at all, though at times in the movie we hear bits of conversation between he and Stella.

The film could have easily focused on Stella Assange—she has a very full life taking care of their two children, helping with the legal battles, and being one of the main PR voices, but the choice to include more footage of John, Assange’s father is intentional. Early on, Stella compares John to Julian, saying that they’re a lot alike in temperament, intelligence, and humor, and—since film crews have no access to Assange—the best way to ‘see’ Julian, to learn about him, is to observe his father.

John is also a good model for the rest of us: he was not involved or interested in politics until Julian started Wikileaks, and even then not until Julian’s persecution. But in the movie he’s sharp, knows all about the political forces at work in the UK, US, Europe and Australia. He and Julian’s brother, Gabriel Shipton, a filmmaker and one of the producers, attended the screening of Ithaka I attended, in Salem, Oregon, and John Shipton impressed everyone with his insights and analysis. As the movie shows, he was a building contractor before the family troubles. He shows how, if one is motivated enough, a good understanding of world politics, and the ability to critique it, can be learned by any of us ‘normal’ working-class folks.

At the Q&A after the screening, John and Gabriel both stressed their surprising hopefulness in the strength of the people to control their governments. They cite the recent movement by some ‘progressive’ Representatives in the house calling for the Biden administration to drop any and all charges against Assange. This may feel like too little too late to some, but I understand the desire of the father of Julian Assange to want to have hope. As the movie shows, the support coming from governments around the world, including the US, is bipartisan: Libertarians and leftists are well aware what is at stake.

The most moving words John spoke at the Q&A were describing how our First Amendment, which says, in part: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press....” is THE inspiration for other governments and human rights activists. If Assange is extradited, he will inevitably be convicted of espionage in the US, for the publishing of leaked documents demonstrating US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan—a conviction which has never happened before and which would make any journalist or news organization who uses leaked documents open to the same persecution. Which is why the five big news organizations who used the Wikileaks documents have now, finally, come around to defending Assange. Unfortunately, US propaganda is so strong that Democrats and other centrists now openly favor censoring news that doesn’t come from government-approved sources, so as to avoid ‘misinformation.’

At the time of the writing of this review, Ithaka is being screened for one-night-only events at independent cinemas, though it was officially released in the US back in November 2022. John and Gabriel are touring with the movie in the US, and Stella at some showings in Europe. The Q&A was worth staying for, as was seeing the movie in a full theatre: at times, based on the mostly mainstream media blackout about Assange and the fate of our First Amendment, one can feel a little isolated, thinking that no one cares. Being in a room full of like-minded people was a hopeful experience: at least some people care. The highlight of the night was when the movie showed an excerpt from Biden’s acceptance speech, where he praises, with a straight face, the value and importance of ‘truth.’ A woman in back yelled out, “You sit on a throne of lies!” And everyone laughed and clapped.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Cher Vincent: Letters to Van Gogh

Originally appeared in the Canadian literary journal THE LIT QUARTERLY (no longer with us) back in 2021.


Feb 19

What thoughts I have of you Vincent reading your letters traveling thru Amsterdam + Antwerp + Brussels watching you go through obsessions: being a pastor, your cousin, painting seeing how people saw you as naive idiot. If only they'd read you tho they saw your art + did nothing + I secretly thought about being a minister except don't like people even Unitarians so just studied religions on my own. Never learned to draw would've just drawn naked ladies. My favorite paintings not even in your museum: the smoking skull + peasant's shoes tho that from Heidegger's essay + were they really a peasant woman's shoes or just your own like in the Willem Defoe movie. Sharing your love of the dignity of the poor and sadness that they reject creatives. I too want to live in a small town in the country + write poems but I'd get shot too tho I like fitting in in cities like Portland + Salem, everyone in Brussels + Antwerp thinks I'm German which I guess is a compliment even w/Germany holding austerity over everyone's heads making the poor pay for the mistakes + greed of the rich but I like free flow of people across borders like you had + your disinterest in manual labor not laziness like your father accused—you saw lower class working life as a no-win situation after the coal mines of southern Belgium. Something else growing in your heart, crazy thought that people would pay you money for art + thinking too of your brother Theo, his monthly payments keeping you alive out of love not pity—he was maybe the only who didn't, taking your letters to heart + saving them all! Only more amazingly Johanna recognized their value when you both died. You could've been a writer, a dutch Charles Dickens but saw not in words but light tho my favorites the dark ones, all blacks + browns and were you bi-polar? Your letters seem uncomfortably so—your uninvited pursuit of your cousin (tho violence never anything you'd resort to) making me almost skip ahead a year or two. Also your begging + bitterness + gratefulness to Theo for money. He always knew you'd do something even when no one would buy your paintings + neither did you cut off your ear for a whore but for Gauguin by way of apology to say you're right I didn't listen to you or to spite him + say I won't listen to you. You just gave it to the barmaid you both knew as if that was ok somehow but shows people believe what they want to believe—love for a whore making a better story than love for another man('s paintings) + we mostly see what we want to see except when people like you come along and show us not another world but another way to see ours ourselves in it + creating it which is what Heidegger thought though you wouldn't have liked him but with you seeing is feeling, maybe that was the problem w/your cousin or your whole life seeing + feeling + no one feeling what you saw + felt which means how we see light is how we feel—Dear Vincent, your letters come at a good time or the right time—I came all the way here just to read them just to need them + your light.

Feb 21

I went to Antwerp + toured old tunnels, open-air sewers-canals Napoleon ordered covered in true dictator make-the-trains-run-on-time fashion. Thinking of you in the coal mines—rats + weird white fuzz from their droppings, big spiders thriving in warm air, secret door to Jesuit church in case of peasant uprising + not to sneak out to see whores bien sûr—History of the sewers history of the city along w/old printing presses of Museum Plantin-Moretus + original Gutenberg Bible which even I find holy. You walking beaches in England talking already of leaving city for country + quiet but torn b/c of the community of painters (I just accidentally wrote community of writers) in cities tho they all seem to mock you, knowing that when you do move to southern light peasants will too you can't win but at least there will be walks in woods + a friendly barmaid to give you a notebook which will be lost for a hundred years. Everything you do no one will care except Theo not even your common-law wife who will leave you because you're too poor for even her. In a park now in sun near chess players, Hôtel de Ville tower of La Grande Place, trees not yet budding tho young men smoking bud, children in gilles jaunes future budding protestors tho elites have figured out how to take down mobs: accuse anti-semitism and they'll fight amongst themselves while real anti-semites go to top positions or in Amerika just accuse sexual harassment or sex in general + everyone pretends to be horrified. No one knows who's lying anymore so everyone becomes liars even especially ones speaking truth which can't be spoken or not all of it not all the time but I liked your Zola quote:

observer ce qui plaît au public est toujours ce qu'il y a de plus banal, ce qu'on a coutume de voir chaque année, on est habitué à de telles fadeurs, à des mensonges si jolie, qu'on refuse de toute sa puissance les véritès fortes

reminds me of They Live when the best friend fights almost to the death to avoid putting on the sunglasses to see aliens among us + their subliminal messages which is how your letters feel—surrounded by aliens going out of their way to make you feel bad about yourself though these strolling sun people seem ok—I guess the aliens are in the European Parliament conspiring austerity while sincerely wanting economic power to equal Amerika's tho everyone here speaks english especially the Dutch so much theirs will become a dead language, all of which to say I wish you were here to play chess or I'd sit quietly while you sketched. The light is good.

