Monday, December 26, 2011

El Camino Unreal

I could have knelt down & kissed the
broken concrete
steps to the beach.
                              I should have known she’d been there.
The caption would be
a dark motel room.   Her yellow polka-dot kimono
was like a crime scene listening at the window.
                                                I might have driven her there
                              & back.   Or paid for her bus ticket
                              down the eucalyptus alleyway
                                                                into the neon eyes of the sea.

Friday, December 23, 2011

GREEK TO ME by Michael Wolfe

The classical Greek remix that underscores these poems serves as both a reference & a backbeat to the lyric resilience of the poet’s voice.   Time is a measure, as is timelessness, & Michael Wolfe’s wristwatch is also a sundial.   In these verses the light in the dark & the dark in the light create a stunning chiaroscuro, leaving you with the feeling that you’ve returned to a place you’ve never been before.   Get your copy from Blue Press.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I’ll take you with me when I go

Heavy breathing with
irrefutable evidence
                              laid across the ruins where in other sentences
              if truth was beauty it is again
but who will be there when the bell rings?

              Aloha blue highlight reels played in reverse
              on a surface of crushed aluminum & wet sand
              as seen through seaweed & a pair of drugstore sunglasses

got the green flash
got ocean eyes
got the rip tide silhouette tumbling in bronze

                              Waves are heard & felt
                                                                            but here even the concrete
                                                ripples beneath our feet

Monday, December 19, 2011

Going Native

Talk of (California) poets

              Whalen, Snyder, Welch claim a piece of it

The only true poet of California is
Joanne Kyger

(William Everson might have known this
but I never got the chance to talk to him)

A   r   c   h   e   t   y   p   e       W  e   s   t

”There is science, logic, reason; there is thought verified by
experience.   And then there is California.”

                                                                        ― Edward Abbey

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Alchemist

TOPANGA RED - You remind me of someone I used to know down in Laguna
DUDE THE OBSCURE - It could have been me, my DNA’s all over that place
TOPANGA RED - Somebody must’ve changed your name though
DUDE THE OBSCURE - Those things happen I guess
TOPANGA RED - It doesn’t bother you?
DUDE THE OBSCURE - Naw, I know who I am most of the time
TOPANGA RED - Just a subtle change in phrasing turns everything around doesn’t it?
DUDE THE OBSCURE - Especially if you sing it in Japanese
TOPANGA RED - So you’re just staggering in the dark like an ex-champ in over his head?
DUDE THE OBSCURE - It all comes down to seeing what you’re looking at
TOPANGA RED - You mean hearing what you listen to
DUDE THE OBSCURE - I have lived along the frayed edges of a practiced distraction

Friday, December 16, 2011

I meant to tell you & now I never will

“California is a tragic country - like Palestine,
like every Promised Land.”

                                                          ―Christopher Isherwood

The late afternoon wind comes in off the water
quite possibly bells
                              ringing somewhere
as you & I turn to stagger
                                                back across the sand

& your soul (if it even exists
I couldn’t say if any of us for certain but
something in the air anyway
besides this damp gray compression of sunlight
reaching down to rap its knuckles against the waves

But it’s night now, nearly night
& the invocation is a rocking number
conceptually challenged
the irrevocable left unspoken as contrast
spanning the pure instruments of sunset
on a street that was named for
1000 hungry ghosts

& meanwhile no one knows us
                              or who we might have been
had the sun lingered just a split-
second longer
                                                above the edge of the sea

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Geography of a Neon Fadeaway

If you listen close to Hawaiian slack-key guitar
              you can hear the soft whisper of what could be
a rockslide out at the edge of your neural system
              but is more likely just a wrecked hula girl
scooping out your brains with a table spoon
                              The waves all blown out late in the
              afternoon w/the wind & that
                                                precious blue reflecting
              back off the dark sheet-metal sky

It was summertime & nothing was easy except you
& the Tibetan Book of the Dead way you parted
              your hair. It made me want to barbeque my
surfboard & confess to crimes that hadn’t been
              committed yet. The light that held you was like
lemonade in a can
                                                while the black silk resolve
in your eyes would send me out for wine & road maps
& I’d return w/workgloves
                              & Mexican beer.

I thought I’d get me a tattoo of fog
              the way it looks riding in across the water
& onto the beach
                              the last day of summer
              & you’re standing there beneath it all
                                                with your seaweed & pearls
the sky dark, the pavement still warm

Friday, December 9, 2011

Was you ever bit by a dead jellyfish?

