poems, etc.

the wind that breaks the bottle; poetry from found words (Zelda's Inferno exercise, July 15)

a summer evening in Baltimore the wind picks up i'm sitting outside at a cafe and the wind reminds me of a moment half a world away, sudden wind rippling the surface of zen garden pond shattering the reflection of mountains and breaking something in my mind like dropping a glass bottle and letting the genie out

a bottle of water floating in the sea suddenly shattering

nothing is lost and the whole ocean is gained in an instant

the wind here the same as the wind a half a world away


Zelda's Inferno exercise: we wrote words and phrases on index cards, placed them around the room for others to find, then wrote from what we found.

1) "tina turner on acid yodeling in arabic": strange dreams of late-night TV rock opera mixed with the CNN headlines I fell asleep in front of, Tina Turner as the Acid Queen morphing into a ululating woman in a burqua, wailing over another senseless death / my mind flipping from CNN to VH1 and finding satisfaction in neither, Tommy can you hear me? 25 killed in a car bomb attack. That deaf dumb and blind kid, and now to the White House for an address by the "President", you won't find me any of those ways, although you think you must

2) "Booger": Booger-brain! Poop-head! Childhood curse insults, unselfconscious, heartfelt anger, hatred...I remember my mother telling me "children don't hate", but no, only children can hate, grown into it but not yet past it (and so many children in adult bodies!) the purity of passion without compassion, the lord of the flies, the boys who beat me and spit on me, the hatred I knew then, a more pure and refined poison than anything I've known since; I hated then as I cannot hate now.

3) "beautiful in the overused meaningless way": I can't call you beautiful, that word is worn out, overused, meaningless, no tread left on it, I want a special edition vocabulary, words you have to earn the right to use, words with some kind of artistic cover charge to keep the riff-raff out, words that cost two months salary, words I had to bleed for, words I had to scale mountains and fight dragons to have the right to use...instead all I have is this thesaurus...attractive, cute, good looking, gorgeous, handsome, lovely....Give me words that cost me a year of my life each to use, that I can tell you how I feel.

a vicious cycle of ecstasy and despair

On my refrigerator, I have an old "Zippy the Pinhead" cartoon. Zippy and his friend Claude are discussing worry and love.

"When I'm in love, I worry I'll fall out of love. When I'm out of love I worry I'll never love again..." says Claude

"It's a vicious cycle of ecstasy and despair, huh, Claude?" observes Zippy. And with a wistful look, Claude replies, "Wouldn't want it any other way, pardner!"

So that's a bit of where I am now. No names (though those who know me can figure it out...), but since I've been back and since Cathy broke it off with me, I've been feeling smack in the middle of that vicious cycle. Several women on my mind...one lovely lady I met at Starwood last year who I'm hoping to see again; one friend I've been sweet on for as long as I've known her (eight years or so); ok, another friend I've been sweet on for even longer time and once had a tryst who has also been in my thoughts; there's a new lady who's a writer and a book lover; one ex-brief-girlfriend who called me today; one friend-and-one-night-lover who seemed interested when she heard I was unattached; one lovely lady I met in Japan who I just heard from; one cute new recent internet correspondent...what's that song? "Seven women on my mind, four that wanna own me, two that wanna stone me, one says she's a friend of mine...."

Anyway. Went to the reading at Minas today, a Gimme Shelter benefit for a well for a village in Africa, did some stuff at the open mic. The guy running it hadn't seen me read before, which points out how lax I've been the past few years about getting out into the scene. Anyway he was interested in booking me for a future reading, so I ought to get my ass out and read some more. A nice after-party, then dinner, hanging with Robin and Carla and Brian.

Poetry is invincible; looking closely (Zelda's exercise July 8)

Poetry is invincible! Zelda's has outlasted many venue's; the Planet X crowd kept meeting and reading after the place burned down, even in the face of a tornado warning we met under an awning and read poetry.


Politics must serve poetry, not poetry politics


exercise: looking closely at some small part of our new meeting space:

I don't know what you call these decorate carvings - scrollwork? finials? - on the columns, curled like the fiddleheads of ferns, arching out from the column where it meets the bottom point of the arch, a bouquet of them

July 1st Zelda's exercise: writing from the five senses

Zelda's Inferno writing exercise from July 1st: think of meaningful memory, describe it through each of the five senses - but don't name the senses

stone hard under my back
comfortably unyielding, cool mountain
holds us up to the sky like mother lifting child closer to father
held solidly

earthy musky remnant of the mushroom tea lingers in my mouth
slowly being cleared away by the clean night mountain air that moves in through my nose, out through my mouth

the same air that carries hint of the campfire behind us and of the river and of the stone on which we lie

the same air that brings me the laughter and shouts and talk of friends not separate from myself, as we sit on the side of this mountain and let the sky fill our eyes

flashing lights of rocks on fire
as they hit the air

(one lights up the sky like the full moon for a second, we all ask "did you see that?", checking consensus reality against individual hallucination)

saved by hotel desk clerks; guardian-gardeners of steel

Despite the high rhetoric of world-redeemers, saving the world is a one-person-at-a-time deal. And I remember a Zen poem: "Whenever the burden of saving all sentient beings becomes too great, I vow with all beings the breath in the grace of the morning star, and remember that they are saving me."