Feb 21?

I see mistakes coming in your letters: living with a woman because you pity her: not love even if you find friendship + tho saying she has become a better person because of you sounds egotistical something is there—two people can + should make each other better people like a band makes musicians better tho I'd like to think it's not relationship or even family—that we all make each other better people in the world but something gets lost + we become trolls + thinking you can save anyone is a trap which is why the Bodhisattva Vow is bullshit, mighty convenient someone will put off enlightenment until all beings attain it yet if we can help someone we should tho a drowning person can pull you under and a dead firefighter's no good to anyone but I wonder if my letters when younger (or now) reveal paths that should have been less taken, if recipients wrote 'uh oh' in margins like I'm doing—firefighting, N., K., New York, grad school, teaching, all interesting if only in the chinese-curse way, all leading right here right now writing in a café in Brussels just like all your mistakes led to your paintings. I know you would have said it was all worth it—not the part about becoming famous after death but the part when still alive, the process, days spent in dunes sketching learning texture turning two dimensions to three + hours in bliss creation which Heidegger used your shoes for to say was necessary, that all along you were helping create the world, paintings + poems the stamp of it. Some would say just sitting still for long periods creates a better world too tho I don't know—meditating seems to right already-wrongs while writing or playing music seems to create the new out on the edge of reality—Basho + Issa did both but I share your need to be out in the woods. I wish you could visit my lookout tower this summer. The women here wear short skirts + tights sometimes which is nice but I don't know how to talk to them w/o seeming strange either, nor do I have any money but you never talk about music which you never had in your life because poor except maybe someone with a fiddle at the pub tho even that what I want to believe—I saw a german movie about painting, Werk Ohne Autor, changed in english bizarrely to Never Look Away but which anyway comes to the conclusion that artists always work with the 'ich' even if they don't realize—no big revelation to you though radical these decades, but the film more conservative than it wanted to admit: ultimate goal of even liberal artists being to get married and have kids + the guy's wife studying fashion design just ends up a mom after working in a factory + being a manic pixie dream girl tho I'd forgive much from an artist who paints like that except Ted Nugent was a great guitarist + a total asshole. I loved the Banksy paintings in Amsterdam for their political satire—also from the ich—+ the girl w/her heart balloon drifting away: did it slip or did she let it go?

Feb 22?

I don't understand people sometimes a lot of times + neither could you in their simple cruelty + lies. I keep thinking I see my old girlfriend the one fluent in German—if I saw anybody in Europe would be her tho I'd expect her to be in Stuttgart or Tübingen. I couldn't resist if it were the sex would be hot. I could do with some hot sex to cover my loneliness. I only get lonely in cities wandering back streets all morning buying Tales of Unrest by Conrad thinking of writing stories questioning not colonialism as much as capitalism which is its cause—social justice warriors perfectly fine w/capitalism—thinking if we just change the leaders everything will be fine + I'm in a café everyone sitting in the cold sun smoking. Bartender thinks I'm british she gave me two sugar cubes just as I'm reading a poem by Bukowski in Les jours s'en vont which I never liked before about a boy feeding horses sugar cubes 'like ice to eagles' somehow the french works for me. He rarely used similes usually just things in themselves. I see you shambling through La Haye in secondhand clothes, all argent going to paints + stamps + yr prostitute girlfriend, not that that was her fault nor even something to be ashamed of tho we all are—ashamed not prostitutes—or maybe it's the other: these days writers have to pay for the chance of publication in reading fees + contests which are just reading fees + none of us will win nevertheless I have poems coming out in The Chiron Review + a long one in the South Dakota Review on this cloudy cold day someone somewhere wants to publish me + someone somewhere—complete strangers—will read me + someone somewhere will even read these letters + think of us + I'm hungry—two falafels for lunch weren't enough—I've been skipping breakfast trying to eat cheap in general. I'd love to be more European mais ça coute chère + you have decided to leave your common-law wife + her kids even knowing she may go back to prostitution but staying isn't doing you or her any good: you need light + space + time to paint to live. Again I'll say you can't stay with someone out of pity. I feel bad for the children but they aren't yours + she won't allow it + she has extended family who all think you're a loser anyways—allons-y! You will be poor + unsuccessful your whole life, you will lose your friendship with Gauguin + be laughed at in the streets, you will be shot by a kid dressed like Billy The Kid but you will have put brush to canvas, ink to paper.

Feb 23

In Bruges! Someone playing "Sweet Dreams" as I climbed the spiral staircase the Belfort, up to dozens of huge bells wired to giant music box carillon with attached keyboard + the Prelude to Bach's first Cello Suite standing right under them LOUD + literally heavy metal. Of course you had church music which must have been magical, probably the only reason I would have gone to church tho you protestants were minimalist back then (scene from Mary, Queen of Scots of bearded scottish minister in the cold dark church, offended a woman would dare hold the throne). I'm sure trains back in your day were just as annoying as now even without cellphones loud people talking when all I want to do is take a nap tho the view: farmland + villages + actual houses + fields, stands of old-growth forest don't exist here anymore—people here don't even realize—no wolves or bears or lions. X-PO Museum had a collection of Picasso illustrations including the Don Quixote + Sancho + Dove of Peace, listing painters he was influenced by: Gauguin + Toulouse-Latrec your friends but not you. Hard to believe + sad—another insult. He must have loved Starry Night + your sketches of lower-class women. I am tired + thirsty from walking all day over cobblestone + en español Bruges se llama Brujas: Witches, great name for a city tho not what it means en français or dutch, being a shortened name for by-the-sea. I did go into the cathedral—didn't burst into fire—all that work + detail paid by tithing the poor who probably didn't even mind or maybe merchants. The light good today—spring here in february with snow in Tucson + Las Vegas.