Not light, not dark, but in between
& proprietary
              just as one thing
leads the other into the next
I gave only that which I could not take
              walking in circles on Front Street near the beach
under the Slowtember sky
                              bleached blonde vato language
& a sea breeze to hear it through
              on either side of your wanting something
whatever the reason
                              will rehearse your eyes against it
all lit up like an Ensenada drug store

Versus the relentless chiaroscuro I’ve got a flashlight
              & a lifetime subscription to
                              the sky over Hermosa Beach
Versus the wild pink yonder I’ve got a full-scale replica of the
              Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan
                              lifted from the blood red turquoise
                                                handpainted on the waves
Versus an avalanche of steam-driven guitars
              I’ve got a minute of silence
                              wearing infinite space like a cement kimono
Versus you just sitting there
              waiting for me to say the wrong thing
                              I’ve got another chorus of
                                                Cowgirl in the Sand

Aside from the fact
                              or because of it
              the light falling
                                                against the water or the
sand or pavement I thought was
              our self-fulfilled prophecy
left on the beach for the tide to find
the virtue inherent in any vice
                              stumbling like a tear
(silken seas, cold crystal flames)
& the calculated risk her silk & lace describe against the
smooth continuum her skin
                                                                insists upon
                                                to be random & percise
unaffected by exposure even
              as those reclusive inventories
                              in the hollows
              parallel to bent strands of pearl indulgence
snap back into the standard pulsing rhythm none of us understand
or really listen to anymore
& down the street from there
                              her shadow falls like a hammer
                                                but the flickering celluloid sky
                                                                                  ain’t feeling it

Friday, December 2, 2011

(They call the wind) Cholita

Wet sand from here to forever
                      and what’s mistaken for a dark white piece of the sky
                      lots of air the ocean the
Places along the way:               highway wrapping around the coast-
1.   Moby Taco                               line assumes a shape a memory
2.   Desolation Surf Shop                   panoramic & in technicolor
3.   Sunset Liquors                       my dreams are seldom black & white
4.   Brew, Chew & Spew               every footstep, wing-flap, fin-splash
5.   Medicine Man’s Drive-Thru               & a rogue bit of cumulus
6.   Tidewater Auto Body                         strung with piano wire
7.   Tiki Time Hawaiian Burgers
8.   Snug Harbor Gas & Go                       kelp blossom
9.   Pacific Pipe & Forge
                                                                          Beer can
              Their flowers
              kiss death                         (gray pavement, crushed velvet)
              on the eyelids

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Needle Beach

“Out beyond the harbor, where the road runs along the beach,
I even lost the feeling of being on land.   The fog and the sea
seemed part of each other.   It was like walking on the bottom
of the sea.   As if I had drowned long ago.”

              ―Eugene O’Neill, from Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Before the miracles & the toxic aftermath
the synthetic profit & loss
drowning in equations no one ever bothered to
sleep it off & start over
but akin to the unrelenting appetite a near surgical
disregard infects the primal dissolution of the tides
whereof the memory runneth not to the contrary
“These are bottlecaps that were his eyes”
as the low-frequency neon in your wrist throbs to the beat
of an antediluvian twist dredged from the tidal swamp
that floods your heart
a heaving rack of surrender but deliberate as the parable
written in braille on the darkside of her thigh
& even if you can’t remember later
the meaning of its silence feeds the passion of your denial
with the usual consequence & valerian scripture
sustained by the vanity of shadows
that don’t register on the pavement
tipping the beach gate grillwork of sea mist & stone
to approximate the tone buried in whispers

Saturday, November 26, 2011


The 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

Monday, November 21, 2011

Beautiful nowhere & the green sledgehammer light

Tell me what it is & who it might resemble
so that I can learn to sleep through the
really important parts
assuming your reluctance is more like a made for TV sequel than
fog laying down
              flat upon the water
                              on the darkest day of summer
in late November
                              lit up like a cigarette in front of a firing squad
which makes your Mexican silver seem even more perfectly timed
your wrists smelling of mud & eucalyptus
I thought of the bells ringing in your own private Tijuana
& what it might look like from a parking lot in Ventura
just before it rains
                              & everywhere you turn it’s going to be there too
no matter how you say it
The tide excavated by all the zeroes in hundreds of thousands of
millions of kalpas played in reverse & rattling
              like the skeleton of a harmonica at three in the morning
which is why the sky tilts down into the sea every afternoon here
                              explains your moist eyes & camouflage lip-gloss
although I had to rename every blade of sand
              from the jetty to the pier & back again
giving all that has been taken
                                          as one untouched by tears might approximate
the lift & sway of palm trees
rocked by waves of nightshade turquoise
shattering the glass pages of a narcotic hymnal
you thought you knew by heart

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Seismic Shift

An ounce of perfume in $300 shoes
Her swan song’s a real rocker

My heart, my beach, my wave, my
beneath the pinwheel sun
(Chumash petroglyph)

              sand castle rotting seaweed sun swarm
                              clawfoot foam debris
              salt mist breath
                                                open & shut
              A biblical haiku in an underwater theme park
              & the god whose death he died

left coast
last coast                     a stillborn radiance
lost coast                     folded into the
                                        irrevocable haze

Monday, November 7, 2011

To reconcile the distance & the time it takes

Shredding the opulent ocean air
she indicates the measure
of tide, of time, & the steps
that take you there & back again

riding in on her half-shell surfboard
a sea nymph I guess
                              she licks her green lips
              with a silver tongue
                                                as a million sunsets ripple in her eyes
lovingly soaked in gasoline

              I still have the photograph
& the scars
                              & the silkscreened cover art
in full color
              even black & white
                              with delicate rainshadow beadwork
so customized
                              except for the ritual
string of pearls

