Tag Archives: simone and the silver surfer

Forty Crows in Paris. A poem for my birthday.

27 Apr

(I write one of these every year, and why should turning forty be any different?)

Forty Crows in Paris

1.

Walking the streets of Paris,

I run into Picasso.

Sun-burnt

Wind-burnt

sandy-dusty

fidgety-edgy

and charcoal-eyed.

He smiles.

I worship a god with a bull head, he says.

Pigeon-wing arms

Crucified over an altar of satin-covered wood.

Huh, I say.

The heart is a ventricle labyrinth, he says.

We are often lost in its chambers.

There is a bull in all men.

The bull-man shares my face.

And at night, he says,

I dream of the minotaur.

Okay, I say.

I have some wisdom for you, he says.

Please, I say.

Love thyself first of all.

No, Pablo.

Then you’ve failed, he says.

Okay, I say.

But never marry.

Too late, I say.

This makes him angry.

Doe-eyed women.

Wolf-bitches in heat.

Kali, destroyer of artists.

Astarte, breaker of men.

His mouth is foaming.

I wave him away.

And off he goes.

 

2.

Picasso.

Impossible at restaurants.

Lover of bullfighting, brothels, women.

Hater of entanglements.

Despiser of interruptions.

Painter of Christs, myths, nude women.

Painter, sculptor, cruel genius.

Bull face half-hidden from the world.

Bulls are wild creatures

of pure id

snorting charging

holy in many lands.

Energy,

Often unfocused,

Goring others with sharp horns.

A symbol of creative destruction.

Picasso:

Pagan hero

praying to broken stones.

 

3.

I leave Pablo behind,

And move along the boulevards of Paris.

Cobalt skies

Sun with perfect heat

sculpted faces radiated

streaks of self-righteous indignation.

The French obsession:

How to be good in a godless world?

I meander through the royal gardens.

I stroll past the Seine.

I trot over to the Left Bank.

I see Simone de Beauvoir sitting under a tree.

She waves me over.

Bespectacled, raven-haired

Thin lipped, high cheek-boned.

Hands sharp like knitting needles.

I worship the first crow, she says.

Creator of all existence.

Midnight wings covering the cosmos with speckled night.

Metaphor? I ask.

She shakes her head.

Don’t worship anyone but yourself, she says.

I don’t know how to do that.

All men do it, she says.

I was speaking through you to your daughters.

Hairy-cheeked men.

Simple-minded and direct.

Zeus and Odin.

Rapers of earth and sky.

Imprisoners of women.

Always misunderstanding everything.

I’m a man, I say.

She shoos me along.

 

4.

Simone the unheralded.

Namesake of my eldest.

Philosopher-queen

Writer of great novels

Existentialist par excellence.

She saw the strictures of the father-world.

The demands that partition a woman’s consciousness.

In bondage to child-rearing,

Home-making

Cooking cleaning

Belittled or ignored.

Entombed in invisible prisons.

Simone!

Lover of life and men.

Neither bull nor wolf.

A being of pure mind.

Wise and wonderful

But worshiper of nothing

Empty voices dissipating into cold, sterile air.

 

5.

I walk on,

My shoes touching the streets of Paris,

But my thoughts anchored in the past year.

2016.

Eater of the great.

Jim Harrison died.

David Bowie died.

Debbie Reynolds died.

Prince and goddamn George Michael.

Died and died and goddamn died.

Amidst the political grotesqueries of my home country.

What the fuck is happening?

In Luxembourg Gardens,

A single crow picks grubs and worms

While my daughters run amok.

Crow the wise.

Crow the lonely.

Crow the portentous.

Dark omen of

Death war mystery

 

6.

Crows were thought to ferry the souls of the dead.

Black bird wings

Cosmic undulations

Souls tiny pebbles in the crows’ beaks.

The pebbles tossed into a giant heap

Melted in a vast smelter

And cooling in an endless semi-conscious sea.

I liken crows to a single year.

They appear,

They make a little noise

Then they fly away.

I am now forty.

Forty years.

