Sunday, August 31, 2008

Balsa Wood Stringer

It’s when you thread out
              sleazing up the coast
just the other side of a semi-
                              coherent wall
              of deep breathing
                                                & blue sky jumps off the
                              chipped tooth of eternity
              within the confines of our souls
                                                                    each to the other
                              curving away from a well-lit future
              self-indulgent & tough
                                                rocking the dark
                              corrugated Pacific steel
                                                                    that nails your shadow
                                                to the sand

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Custom Shapes

Something flickers in her eyes
the flash of wings or a blade
murmur of palm trees the
soundtrack playing
I mean beneath a rock
on the ocean floor

or paddling up Hwy 1
with a red hot go-go accuracy
unplugged & softly outside the
neon string of images like see-thru

nothing left now
but the soft caress of a breeze
edging ahead of the fog rising
off the beach
w/greasy blonde vibes aligned
& the spill-out beneath leafy night
to the glow subscribed

Friday, August 29, 2008

Mirror Shades

Aside from the fact
                              or because of it
              this late summer slant
                                                against the water or the
sand or pavement I thought was
              our self-fulfilled prophecy
left on the beach for the tide to find
                              part of it tipping back sinking
would drown that way
              like a miniature bamboo umbrella
in a mai-tai

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Coastal Influence

This morning this
beach town reads like a
Diebenkorn cheat sheet
slicing the weather
& tilting parking lots toward
the sea

various shadows
tucked away beneath the
idea of it
swamped out as the tide pushes in

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Subsonic All Stars

Woke up chewing on an organic
beer can after
an evening with the poets
70 foggy miles up the coast from here
my Yater t-shirt, my St. Christopher
medal, my sunglasses, my tattoo
& my poems
probably all that hold me to this world
plus other less obvious perhaps inventories
no doubt explicit by omission

Pamela sleeps in the other room
I sip at half a cup of coffee
my friends are all far away, living lives I
don’t understand & only partly believe

& the poem continues to spill off the page
a   b   c   d   e   f
7 million crooked typewriter keys
because I cling to certain retro habits
knife & fork, pen & paper, the
faded signature

trapeze clouds

steam-driven guitars

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

In 24 Darkwater Colors

The zig-zag line that runs from low tide
to adios
              out near the flapping
wings you can always trade in for a damp stretch of
                              life underwater
as seen through seaweed & a pair of
drugstore sunglasses
              a velvet mirror fadeout
w/that number 4 expression on your face
(blank) & those empty swimming pool eyes
                              like six pound shadows

Monday, August 25, 2008

When Your Hula Hoop Goes Boom

Rose petals set on fire
out on the horizon

(a stolen identity)

salvation the size of a candy heart

There’s sand in my shoes

& that much more sliding past us
in the same different colors it
took us so long to name

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Tapping into the Drizzle

One more sip & this half
full cup of coffee will be
half empty

life (inside
& out)

Talking to myself

(the real danger
that I might start to

big orchid blooms
a shadow among shadows

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Night Train to Molokai

Head full of saltwater steam
mainlined & strapped to a smokestack
these wheels will lull you past the coma
into some deeper wipeout

we earthlings are never satisfied

A pile of waves at half the price of sunset
ex’d out on the platform like a
blue-green depth bomb
set off in a field of grass skirts

Friday, August 22, 2008

Little Caesar

It wasn’t in the clouds that we should
get away that easy

the big fuck you of
woven together with
strands of tidewater & regret

but tongue-tied & the way it looked in
Time magazine w/night sweats & silver
bullets all lined up like a firing squad

aloha blue highlight reels played
in reverse on a surface of crushed
aluminum & wet sand

Pretty pictures though…

I think I’ll get them tattooed
on my neck

that’s the way it works in Hollywood

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Smack Up (a romance)

I can see your halo’s attached
but it looks a little bent
like Thursday morning wrapped around
a self-conscious 12-pack in the fridge

I guess I’d prefer something a bit more
sublime & unreasonable like
the day the ocean woke up
on the wrong side of the pier

You could feel the damp seep down
through a roof of thatched
shadows I never believed but
had learned to live with

& now the neon you hoped would
keep you warm has
melted forming a neat little
puddle at your feet

& you can dive right in if you want to
& tunnel your way out later
with a teaspoon

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Harmonic Diversion

Anything like forever assumes
a plastic shape for like 30 seconds
wrapped in candlelight
on either side of your eyes

fucking in the parking lot
or in the kitchen
beneath the Great Wall of China or
the Great Wall of Accordion Music

I’ll take all the vicious morphine
cycles you can manage to part with
dusted with subspace static
low frequency eucalyptus bulldozers

You can scrape two dimes together
& generate enough electricity
to light up but you’re handcuffed to
a palm tree in Ventura & like

seagulls ripping up the morning air
your heart wheels & pivots

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Berkson & Opstedal Reading in S.F., Aug. 26

Book Party & Reading at Books & Bookshelves
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
7:30 pm

Bill Berkson
Goods and Services
Kevin Opstedal
Santa Cruz
[both from Blue Press, 2008]

Books and Bookshelves is located in the Castro at 99 Sanchez Street.

