Sunday, March 23, 2008

Coming along nicely

Run Deep
is, well, up and running.

Poems, thoughts, literary and otherwise. Follow the link in the upper left hand corner to get to run deep's new course.


Sunday, March 09, 2008


If you would like to read more posts, please follow the link to the left. It is just easier to post and avoid junk comments. Thanks!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Resistance is futile...

It is coming. There is nothing we can do about it. I hate being forced into loving someone, even a friend, relative, or long-lost brother.
I don't want to buy you a present because it's your birthday. I want to be walking past a store front, have something knock me flat on my patookas and say to me, "Hey! Wouldn't so-and-so just L-O-V-E me?"

And so-and-so DOES love it because it is exactly him or her or it. This cannot happen when you are looking for it; it doesn't work like that. It's kinda like love that way. So, as the dreaded day nears.

Futile or not,

I have been revising this one, and I think it's ready for something.


There will be no bits of shiny red foil
Left in shreds after the sweet or
Chocolate has been devoured.

There will be no
Left to wilt
Or pressed like a memory between the fattest
Forgotten pages in the house.

And let us not even speak
Of the parched hearts--
And sugar--
Bought and sold for
So much silver.

For my real heart is a fool
Who lives for all the foolishness
She has ever read or heard or seen.
She believes Juliet will wake in time
Trusts she will live forever
With you.

If there is to be red
Let it be for blood
Tasting of copper and fire

Let it be for wine,
Spilled and swallowed
Between bites and stolen kisses

If there are to be flowers
Let them be fresh and
Sharp scented as dandelions.
And as plentiful
And as suddenly precious
As the giving can make them.
(Any Wednesday will do)

14 February 2005

Monday, November 28, 2005


We’ve been rehearsing for a play called En la ardiente oscuridad. I translated it into English this summer, and have been pretty happy with the translation except for the title. The word “ardiente” in Spanish has overtones of light, of rage, of smoldering, and I can’t seem to find an English word that quite works. I toyed with titles like “Rage in the Darkness Burning,” but they seemed too forced. Though the meaning is specific, the Spanish is fairly direct and prosaic. It is just one of the ways I often feel trapped between the two languages through which I live. But, that’s another blog. We are calling the play In the Burning Darkness. It takes place in a school for the blind, and it has made me think a lot about blindness.
Try doing the following things blindfolded:
Eat dinner.
Go to the bathroom (Yes, go there physically, then do what you need to do.)
Brush your teeth.
Change your bed.
Go to the corner store and buy milk.
Pick out what clothes you are going to wear today.
And all of that is just the beginning...
As a prop for the play, we needed one of those blind-person white canes. This was harder to come by than you might think. A few weeks ago, I went to a pharmacy and asked. They directed me to another larger pharmacy. They said no pharmacy has things like that, and told me to go to a place that specializes in orthopedics. So, I did. They sent to me a bigger place that specializes in orthopedics (are you noticing a pattern here?), and, of course, the bigger shop said that no orthopedic store carried things like that, so I had to go to one of the ONCE offices. ONCE is the government sponsored association for the blind in Spain. I finally got a cane there for twenty euros. But before I did, this happened.
I was in between orthopedic shops, and was walking up Gran Via with a friend of mine. We were crossing a major street near Plaza España when I noticed a young blind woman crossing the same street, but in the opposite direction. And she had one of the coveted canes. My friend, joking, whispered in my ear “Grab it! What is she going to do?” I laughed, and imagined what might happen. She could scream. Other people could jump me, but downtown in Madrid, who is going to get involved? Maybe they would for a blind girl. Maybe they wouldn’t. And once I got away, it wasn’t like she was going to describe me to a police sketch artist. In that moment, I realized that blindness is more than a lack of vision.
It is lack of power. It is dependence.
The irony is that, in a large part, the play we are doing makes the same point. I guess sometimes we have to live what we read in a book to really understand it. I would take my hat off to the blind people reading this, but of course, there aren’t any. Perhaps someone is reading it to them. Perhaps there is a text to voice program that some blind people use to read insignificant blogs on the internet. If so, I just want to say that I am beginning to recognize the battle you fight, and I respect it.


The Penelopeid
Is a poem you will never read.

There is no sacred text

Upon which the words of the singer

Were carefully scratched.

Because there are no words

For the story that must be told.

A good plot,

Aristotle tells us,

Consists of goals, complications,

Revelation and suffering.

The order must be careful,




Who would read the tale?