Forty crows.

In Paris.

7.

I watch too many movies.

Tis a sickness.

No substitute for wisdom.

Just a tired, bleary-eyed deity,

That is almost self-aware.

The other day,

A character asked:

What is your spirit animal?

What is mine?

I feel a magic connection to wolves.

An affinity with crows.

A psychic corkscrew with bulls.

I feel love for elephants.

And, sometimes late at night,

I reverberate prayers to Ganesha,

The remover of obstacles.

He of the elephant head.

Bulls, crows, wolves, elephants—

Totems of my cloudy mind.

I write and read and work,

Believing that it means something.

Trump says it doesn’t.

 

8.

Okay, politics and poetry

Not the friendliest combo.

But ask a wolf like Trump:

How to be good?

He has no answer.

Wolves don’t care about goodness.

Wolves don’t understand decency.

They hunger and thirst

And go about chomping on things with bloody mouths.

Trump inhabits the father-world.

Cynical and vile.

Billionaire pickpockets

Out to stripmine our very souls.

Prostrate before a dank cave,

Invisible coal dust

Filling their nostrils,

They worship a jade-green snake

Swallowing its own tail.

I don’t begrudge them their selfish

Shallow, superficial meanness.

But these ghouls don’t believe

In any kind of future.

They want to consume the present.

And that, I cannot forgive.

 

9.

From there to here.

I’ve left Paris behind.

Returned to the States.

I turned 10 in Florida.

20 in Alabama.

30 in Iowa.

Now 40 in Illinois.

Forty years.

Jesus Christo.

Twenty-two years of writing?

Carter Reagan Bush Clinton Obama

And now Trump.

I never know where a poem is going.

They zig.

They zag.

They sputter.

They spark.

My antennae cogitate in a zippered buzz.

My thoughts collide like loosed atoms.

Today it’s the bull.

Yesterday the crow.

Tomorrow the wolf.

Picasso and Beauvoir never go away.

Trump will.

Not fast enough.

Not without scarring.

Not without pain.

But he will go away.

Until then,

It’s the search for small gods

With totem heads.

A new decade begins.

Ganesha, I’m still here.

Let’s remove these obstacles.

Or a new god,

Crow-headed

Animist, small-scaled

Housebound, perhaps,

Listening only to my neurotic fears

Powerless but present

Here to vitiate the father-world’s powers

Until De Beauvoir can reincarnate

And lead us back to the Crow’s delight.

Poem fragment, started on november 14

27 Apr

(Wow, I’ve been out of pocket. I’m working/writing/striving, while staving off bitterness, frustration, and anxiety. Mostly succeeding. This is the first of two poems. The second—my annual birthday poem—is forthcoming.)

 

Fragment of a poem from November 14

No nonono

My head

My gut

My heart

My bones

hollowed out

blanked out

redacted out

No nononono

 

How—

Why—

What—

 

I cannot begin.

Our linguistic centers are fracked.

We’ve marbled our own thoughts.

Digging through our nerve centers with too many images.

This man.

I don’t understand.

 

Philip K. Dick wrote a short story.

“Faith of Our Fathers.”

It tells of a future

Where the people of the U.S. are

Controlled by a tyrant who isn’t real.

The leader is a machine.

Or an alien invader.

Or an evil god.

The revolutionaries want to poison the leader.

They fail.

 

I can’t help but think on it.

The leader who isn’t real.

A machine.

Or an alien invader.

Or an evil god.

I seem to have lost the ability to understand other people.

 

Philip K. Dick had a re-occuring line in his novels:

The empire never ended.

Brother, ain’t that the truth.

The same buttheads keep slouching towards Bethlehem

And blotting out the sunny skies.

Gingrich, Guliani, Bannon, where doth thou reside?

In an ice cave?

In a sand-packed crypt?

In a stained glass echo chamber?

Doesn’t matter.

We can smell you.

The stench of brimstone wafts from your backsides.

 

And how, Mr. Gingrich,

Have you lived this long?

Your face a mask of soggy skin

Dripping off your bones like hot wax.

