Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Sunday 27 August 2006


I will wake at 7am, walk 4 miles, write for 9 hours, turn around and walk back again. I will bruise the inside of my left forearm and thighs carrying my desk. I carry it only a short way, but it is awkward and full of books. I will play a game of comparison. "You have to compare. It helps to keep a little distance" (My Life as a Dog). After all, I'm not being sent into space with a month's supply of kibble. Or walking into a javelin. I am only porting a desk.

I am setting my desk down in the Theatre of the Tulip Trees. I am taking my books out of the drawer, unwrapping my glittering letters, p, o, e, t. I am hoping, secretly, they will not approach. I am hoping they will let me write a while. It is not that I haven't been so wonderfully alone this week. I have. It's not that I haven't had enough time at my desk. I've had perhaps too much time. It's just that I'm having difficulty rolling this stone away.

Mornings are for emerging.

An outlaw is emerging from Sherwood Forest. Standing at the border, feeding the ducks, showing his humanity, practicing communion. I cannot hear what he is saying. He is probably speaking the truth. He is mad of course.


Is this about me recognizing them, or them, me?

Every so often, I lift my head for a minute, randomly recording the number of bodies passing my desk. Below are three counts for today. Following (in parenthesis) is the calculation of bodies that would pass by in nine hours based on these figures.

Morning, 9:19am – 26 bodies (14,040)
Mid-afternoon, 2:13pm – 17 bodies (9,180)
Late-afternoon, 4:57pm –12 bodies (6,480)


Artist Paul Chan, in a recent issue of Contemporary Magazine, raises the notion of de-linking. "I am part of the second generation of the internet age, a generation of people who believe that the burden of interconnectedness is…not necessarily good. One of the most profound ways that you can actually live is to be disconnected, to cut yourself off." Chan is not the first to recommend a rollback in consumption. Bill McKibben has long been advocating for less, with best-selling books like Maybe One and Enough.

What Chan is describing will no doubt resonate for most of us. The burden of interconnectedness. When we strip away the buffers (the tv, phone, car, washer, dryer, air conditioner) we begin, or we simply begin, to feel. To communicate. To work. It's not that we must throw technology away, it's that we must order it in line with our lives, passions, compassions, experiences and families. Technology can not obliterate the heart of a society. It cannot interfere with the dance or poetry or wine or love of our lives.

While today's buffers might seem more plentiful and complex, they are only slick replacements for older, friendlier forms. No better or worse. We haven't created a 25th hour, we have only shifted focus. Delinking takes Chan to "a new responsibility" in drawing. Not only in drawing, Paul, but in poetry, film, sculpture and dance. In politics. In relationships. In life.

Which to prefer? The burden of responsibility? Or the neglect of it? Lifting the weight? Or putting it down?


The burden of interconnectedness.
The burden of family.
The burden of hair.
The burden of small talk.
The burden of glass.
The burden of feet.
The burden of the intellect.
The burden of hunger.
The burden of society.
The burden of nutrition.
The burden of a car.
The burden of a plant.
The burden of good health.
The burden of politics.
The burden of history.
The burden of language.
The burden of grass.
The burden of an image.
The burden of a dream.
The burden of a conversation.
The burden of burdens.

Wouldn't it be easier just to walk away? Wouldn't it be good and right, to have no greater expectations than your own? No forced affairs of the heart and mind based on a name? From the moment you acknowledge an aunt or father, a son or neighbor, from that moment forward you devise a prison of compulsion that must be forever nurtured and repaired. Trapped in a web. Forever making calls and decisions based upon it, planning holidays and visits, subjecting yourself to the same criticisms and misunderstandings you'll spend the rest of your days fighting.

Family bears the greatest burden. And it bears the greatest salve. The salve of knowing. Knowing the catalysts of one's dysfunctions. Knowing why you must move forward. What you're moving from.

"Cut yourself off." Does Chan mean to include the body? Cut off the body, the senses? Will this bring us to the spirit person, the thusness of being? Or will it simply display the ways in which the spirit force drives the senses, tunes them to its desires?