BILL BERKSON was born in New York in 1939.   A poet, critic, teacher, and sometime curator, he moved to Northern California in 1970 and during the next decade edited a series of little magazines and books under the Big Sky imprint.   From 1984 to 2008 he was a professor of Liberal Arts at the San Francisco Art Institute.   He is a corresponding editor for Art in America and has contributed reviews and essays to such other journals as Aperture, Artforum, Works on Paper and Modern Painters.   His recent books of poetry include Gloria (in a deluxe limited edition with etchings by Alex Katz), Our Friends Will Pass Among You Silently, and Goods and Services.   Other books include a collection of his criticism, The Sweet Singer of Modernism & Other Art Writings: 1985-2003; Sudden Address: Selected lectures 1981-2006; an epistolary collaboration with Bernadette Mayer entitled What's Your Idea of a Good Time?: Interviews & Letters 1977-1985.   His Portrait and Dream: New & Selected Poems will appear form Coffee House Press in 2009.   Berkson was the 2006 Distinguished Mellon Fellow at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.   He now lives in New York and San Francisco.

KEVIN OPSTEDAL is a poet as well as the editor/publisher of Blue Press Books, a venture started 10 years ago with Colorado poet Michael Price.   Blue Press has published 15 magazines and 52 books to date, with more on the way.   Opstedal himself has written 24 books of poetry, the most recent being User's Manual to the Pacific Coast Highway (Seven Fingers Press, Boulder, 2007) and Santa Cruz (Blue Press, 2008).   A slim volume of selected poems, Rare Surf, Vol. 2: New & Used Poems, was published by Smog Eyes Press, Playa del Rey, in 2006.   His poems, essays and book reviews have appeared in numerous little magazines and periodicals over the years, as well as on the web.   In addition he has edited the as yet unpublished Dear Oxygen, Selected Poems of Lewis MacAdams, and his recently completed literary history of the Bolinas poets has been published online.   Born and raised in Venice Beach, California, Opstedal currently resides in Santa Cruz.

FREE, but
Please B.Y.O.B.

The Big Empty

The music of a broken piano wire
drags light in through stained glass
just as if you planned it that way

but there are holes in your
short-term logic—holes you could
drive an ocean through


skidding around the corner

gentle roar of continuous traffic among
subtropical flowers & rotting concrete
              (a feather of smoke
holding it all up
                              in my eyes

Monday, August 18, 2008

On Pacific Ave

There was a chunk of metal in her lip that looked like shrapnel.   Her eyes, like damaged ping-pong balls, seemed to be focused on a point slightly above & behind me.   It was disconcerting.   She laid down her rap, starting somewhere around the Crab Nebula & ending near the fading pulse in the neck of woman who would qualify as an accidental suicide.   I turned & followed the pulse halfway there just to get a taste of the total experience of the senseless.   By the time I made it halfway back I felt like Lee Marvin starring in a 1950’s L.A. crime drama based upon the life of John Keats.   Standing in the shadow of a black & white palm tree Keats is holding a .45 automatic he affectionately refers to as “The Nightingale”.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Goodbye, Dirty Machine (part 50)

By this time the house was quiet with sleep sounds (can a sound be quiet?) and the feel of the veil on my face was hot, then cold and comfortable--the tears--the childhood & higher educational despairs had dried and in their place a new tiny-step optimism, some kind of faith was emerging blended with the positive--I guess you could say I was starting to like the light in was seeing light through darkness, running along a thin but traceable cliff edge towards a pool of blue compassion...never before had I been able to stop in my grief and by my good self smile for the folly of it all...funny but after so many knockdowns the whole thing starts to get a little funny, ain’t that funny?   Even if I was erring towards the wily and impetuous, it was a relief to know that at the slim least I was going to be right back where I started, a wing-nutted bachelor in the tropics who was bent on figuring out just how long one could lsst on California unemployment living with his mother, nourishing, defecating, freelancing on uncertainty and striving evermore towards Miller’s cathartic discovery that his   “ itself became a work of art.”

So I tried hard to send out as much sophomore passion & throw off as much ballast as possible to the girl with the silver eyes, Ramona, somewheres off in the mainland with Lionel, only sure she was alone and eye squeezing out her own mantra of devotion to her new American novel hero... In the morning I rose before the other principals and made my way to the sand bar, where I looked across that early blue air to the far horizon southward towards the place I knew Ramona to be...I silently turned away and stared at the long I stood there I do not know... how could a man possibly want the lukewarm promise of a romance?   To be lukewarm is the worst thing to stand in ankle deep liquid with half your happiness held -- you want to seal something, some promise, some legacy, some tenure...the water laps at your shins, the breeze blows midly… Having never stopped in the moment I decide to harness, yoke, prepare, equip, and fasten myself to the end, however far off or near it was, but the end of Ramona and the end of the ken of my five senses...