This island is small.

And this hall smaller.

Large enough to hold so many strong hands,

Manly loins, hungry mouths.

Large enough to hold the dreams

Of a boy who becomes a man

In the shadow of his mother’s fear.

Large enough for twenty empty years.

What hero is this?

Who sits and warps and wefts

Wrapped in shadow against the sun’s heat

Only to steal back in the silvery splinters

Of moonlight to unravel her threads and tears.

What hero is this?

Who’s only strength lies in a dream

She never had.

Who cannot hold her lover true

And is glad to have him from whosoever’s bed

He’s warmed these thousands of salty nights?

What hero is this?


None for your tales of Phaikians and affected sobs.

None for your sirens and witches and nymphs.

Harlots all.

None for your Cyclops and Scyllas sprinkled like

Pepper between years in lusty silken sheets.

My deeds lie in the careful maze

Woven into my father’s shroud. Him

I will not deny.

My deeds lie in my son’s

Sure step and careful strength.

(The bow was as easily his, you see.)

My deeds are done

In flesh and bone

More vital than any song.

My tale lies there

For those who have eyes to see

And a heart

To hear.

6 november 2005

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Friends and Fireballs

“When people die, worlds die with them.” (Yevtushenko)

I like hot things. Strong flavors, really. Two recent addictions have led me to this conclusion. Fisherman’s Friends and Atomic Fireballs. How could any backpack do without? I love how my Friend’s open not my mind but my whole head. I feel like all the veins from my neck up are being inflated with helium, and if I am not careful I could get carried away...a strong wind...a hiccough...anything.

Fireballs are different, though.

When I was younger, Fireballs were all machismo. I can stand the heat, baby. Now, I realize that there are reasons beyond etymology and that the words machismo and masochism are strikingly similar. My friend Paul used to go into Thai restaurants and ask the cooks to make the food as spicy as they could. The help would then stare and titter behind Paul’s back as he downed pitchers of water and mopped the pools of sweat from his brow with a handkerchief that desperately needed to be ringed out. Paul doesn’t do that anymore. On the other hand, there is Juan, who, like Paul, professes his deep love for spicy foods. However, for Juan, anything hotter than catsup ( a major food group in Juan’s book) is insane. And it took him all of seven seconds to spit out his first Fireball.

My students stare gape-mouthed as I tuck a Fireball in between cheek and jaw before class so we can talk about Shakespeare or Faulkner or Dostoevsky. I tell them, though I think they doubt, that I really don’t find them all that hot. It’s true now. No bravado. No stiff upper lip. No big boys don’t cry. They don’t burn. Which makes me wonder.

I have given students both Friends and Fireballs (don’t worry, I warn them first) and have watched their eyes bulge, sweat erupt in beads on their pimply foreheads, and tears well up in eyes determined to tough it out. And I wonder, is it really that bad? The bulging eyes would say it is. And that just makes me wonder about everything...tastes, and pain, and joy. I can’t bite into an olive without wanting to wretch. Is the taste the same for those that love them? Is that their brand of masochism? Loving olives? Or is the entire experience wholly different? There’s a thought. When I notice the paper disc moon slicing through the clouds, is that moment of breathlessness, that smile, that split second of something like that what you feel? How can we ever know? Forget the tree falling in the woods. I am talking about this world, here. Around us. These worlds. His and hers and mine and yours...and what about love?

Wanna Fireball?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Dad and the Apple Tree

I have been thinking a lot about place and memory, so here is one place, and one memory.