And when everything is off, then does the frog resound in the ancient pond?

Breaking the silence
Of an ancient pond,
A frog jumped into water-
A deep resonance.

Chan recognizes our desperation. "I think in America it's a fairly desperate-feeling time and so everything gets motivated to articulate that desperation, whether it's affirmative or negative." The Circlers recognize it too. Ross, a frequent visitor, talks about catatonia, a feeling of shell-shock, in relation the others at the lake. It is impossible to surmount some of the barriers we construct. "Seattle's a hard town to meet people in."

Deb and Karen of West Seattle have just come by offering a poem. A poem remembered from childhood.

Autumn Dusk

I saw above a sea of hills
A solitary planet shine,
And there was no one, near or far,
To keep the world from being mine.

- Sara Teasdale, American Lyric Poet (1884-1933)

Teasdale offers humanity as an obstacle to cosmic order. An obstacle to the order that calls out from the heavens and is rewarded with instinctive submission. The order that Western Civilization thinks it's superceded. But the individual, that unique soul isolated on the hillside, is there to foil to all this. The bane of human systems. Especially now, in these post-avant, post-modern times, when our systems contradict so greatly the natural order, we need to take ourselves out, alone, on the hillside and relish in the sea, the solitary planet.

Deb remembered stars for hills. A sea of stars, she said. In reaction, perhaps, to the natural order.

Bruce stopped by today, suggesting a poet to explore. David Whyte, an English-born, Northwest poet and writer who offers thoughts on one's place in the world, through work. Whyte presents lectures on leadership and management to large corporations. He uses poetry as a tool for dialogue and resolution. His teachings offer work as a pilgrimage of identity. If we are lucky, he says, we might find our persuasion, that is, our work identity. It would be a great loss, says Whyte, to go through life without having explored this persuasion. But what of Whyte's poetic business? What of his consumptive clients? Who is to say whether or not he has turned his back on the altar to serve as a buttress?


I see here today all the energy one could ever need. All the curiosity. I see here a wealth of information and knowledge and points of view.

Green Lake as intellect bank. Green Lake as creative bank. Green Lake as community bank.

Who can say what Green Lake is, and take us there?

Ryan and Peter would call it life, because they are life. They carry life around with them. They have followed the great poets in their search for meaning. I sense greatness in their lives. And a sense of unquiet. The kind of searching that precedes great speech.

More outlaws in Sherwood, give song to the forest. 40' to the east, behind a tree trunk. I get only random strums, a note or two. Then someone, blown out of the rotor wash of Aurora, approaches from behind. I do not turn. Let happen what is going to happen. Let the woman in white write my name on her folder. Let the guitar comb my hair. The sun bake my feet.

In time, they bring their song to me. They bring their stories. Dave and Adam. Adam will be married next month. Dave, as always, is traveling, within himself. "Leaving home meant leaving nothing behind. It came too, all of it, and waited in the dark" (Jeanette Winterson, Orion).

It is 3:30pm. I have been moving my umbrella clockwise around my desk. I brought a fishing pole today, no reel, no tackle, just a bare cork and glass rod. I taped it to the leg of my desk and secured my umbrella to that. As the sun circled, I moved it from left to right, outside to in. It has been a relief not to have to hold an umbrella all day. The burden of an umbrella.

10:56. Chimes 12:51. Bells. Tintinnabulum. The monks are lining up.

Peter what a quiet man you make. What a sweet face. Tintinnabulum. Off to the monastery. Off to Mt. Athos. After 5 years of indulgence, he's divorcing the world. Dissatisfied with what he writes the minute he writes it and intimidated by the masters, he is going now to be quiet.

While Peter is talking in his diminutive way, Dave, the outlaw, is cross-legged in the grass between the tulips and Scots Pine, on a prayer rug, chanting mediation. Facing the sun, now in the west, his song is deep and long. He is chanting through Peter's eyes, which are outlined by an Irish cap.