Seaward I could sense the faraway flattery of the three foxes, my spirit animal so deemed on flagstaff when racing upward in the Impala top back night black across the road ran the red-tail blocking any further damage from my just having witnessed the woman I loved in two times with her old beau at Tom’s Tavern...three ghost white faces mine his hers and off I went not knowing this triggered the introduction to matters ethereal, and I said to myself in that moment when the fox had runneth across my light and reckless path to give me an idea of the invisible order of the ether, unexplainable, robust, simple because up to that point I had only been completely tethered to misery, constantly suspicious and needy and calling forty times a day, unsure, guilty & just plain awful...under the usual reaction I would have gone to a bar and gotten angry and hurt and we would have ended nowhere instead I drove to Sugarloaf and took the dog out for a full-moon hour walk with presence and allowable mystery...since that time I’ve seen the fox, and the fox has seen me...and my wildlife friend lois, sister of June, told me about a black fox with a wisp of white on its tail, a genetic anomaly seen around Chautauqua where I’m in current convalescence and breaking the news peace and grace something has taken hold in my mind regarding that black-gened fox and the feeling that I’ll see her before the task at hand is done...

--Michael Price

The Next Voice You Hear

All the windows were etched with
paleolithic imagery & vintage
Coppertone ads
I wanted to drive a nail into my artery
& feel it tumble
somewhere behind her uneven eyes
but all folded up
like a line of lipstick
& everything else is breathing softly
inside a tomorrow that never got here
cynical as a rearview mirror
smudged by her reflection

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Almost Dark Enough

Alternate possibilities like music plus
some sort of monsoon balcony
filthy with your fingerprints
every empty beach parking lot from
Zuma to Santa Cruz
where martian fogbanks bump up against your
forehead even if you don’t cross that white line
although you can always fake it
take the long way back
built from the ground up
like sunset in a parallel universe
scrawled in crayon colors on the wrong side of a cloud

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Split the Difference

The palm trees have their own consciousness
like you but different
because an inch of dream is worth its weight
in misshapen identities

like numbers slamming the radio shut

or the way a tear leans against your cheek

All the unimaginable
claiming the crushed velvet a slick conclusion
rattles in the moonlight

something to think about as your mind goes blank

executing a perfect jackknife on a dry dive
& not a single twisted spoonful of numb surprise

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sea Legs

Leaves in the wind
your own velocity
a bent moon turning to reply
as seen from several miles all together
bloodshot windows of the soul
a kind of two-way mirror set-up
you stagger through
looking back the other way
as thin sheets of silver occupy
your once & furtive tiptoe collapse
paved in broken concrete
hairline shadow fractures
wind & sun & footstep tire tread
back in 1971 in the shade
crossing your heart 9 different

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Some Later Shape

Feel the tremor
traveling along the
              delicate invisible thread that
holds the sky up
                              as it relays the rumble of sunrise
              before it happens

a pure blue later past the miracle on Pearl Street
where water meets water & it’s like waking up
crooked in the shadow of a smogged-in lightbulb

A late summer bend in the palm trees
              sand in drifts along the curb
sunbleached neon buried in chrome
                              handwritten on the waves

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Paradise Motel

Another Way to Fall
Cutting corners off the sky
just to convince you
growing sunset in an empty glass
If I listen real close
what I hear is the music of your
eyelashes coming in from
a long way off

Skintight Sunset Camouflage
a tangle of flames at the
bottom of the ocean
              rocks older than the survival instinct
a seashell madonna
                              surfboard in a bottle

Timelapse Photography
Moments in a day revise the sequence
of dreams (crumbling in the fog
the way the fog crumbles above the surf
I mean right as the wind shifts & pelicans
haul it all away

you may have both feet on the ground
I don’t know
wounded for sure but skipping
like the island of Samoa
over the surface of a rainpuddle

wet petals stuck to the sidewalk
like postage (we’re mailing the side-
walk to Samoa
wrapped up in swampwater
salt ocean kelp riptides & photographs of
rock formations
clipped from library books

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Mondo Primo

Wings the color of light flutter late afternoon
from here to the thick wall of fog that hides
the horizon over yonder & beyond

monterey cypress all eaten by spiderwebs
& time

the revolving god of the pacific islanders

“circles of jagged light” yes & other formations
just as effective

but kicking your way across the sand & against
the wind that rushes in off the water (the waves
all falling apart) you
flop upon your own mystic denial littered
with empties