Feb 24

Most uncomfortable in yr letters the necessity of asking for money you think you deserve, dependent on Theo even when he angers you—what all artists go thru in various ways but better than selling soul or body even though feels like it + maybe just is but also your parents not understanding nor anyone really except Theo tho not until later will he + Johanna know how good you are. Yesterday I walked around Bruxelles w/Reagan, we sat in a small park + talked like dozens of others in the sun for free. You getting out of the city for the light though your black + white work reflecting interiors of rooms + lives while your paints taught to re-see exterieurs + surfaces + Gauguin never had texture—I'm waiting for him to go out of fashion as a colonialist exploiter of women of color tho fortunately naked ladies in general are still ok—nobody'll come after Picasso or even Modigliani tho I wonder if Klimt's clothed ladies will ever be recognized. Painting naked ladies a good way to pick up chicks along w/having a motorcycle + playing the guitar tho Reagan theorizes that les filles don't like creatives anymore, his students rolling their eyes at boyfriends in bands. Can't fault them for not wanting to be manic pixie dream girls anymore. I always wanted a fellow creative on the road but keep missing her—anyways might be like Rutger Hauer tells Joan Chen in Blood of Heroes that juggers can't fuck each other tho in the end they do at least once. All of which is to say Vincent that I await your escape to France for days of happiness if still poor then at least free tho already your dark moods appearing but I like to think of Head of A Skeleton which you painted with a lit self-rolled cigarette: that you kept some humor in yr life if not your letters that there might have been laughter.


Feb 25

Bought my ticket back to Amsterdam: less than a week left in Bruxelles—trop vite! Trying not to think about l'argent I've spent not so much trips to Antwerp + Brujas as daily meals. Oui, des frites but halfway healthy falafels + phô tho sometimes can't resist a baguette at a boulangerie nibbling + walking thru streets flaneuring but losing weight by walking everywhere—didn't end up being a big french-speaking trip hélàs, everyone just speaks english on hearing my accent. My social life the same as in Amerika: in bed by ten, certainly not going to just walk up to les femmes + talk—what kind of madman would attempt that? Meanwhile sitting in a café w/really loud music which prevents people talking on phones tho I'd prefer those Brujas bells + more Bach—I wonder if you ever got to hear Bach even on the organ, not just Toccata + Fugue in D Minor (saddest of all keys) but all of it pretty dark + intense + non-christian-y. Bach in his solo instrument works created ways to sound like more than one person, Whitman's 'I contain multitudes'—ourselves in concert with ourselves or con-versation. Charles Bukowski saw you as a role model: creating in and out of poverty and la lucha tho he would've thought the ear being for Gauguin pathetic + chastised you for seeking community w/other artists but I've had that void all my life too sitting there staring back at me. A gutshot a slow + painful way to go yet you never denounced the kid—there's a story we'll never know the middle of. Your last painting of yellow wheatfields, yr happy color tho The Bedrooms look sick + warped but of course it's closest to pure light. I'm in the wind in that field + wheat-light with yr need for bread + heat + smell of ploughed earth, crow caws + trees bustling in their hedgerows, smile of the barmaid bringing wine end of the day.

Feb 26

Je viens de manger dans un resto syrie, falafels et du riz et something a little like channa masala w/pita bread which isn't called pita tho the owner refilled my basket w/great concern very happy I was enjoying myself, making me real moroccan tea stuffed with mint. I wanted to apologize for my government but neither of our french was up for that task—imagine what Belgium did to the Congo—did you know at all what was going on—+ would you have liked Heart of Darkness? Imagine choosing between english + french to write novels in—Conrad knew polish wasn't going to get him anything. Your later letters in french + I'm studying latin in which you sometimes drop phrases in your letters. Cicero now a literary + political hero ending up with head + hands chopped off: warning to other writers + democracy lovers. What happened to you in Divinity school in Amsterdam? One letter you're excited to become a pastor the next a year later you're bitter + mocking religion tho you never stopped being spiritual. Art was God. I'm in my room now probably as small as some of yours + yes even yellow walls! In early for the evening to write letters + read, a young beautiful frenchwoman playing piano in the room next door, a Chopin nocturne....

Feb 27

Less than a week—I leave Brussels on Sunday, reading your letters here in this library café—maybe I'll meet a bookish women + have a tryst tho my thinking always goes well I'll be gone soon so why try + since I'm always going to be gone soon....Today a man asked me for directions to the Magritte Museum, my accent apparently so bad he switched to english to say 'sank you'. I swear 15 years ago my spoken french was pas mal but I'm not sure you would have liked Magritte—too sleek with weird apples + eyes not a true reflection of reality which you wouldn't have done tho Yellow Room looks odd—I suspect it's how you really saw it somehow + certainly Starry Night plus Magritte was rich + famous in his lifetime. My favorite of his an outline of a bird in flight thru it sky + clouds—sky + clouds flying and he did use lots of light as much your wheatfields. Are yr self-portraits a lack of money for models? Some get odd—bright pinks + greens + of course yellows—seeing yourself different—which Magritte never did nor Picasso to my knowledge + a woman who actually liked you had a nervous breakdown, everyone including yr family blaming you, the local minister offering yr models money not to pose for you which they didn't accept but the message clear: you are not welcome wherever you go. Theo eventually lets you work in his gallery in Paris. Speaking of letting—I got an essay accepted in an academic journal special issue on Green Theory + Praxis + creative writing which anytime anyone uses the word praxis look out but included contract stating I wouldn't get paid, that I couldn't re-use my own essay for any for-profit publication + that I'd have to get permission, for a small fee, from them to reprint. I wrote back about rewriting the contract but the professor/editor wrote back no, not possible but that he'd be 'happy' to 'allow' me to use the piece again. el muy hijo de puta académicova te faire foutre! Glad I got out of academia when I did otherwise I'd've punched someone in the face. My friend Rick advised to go along with it + simply ignore the contract later if/when I ever get a collection of essays published (ha).

sans date

Your teeth falling out in your thirties. You smoke too much, you're sick + dizzy + only eat bread to save enough argent for paints + inks + canvas—True that in your self-portraits you're never smiling. I'm close to losing a tooth or two—bottom incisors loose. Then I'll never get chicks except chicks w/no teeth. Can't afford an operation which may or may not help, not covered by insurance so no more apples! One of yr letters you write Theo about expenses saying you have to buy dresses for yr models to wear—is there something going on Vincent? Is this related to why the villagers hated you? Something else certainly—yr dizziness, depression, doctors telling you you need to rest yet you need to work to make money to have a place to rest in. A woman who saw yr hands + thought you were an iron worker. I'm sure Magritte's hands were fine—his whole life was fine. People still thought Bukowski looked homeless after he bought a house in San Pedro + drove a BMW. One time in Jackson at Key Largo Lounge I came in wearing a p-coat + watch cap + everyone stared, woman barfly convinced I was a private investigator, said I was lying when I told her I taught english. Thankfully now not, tho miss being in the classroom when learning was going on either by me or my students—I still have thoughts of going all-out Paulo Friere turning the class over to the students having them decide what + how to learn from each other—would chaos ensue or actual learning or both? I never slept with a student tho got a few offers—not sure if it makes it better I wanted to fuck the smartest but anyways now I'm a fire lookout + un espión en Bruxelles trying to determine how real people live in lonely cities + who actually wears all this lingerie here it's madness. I guess I could play more music if I lived here + did go to a zen sit one night so could survive as long as I had a quiet room that's all you need just a space in the world + the brain to create a clearing to gather force + push out again. What if you had gone to Amerika + ended up in Taos like Georgia O'Keefe painting buffalo skulls + got run out of town there too or shot by a cowboy. Last day of sun—came in w/cold rain will go out w/it. Violinist busking near Mont des Arts professional-level Bach sonata + everyone just passes him by....