I was saved by two night clerks a a hotel in Jersey City. I had just returned from Japan and just had my girlfriend break up with me, was wondering if it had been worth it to come back, if there was anything on this continent worth staying for. That Saturday I went up to NYC for the annual black belt clinic; called around to find a hotel room, found one at place I'd stayed before, the Radison near the Journal Square PATH train stop. Caught the train after the welcome party, walked over to the hotel.

Two young ladies behind the counter, black girls, kind of rolly-polly (of course, for the first week or two after I got back from Japan, everybody in this country looked rolly-polly). And they were beautiful Americans, cheerfully giving directions to one guy on how to find a good local bar, joking with me about my name and "Swiss as in cheese or as in bank accounts?" In just a few minutes they redeemed America for me, made it worth coming back.

my Starwood workshops

As previously mentioned, I'll be presenting workshops at the Starwood Festival again this year. Now, I know which ones:

Sparking a Creative Inferno

Zelda's Inferno is a weekly Baltimore poetry workshop that has been meeting and writing since 2000. We have only one rule: if you have words on the page at the end of the exercise, you win! Longtime Zelda's coordinator Tom Swiss will lead participants through writing exercises that might show you new ways to spark the fires of creativity. For poets, bards, and writers of all types and abilities.

Self-defense as a Spiritual Practice

You are a manifestation of the divine, a child of the God and Goddess. That makes you a being worth defending; yet our culture's confused attitudes about violence, plus the self-esteem issues faced by many people in the Pagan community, often obscure the fact that self-defense is also defense of the divine principle within all of us. In this workshop we will try to cut through the fog and discuss attitudes and skills to preserve not just your body but your divine nature. Targeted for those without previous martial arts or self-defense training; but experienced students are also welcome. We will practice verbal and non-verbal communication skills for dealing with conflict, and a few simple self-defense techniques.

Zelda's Infero exercise, Jun 24

Tonight's writing exercise: we all looked at art books, each choose a piece and briefly described it to everyone else. We all took notes on the descriptions; that's the first part below. (Mine is #5.) Then we used these as feedstock to write poem. Obviously I stuck on the first one; others integrated all the descriptions into their exercise.

(Also I probably radically misheard some people's descriptions. Doesn't matter for this purpose.)

1) green background, large mouth with blender-like mechanical points, crescent shape

2) translucent body, prostrate, bright yellow flame ascending into eyes everywhere, observing

toasting the Solstice; the metaphor of fire for love; stretching the writing muscles

And so summer either begins or hits its midpoint, depending on how you count, here on the Solstice. I've come down to the Judge's Bench to toast it.

Last night I got to go over and catch up with Mike, hadn't seen him since I got back from Japan. Joe came over too, so I was able to hand out their omiyage.

I've been mucking around more on ancestry.com the past few days, digging back through census records, finding out a little bit about the great-grandparents and even some more great-greats and great-great-greats. Might have found some distant cousins through the site, over on the Sprole side.

So I'm contemplating the metaphor of fire for love, and thinking of how they leave behind a mess of soot and ashes and smoke that has to be cleaned up. Or that will eventually soak into the soil and nurture it, but meanwhile is a mess.

But it's interesting to consider the perspective of emptiness on the end of a relationship, as we would apply it to death...we might understand that a "self" is a dependent arising, not a real thing. Can we see the same in a romantic (or other sort of of interpersonal) relationship, that it is an aggregate of things that come together and come apart? Just as when a flame is blown out, yet all the molecules of air and fuel remain, so she and I remain, and so does the space between us.

Of course, contemplating that the flame has not really "gone away" anywhere is not useful when the fire goes out and you're freezing. Emptiness is also empty.


So, let's stretch the writing muscles with a little poetic exercise. Supported free-write on a random overheard phrase: "light me on fire"

tasting fruit - Zelda's exercise, June 3

This weeks Zelda's Inferno exercise: writing from memories/thoughts triggered from a piece of fruit:

orange, the teeth break the skin, the juice sprays into the mouth, and I think of orange slices given to us when I played soccer as a kid, somebody's idea of a vitamin pick-me-up, some coach's wife (I'm half presuming half remembering) slicing up oranges the night before or the morning of the game, plastic bag full of slices, halftime, boys with orange slices in the mouth, pretending to be boxers with mouthguards, the fresh smell of the leftover skins, spitting out seeds

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