Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sunday 25 March 2007

–asks Lauren

it has made me realize
in the way you realize a thing you've already realized
and are seeing again
sensing again
in a real way
because it's happening to you
i mean you feel the cold
you live through the discomfort
you hear the things you don't want to hear
and the things you do
and the things you never even thought of
and you're standing there
in that locus
being present
it has made me realize that
everything that is
is made
this is a contructed world
i am the creator
and destroyer of all
i am realizing i have limits too
there's no way to follow every thread
i have to let some of it wash over me
i'm learning how to say no
how to draw boundaries
i only extend so far
i am learning how to be thanked and appreciated
how to receive gifts
since i'm every poet
i can gift these gifts again
to poets
artists everywhere
i am realizing that
simple communication of any kind
is the largest and smallest gift
we can offer carry accept any day
and it's in most demand
because it's least abundant
because it's connected to time
and time is something we've strung to success and play
both of which are empty now
so we suffer
i am realizing this project
is built-in time
time to connect
these are the lazy no-days
that never figure into the schedule
the days when everything gets cancelled
the sails
the sick days
the days we're were looking for
waiting to be taken
take them
this is not work
this is life


It's cold, it's drizzly. It's wet, it's cool. It's damp. By 9:35, my sign is hung and I am bundling up. I got wet on the walk in and so start my day shivery. I add a layer of thermals, a scarf and gloves. The wind steals my body heat.

Michael and Michael stop by. They have passed dozens of times. They stop this morning for some reason. I am thankful. I offer Michael my apple. He says, "From you, I'll take it." Michael reads a poem from memory almost. Michael says, "We walk the lake everyday." Michael has a thick white beard. Michael wears a red ball cap.

This morning people who visit ask, "Will you read us your work?" And so I read them the poems I keep in my wallet, "Roof of Air" and "HotsenHorseman."


David Horowitz visits. He brings a bagful of poetry. David publishes William Dunlop, a former professor at the UW and longtime Seattle resident. William Dunlop died in 2005. Caruso for the Children, & Other Poems, a book of Dunlop's verse, is available from Rose Alley Press. David reads to me from Caruso for the Children.

"The First of the Ninth" takes as its subject the premiere of the 9th symphony conducted by Beethoven himself, who was by then deaf. "It's a familiar tale: an aging Beethoven, ill and deaf, conducting the orchestra and chorus in the premiere of his Ninth Symphony, conducting even after they had ceased to perform, after they had reached the end of the stunning new work, after the audience had already begun to applaud, continuing to conduct until a singer turned him around so that he could see the thunderous cheers that were resounding throughout the hall. The image is deeply moving, so much so that more cynical historians would like to discount it; it is, they feel, too perfect to be true. Yet this once, however, the cynics are apparently wrong, for several eyewitnesses tell the same tale of that fateful performance in Vienna on May 7, 1824." [Elizabeth Schwarm Glesner, Classic Music Pages]

Dunlop's work luxuriates in the visual. The crease in a man's shirt, the bends and switches in the material as he claps. In slow motion, a woman's arms move like a bird's. Such detail quiets the world so we can experience the concert hall as Beethoven did, in silence, in cotton-stuffed appreciation.


Marsha and Ian and Ron visit. Classical guitarists, flutists, lovers of music. Ron is on his way to sing at Carnegie Hall. I ask, "What's exciting in music in Washington?" Without a doubt, they agree, it's McIntyre Hall in the Skagit Valley, an hour north of Seattle. They came into the city this weekend to see Adam Holtzman at Benaroya Hall. "A brilliant guitarist," they report.

I invite them to present their art for, an instigation I'm organizing for late April. I invite them to give their music to the public.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


You asked to join me. "I'd like to bring my whole class," you said. Fred said he wanted to set up an A-R-C-H-I-T-E-C-T-U-R-E desk. Someone wanted to bring an old-fashioned apple peeler, a pile of peels growing on the ground below. I say to you who dream, the time has come. I say to you, come to the meadow. Put down your notebook and dream. I invite you.

Sunday 29 April. I invite artists from all genres (music, performance, comedy, opera, circus, fiction, cartoon) to come to Green Lake and set up your desk in the meadow next to mine, Come demonstate your art. Perform, read, watch and grow in the public eye. No need to r.s.v.p. Just show up.

On the Aurora strip at 72nd St, next to the Shell gas station.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Sunday 18 March 2007


Oooo, that crackling spray, the saplings on Aurora. Their young green invigorates me. And to think you can look down from the bridge onto that green, that spray, that spring springing, pushing to life. And all those nubbles scraping the bridge, brown and red clusters of spring, wriggling their way up.

The sky is swirling a hurricane of grey and blue. It's been dry all morning. Cool with a tickle of sun and wind, then shadows. Spring is feathering through the treetops.

I spent all morning with Nancy Guppy and her crew from Seattle Channel's Art Zone. We met at PCC and they filmed me carrying my desk to the lake. "Just do your thing. Pretend we're not here." We walked to the lake together, the camera and I. When we got to my meadow, the camera asked, "What do you think? Have you stopped for poetry before?"