sans date

So glad you're going to Paris to work for Theo. Every time I go there it's cold + rainy but it'll be good for you to work in the gallery studying paintings + access to others in museums—your painting + thinking will change forever + you'll get to talk to other painters most especially Gauguin. I liked the line from yr last letter about women: Les relations avec les femmes sont d'une grande importance pour l'art. You said a wife would better yr art + yet your art did not suffer for lack of one. Maybe it would have turned out different tho I feel the same always always wanting approval of women but not sure if you mean just a manic pixie dream girl because I've always wanted a woman who has her own thing: cellist or mandolin player or fellow poet-jugger even a politician as long as radically liberal (but please god not an academic or composition instructor) when really I just fall in love w/baristas + banktellers b/c they're the only ones I talk to + they smile at me. Watching a beautiful interesting woman enter a café or even just a beautiful one when I'm writing feels like I could either talk to her or create—that desire turning into + onto the page to write something she would praise tho to give it to her would be creepy I suppose—keeping her in ideal mode b/c nothing ever works tho there have been women just like you described Vincent where I have to talk to her— not in a while maybe I don't want to or think I do but I just like to be alone tho I'd like to paint someone's toenails sometimes. Too scared of rejection scared of disappointment scared of hurting someone scared my sexual perversions won't align w/her sexual perversions tho have to say I've been lucky in that regard—that or a lot more women are sexually perverse than we think. I'm probly making you blush or degoutant-ing you. I'm just interested in the sexual-profane + spiritual + you in the sexual-spiritual which you later drop to spiritual which is how you start thinking you'll be a pastor in England. Maybe I'll stop thinking about sex but not here in Bruxelles w/all these black tights. They're everywhere Vincent, we'd better go to the woods + become shepherds.

Feb 28

I hope París goes well—less letters from you. I'm in the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts w/Dutch Masters, you're not here—too late. You surely must have seen Bruegal, may not have liked the weird stuff but surely appreciated satire of Dutch society. La Chutte des Anges Rebelles using images from Amerika like an armadillo to portray a devil. Did you ever see Bosch? Where did he come from? Heavy metal 500 years before heavy metal he must have horrified you tho perhaps you'd like Breugal's La Chute D'Icare. I already knew it from William Carlos Williams + Auden so won't try to top their descriptions (this is Europe—to stand where masters stood) except to say there's a narrative and/or a lesson, something you never wanted in a painting. Line up your self-portraits you'd get the Andy Warhols in Brujas—Otherwise it's a whole bunch of dying Christs in here. Jan Brueghal (Bruegal's son) also got weird, especially Bacchus orgies + naked ladies. La Tour de Babel by Joos de Momper horrifying in its way—in collaboration w/Frans Francken who did the rich people in the foreground checking out how things are going changing the parable a little tho the tower looming-ish + even tho I got here early to avoid the crowds the place still overrun w/field-trip children—younger ones seem to handle museums better w/wonder but any older + all they want to look at is each other. Not sure what the hell I would have thought at seven if I'd seen a Bosch in person—nightmares for years. Back then in museums I learned it was ok to like naked ladies which was so totally wrong in Amerika or that is we all like them but we're shamed to look meaning sex which was true back then thus Bacchus orgy paintings—not real sex just a myth to show how bad it is but more interesting than portraits of rich people in poofy white collars tho curators did a good job showing earlier crowd scenes + temptations of St. Anthonies to show where Breugal came from. Maybe Vincent you didn't paint demons because you were yr own but now I'm tired + my feet are sore time for lunch.

March 1

You're already in Arles inspired + painting! París couldn't have been too bad if you stayed almost three years—longest anywhere since you started sur la route. I didn't stay anywhere for more than eight months in the 90s. I laughed in one letter how painters degoutent you just like people. I sometimes feel that way about poets (+ their poetry) who probably feel the same about me: spent two years in a MFA program with people who wrote stuff like 'My name is Veronica / I live in a harmonica', came out 30,000 in debt + no real friends. Was happy to leave. No one from class ever wrote or published again. I wonder if we'd have Gauguin w/o you pushing for him w/Theo. You only sold one painting in your lifetime + yet continue: the process is the meaning. One would like to think misery not a precondition to creation we just neglect other things supposedly more important + you've given up love, quoting Richepin: l'amour de l'art fait perdre l'amour vrai. It's more like you never found love + so immersed yrself in love of art tho who am I to write about love I don't believe in it only like + lust I guess ergo no relationship in 15 years + that a long-distance phone sex thing—perfect: intimacy confessing dark fantasies in the dark to a voice. That was Santa Fe. We stopped + I moved away. Don't know if I'll ever get excited about a woman again. They still look good + I like talking to women more than men but I'm like you I like my solitude in woods or city, can't waste time w/just sex tho if it happens I won't turn it down but it's never going to happen if I don't put in some effort alors voilà. Brussels cold + rainy again I'm in the library staying warm until a movie this afternoon + some falafels. Two more days. You out to the woods painting w/Gauguin, poets don't write poems together. I too wanted a community of creatives to share + talk with came close a couple times but people drift + stop + get married + have kids + I guess that's meaningful too tho doesn't feel like a choice. I'm w/Emma Goldman + Simone de Beauvoir: marriage bad at worst, unnecessary at least but nobody today reads those essays.