& the long tunnel out

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fluid Tidal Tendencies

This one’s for the
bottle blonde with the suicide eyes
like what’s left when you drain the pool

bought out by Hollywood & Standard Oil
although the entire coastline still resembles
a Tijuana version of Chinatown

Will it still be here after eternity?
A man can play it that way for as long as
he can still unfold a map

or paddle out into the glassy
                              mid-tide sewage effluent
after a 3-day nocturne
              littered with the leftovers
of some half-assed satanic
                              barbeque on the beach

assumes he can pick & choose his demons

Pale turquoise in the shallows gets
darker the farther out you go

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Fro-Zen Pipes

Caught beneath a late Mexican sun
I should be halfway to some ecsatic
break in the action

blossoming like a bloody nose

              How long before your chosen mirror
              reflects that tender urgency
              & reluctance
                              where smoke meets desire
                              if only from her pale insistence
who whispers in a cardiovascular language
the kind of thing you hear only when you’re not
              & any other voice responding
spoken, unspoken
                              hell, I don’t know

There’s something there that will never change

precariously altered by the telling

Monday, October 24, 2011

All Debts Real & Imagined

Knowing the indulgences
& the ripple trail in Latin
landing on water
              sipping at the pale sunlight that
                              tunnels thru a thin layer of smog
to light up palm trees & pelicans
              wrecked on adrenalin & perfume
too near too intricately woven into
what I suppose is my consciousness
                              or something close to that
              tossed like an empty from the railing
as one could summon bare puddles
                              collapsing into their own reflections
like the relics of a failure you could never surrender
to fevered lips
              stung by salt spray lifted from the marathon tide
& a couple million lightyears later
                              it shatters on the sunburnt pavement
outside the Moby Taco
              a block from the beach
& you’re just going to have to wait
                              inside the shadows that strum the palisades
on the next to last day of summer

Monday, October 17, 2011

All Debts Public & Private

Even if I didn’t mean what I said
the tattooed sky would still have tilted
              the way an afterimage remains
                              like a star hooked on shadows
elicits that sad lookaway in the fading light
I figure would take at least 150 pages to
              some days seem endless like a Russian novel
others are more like a failed reality show
              From vaulted cathedral glass
                              to tropic pavements
                                                & sleek getaway
              engines doomed to
                              mortal destiny
              fuel injected
                                                Aztec interiors
              multiplied by degrees of Nowhere
I should have died in TJ that time
              I had my ticket punched & everything
shuffling through the glass pages of every ocean
                              in the backseat at 90 miles an hour
& she was gazing out thru the windshield
              inventing thermodynamics
pictured as a beautiful blue tide
rushing in beneath the burnt-pink windows
of forever

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The one who knocks

As though that which is non negotiable might
consecrate the distance
              between your monsoon balcony
& the long way back
                              across the sand
Flicker of wings maybe
              seashells & eye shadow
if only to articulate the damp strings
& suicide drumroll
              & when they fish you out it’ll be like Christmas
in August
                              as you may hear yourself whisper
the air shaped by eucalyptus leaves the color of
gunmetal pearls
              if there was any other way to say it
the blue girl with the orange lipstick
                              lit from the inside like a japanese lantern
so that the fog seems to genuflect
              on the concrete steps above the beach
& I got there first
the light just easing in thru the mist
                              like the powder in my veins

Friday, October 7, 2011

Angle of Repose

I love the way you bend in the rain
              like a double-jointed palm tree
as the flashlight batteries give out
                              & you blink like a shadow in a
swimming pool

              Arcades of black eternity in blue mascara
                              out there in the rippling seaweed
the meaning of time like a stolen wristwatch
                              described as silver
                                                                & lonely

& everything else the fortune teller
              forgot to say
                                                as gulls carve your name
into the clouds
              leaving no doubt as to the intent
                              painted green
                                                & handcuffed to a tidepool

I guess it’s just another way of not being seen
              although from here it’s all beach pavement
& gasoline

                              & you can sing along if you want to
following these damp footprints back to when you
never knew the difference

                                                rattling in the
tabernacle of silence like a whispered vow or
                              as though that which is non negotiable might
consecrate the distance between your monsoon balcony
& the long way back across the sand

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Radio Silence

Dreamed of Joanne & Donald
walking in Oaxaca
              beneath a sky scorched by
turquoise flames.

              The camera angle was such that
each step reenacted a
                              graceful sadness

usually reserved for a Japanese poem
              read through binoculars
                              on the neighbor’s TV.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Long Trip Out

You occupy a shadow
              (the rain gathering above the beach)
That you were there at all should have been enough

“the forest primeval” / The Florist of Evil

                                                (wouldn’t that be Baudelaire?)