Then the camera talked to me. "Why are you doing this?" I had so much to say, I rambled on. They had to reel me in. "Can you say that again, in a nutshell." That depends. What kind of nut? A nut on a tree? A nut in the ground? Something in the peanut family? A hazelnut? I hope you aren't expecting a black walnut. They're not available. Not even to me. Don't even think about asking.


Mornings are slow, even moreso when it's overcast and cool. Few people stop before 11am, though the runners still spin round. The runners never stop. They own the lake at this hour, probably from an earlier hour than I am awake, they are spinnng, churning up a breeze. It is the afternoons that are reserved for strollers. The strollers don't even begin until 11. After 11, they break off from their worlds, fall into the whirlwind, drown down. They're like cherry snow on its way to the puddle.


Two girls approach my desk, eleven, maybe twelve years old. I read "The Passing of Thistle" by Peter Davison to them. I think as I am reading it-- Oh, I've picked the wrong poem. This poem is too mature. I should have chosen something more straightforward. But when I am finished, the girls begin to relate their own experiences. Megan tells me how her dog looked before it died. It too was going deaf and blind. Like Thistle, it stumbled through life on its nose and tongue. They were able to relate to the ways in which pets can offer a sense of time and connection, how pets measures life. Amazing, I thought. Amazing!


Four young adults stop by. I ask them to consider a new kind of greeting. Instead of "How are you?" or "What do you do?" let us ask, "What's your specialty?" In an effort to move past our idea of the self, I am seeking a new greeting, one which will get to the heart of a person. An introduction more honest and less fiscal than "What do you do?" What do you do!? Is that what that question asks? It seems rather to elicit "What have you compromised?" I'd prefer, What have you dreamt? I'd prefer, What have you sought in the world?

Knowing what a person wants defines them just as well as knowing what they've accomplished. This is not to suggest there aren't people who are living their dream. There are. These people exist. We know it the minute we meet them. They exude a calm confidence. We have the desire to sit with these people, find out where they come from, how they've managed, siphon some their blood and boldness.

Unfortunate, aye. Many a dreamer has set the dream aside. Many a dreamer has learned how not to dream in order to manage success, comfort, furniture. Yes, for fear of loneliness, many a dreamer has been gobbled up.

What's your specialty? It brings out the unbuffered person. Allows a person to comment on the simplest of selves. "I am a good eater." "I collect bits of information." It enables people to get past their valuable selves. People aren't shy of their character. They have a grasp on who they are. They're proud of their details. They simply haven't been asked to share them with the world.

The group of four gave it some thought, but not too much, and answered. "My specialty is organization." "My specialty is details." "My specialty is finding the silver lining." "My specialty is nothing." There you have it. I feel as if I know more about them than if they'd given me job titles.


May Yuan and her husband came for a visit. What bouyant, energetic people! At 70, May is learning to play the harp, learning to play four kinds of harps in fact, both American and Chinese. She is having a love affair with poetry. She carried a large tome of Chinese poetry. Her husband photographed May with me standing behind my desk, proudly holding up her book.

May was like a child, her face open, her eyes big. She had a surprised look everytime she spoke and let out long rising sighs, "Ooooooh!?" At times, she spoke so quickly, her husband touched her arm, hoping to remind her of the time, there were others who wanted to talk to the poet, perhaps they were asling too much. And then she took a step back and glanced from side to side. They spent about 20 minutes with me. Delightful people.

May lectures at Chinese Information and Services Center in Seattle's International District. She read about my project in the Seattle Times and came to ask if she would translate that article into Chinese for Asia Today, a local Chinese newpaper. We exchanged addresses and off she went.

All the while, standing beside me is a friend who arrived home this morning from his year-long travels through Asia. John has been in the air for 15 hours. He just touched down. He carriedwith him a backpack with patches from the places he'd been: Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, China, Nepal... He looked like a monk, weathered and tan, close-shaven. I asked if he felt Seattle was his home. "I can't think of any other place that feels like home."


A young man on a bicycle. He's stopped before. I read "The Eleven Commandments" by Willis Barnstone to him. "11. I am a weary God, who has not been listened to. That may be just, since I have taken to long absences. My plate is empty. Do not quibble wtherher I have been good or bad, whether my commandments are good or bad, whether I am or am not. If you want a good life, I tell you to listen to my commandments. Or do not listen. And if you cannot listen, hear your soul. It is there, asking you to loaf. And when you have truly seen your soul and believed, and are comforted by its vastly intimate rain forest, enter her and forget me."

He told me about his religion teacher. I warned him about the seriousness of life. Sometimes we get too serious and fail to see the lighter side of things. There is beauty around. There's so much to inspire us. I've gone through stages where I saw only the negative and, not being able to change it or to put it down, I stood dark and alone, angry and lost. With a boyant chirp, he said, "That's what riddles are for." Riddles. Hah! I had fogotten about riddles. Oh, what the young do for us!

Tools to make us think. New thoughts. Sharp mind makers. Why don't adults exchange riddles? Why are there are no riddles in the NY Times? We have forgotten the challenge a riddle can pose? At what age do riddles lose their appeal?