March 3rd

Leaving Bruxelles by train in the rain backpack filled w/books. I stayed on the edges so I could look in windows + look out. Graffitti-names the only color this morning, their need to create something in something ugly, a word you've never used in your letters not even to describe London, only degoutant to describe people's behavior. You took this same route north under same low stratus clouds passing windmills having the urge to charge yelling 'have at you!' but you didn't read Don Quixote, you would have wanted to be a shepherd. Glad your health is better—I too find being healthier good for art tho a whole night life world here I've not seen. Every european town Barcelona Sevilla Salamanca Marseilles I'm always in bed reading by ten. Think of all the Before Sunrise experiences I could have had! Still romantic enough to think if I met a woman I'd change my life + move here in which case why don't I just move here. Working on my novel Dawn revising + editing feeling that alivenesss you talk about in the process + I didn't even want to write another novel except the main character—the real person she's based on— came in a dream and asked me to write it (just now wrote 'right it'). Tho do another? Not that I'll stop writing but all that work + time into a novel—I know some painters take time on paintings but in Arles you did one a day as if you knew—should I spend more time on smaller stuff novels make money. Shouldn't be for the money but as you know it'd be nice. Amazingly people somewhere like you still want to read them. Long stories merging/changing our own long stories something about time—in which created + in which experienced —doesn't take long to see one of your paintings to shift how we see if only a little while maybe forever which is why we should always seek out art in all forms so as to constantly be shifting ergo growing—being requires growth otherwise we're only existing. I don't know how people go thru life just doing that I guess they don't know any better or are not allowed to. To teach the humanities to teach how to live which is why it's being cut in schools. In my teens I already knew I wasn't going to make money at writing or anything because you can't live ethically + be rich so vowed to live rightly + interestingly. So far not incompatible with scribbling.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

the woman up in 213

Proud to have my poem "the woman up in 213" in the Travelin' Thru Townes anthology from Cowboy Jamboree Press. "An anthological soundtrack that can go next to your Townes Van Zandt records or slot nicely into your grit lit collection." Print. Buy it here:


Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Friday, March 24, 2023

Letters to Michael

My epistolary essay, "Letters To Michael," appeared in SOUTH DAKOTA REVIEW. Vol. 55 No. 1 & 2. Fall 2020. (order the original issue here)



Found an old closed off road thought of you here in the Maurys + you probably found it too in your walks. It curved + opened on the edge of whatever unnamed hill that is between Tower Point Lookout + Drake + I could look back + see the tower + thought you must have seen it too + must have of course been up in the tower a time or two to visit whoever was staffing it—wish I could ask you about the apparent relationships + breakups that have happened as evidenced by the graffiti in the old outhouse. Would've been good to see you up here even if we hardly spoke at meditation except to see which one of us would be timekeeper. I appreciated how even if you couldn't stay (being too busy with helping others hosting alcoholics meetings and/or studying for whatever one studies for a doctorate of divinity) you still made us tea. Spotted two fires in the Maurys already + just June—both woodcutter warming fires—maybe even same guy—the bigger Hammer Fire over off West Maury Mountain just south of Hammer Creek Trailhead, another place I'm sure you spent time in along w/the agate beds, which rocks you left us in the garden surrounding the Buddha statue. And then you were gone. You should have seen the funeral! The UU church filled to overflowing with atheists + agnostics + buddhists.


tower point lookout, iunius 2018


Drove the 1750 Maury backbone trying to find Hammer Creek Trailhead—old Ochoco maps have it but not new ones. Forest Service shut down spur roads to 'manage' visitors better + keep them more visible + have less work for the rec folks + the patrols + preventions. I'm for that mostly even though I'm one of the 'users' who likes to find obscure roads to camp away from RVers but to get rid of a trail seems a waste—even if they don't have any trail funds anymore seems like they could just leave it or find some volunteers to service it—only 7.5 miles + the only trail in the Maurys. Or was. Anyways, I couldn't find it—directions online varied and wrong—imagine that—but did get to drive by the Hammer Fire along 16. Temps coming back up + still dry + windy—so nice coming to the tower having a cool breeze. The 1750 a little sketchy there in the middle, one of those roads you're thinking, 'will I be able to back out of here?' I'm sure you drove it in yr explorations. Glad I did it, not sure I'll do it again—got to the top of Drake but couldn't see Tower Point until farther down the road—So instead of a hike I got a long bumpy car ride. I was always a little curious about you—you reminded me of myself if I had been a good person. I had thoughts of being a minister when younger except I don't believe in God + don't really like people. —I don't hate people, I just feel better when they're not around (C. Bukowski from Barfly)—I just liked the thought of studying religion(s) which I did anyways sort of on my own. The UU church I went to when I was a kid had an altar with 'GOD IS LOVE' carved on it meaning not that some bearded white dude loves us all but that the shared love between us all is somehow a sentience—except I don't believe in love either—bell hooks says it's something we choose, and an ongoing process—which sounds like God—but also living—love as a creative process, God as a creative process, life as....I've been trying to understand Nietzsche's der will zür macht + I think the translation is wrong, not the will to power but the desire to(wards) making/creating (this with a little help from Heidegger + his lectures on N. plus my high school german) which may just be what I want it to mean, which also sounds like God or religion or Life. Another glorious sunset up here. Think I'll play some guitar. Maybe sing a little.


tower point lookout, iunius 2018


Hiked Lookout Mountain yesterday. Not all the way due to my hurt heel—overdid it, of course, just so content to be walking in the woods, moving instead of sitting—not a great trail but an honest one, no hoodoos or caves but once you get up past the ponderosa into the mixed conifer they break open to see Jefferson + the Sisters + of course our Maurys, the main reason I wanted to get up there, see my mountain home from another viewpoint though couldn't see the tower, couldn't really even figure out which bump was Tower Point—nothing looked familiar, all the old clearcuts which you can't ever get away from in Oregon if you gain any elevation so I don't know what I learned but what felt like four hours was more like six—all of which you know—I'm sure you made that trek too—I'll go back when prepared for a longer day—foot just a little sore recovering faster which is a good sign. Every morning here I do laps around the tower—a half hour of walking listening watching thinking. Do you know Latin? Or did you for your studies? Do Unitarian-Universalists study Latin? Translating Ovid: id quod fuimus aut sumus, non cras erimus: that which we were or are, we will not be tomorrow. He, and I suppose most romans, thought we transmigrate (or our souls do anyways) when we die. So tell me—did you? do we? Where'd you go? Did my friend Shelley go somewhere after her suicide? Someplace better? Some body better? Hopefully still in Japan—I wouldn't want her to end up back in the American Empire. Amazing people still want to migrate here but this is where the pecunia is, trickling down supposedly. Imagine all the poems Ovid wrote after he was banished: Vita est flumen; tempora nostra fugiunt / et nova sunt semper! Some mornings fog forms on the Crooked River which from up here are clouds—I wonder if you ever saw that—surely you must have. Surely you found a clear cliff to camp on here + wake w/the sun + wind on your face to see the valley.