What primal event started you on this course?

(The Big Bang?)

 

And what drives ye,

Oh Guliani?

What moves the rickety machinery forward,

Into the breach?

What infernal energy source heats your brow?

I can see the occult magic in your crazed eyes.

You . . . sold your soul, didn’t you?

(To Mammon.)

 

And how do you defecate, Mr. Bannon?

Do you squat and squint your bleary eyes?

Red-faced, slack muscles clenching?

Do you squeeze your velveteen rabbit

And dream of werewolves shorn of hair,

Pink-skinned babies scrubbed clean?

Penises that work?

 

Okay, okay.

Cheap shots.

Age and infirmity,

The specters that haunt us all.

 

Philip K. Dick had a vision.

That the Roman Empire was still in power.

That the empire never ended.

That we were all living in a virtual reality prison,

Constructed by our Roman overlords

Hiding the world we live in.

We are, he argued, trapped in invisible chains.

He saw robots and aliens as presidents.

Our leaders manipulating reality with arcane technologies.

Rewriting reality with words.

It all amounted to the same thing:

We are not in control of our own lives.

 

Enter Trump.

Trumpie. Drumpf. Troomp.

Immune to the slings and arrows,

Elected somehow because of his immense shortcomings.

People want this?

A billionaire bully

With verbal diarrhea,

Who runs out on contracts

And games the bankruptcy laws?

Troomp. Troomp.

 

When did America become a nightmare?

(This poem has no end.)

Interlude 1: Simone wrote me a story for my birthday.

31 May

(Simone dictated this story to Beth for my birthday. They then illustrated it and gave it to me. A great gift. I haven’t been posting much; I’ve been writing writing writing—and having knee surgery—like a person possessed.)

My great-grandmother’s journey

My great-grandmother is 98. She wanted to go to Africa, but all the people who built the boats died. She heard that something really good happened; they built a gigantic, humongous bridge across the Atlantic Ocean. She decided to walk to Africa with her imaginary stroller. She walked and walked and walked until she got so red that she couldn’t walk anymore. When she stopped in Scotland, she saw flowers and leaves.

An inverted page from my birthday story from Simone.

An inverted page from my birthday story from Simone.

She was so surprised to see this exciting news because she came from a tiny town in the desert where no flowers grow. Then she had to take a little journey to go to Africa. Just a tiny little journey. She took a Hawaiian boat to get there, and the captain was a beautiful woman.

She finally got to Africa, and she couldn’t believe how many flowers there were. And she couldn’t believe how many leaves there were. And she couldn’t believe how fancy her house was. She decided to stay there, and she began to be happy.

The end.

 

Interlude 4: Simone’s second poem

7 Nov
(Simone continues to dictate poems to Beth. She did one in the car today, titled “Quiet Streets in London.” “Quiet street is sad, but London is happy!” she said. And no, she’s never been to London. Or seen anything about it. Anyway, this is her second poem, dictated right after her first. Meanwhile, I’ve been limping through my writing life the last few days. I’ve finished a new section of Brotherhood of the Eye, gone through a second draft, and I suppose I should start a third revision of The Taunting Light, and I want to write some short stories—I have five or six killer ideas—but I can’t seem to harness the will. Enjoy.)
“A Winter Poem”
Trees were falling like leaves.
people were made of stone.
everyone was beautifully made of stars and pink feathers.
everyone had beautiful, nice mothers.
vampires set pink cakes and flowers on the table, set for dinner with eggs and cheese.
everyone was so glad to have a nice, warm, healthy dinner.
everyone was so glad to see the warm, nice sun.
spiders were beautiful trampolines.
peaople were really, really pink, and they had red foreheads.
and Rumblebuffins. giants.
clocks clarmed and ding-a-linged.
everyone had flowers with sparkles, diamond glitters.
everyone was so focussed on what they were making for dinner.
giants were wobbling around having delicious dinner and buying stuff at the food store.
people have beautiful lives in their hearts.