There's still time. You have until the end of April. Submit online. This is a paying gig. Poetry on buses in King County, Washington. Wahoo!

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Sunday 12 March 2007


Is this spring? This wind, this mist, this ahh? The ducks have blown ashore. How much crueler, March! How much closer to balm. Early colors are plating the branches, tea-green in the willow, gold in the birches. Love and grief. Here comes, here comes spring.


Giovanni has come at long last, the self-proclaimed Mayor of Green Lake. What does the Mayor of Green Lake do? And what about Green Lake is weighing him down? Giovanni smiles, nothing more, a bit of Cheshire cat. Perhaps that is enough?

I offered him a poem. He read “Despite the Hunger” by Alice Walker followed by “An Iraqi Evening” by Yusuf al-Sa'igh. I had read both to myself, just half an hour ago, on my walk in. The poems that stop time are few and far between. "Even if we leap / Into loving," "Consider: the pilot / & the / Hijacker / Might / Have been / Holding / Hands," "Now that I /Understand / That grief / Emotionally speaking / Is the same / As gold / I do not despair," "a peaceable home / two boys / preparing their homework / a little girl / absentmindedly drawing on scrap paper / funny pictures."


I am poor in sleep. I have overworked myself, given myself away too much. Is this why I feel pain, pity? I cannot fix theirs. I have no power to change. The same mistakes over and over. Alice Walker knows. I plow on, hand-in-hand with my countryfolk, perpetrating the very things I’ve grown to hate. And what do I hate? My lack of time, my lack of space, my lack of focus. I suppose it's myself that I hate.

Oliver mentions a study, “Tearoom Trade: Impersonal Sex in Public Places,” on the characteristics of men who participate in sexual practices in public places. Using albeit contested and unethical methods, a sample group of men were followed, identified and researched for this study. They were found, in the end, to be a sampling of normal adults, unrecognizable from the other males in their area. What does this say about conformity and counter-culture? What does this say about who is supporting such behavior? Who is speaking out against it? Where is such behavior discussed?

What makes a person whole? What must we bear? Where does hatred go? What part of rejecting begins in the self? We must learn to still ourselves, to forgive and love ourselves. We must practice compassion.

I look around for that person and it is not me. I storm off. Then I'm everywhere, storming around. It's easier to destroy this externally than it is to destroy it in me. But the only solution, I know, is to abide, to change from within. This is life's most persistent and difficult lesson.


From my desk I have heard, just now, for the first time, a ship’s horn. A ship's horn! The long and the short blast of some ship to some bridge tender. The wind is strong. It carries the message up from the University, up from Montlake Cut over Tangletown, over the lake, to me. It is belly deep, a tuba, a horn on the Bosphorus where freighters plunge and disappear. Where Nazim Hikmet circles like a wasp in a cold breeze. Steel horses in a field of steel.

Asia and Europe were first bridged in 1973. A bridge was constructed over the Bosphorus Straits. It was opened by the Turkish President and Prime Minister and then crossed by an American civil engineer and an American comedian dressed as a clown and a pack of Turkish children. "As a huge crowd of people started to run after them, the bridge began to vibrate, and the crowd had to be held back to avoid any damage" [Wikipedia]. A vibrating bridge between the east and the west. This is how I see it now. This is my ship's horn now. Steel ships, Nazim in his open motor boat and all those children held back.

There now, the light has changed. It is only Green Lake being ruffled by white caps. I created so much heat getting here today. Two jackets wrapped around my waist, sweater sleeves rolled up. Sitting now, in the lake-fed wind at my desk, I am shivering. A spray of rain has got my clothes damp. Water is dripping from the peak of my hood, smearing my ink.


Ceci n'est pas une exécution. This is not a performance. Though you might recognize it as such, recognize that formula, that image, I no longer see it as such. I recognize this as my work. I am putting myself out here on display so you might see me, so you might experience this, participate in poetry in some way. This pacing, this memorizing, this orating, writing, observing, this what I do, this what I’ve done, this what I'm going to do. It's all right here for you.

It's 12:45. The bells are sending their second, their long ring, their gospel news, across Aurora. They rarely do this any more. They rarely go longer than a minute any more. Now their notes rise up around me, make my body float, distant, as if I were in a tub of voices. They bless the ducks in the meadow. They direct the Circlers.


Kate stops on her way to Thanksgiving dinner at Andy's, a backpack full of food and kitchenware, a thermos dangling from the side strap. She is going to bake pies. She is going to keep their mid-winter tradition, to host a holiday dinner for friends from their college days.

There's a red bottle cap under my Eastern White Pine. It has been there for many months. I see it again today. I like the way it looks down there, white lettering in a streamlined, minimalist, font: "Session." It's from a Session lager, a beer put out by Full Sail. I've seen it before and left it alone. Today something moved me to pick it up. Inside the cap, there is a word and a line drawing: "Rock." I show Kate. "All hail the rock," she says. As in Plymouth Rock. As in Thanksgiving. As in a small red presence under my pine tree.