I couldn’t find my sunglasses
& then I did
they were right there where the invisible
skeleton hand left them

              Nietzsche―“When you look into the abyss
              the abyss also looks into you”

Saying anything at all is difficult enough
without having to settle upon One Absolute Meaning

Explanations are
                              almost always a disappointment

              The water was cold
                              the waves had a glassed-in purity
              that shattered into white foam
                                                with plumes of mist flying back

                              the Dragon in the Waves

I don’t know where we’re going but we’ll be there any minute now

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Seems Like Forever

The sky got dark
              & then the rain…

it was more like snorting meth
w/Jacques Cousteau
              than reciting Sailing to Byzantium

& the Tibetan monk you resembled
in profile only
had a crowbar up his sleeve
which is just the thing when your
eyes snap
                              like a rubber band
& the shadow of your heart
wrapped in tinfoil
              discovers a new use for gravity

Behind every lifesize replica there’s
a 12-pack in the fridge
              & a revised history of violence
where the western sky
                              gets tipped on edge
& spills over the horizon
              fading into the irrevocable
haze of your morturary eyes

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Spoonful of Day-Glo Neon

like a door that
              opens on the evening tide
& shuts on every
                              question you never asked
making you feel sexy in the
smog-lit parking lot
              your heart ticking like a time
              just a little something to set alongside the
                              octopus in the bathysphere
& you can watch
the ocean bending its blue-green steel
around the point
                              as the sky gets heavy
& there’s no exit but
              the one
                              eyewitness account
buried in the sand

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Split the Difference

You think it will never end

& then it does

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pacific Standard Time

It’s dark down here on the sand
although the sky’s lit up like
              gnawing on a lightbulb
                              above the crossed-up swell
that propels the pearl-handled

& the way your breathing sort of
creases the air
              makes me want to pull the shade on
a thousand years worth of
                              ocean sunsets

every single one of them
exactly the same

but I’m hooked on whatever
happens after
                              as the streets give up their
trembling denial
              & the moon hauls out it’s
black velvet paintings
              each worth at least a half-
minute of silence
                              pacific standard time

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Catching the stained
glass at dawn

Lost myself in the
original translation
                              taking it as my own
& not as strung-out as I had thought
              walking to the beach alone

Feeling the palm trees sway
in my heart
              tuning up on the fog
the same way the rusted wings of a gull might
reach for frequencies beyond the
                                                pale light
                              that washes up on the sand
just to prove that I can
& do
              as often as you

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Without vows or refuge

Gazing into a mirror where
all I see is
                              reels of smoke
out along the beach road
              where I don’t find you
leaning into the breeze
                              a half mile from here
Every wave wash foam bubble seashell pendant
changing shape before I can switch on the light
& catch them
                              to be turned into sand
                                                                & desperation
divided three ways
              exhausted like Beach Street on Sunday night
so you no longer need to remember
the way the pavement laid down at your feet
                                                nor the condensed
                              sea-shadows that
followed you there

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Then As Now

“Know ye that on the right hand of the Indies
there is an island called California,
very near the terrestrial Paradise…”
(Garci Rodríguez Ordóñez de Montalvo, circa 1510)
where you might remember wind
murmuring in the
leaves (eucalyptus)
                              The voice is familiar but
              what it says is
                                                something you never heard before
& rhyming the way it does with the early morning traffic
on Hwy 1 so much like the crashing of waves
out along the jetty
              I know you’ve felt that same rush
in your veins
                              & the arc of sunrise on your lips
as you are fully aware that the myth of terror
              lights up every third eye you happen to meet

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A bend in the haze

Sifting through the residue of redemption
hoping to find a few coins to get another
can of Tecate before closing time

Neon wrapped in a gauze of seamist
the pretense & conceit
better left for those who can afford it

Silence reverts to
              justification even though it’s
true I may no longer cast a shadow
if I ever did
                              a random act at best

I can only return to the wavy depths that
I never left in the first place
              & the compulsive imperfections
I have stubbornly
                              adhered to all these years

while those I used to know
              & whose company I carried
concede the rhyme
                              in some other world
                                                too far from mine

with words I might have heard
some other time

Friday, September 16, 2011

Circling the Drain

Cutting the cards to the
blank of hearts
              like trance music & sun stroke
to float the memory
                              sleazy but essential

tide shallows & the rocks there imprinted
with scripture of some sort
graffiti that predates any known language
or wireless reception
as maybe scarred with breath

              & no more shipwrecked kimonos
to worship in silhouette
                              where we’re the only survivors left
to blink         in the fog
                                                & wonder why

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Alien Presence

Description:   light
& dark
as if I really had a choice
other than a surfboard carved from granite
& these heartbroke lullabys

Something about taking a telepathic
chihuahua to church
or bumming a smoke outside the health food store
& dripping water & blank sheets of sunset
tying knots in your veins

Nobody ever read the disclaimer appended to your
suicide note
rhyming as it did with these allegorical sunglasses
& the rusted skeleton of a VW van
half-buried in the sand somewhere in Baja

I speak my father’s words I said in a language he
wouldn’t understand

as one always goes alone
drawn towards the empty waves which are
responsible to nothing
but the vicarious epiphany you’ve
chosen to decline
knee-deep in the shorebreak
on the darkest day of summer

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Force of Gravity

Like a message in lipstick scrawled
onto a tidepool mirror
nobody knows what it means but
everyone understands it’ll break if you
drop it which is what keeps us
coming back for more

sworn to green scenes right out of the tide book
w/bubbles & like glistening
catalogs of subtropical flowers
as printed on silk sleeves of fog
& rattling in the heart of oceanic machines
that manufacture thunder & indecision