Friday, August 8, 2008

Dancing Skeletons

While a deepsea heart-throb that
registers 8.2 on the Richter could
make you change your
center of gravity it can’t
keep intimations of mortality
from raiding your refrigerator

Bo Diddley’s Beach Party
There’s a tidal wave charging
in from way off on the other side
of the horizon rolling in slow
motion directly toward you
& your psychosomatic
minute of silence

Reaching Shangri-La
The pressure is incredible
like your heart’s a trampoline
made of glass

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Reef Shadows

Feeding ransom notes into
a parking meter  /  the

ragged evening wind
brushing against

yr eyebrows  /  A little
blood on the dotted

line seals the deal as the
sky drops down

around the knees
of endless night

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

From the Tiki Zone

The fever gives me fever
              just as knowing which way to lean
in a monsoon is a dance you
                              learn the hard way
wrecked on something that
                                                does the trick, like
                              it don’t scrape the soul from the
              pavement (love’s
                              broken tooth smile
              & crushed veins
                                                looking like malaria
                              wrapped in $20 bills

New BLUE PRESS book by Bill Berkson

A fine, classic, and classy set of 9 poems.   Clear, keen-eyed, subversive hilarity, “A panoply of perfect   /   luster bouncing” in sharp perceptive lines.   Cover painting by Mitch Temple.
2008.   5.25” x 8”, saddle-stitched.   $7.00 from Blue Press


The song Willem de Kooning said
He wanted played at his funeral – Frank
Sinatra’s “Saturday Night Is the Loneliest
Night of the Week” – never happened.

What he got instead was selected
Arias from Verdi’s Aida – a scratchy rendition indeed,
As angelic choirs muttered softly among themselves
In unison:   “Aida – fucking Aida.”

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Pocket Confessional

All shot to hell as is the custom here
              Shanty Cruz under leaky blue
                              I meant to say “leafy”
                                                blue sky but either way…
an Apache dance in a culvert pipe
              (scene from a movie I dreamed)
Hong Kong cinema
transmitted by ship-to-shore hieroglyphic radio
              which comes across as
                              a full-rail cutback in a puddle of blue blood

The Coastside Blossom Brigade
out in full force
              as are the junkies & meth divers
so that I bend the iron rods of vision
                              in order to get a better shot but
                                                the mariachis always reel me back
                              like a plastic guitar in the window of
                                                                the 5 Dollar Store on a Sunday
                                                afternoon (which as I understand it
                              means something entirely different in

Monday, August 4, 2008

Balboa Pipe

Drawn to the corrugated
pre-dawn steel & it’s paleolithic
doo-wop siren call I do my
stagger dance down the rocky
cliff trail carved out of mist
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
morning twilight reflecting the iridescence of the sea
or maybe it’s the other way around as both are painted
with a deep rumbling that only gets deeper until it’s
buried within a dull but persistant hum you can tap
into anytime you feel like it, but then again who
would ever want to do that, besides me & the sea-stone
I carry around which will either bring me luck or
weigh me down so that I’ll sink straight to the bottom
Wet sand from here to
forever (low tide)
Something ticking
in my eyes as the mist
turns to a transparent silver
fabric I can roll up
& save for later

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Haiku Sessions

You road down on a steamer
dancing through the turquoise
& the hard luck land of crimson
sunset back to Holyweed just
to say “adios” one more time

The light falling across the lids of graves
late summer sun already at that
autumnal angle

subject to unintelligible radio voices
in the museum of air

The leaves turn in this light as
a dragonfly rests briefly on the
neck of an empty wine bottle
in the dry grass & weeds of a vacant
lot near the beach (blank spaces like
this all over waiting to be filled
in with words

but you never said a thing
traveling as you are
inside the sound of waves

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Seaslug Duckwalk

Get woozy
Catch hepatitis from surfing
Pull an all-nighter studying for your blood test

The weather made me hungry
so I poured a drink I could wade through

When I stepped into the light
my hair grew crooked

& the day slipped from my hands
the way the tide takes a little slide step
& you grind your teeth instead of breathing

Friday, August 1, 2008

Steel Pier Road Kill

After the tinsel evaporates
we get back to divvying up existence
like “I guess you are someone I
thought I knew”
when it turns out you were just
talking to yourself
A light wind moving the top of
your head around inside
the bones of moonlight
like clockwork underwater
& all of it burnt clean to rock bone (the
rush of how night rushes across the sky
& streets (eyes are liquid & keyed in on
but where you cross the broken
line punching out your shadow
barefoot & needing a shave
but some precise measure
degrees of (I don’t know I’ve got it
written down at home along with
the names of some dead
movie stars & their phone numbers
breathing exercises for horn players
& such everything we take for granted
now that the thread & needles
have been safely stashed in your
memory & the beach road is
humming like a wire