tower point lookout, iunius 2018



Went to Smith Rock on a day off, weird beautiful island of rock in the flats of the Deschutes River plain—too bad about all the people. Like the Grand Canyon—one of the great sacrifices that everyone goes to leaving the rest of the treasures to the rest of us. Did Misery Ridge loop, like Camelback Mountain in Phoenix, a line of people who don't normally exercise all making the pilgrimage to the top, where I think I saw the Maurys—I think now I can see the tip of Smith Rock from here. Four climbers attempting Spank The Monkey on the back, that big rock turkey drumstick—I didn't wait for them to try the round upper part. Chalk mark routes on walls along the River Trail—I wouldn't have been opposed to learning how to climb, just never knew anybody that did and I was a flatlander from Michigan though heard a story from the owner of Herringbone Books in Redmond about a woman came in who hitch-hiked from New Jersey just to come to Smith Rock to learn to climb. I never had that calling to do anything, or maybe I did? I certainly knew my way was out west, drawn to high desert even if sucked back into the black hole of Michigan a couple times. + taught myself to run along the way. We both hoped she would write her story. Second day off (amazing in mid-July) went to Bend + walked Deschutes River Trail, nice cool misty air + water current sound + rapids. More people of course. You can't escape them. Bought hojicha tea + good bread. Glad to be back at my mountain home. Supposed to get to 103 in the valley this weekend! Reading Simone de Beauvoir about existing vs. being. Existing as in creating or making the world (better?) versus just being an Other for other people though I wonder about helping other people somehow still being a way to exist for oneself like you did with your life—I resist dependence on others + others on me which I know is impossible but seems to hurt less + I hate compromise tho feel lonely when I go down like a fool into civilization being around all those people some of whom I find interesting—fortunately I come back up here before I do something stupid like make a connection. Reading too Amiri Baraka trying to learn how to write righteously, poems of protest thinking I could at least do that, protest in words, inspire, though if you have to try maybe it's just an ego thing? Anyways a fire lookout is very much a white space as are forests which I try not to think about. Not sure if you ever saw, but every evening I have nighthawks—hawk body, swift wings, swifting around the tower catching bugs. Plus owls.


tower point lookout, iunius 2018



Had an interesting visitor yesterday. Guy named Don. Maybe you met him in your explorations. A local. Lookout up here in '81 + '82 + a firefighter before w/crazy stories of seasonal guard stations, guys living in a big tent all summer. Said another lookout who is now a cellist in the London Symphony (!) had eight different instruments up here. Don + the other firefighters, sometimes six people, would bring beers + sit + listen to the guy play until one in the morning which sounds wonderful. Don went on to be a bodyguard + security. When the Rolling Stones came thru they'd call him up. Still looks like a Hell's Angel-type tho just a small-town Oregonian but even got hired by Bush the Second to watch the twins because the Secret Service guys spent most of their time in Bend drinking w/strippers. His wife died last year + he's retired. I said, Why don't you be a lookout again? He said he might. Still knows all the peaks + ridges valleys + ranches better than I ever will but for now just drives BLM + FS roads especially the closed-off ones hoping they'll give him a ticket so he can go to court to use some Supreme Court ruling about the basic right to travel. I wouldn't mind if he visited again to just pick his brain. I've met some other interesting men—all of them quiet just out exploring like you + I—maybe there's something about the Maurys or Central Oregon but anyways cooled down nice last evening w/a much-needed breeze. Clouds cleared out after sunset tho today hot again—no lightning—if a fire happens it'll be a stupid human trick. One of my buddha statuettes got knocked over (by me) broke the head off so I set it back on its ledge w/the head next to it which seems fitting. He's still smiling anyways.

Listening to Bach. When you died, no one would (or could?) say how. Which started to sound weird—like did you kill yourself? But no, I'm still not clear, but you had a heart attack and/or hit your head on the pool edge at Breitenbush. If you had, that would have sent the whole damn sangha into a spiral of self-doubt—so everyone just didn't ask. I asked. An accident—if there are such things. I guess. Not fair though. I would've enjoyed your company. You + Don + I could sit on the catwalk in the wind, laughing or getting serious. Finding common ground. This common ground. These mountains.



tower point lookout, iunius 2018



Another fire! Down by Cemetery Ridge so of course it's the Cemetery Fire. Which made me think of you again because didn't yr ashes get scattered out here? or am I totally making that up + what I want to believe? My friend Shelley who committed suicide was flown back—or her body was anyway—to Jackson the place she hated. This was a lightning strike over the hill from me so the spotter plane spotted it first, damn them. Another two minutes and I would have seen the smoke. The wind funneled thru a canyon between mesas and it came roaring uphill to the south into the Maurys, smoke column flopping 180 degrees four times, almost burning over some ranchers come up, as folks do around here, not waiting for the feds. In fact a farmer died on another fire up near the Dalles yesterday or the day before driving his tractor around for a fireline but the flames got him. All the lives + money + effort to save a chunk of land. By the way, nighthawks come out in the morning too. I never see hawks or buzzards or eagles in the morning. A fawn + two does walked by yesterday. I was meditating facing out the window. They never looked up. Don said one night a bear came up the stairs. Fortunately (or not?) he had the trapdoor down as I do though I'm more scared of two-feeted visitors, some early morning enthusiast decides to walk up the road or a pesky hunter wanting to glass the area. I sleep through sunrises, wake with sunglare coming in horizontal— temp rising twenty degrees. We've had gusty northwest winds last couple days, very welcome + keeps the temp down + bugs away. Coming off the ocean or up the Columbia. We don't have monsoons here which feels strange. New Mexico's fire season basically already over. Driving to Portland mañana, coming off the hill tonight. I chipped a tooth, flossing of all things, three weeks back, this the soonest the dentist can get me in. The joys of being poor. Even then it might just be an exam: 'Yep, you've got a chipped tooth, let's make another appointment—how about in a month?' Meanwhile chewing on one side only. But death. And fire. The wind has stopped. Inversion layer on the Cemetery Fire lifting. Two miles away. Trees torching at night which some would call sublime though I only think of as beautiful (i.e. without the danger) they didn't catch it so much as the wind changed direction + blew the fire back into itself for a night plus rain. Next day they painted the hill with retardant + bucket drops. Now crews in there doing 100% mop-up because the smoke would scare everyone if left to burn tho who knows, another big wind event could send it ripping—I'm cynical. I miss firefighting a little. Only a little. Anyways, consider yourself buried out here. Vale.


tower point lookout, 16 iulius 2018



Hot! End of July + will probably continue on into August. We get a round of towering cumulus every two weeks or so, helped by the heat + if ocean moisture gets blown over the Cascades—I had a day off in Prineville yesterday + had to go in Phoenix-mode staying on the shady sides of streets as much as possible. And indulged in ice cream with M&Ms tho didn't feel that great afterwards. Went on a minor walk, top trailhead to Lookout Mountain though got misplaced + ended up on some kind of nature trail w/signs + a small 1/4 mile loop—tho seemingly abandoned mid-construction + way out in the woods—people who like those kinds of things tend to stay closer to civilization. With one day off I had to rein in my hiking tendencies so as to still have time in town—to fill my water jugs, take a shower, go to a yoga class + maybe indulge in a movie which might seem off to those in town all the time but I'm in the woods all the time + on a hot afternoon sitting in a quiet movie theater feels wonderful—thankfully a slight ridgetop west wind to cool off with up here—just sitting out on the catwalk + reading—inside gets just a little too warm even w/the windows cracked + the flies + yellowjackets tend to find their way in—tho less when I'm not inside which might mean it's me they're attracted to (like flies to....) you understand.