If I wasn’t there you’d have to
dream up someone else to talk to someone
else who wouldn’t listen because the song the
wind sings in the palm trees is cranked up to
10 on the voodoo dial & if you had wings
you’d probably make a similar sound

but I’m still here & you’re taking it an
octave higher than any dog-eared hymnal would
ever allow & I figured we were more like the light that
dances across a swimming pool cemetery
than stained glass windows in a ’64 El Camino
parked at the bottom of the sea

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Spanish Blood

The fog laid right down on the pavement
3 blocks from the beach

a September morning in Santa Cruz

The light is endless but it doesn’t have anything
to do with us
wherever we walk
holding up our end of Eternity
“Not to be sold east of the San Andreas Fault”

& learning never to ask why
I sold the perfect stranger a dime bag of wet sand
& candlelight

& draining the ocean from my eyes
I might even reconvene the
Mexican stand-off scene from Reservoir Dogs

but in church latin to appease
the god that wears the tiki mask

Friday, September 9, 2011

Sand Buckets

I tossed the I Ching every day for 20 years
as if that might clear the clutter of choices
made & not made
              & even when the coins came up snake eyes
I still paddled out in my
                                                catholic boy wetsuit
              to charge one last mushy beach break
                              before the sun set & the world & you
                                                into darkness

The Chumash were one of the
few native nations to
bury their dead in a prone position
              A single grave would be used for
more than one body
over the years.
                              The bodies were separated by
layers of whale bone.

Reading Ecclesiastes backwards
if only to reinvent the central nervous system of
the ocean at dawn as a vast rippling
slab of cement you can hear rumbling
all the way to Jerusalem

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Feels like Cinemascope

Exiled on the PCH
with a black pajama death wish
sworn to the sticky radiance of
a shipwrecked resolve
looming like a twenty dollar bill at the beer store

I met my doppelgänger there but he had a moustache
& a favorite tune I didn’t recognize
along with a three day hangover that included the
death scene from Hamlet performed in blackface
by a Tahitian mime troupe

The ocean at my right
meant that I was heading south

The swell was not quite epic but close

& as the fog peeled off
                              another blue sky that
              no one’s ever seen before I said
“Come with me, Blanca,
              & I’ll show you the world on fire”

The sunlit haze that parked itself above the beach
was like love at first sight embalmed in kool-aid

Monday, September 5, 2011

September’s Song

Did you hear about the bust on the
eastside?   SWAT team & all
looked like ‘Nam, he said, but
I wouldn’t know…

He bummed a cigarette
& I watched him go

The fog was holding to the coast

The tide was due to rise an hour from now

There was a time I’d have known exactly
when to vault the fence
& hit the water before anyone knew
or cared & I struggled with that burden

to be the best that never was

& walking back across the sand
leaving no footprints or trace
that I’d ever been there at all

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Long Goodbye

Last night I dreamed I was
drinking with Nettelbeck
he’s dead but can still hold his own against
a bottle of tequila

I kept calling him “Mr. Fred”
like the Indian dudes he used to
hang with in southern Oregon

I woke up to a morning threaded thru with
smoke & drizzle
had a bottle of Tecate
instead of a cup of coffee
& eventually made it down to the beach to talk it over
with the dark green shorebreak

When asked of their origins
the Chumash point to the west
out over the Pacific Ocean
as being the home of the First People
a place they call the Land of the Dead
where the Great Spirit lives
in a crystal cave
on the bottom of the sea

Saturday, September 3, 2011

It’s okay to laugh as long as you mean it

I didn’t know where I was going but
I figured I’d be there by noon
w/bells on & a big sombrero
made of smoke & concrete
like Eli Wallach channeling his inner vato
barefoot & doomed

You were already there
having read the movie & seen the book
but it took years before anyone realized
it meant driving around aimlessly
looking for a parking place

& now it’s me
standing face to face
with someone that looks like
the you
I never knew
but with the same grace-
ful disregard that
launched a thousand ships

Friday, September 2, 2011

WAIFS & STRAYS by Micah Ballard

There’s a clip in the documentary Poetry in Motion where Ted Berrigan talks about poetry being something like birds singing. “Yes” he says “I lift my head in song”.   I kept thinking of that while reading Waifs & Strays.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Broken silvergreen sentences sustained by the lyric instability of wet stones blinking in the foam

She was stapled like a cloud
to a corner of the sky
the color of beach pavement
              & I was a wine-stained tombstone cutback
as ominous as a shadow
              falling across a bead curtain
                              in another room

The sunset glass made it a perfect setting for
a soul session with the drainpipe crew
& we danced on the string of a tropical memory
              as she always preferred something euphoric
a tidepool with a fuse in it
for example
                              lit & sputtering
as long as it left a scar

I was as the wind whispering like sand
              across the pavement
& she was a refrigerator full of adrenaline
                              rippling in the dark

Friday, August 26, 2011

Darker Than You

There is lineage & there is volume
& the hollow sound of the parking lot
reflectingly damp
might pry the turquoise from your gaze
launching tears into the waves
like a Mexican alarm clock

That’s just how the Grecian urn crumbles
& I spend the rest of my life in a Polynesian igloo
on Beach Hill, studying
The Obliteration of the Self
As Evidenced in Wittgenstein’s
Surf Almanac

              (a zen masterpiece
                              for windchime & pavement saw)

& although I have no idea what time it is
late & early
              the orange girl in the sea-mist bikini
gathers kelp blossoms
                              somewhere beyond the reef

where I would love to take you some day
but there has to be a reason
each stares down through the other
looking for a way back

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

As rivers, flowing down, become indistinguishable on reaching the sea by giving up their names and forms, so also the illumined soul

A winter’s day in August
dark overcast & damp
flailing about in the murdered waves

How can we not be dark & light & blank
98 percent of the time?