Peter, a tall man in decidedly clerical clothes, dark slacks and a black and white Havana shirt, has unwavering eyes. That's what I admire and envy about the boys. Their ability to engage fully despite belief. Their ability to believe. Their belief.

And their pile driver eyes.

They are going to plough right through. A glance of those eyes and you can sense the dust. And if you were to call their bluff, if you were to see right through, you would win the slowest of smiles. And then they would plough right through. Can you not sense the dust?

The sun is warm and high, but tiring. I am walking on the east side of Aurora, picking blackberries as I go. Now I am in The Middle Place. Fourteen motorboats are migrating west. The wind is nice, out of the north, fueled by the traffic. I am their queen bee, their hive. They are beginning to nose in under me, dragging their shingles of water.

Today I wish for less. Only to continue to draw the artists in. To light and honor the spirit.

It was a beautiful day. I was opened to so many quests. And that encourages me. For today, I wish to linger and spread.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Sunday 20 August 2006


They are a delight. When they sprawl on the lawn. When they let me read them poetry. When they talk about where they are going. When they talk about art. They are a delight. Their talk of change excites me.

They are lonely. They eat up my time. They plague me with stability. They are unable to fashion themselves into actors. I am their unwilling stomping ground.

These people are artists. They know what it is to determine an object. They know the consequence of interruption. They know the value of time applied to craft.

Ah, but I gain something from them. From every one and every time a voice impedes, I gain something so terrible and valuable I am willing to sit through their chatter. When I realize it, when I see what is happening, in a flash of desire, I regain my flame. The whip behind my creation.

As I am fetching their sticks, as I am presenting their newspaper rolls, I feel my hungers. I feel them the way an octopus feels the stones in its path. In shadow, perhaps absence, I feel the object of my desire and remember what it is to long. For a home. To long for a place beyond presence. The hunger grows and forms and strengthens me. I know longing, love its length.


Did such parks inhabit my youth? Such endless currents of energy? Such bouncing masses of parentage? Did this sort of frenzied circling take place in Pennsylvania?

My parents didn't walk for exercise. Nobody walked anywhere from what I remember, except when a major snowstorm was forecast. And then it was only half a mile to Marchwood Shopping Center for canned goods and batteries.

No, we never jogged. We were born before bran. We ate Hostess and Tater Tots. We rode bikes through thin woods. Played basketball across the creek. Did team sports in school. And we worked. We shoveled and weeded and mowed lawns. We cleaned houses and raked leaves. We walked dogs.

We bisected long states by car to see my father's family in Florida. We never once drove to, or through, a National Park. We were on a mission. We took the interstate. We picnicked at rest stops. We were privatized. Hypnotized by billboards.


I ran my first country loop with 2 teenage friends who reported to having done it before. I wore the only shoes I had, Docksiders. Flat boating shoes. It was suggested I wear sneakers next time. The next time took a few years. I was ready to go again. I signed up for a 5K. To train, I ran around our house 35 times. We lived in a 2-story starter home on a quarter acre lot. I no doubt amused our dog, but the ridiculous effort didn't pay off. During the race I alternated between hard running and walking. A gray-haired man kept catching up to me and finally suggested a slower, more regular pace. When I began running in college, I ran alone at midnight. I never passed a soul on our suburban streets. The runners in my hometown went to the Junior High School track to run circles after work. At maximum, there might have been 2 or 3 people sharing lanes.


Of the 3 parks in my memory, 2 were battlefields and 1 was a valley township, damned and filled for recreation. When I wasn't working, I spent summer days at Marsh Creek State Park, learning to sail a small boat I'd bought at a garage sale. I could lift it onto the roof of my car and sail from dirt shore to dirt shore. In the center, I would lower sails and drift for hours. Besides running, this was my escape. I so desperately wanted to. Escape. Even then. Marsh Creek was one of the first rippling rolls to offer this space.