Lightning down around Hampton Butte last evening, clouds south of the there right now—different weather pattern maybe not blocked by the Cascades? But cumulus forming over the Maurys so who knows. Cloudshade definitely helps keep the temp down. Cemetery Fire still smoking a little—unclear whether the District will do 100% mop-up or let it smoke all summer—the two Incident Commanders came up to visit two days ago—nice folks, not sure how they've survived in Fire this long except firefighters up here in Region 6 (Oregon + Washington) were always a little different, always more women for one thing which makes the men behave better—I should've moved out here sooner, should've become a fire lookout sooner, should've maybe never gone to grad school, but then, well, I would've missed that rainy Autumn night in Ann Arbor walking back to my hovel + a brand new building, just the steel I-beam frame, lit up w/with security bulbs glowing while raindrops rattled metal—they should've left it like that, as a big sculpture.

I sent pictures of the fire to the sangha folks. They all think I'm saving lives up here but I'm not sure, not really—we could let more fires burn + the Cemetery Fire only stopped because the wind shifted blowing the head back on itself + a light rain fell—what would've happened if we'd just let it go? What if we let the fires in our hearts burn?


tower point lookout, iulius 2018



Full moon tonight. Blood moon. Hot. Spending most of my time out on the catwalk in the wind, also helps keep the flies away. Supposed to stay like this maybe a week + even then just a chance of moisture coming over the Cascades + thus maybe lightning. In the meantime I swear I saw a car fire—long black column but disappeared + neither Pisgah nor Stevenson Lookouts saw it—Pisgah said he saw an 'ash devil' from some 'ash rock' area—do you know it? How could there just be an area of ash? But I saw a smoke—I fear my good start to the season is hampered by three false alarms recently but hell at least I'm looking—I don't get a sense that Stevenson LO does anything except schmooze w/the lady dispatchers tho I'm just jealous and grumpy because not feeling like I'm doing much now, no big projects, not throwing myself into das Welt like I should instead just being, in my safe place or its da moon or the wind always in my ears keeping me cool but dehydrating, playing the same songs on my guitar + mandolin, too much of a routine tho up here you have to, or I do + the guacamole I made tonight wasn't great—the avocado not quite ripe not sure if out of season even tho I still ate it all like a pig—maybe too not able to nap b/c of heat + flies. I know, the trials of the fire lookout.

Surrounded by smoke from fires around Oregon—nothing in District, nothing in the Ochocos or Maurys. Cemetery Fire continues to sputter but nothing showing tonight—still some light haze in the mornings though—If I heard the weather right by Monday it'll be even hotter with even more winds—hard to be creative times like these—either too hot + buggy inside or staying cool in afternoon breezes sipping tea all day still—what's Latin for tea? Not in my dictionary, though I know the Romans made it to India—or was it the Greeks. Anyways Genghis Khan made it to Europe but maybe the Chinese held on to the secret. (had to check—no coffee either, but South America came way later in colonization). Isn't it quaint that I checked a book rather than my phone? With the winds + sun my face should be leather by October—Wilson Prairie Fire to the northeast in John Day + Carr Fire at the California border. Substation Fire up by the Dalles—Fire names don't seem as exciting as they used to be except our Cemetery. Vale.


tower point lookout, 26 iulius 2018



Socked in w/smoke can't even see Highway 380. Not sure where it's all coming from w/a light northwest breeze, Washington + British Columbia or still northern California, Mendocino my firefighting beginnings where we always joked we had the Asbestos National Forest now largest fire in California history. Hottest day of the summer yesterday—Still hot today + not much wind, just reading out on the catwalk all afternoon swatting yellowjackets. Too hot to do anything inside w/o opening windows which bring in flies + sweat bees + moths at night but better than staring at a screen all day, better even than teaching tho I might do it again if someone asked but no one will ask, tho I'd probably be miserable. Not b/c of the students, but the system, my jaded bitter colleagues—Secretary of Education had her yacht unmoored. Everyone in an uproar about that's going too far as a form of protest as if a Secretary of Education w/not one but ten yachts sounds reasonable. Not that I'm a fan of Democrats embracing Wall Street. And nazis are demonstrating in Portland as a joke. People responding w/violence against them and the cops—what if they just ignore the nazis and nobody came? Meanwhile Israeli snipers gunning down Palestinians protesting their ghettoization in a dark irony of history + I wonder if I should be down in the streets protesting or doing something, writing something protest-y? Tho I'm not sure living on a mountain isn't a form of protest as in what if everyone just went off by themselves and were quiet for a while but nazis and politicians don't do that + would love for us to do nothing so I don't know + unmooring a yacht sounds fun. At least I'm not working a job making some rich person richer.

I think the smoke is making me loopy. Or lupe-y. The travails of a fire lookout. What was this mountain called before Tower Point? + who was this Maury person the mountains are named after?And what is the native name for them? When's dinner? If you were here you could have tacos with me. I wonder which of us would talk the least. The smoke seems to have driven the nighthawks away tho today a hawk circled eye-level to the north—I wish he or she would catch the chipmunks + rock squirrels around the tower—I think they're building a nest in my truck's air filter. Two more months barring a government shutdown. Seems like I've been up here more than two but no—Seems like you died years ago—was it last fall? I don't miss you—I never really knew you—But good to have someone to talk to up here.