Dad actually followed me into the apple tree once. And I guess I deserved it, but it wasn’t anything I’d done on purpose.
The cabinet below the stove erupted in a big white belly bursting out of a bigger, more or less whiter t-shirt. The bottom of the belly had a tic tac toe scar where Dad’s umbilical cord had continued to grow on the inside. They gave him morphine for the pain, but eventually had to open him up and take a look around in there. Below the scar, a black leather belt cinched down on the belly, making the landscape rather like rolling hills. His work pants were brown and he had on those white canvas slip ons that are kid of the hush puppy versions of keds.
Anyway, he was in the way. Freddy’s water was a disgusting mess of fur and floating chunks of swollen dog food and god knows what else, so I put her water bowl on lip of the sink. Then I pulled one of the tall bar stools over from the orange countered bar, and climbed up it. Splash went the water down the sink, and from there, I now realize, it emptied out all over Dad’s face as he tried to wrench the pipes back together. That explained the “Jesus Chr--” and the loud thunking noise that made the silvery sink leap in its place on the counter. I thought it best to wait for Mom to get home before I tried to explain what happened.
The kitchen door whined as I sailed out of it, and I didn’t know if the series of bumps and cussing I heard was Dad getting out from under the sink or the barstool toppling over on top of him or both. In seven steps I crossed the porch and jumped the two tiny steps to the back yard. It was a long sprint, but above the hill that sloped to the street, I reached the shade of the apple tree.
I grabbed the lowest greenbrown branch and swung my feet flailing up the trunk. They caught in the hollow there and I pulled myself first over, then up. And kept climbing hand over foot over hand. The summer leaves were a strong almost underwater green, and almost ripe apples huddled in knots of ripening yellow and the barest palest pink. Past these huddles of becoming, up the very slenderest fingers of the old tree I climbed until my head breached the crowning round of leaves at the very top.
Dad was already at the bottom. His t-shirt was wet with sweat and clung to his softened barrel chest. He had lost his glasses between here and there, and on the great expanse of forehead between eyebrow and line of hair, there was and angry welt beginning to brood. The welt was not the only thing angry.
“Git your (ass) down here now.” The words were slow and steely as pain and rage could make them. He only breathed ass through clenched teeth, but still he had said it. I felt my eyes go wide and the corners of my mouth tuck into a frown. I tightened my grip on the willowy branches. A slight wind nuzzled the leaves in the growing silence. A car passed.

“If that’s the way you want it,” and he came. Not as I had come in tiny squirrel steps. He put his foot right in the hollow and straddled tree and earth before he pulled himself in. He came steady, tearing twigs and leaves in his path. Closer still, to where he could stretch out his and and grab an ankle. Then a thunderous crack. A report almost like a gun. And it was the tree he grabbed and grappled with as he plunged a foot, then five until he caught both hands where two of the uppermost branches came together. There was a heavy breathing silence, a sigh in the wind until the branch that bore me was bent back under his man’s weight. I felt myself arcing slowly downwards and out. I wrapped both feet around the branch and held its slender fingers in mine as the world turned round and upside down and the tree dipped me down like a panoplied offering to my father. I could see only blue sky, then green grass as I was swept down, and the world was full of a heavy, staggering breathing. Whether it was mine or my father’s, I still do not know.
“Don’t move, Brian. Just hold still.” His voice was soft again, but unsteady. In my fear I tightened every joint I could around whatever I was holding onto.
I don’t remember getting down from the tree. I don’t remember if I was in trouble or not. I don’t remember if we even told Mom when she got home. All that I remember is the tortured moment --the breathing, the grass and the sky--in which Dad must have decided whether to make a grab for me or to retreat down to the earth. He chose the later, lowering himself smooth from branch to branch. And as he descended, the limb that carried me was released from her burden, and slowly bore me up until I could look down at my father now below the blithe upper branches and resting the solid heart of the tree. We looked at each other for a time in silence. There was no wind, no cars, nothing. Then we both began to breathe.

Cloudy Deep Down (Or, What I Wanted to be the Intro)

I barely remember kindergarten. I know what the school looked like, but probably from seeing it in its later years. I do remember how pretty Miss Marbrick looked one day in a pink sweater (the kind with the long silky hairs streaming off it) and something about kool aid at Tanglewood Park. I remember walking to school with Kenny Henslee on the first day of first grade. Kenny was my next to best friend and a second grader, so he knew the ropes. I remember the straight thunder of my dad’s arm as he raised a bowling ball behind him, and the easy strut he made after a strike. I remember how good the round steak smelled as Mom fried it for dinner, but not how her hair was so long she could tie it in a knot behind her. Now that she is seventy-four and has her mostly white hair that long again, I look at her and wonder. If it were black, and her skin still taut and strong, would she be the woman that bore me... I remember the night before my oldest sister left for Honduras. I was nine, and we stayed up all night talking on her blue bed. I spoke at my father’s funeral, but don’t remember it...just a foggy notion of looking out, and seeing Eric Aulbach there and knowing everything was going to be ok. I remember seeing Angie Britton’s yellow underpants in second grade. And, the same year, watching Stacie Malinsky pulling books out of her desk without even having to look. Now that was love.
I want this to be a place of memory. Of then and now again. To know what we know, even if we don’t know why we know it. A place to dream a little, to laugh and cry and love a little. To remember what has gone before. What has brought us willy nilly to this second. A place to wonder why, and to decide that it may not even matter.