Later, in a self-defeating manner, I brought my dog and friend, and experienced the horrors of captaining. It brings out the worst in a person. I became a hateful dictator in small quarters with instant reactions and urgently changing needs. I preferred to sail alone until I could manage both boat and visitor.

The Brandywine Battlefield was the prince of the parks. We devoted countless hours to rolling down its long grassy hills. Valley Forge, too, had mounds which we skied, sledded and rolled down. Rolling was what we most liked about parks in Pennsylvania. A park like Green Lake would have offered very little. Nonetheless, I find myself at Green Lake now, committed to a search for the human spirit, the home, the homeland. I cannot hope to roll down a knoll at Green Lake and find myself home. What can I hope?

There is a nice lull at 1pm. A chance to reflect. After a busy morning of visitors, an array of new faces and minds, I have a chance to reflect.


The way we enter and exit a ring without breaking a lip. The way we don't ask because we don't want to know. A few visitors claim to have done a thing or two to break the insular cones. "Sometimes, I try to gain a person's eye and smile." "I tried to talk to a woman once." But there's always this sense of danger that they will talk. "Real life," Ron says, "is complex. We are going to hear things we don't want to hear." What does modern socialization require? Simply being in sight of another human? In a world of visual culture, does communication stand for nothing?


Sandwich boards. Pillow cases. Human signs. Two Circlers now, independent of one another, have suggested visual responses to Leonardo's "Spanish Lessons" sign. Each wants to break out, to send a message to the others in the circle. To break the silence. I propose an intervention. An afternoon of pillow talk. An homage to Leonardo. I propose to offer a pillow case and fat markers to anyone willing to circle the lake with a sign on their chest. A pillow case with arm holes and the question of your choice. The thing you most want to ask the Circlers circling the lake. The thing you want to tell them.


The final disposition of the body of a loved one. A return home. Must we wait until the end? The very end?


"To eat a peach is to know a peach."

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Sunday 13 August 2006


"By poetry I understand the search for the inalienable meaning of things" (Roland Barthes, Mythologies).

As poetry... when we read as poetry... pleasure being taken... a line, a phrase, a movement, act or image... we bring meaning to the world. Poetry is not a line, but an effect caused by you.

We create true by positioning Truth. Place Truth at the end of your search.

It goes without saying... the destruction of Truth may be found in the supposition that our superficial relationships and daily chatter bear any worth. Any advent of Nature signifies an attainment of Truth, and thus the destruction of the superficial, making insignificant our language. In Truth and Nature, there is no separation between experience and understanding, no need for reconstruction.

I am in The Middle Place. The place of all wishes. Today, I wish for facility.


I am making an investment in Green Lake.
I am bringing poetry into the field of pleasure.
"Pleasure must be taken" (Jonathan Culler, on Barthes).
Take this from me.

Is it enough to immerse yourself in life?

"Abolish the false opposition of practical life and contemplative life" (Roland Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text).


To believe in Green Lake, to collectively believe, in a ritual circling. A social integration. A bourgeois pastime. Strolling. The promenade. The taking of air. The pace.

Vultures! Sleepers! Hedonists!

Bienvenue Au Promenade du Lac Vert!

A post-modern bourgeois, the promenade is still the place to exhibit social and physical superiority. Seen and admired, one in the same.

The nobility are absent.
The poor are absent.
The artists are absent.

Courtships cancel courtships.

Green Lake, Jewel, Darling, Filter,
What are the risks of real life?

The stench of the lake is unavoidable.
Nature has another thing to do.


Green Lake as a form of communication, a language, a system of meaning.

ambivalence : imbalance
movement : murder
the circle : the self
flirtation : infatuation
the cycle : the center
speed : fatigue
skirt : skirt


Circlers belong to the working class. They are a tax paying mass.
Circlers have money enough to live.
Their wants outweigh their gains.
They are great worriers with rigid schedules.
They do disproportionate amounts of harm to good.
Circlers adopt habits that aid in public deception.
Exercise pacifies their search.
They grow mute as they grow old.