Bells in the tide all the way from The Odyssey
to the latest issue of Surfer’s Journal
& back again

                              a circular pattern

always somehow reassuring

              erodes even the heavy duty concrete seawall
in time nothng more than sand in your sneakers

              a dusty trace of haze in an otherwise
                              empty motel swimming pool

catching a pale neon glow off the
              Upanishads like a puff of smoke

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Death Rides a Horse

i.m., for Jake

The great animal
    having fallen
his massive head thrown
    to the ground
The midnight eyes
    when the light’s gone
reflect the
    heaving silence as
death takes hold
    & kicks to gallop
thunder in the hooves
    like the shuddering
stop of the heart
    & we go where
the breath goes
    when it’s gone

Friday, August 19, 2011

Underwater Camera


It’s probably summertime on Mars
where the fog settles in & the surf is
more like a smear campaign than red dirt
in your sneakers

“Outside, the offshore wind was rising.
The choppy sea at the foot of the street
reflected crumpled light.”
(Ross MacDonald)

Ornamental pavilions of rust
consecrate the shoreline
caught in the glare of fishscale chrome
as far as the eye can see

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

DEAR OXYGEN: New & Selected Poems by Lewis MacAdams

Just released by University of New Orleans Press & now available from Amazon.   Get yourself a copy pronto.

MacAdams is essential.

"Dear Oxygen is a vivid lyrical romp through many tender shared realities, vestigial memories with poetry’s departed great ones (Whalen, Corso, Dorn, Jim Carroll) invoked here as well in heart & ear.   Marvelous love poems, and poems in the company of friends.   Conversations and meditations.   Historical nexus Bolinas beckons and is a site of Outrider survival.   MacAdams’s eye is sharp, his ecological consciousness astute, as he bucks the heartbreaks of modern man and takes on reclamation of the Los Angeles River.   This is a welcome collection, so needed in these times, with a shout out of gratitude to the editor Opstedal who gets it just right.   It is indeed the air to breathe."

“Completely absorbing history of a wise and chivalrous relationship with water, land, and humans.   Intimately heard and phrased.   Ardent, wild, and tender.   A thorough romance with truth.”

“The day doesn’t pass, 45 years since, but that the poems, person, of Lewis MacAdams are by my side.   Art, spirit, heart and wit – classic simpleton’s job: ashes underfoot, misfitted for all but beauty’s smiling sanity.... crazy honor’s faith.... wonder’s fate.   Speech good.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Strumming the valves & hinges

“I could feel the weight of the wave in my head as it moved”
                                                                                    ―Dale Herd

The mystery of a late summer morning
threaded with fog
enough for you to kick up the highbeams
on your Manson lamps
burning a hole through all that damp nothing

There’s a reason you can sit that still for
a minute or two it’s real nice when we can
both suffer like that
              adrift in the River of Souls
tidal river
                              ocean shore
I woke up & I was a black man but
why was everyone calling me “Blondie”?

S   l   o   w         g   l   a   s   s
all green all gray & prehistoric
                              lifts up & crashes in on itself
dark white foam along the jetty
              a lifetime measured out in moments like these
carving across the face of a Tijuana pipe
like bending silver spoons in your sleep

Friday, August 12, 2011

Spanish Antennas

Time stops & starts it doesn’t matter
who you are or where you’re going
you can drink beer & watch cable TV
until you forget your name
& the early morning fog sits on the pier
              in full lotus posture
                              smoking cigarettes
w/Dalai Lama bumper stickers attached
              It was all so real I wanted to
                              set fire to my shoe laces
I said Love makes the sidewalk crooked
              I was thinking of you
but it was a secret
                              a tape measure shot
I never knew where it landed
dark motel room throwdowns w/plenty of ice
If you’re in the right place at the right time the
sunlight sparkles on the waves like the face of an
unknown god who speaks only the language of gulls

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

From Now On

Most of the time I don’t want to know how
              old I am or how much money I don’t have
El Segundo in flashback loops to Santa Cruz
                              by way of the Ventura pier
              bloodstains on the water-
                                                damaged map of my feelings
& thumbing thru a book of matches
              choking on the wind that’s coming in
off the water while a pale neon memory floats
                              between your ambient denial & the
watery edge of forever
              where the mirror bends & the pavement
as yet undefined begins & ends
                              LEANING AGAINST THE RAIN
                                                Jimmy Reed
                                                William Carlos Williams
& some clown waving a psychosomatic flashlight
              from a swimming pool filled with a million dollars
in IOUs
                              I guess there is a resemblance but
from now on I’ll take this stretch at 85 mph
              with the windows rolled down & the radio tuned to
a steel guitar version of
everything you always wanted

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Proximity Effect

“Bring me my Yater Spoon, the eight-six”

WANTED:   Unlimited Everything
palm trees in the wind
wave wash foam bubble seashell pendant
mother of pearl

the meaning of time

plaster stucco Mediterranean-style Mexican facades
I swear would crumble at her touch

sledgehammers in the fog

The ocean slipped past the window just now
nothing can be done about that
Hawaiian music.   Souls returning damp from
beyond the foam...