Interlude 2: Song Simone extemporaneously sang to me

27 Oct

(while I was sort of twerking in the pantry, which sounds weird when I write it)

 

Simone:

“Daddy is so stupid

His butt is made of chicken

His face is made of mayonnaise

His arms are made of chopsticks

His shirt is made of dust!

His pants are made of buttons (that stick into his skin)

His fingers are made of blueberries

And his mouth is full of poop!”

 

Me: Hmmm. I don’t know if I like that.

 

Simone: Did you hear what I said? “Your face is made of mayonnaise!” Ha!

Interlude 3: another tiny excerpt.

4 Sep

Here’s another excerpt from my once-a-day writing, where I spend five minutes letting my mind wander through my fingertips. If you compare it to the earlier writing, you’ll see a vast increase in quality. This is disturbing and barbaric, by the by, so if you are easily offended, please read on. I think I’ve inserted this little piece into a novel manuscript somewhere, but I can’t be sure . . .

 

His ancestors had worshiped Attys, in rituals involving cornstalks and beheadings and the sun. An innocent was selected, valued to the gods precisely because of his or her virtue, and then tied to a tree. The priests would tie cornstalks to the arms and legs, and then leave the child attached to the tree for days. After a few days, the priest would mutilate the genitals with a sacred knife, catching the blood in a stone bowl and then pouring it, accompanied by ancient whispered prayers, over the earth. The youth was then beheaded, and the head was wrapped in a thin muslin cloth and buried at the center of a barren field. He didn’t know any of this, not beyond sense memory. But some days, when the sun was sharp and unfiltered by clouds and the cold settled in on his chest and shoulders, he felt a dissonant guilt over past, unknown crimes.

 

And here’s a second excerpt, sort of the beginning of a short story or something:

At 15, he had a dream he died in a car crash. Nothing complicated or fancy, just the shearing of metal and the breaking of glass and his body, broken in fragile places. The dream meant something to him, but he didn’t know what. It seemed portentous; if he could survive the year, he would be destined for great things. This is the way his mind worked. He turned normal things into foreshadows of excellence. He was, almost uniformly, always wrong.

Interlude 2: A found fragment.

30 Aug

I’ve been revisiting some of my autobiographical pieces, which I realize is a documentation of my writerly life in my twenties. You can read them in order:

part 1: first novel blues

part 2: second novel madness

part 3: minor success

part 4: short story and a crackup

part 5: short story that goes nowhere

part 6: junket life and five stories

part 7: dreams of automatic writing

part 8: first scene from my wretched screenplay

part 9: shift in political consciousness and unfinished novel

—and I realized that most of the fiction I’ve written in my life—and there’s an assload, let me tell you—hasn’t been read by anyone. And often I didn’t intend for anyone to read it. This makes writing exhilarating, deeply weird and often untethered to the point of writing in the first place. Which is communication. And yet, knowing you’re writing something no one else will read gives the act a weird magical overlay, as if you are communicating with some unknown part of your self. It’s a liberating feeling. And akin to madness.

Anyway, I have so many little snippets of things—I write every day before I start work for five minutes with no goal or direction in mind, on top of manuscripts and ye old blog here—that I often stumble across stuff that seems to have been written by someone else. Another little bit of writing alchemy. Here’s a plot outline for something I never wrote. The file was named “Storybird for Class,” so this was probably going to be a digital picture book. Or something. I can’t imagine that was going to be the title of a short story, but as I don’t remember writing it or why that’s one more thing that is lost forever.

Anyway, here tis:

 

In a small village at the edge of a vast forest, a young girl is raised by a single mother. The mother is strong. She has short, black hair, long arms and legs, and carries around a short knife. The villagers are warriors; the forest outside is populated with ogres, dragons, demons and monsters. The mother spends her days husking corn and shelling peas, cooking stews and beating linens. Her life is hard, but so is everyone else’s. At nights, she puts her daughter to sleep and stares out at the slow red shift of the stars.

One day, the girl goes missing. The mother wanders through the dust streets and huts, but can’t find her anywhere. She can’t find any men, either.

They had left, and would not return.