Are we stuck with propagation of the species
as the meaning of life?
Or are we liberated to it?

Has our ability to communicate transcended the physical?
Or have we come back to the body?

Has our language become multiplicitous?
Or are we still erasing it?

Lisa, Circler… Lisa, whose living room this is…
My sense of courtesy softens my point.
What I mean for you is responsibility.
Your mother, your sister, your nephew,
your 4-year old niece who just today
learned the word disgusting,
which for her is tomato, peach…
I mean responsibility.
Take my hand. Confess with me.

You are a capsule.
You are beauty.

If this fills you, give it song.
If this makes you, prove me wrong.

Is this my task, to mean for you?

What pleasure do you take?
What text? What poetry?


Here is your shadow,
Borealis, the Avenue.
Your feather,
just a meter away.

Here is your warning,
your spirit and torch.
Here the jumping goat.
The breath of brave soldiers.


While strolling, a gentleman should acknowledge acquaintances enthusiastically, whispering disapproval behind their back. The acknowledgment should be boisterous. A hoot or a shout. If the acquaintance is a lady, one should whistle or wave. After lengthy monologue, a gentleman should request a lady's e-mail address. A gentleman may circle the lake no more than 10 times a day. He may sit on a bench no more than twice for a total of ten minutes. A gentleman should maintain a pleasant expression and keep his hands along his body. If his physique is worth exhibiting and the weather is warmer than 75F, he may remove his shirt. If his physique is not worth exhibiting and the weather is warmer than 90F, he may also remove his shirt.

While strolling, a lady should make her every imperfection known by way of specialty active wear (sports bras, lycra pants and the like). It is acceptable to talk and laugh loudly with comrades by way of cell phone. If a lady passes a female friend, she should acknowledge her with shouts and hugs. A lady should ignore the gentlemen on the path. After several passes, it is possible to wave or smile to a gentleman of interest. Only after successive visits, separated by at least a week, is it acceptable to approach a gentleman. If walking after dark, a lady should carry a key in her fist. A lady may circle the lake no more than 3 times a day. She should never sit upon a bench.


I have written the first Green Lake poem, "b lind circ le."
It segregates what I see from what I taste.

b lind circ le

there is a thread in our center
it might be death
or sleeping
or a seed whose will
is soiled

it's growing larger &larger
&yet each point encircling
stands oblivious to the next
a lone intellect calling

each point is perfectly bearing
&unneeding of a center

the distance between any one point
&the next is infinity
not just because
one cannot see the other
but because nothing connects

there's a word for this
it is night
the word for destroying hope
that is what we are making
a theatre of the bleak
an impossibility

the question is not
what are we going to do
to cause a ripple
but how can we ruin the world
in a way that unearths truth
that ignites our conviction

do not turn away from the mirror
establish a light
vow a right of returns

nothing you can do is enough

2 august 2006

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Sunday 6 August 2006

If you're counting down, this makes 48. Week 48. Only 47 to go. 47 more Sundays to make this search mean. What do I want it to mean? And what can want mean? Already there's too much chatter, too little thought. Too little heart in this search.

Disillusioned yet? Really, I mean, how can you take such a thing seriously? A search for the human spirit!?

How can you do otherwise? Take a thing lightly? Little girl, I say to you, arise.

It is Sunday again. My game of castle cards goes on. 52 isn't so many and Green Lake is so dreadfully draught-free, I'm sure to succeed in building some sort of a dream. In making things mean. O, but I haven't even a twosome together!

Here, on my desk, beside my papers and pen, sits a peach. Every once in a while, I smell the crown of my peach. Of the things before me, of the figments within reach, there is always this peach.

In the four miles from my home to the lake, I pass all the now sacred places on the Aurora Reach. Chutes and Ladders, the section of hillside with crooked legs and tamped out rings. The Gills, breathing high up on the hill. Creeping Water, the 100' section of ever-wet walkway where you must hold up your cuffs. Crushed, the buckled foundation of an abandoned house, fraught with saplings and weeds. And Pinball Machine, at the ball joint of the bridge, where the speeding cars merge and emerge. And most important, The Middle Place, the one foot, 1500 feet into, the Aurora Bridge. The Middle Place. A brief but clean break in the line that runs from purpose to source.