tower point lookout, mid-augustus 2018



Got cold here last night + last couple days + we're still in august! One time up at Tripod—my lookout in Idaho—had a blizzard on Labor Day. I built two huge bonfires to burn all the junk wood. The guy who worked up here last year came up. He's on an engine now. Said he wanted to be around people. His last day mid-october was 18 degrees so I think they'll keep me up no matter what to catch any hunter fires—bow started yesterday—unless the government shuts down which it might if the Democrats ever get a spine which they won't. A pox on both their houses, I'm anarcho-socialist. Finally read The Communist Manifesto—not unreasonable tho the critique of socialists almost comical being that socialists want to work within the system while the communists + anarchists want to start over. I'm torn on that tho a contingent of democratic-socialists in Portland favor violence against demonstrating nazis which makes me uncomfortable yet untying the Secretary of Education's yacht (!) I thought justified since she's setting american education adrift and has nine other ones. Captain America + Indiana Jones punched nazis but in that case the nazis were using violence first. I'm for free speech + the right to assemble which means for people I don't agree with to do so—then you just ignore and/or make fun of them. Easy to do unless you've lost your sense of humor, which I'm with Emma Goldman—not coming to the revolution unless I can dance—except I can't dance, but I'll play in the band. Would probably miss my chance to hook up w/Emma but that's ok but should I be doing that? Revolutionizing + protesting + debating? Am I living in bad faith by sitting up on my mountain? While the forces of evil and less evil battle? I pay my Green Party dues + if seasonals had a union I'd join even tho I'm a federal employee—my boss the Secretary of Interior wants to open up fracking everywhere + take away national monuments + use the threat of wildfires to increase logging—but the Democrats were/are pro-fracking + free trade + Obama deported more people than the Bush + both parties hire their Treasury Secretaries from Goldman-Sachs.

a pox a pox a pox a pox a pox a pox a pox a pox

The real question maybe why don't I go full-on Han Shan, vanish into the hills writing poems on rocks. I would certainly lose some weight that way. I heard about a guy down in California who did that, not the poetry part but living in the wilderness except he'd steal campers' food and womens underwear. I'd probably do that too tho also still write poetry. They'd put me in prison with the Unabomber.


tower point lookout, augustus 2018



Turns out the Maury Mountains were named for Colonel Rueben Maury who had no real military training, just rich + killed indians out here in the Oregon Territory during the Civil War so an indian killer. Not sure if you knew this. Have to find out the indian name. This info gotten from the museum in downtown Prineville, really a propaganda piece for logging w/a quote from the Ochoco Forest Superintendent in 2008 saying people who come out here to recreate don't want to see burned + rotten logs + thus the need to 'manage' the forest when no, asshole, we don't want to see clearcuts. Which there are plenty of here in the Maurys as you know. Maybe that's why they closed the Hammer Creek Trail, the only place for self-propelled recreation in this desert island. Bow hunting season started this week upping my visitors. After a couple cold days (+ nights!) things warmed up again and the smoke haze is back down from Washington and BC. I had a day off but didn't do anything fun—by the time I drive down there + shower + do a food buy + catch up on writing business like submissions + queries I don't feel like driving another 45 minutes out to a trail and then back to the lookout + they changed the movie times, not that there's ever anything good playing here but still the magic of sitting in a cool dark room w/a large glowing screen on a hot day. But more books—delving back into Jack London after reading a bio—I see my life emulating his a bit tho hopefully w/o the schlock—and hopefully w/o the dismal angry end to a short life—but for a while he was the best writer America had, known now for dog stories for boys instead of his critiques of capitalism + colonialism—now just a dead white man. Gusty north winds. I may only have six weeks left! So fast! Not sure if there'll be anymore lightning—maybe just abandoned hunter fires at this point. Tho the hunters I've met lately are camping in style in big trailers w/heat + electricity + booze. I'd be more into huntin' if it was for food for poor people rather than antlers for middle-class white men but at least bowhunting requires some skill + physical activity. Some chunky preppers came few weeks back decked in cammo carrying pistols and their jeep full of rifles. I said, was that you guys shooting down there this morning? And the 'leader' said, yeah, just shooting some coyotes. I tried to hold back my anger + instead mock him—Why, did they attack you? But he took me serious: No, they eat deer. Which is to say he just wanted to kill. Shot from his jeep too. He could barely walk up the stairs. I called Dispatch to see about any illegality. Might have been—if an LEO had been around he might have given them a talk but nobody cares. Except Brandy the dispatcher. I think we bonded in our sadness for coyotes. I still have to visit the agate beds. That's why you came out here. Vale.


tower point lookout, september 2018



Prairie falcon just landed on the roof. Swooped in at window level so I saw its underbelly. Hopefully it'll get a squirrel or two—they come up at night sometimes + skitter around playing or looking for a hole to nest in tho I seem to have fought off the mice—kept traps out on the catwalk until the squirrels figured out how to pop them + get the peanut butter. Cold, end of september, finally have the heater on. Figured out where the yellowjacket nests, plural, are—one when I was meditating directly in my lowered gaze tho don't know why I didn't see it before. The other more recently during my morning laps. I'll take them out—with extreme prejudice—before I leave, which should be october 13th or thereabouts—still dry + windy, still red flag danger until end of the month tho finally got a day of rain yesterday—I just curled up in my sleeping bag + read all afternoon. Neil Gaiman Wallace Stegner Jim Harrison. My phone got not-renewed until the end of the fiscal year—our illustrious Secretary of the Interior's way of saving some money—so I'm back to old-school lookouting—just me + books (tho still have my computer with which I can play music—playing along to + singing all the early Beatles stuff on guitar). Had a breakthru on Heidegger on Nietzsche—that eternal return means the process of being as becoming, growing, but needing stability to grow so growing a bit, settling in, growing more, which says more about Heidegger than Nietzsche I think. I used to think eternal recurrence was an 'as if' as in live your life so that if you had to do it all over again you wouldn't despair which I think mostly I could be ok with? Except for stupidity during middle school + high school where I did a few idiotic things like grab a girl's butt on the dare of some other idiot boy who I didn't even like. Still cringe about that though recently got back in touch via the interwebs with a woman from back then + apologized but she didn't even remember so maybe I should forgive myself but yes regrets—only really for people I've hurt. Anyways, I always thought Vonnegut the only one to get Nietzsche right on eternal recurrence w/Timequake but looking thru The Will To Power for like the fourth time maybe Heidegger was right if longwinded tho none of N's pre-humous writing was that clear about it nor am I even yet clear on der will zür macht nor is Heidegger which still seems to me a will to make/create rather than power but I could be wrong—it's happened before. Bowhunters have been quiet + friendly (those that came up). Rifle season starts in a week when the slobhunters will come out so I may catch an escaped campfire or two. Or not. Otherwise absorbing all the cool clear stars I can before my eternal return to discontented civilization. Thank you for keeping me company up here—I plan on returning, tho not eternally, next summer but I'm not sure yr ghost will still be around. I'll always think of you when I pass the agate beds sign. Vale!


tower point lookout, october 2018

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Saint Jerusalem

My poem "Saint Jerusalem" now in the new RAT'S ASS REVIEW. (I know, I know...) Spring-Summer 2023. Alphabetical, all on one page, meaning I'm last: links should take you to the poem directly. If not, scroll down! :)

Santa Fe—essay

My essay "Santa Fe" now up in the new issue of BENDING GENRES!