Off I go now, to sit on my shelf. My shelf at the edge of the lake. When you get there, the cupboard won't be bare. Already the hounds will be chasing the hare.

I've settled in. I've picked the plastic and paper bits out of my meadow, trash blown out of the traffic wind, and now I'm wandering about collecting feathers. Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy... Pinning boutonnières onto my tulip tree. White feather, brown, red feather, down... Telling my fortune.

And they file by in their rhyming shoes. If you lose your motor or fall off track, the Stuckman Truck will take you back. Life mustn't change. Dreams mustn't grow. Stay where you are or we'll drive you back.

Sign of Moose sickness. Walking in circles.

Not just today, but over time in subtle growing ways, I sense their discontent. The kind of ache that changes things. They are at a jumping-point. Their coils are tense. "My life must change." Why do they hesitate?

And how do I know their wants? Their needs? How do I know Suzie and Joe? Rumors and slants are all I know. But I know what I know. Suzie and Joe. Bees in the threes and Chinese whispers. These are the Suzies and Joes I know.

Writer is here. What does he want? He is photographing me. Trying to capture the poet. But the poet is aloof, scampering about, avoiding his net. Writer, in stripes, makes a gangly path. A sort of warden in a dog catcher's cap, raising his horizon-wide hoop.

I am tired. Much! Standing in the sun. Not enough reflection. Two peaches. Not enough.

Now my charms are all o'erthrown,
And what strength I have's mine own,…
As you from crimes would pardon'd be,
Let your indulgence set me free.

Yesterday I read a NY Times article (Sunday July 16, 2006) about a 1930's diary rescued from a curbside garbage bin. It had, after decades in storage and a night on the curb, been returned to its author, Florence Wolfson, now 93. This worn, red diary is shown alongside a few pages of cursive history. Words from a privileged youth on Riverside Drive. But spoken with lust! With destiny and hunger.

"What she seemed to crave most were grand passions that would envelop her and transform her life." The author, seated now with a photo of herself, taken decades earlier, in her lap, "Where did all that creativity go? If I was true to myself, would I have ended up in Westport?"

What shall we call this condition? This inability to sustain the transformation process? This failure to converse with the self? The Failure of Florence? The Failure of Fate? Perhaps we can call it "antiform." Anti: One that is opposed + Form: To shape, form. Florence shall illustrate her own condition. This picture will do. Florence in a wicker throne on the sundeck of her Westport home. The dictionary meaning shall read: n. (1) Figure frozen in emotional time, (2) The muting of the heart (3) Defeat of the human spirit via luxury

To achieve the state of antiform, you must first untie the hero from your wrist. Then, let go. Let go of your dream. There it goes, rising on the evening breeze. Now, sate your hunger. There are so many ways. Need I tell you? And really, it's time, once and for all, to drop the question, "How do I know I'm alive?" Take instead a lateral tool, a social sport, such as tennis or golf. And, last but not least, you must purchase a fence taller than yourself with a lockable gate and spend your remaining years filling it with any thing.

Dear Green Lake,
If your 14-year old diary were brought to you now, would you be the person you imagine you'd be? Have you wasted your dawns? What were your dreams?

Dear Green Lake,
If you stay in the game, if you play long enough, you will suffer all of life's handicaps. First a hand will be taken. Then a knee. Then two. Next your eyes, one by one, go out. Then, you're done. Out. It's time for the winding-sheet.

Or quickly. Green Lake as a hangman's noose. Dreaming, dreaming… then snap –Awake!

Already it is 17:01. Too soon! In this one minute, 2 babies, 10 walkers, 2 rollerbladers, 2 runners and 3 bikers pass. 19 bodies pass by my willow tree.