I wouldn’t take western mysticism too seriously
the Wisdom of the East likewise
depending on the time of day
& who is or isn’t listening.

One step in any direction
& you’re someplace else entirely

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The reading, that was...

Two hours in commuter gridlock 880 traffic to Berzerkeley.   Joanne & Donald waiting at Moe’s, having just arrived after a 45 minute walk from the vicinity of Shattuck & University where, for some mysterious reason, they had parked their car.   We strolled down Telegraph to a little Thai restaurant for beers & food & the latest news.   Then back to Moe’s though we were nearly a half-hour early.   Pamela & Joanne browsing amongst the books.   Donald & I talking to Owen & drinking beer.   A typically small audience trickled in, notable for the absence of “the eternal company”.   I guess the company ain’t that eternal.   About 12 or 14 listeners, certainly enough to bounce the truncated iambic off of.   Owen intros, Donald reads first.   I’m taken by the Canadian vowel sounds rounding off the sly Edward Gorey effect (as Pamela noted later) of the incandescent prose pieces of Blue Chips, then nailing the early rhythms that carry the poems in World at Large.   Altogether a great, solid reading.   Thanks Donald.   I stepped to the lectern & read, alternating between California Redemption Value & Drainpipe Sessions, tossing in a few loose poems just to keep it interesting (for me) as I could hear the miles of surging silence that ate up the lyric intentions that have relentlessly eclipsed anything as prosaic as reason.   Two perhaps interesting out-takes:   1. After reading Walk on the Wet Side I read it again in the voice of Ezra Pound, 2. The spontaneous applause after I read Liquid Sky.   It all went okay I thought, but who really knows, or cares.   Surprised to see Alasatair Johnston, Tinker Green, Christina Fisher & Cedar Sigo there.   We all hung around yakking afterwards, but Joanne & Donald wanted to get back to their “small coastal community in Northern California” rather than moving on to the traditional post-reading bar gathering.   Pamela & I drove them back to Shattuck & University so that they could retrieve their car, & we headed on through the night time traffic of 880 for the hour & a half trip to S.Cruz & a final beer & sleep.   I had dreams that were like random chapters lifted from an abridged version of The Golden Bough as interpreted by Iggy Pop & The Stooges.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Muleskinner Beach

I knew I must have been blessed
because I managed to step in every puddle
between here & there
counting ju ju beads & every mile
like chapter & verse, i.e.
the Seaweed Sutra internalized as
“What do you want me to bring back
that you haven’t seen before?”
& the crab crawl duckwalk
off the end of the pier
meaning more at the moment than
any near rhyme in retrospect
as one could tip the light entanglements
with a chorus line of drag queen mermaids
performing a modified can-can
in the kelp grove just beyond the reef
dissolving like the Tijuana Slough
into a turquoise sacrifice
on a gray marble slab
to defy the grace bestowed
as only a remnant remains
turned inward compiling
an index of beach pavement
for eyes like crushed beer
cans on the silver side of the tide

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Spanish Word

It’s mid-morning between tides
& my heart’s another nickel in the
jukebox.   I’d like to break off a corner
of it on that mushy left dropping in on
the lip of bowl.   That kind of passion digs
in on the dark side of bliss like an aquasonic
boom rattling the cathedral glass that lines the
tide pools just north of here.   I felt like I was
embalmed in the ocean haze.   A bar of
tombstone wax turning into candlelight
in my pocket.   The sky wasn’t the color of
your eyes although it blinked & turned away
as you do when I’m being stupid.
My resumé fit nicely onto a grain of sand.
A grain of sand the size of your fist
your left fist which is roughly the size of
your heart.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Opstedal/Guravich Reading at Moe’s Books

Tuesday, August 2 at 7:30pm.  

Donald Guravich will read from World at Large.   I’ll read a few poems from California Redemption Value and Drainpipe Sessions, and maybe a couple of new works.   It will be something.

Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Somewhere beneath the beach

The late summer sun
as it might have been in counterpoint
              guitar & bulldozer
                              You remember the middle of the
              the beginning & the middle part
as it doesn’t matter how it ends
                                                if it ever does
end & when
                              as anticipated
                                                                the ending
loops around bending eternity
              before everything goes blank
there’s maybe a primer gray ’56 Chevy towing the tide in
I wore the commemorative t-shirt
                              while seagulls were busy slicing up the haze
pelicans paddling in the water near the end of the pier
in meditative posture
              predators are more inclined to meditation it seems
& your heart already vaulting condensed sea shadows
where with ever moving thereby in measure to the tide drops
a saltwater hammer
                              lovingly soaked in gasoline
A sea nymph I guess
                              she licks her green lips
              with a silver tongue
                                                as a million sunsets ripple in her eyes
the pale blue octopus
& the pearl-handled squirt gun

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Under the Volcano (darkslide to pop-shuvit)

Something about the late afternoon breeze

takes me back but I’m still here

              hosing down a westsuit in the backyard
or cooking tortillas on the pavement
                              when I ought to be drifting
                                                like a beer can on the tide
              donating my sunglasses
                                                                to science

& whatever else the wet sand opens up & swallows

              & the chrome grillwork of the summertime sun
like the consolation prize that got
                                                lost in the mail
as I guess one more dented fender of surf
more or less
                              tucked away in a corner of my brain
along with the phone numbers & names
                                                whispered in the rattling palm
leaves like a haiku
              with a hacksaw in it

& what is your piety compared to my deference
              when my wheels lock up on the wall of the
snake run & the sky tips back
                              & everything you thought you knew
is gone

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

EXCESS SPACE by Christina Fisher

Grace to be born & live as variously as possible (saith Frank O’Hara) & I believe that means as singularly as possible as well.   Which is something Christina Fisher strums in her often ecstatic Excess Space, a terrific new chapbook just published by Micah Ballard & Sunnylyn Thibodeaux as part of their ongoing Lew Gallery series.   Christina’s poems are often awestruck & always carefully turning on a pinpoint pivot that might be a place or a moment or a word or image that catches in a halfbeat what several volumes of metaphysical inquiry can only hope to explain.   These poems run on the smooth rhythm of interlocking gears along with the shiny wrench she throws in here & there just to keep them honest.   The subtelties inherent in her capable attention, the light in the dark & the dark in the light, elicit a rare music.   Excess Space has "Room for everyone".   Check it out at Auguste Press.

Monday, July 18, 2011

One day I may truly learn to drink like a fish, but in the meantime

We get that golden aura off the
late afternoon sun & we’re several bottles past
the trembling blue agave light
as at Playa San Pedrito
previously breathing fire & sea-mist
the initials carved there in the half-light
explaining nothing as I can only remember
the taste of her lips & the smooth transition
strumming the wet sand the precious stones
& the smoke even if only reflected
in the dark mirrors that are her eyes
sworn to an almost perfect thirst

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Slipping the Glimpse

My favorite color
                              a full-rail cutback
wind dragging the slope
              the terrace also carved from the rain
& ringing at the center of it
as a shadow would remember some former shape
              on your right a waterfall
                              on your left the glow over China
& one last rusty pipe where you score an 8.5
on a floater that nobody saw

The green silver ripple sound
from the eucalyptus in place of memory
por favor
                              from nerves, with meaning
north of the point
              if you say so
emerald & chrome
                              not to be found in chorus
              or psalm alone
                                                but that it lit fire in the tidepool
& the sunlight bending that way at Venice pier
no different

I still have the photograph
& the scars
                              & the silkscreened cover art
in full color
              even black & white
inked on a wall in the fifth chamber of my heart (the
echo chamber)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

No More Nothing

How often have I answered the call by
    consulting the tide charts to
preempt the shimmering liturgy
    with a slab of beach concrete
from what substance contrary
    running the same tropical diversion
under the influence of wet sand
    but to carry those bare oceans in your eyes
lingering like a puff of Papal smoke
    an inquiry into the motive of the wrong-way driver
no comfort to take & none given
    edging out the better angels so as to claim your
corner of despair with something like gratitude
    & always the same answer flickering
in the shape-shifting haze of
    an otherwise empty sky

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Limited Edition

Because the rainy season eclipsed the spring
this year, the garden spiders got a late start.
It’s July & the little guys have got their tiny webs
set up all around the yard, perfect concentric
circles, so classic & reassuring.   Last year there was
one garden spider the size of a quarter in the fuchsia
on the side of the house.   A most venerable spider
to be sure.   His web was so hardcore & sturdy I thought
he could snag a hummingbird.   Maybe he did.
But winter locked down & he checked out.
This new crop has got quite a way to go to
attain that kind of majesty.   I note their
progress every morning before I head to the beach.
The garden spider has eight eyes, each of which
glitter like a moonless night at the bottom of the sea.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Shade Past Turquoise

Late & early
sea-mist & shadow
thumbing through the glass
pages of a narcotic hymnal

babbling (silence)
inside a veil of metallic palm leaves
transparent medieval tapestries of
claustrophobic beach scenes

The sun burning out like a cigarette
I wrote the tune
a duet for dyslexic seagull
& steel guitar

Except the flapping damp wings
& neon eyeshadow
my job is to remain semi-conscious
for a little while anyway

counting every blade of sand
blown whispering across the pavement
beneath an alka-seltzer sky

Poems in Good Times Santa Cruz

The local weekly paper Good Times Santa Cruz printed a few poems from California Redemption Value.   It's online, but the online version fucked up the line spacing & layout.   Alas.   Fortunately the poems appear as they should in the print version.  

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Slip Stream

The sky dissolves
ocean whispers
something I guess I thought I heard
paddling through a bead of mercury
as the standing moon
rattles like glass fingers
in the early morning fog

I’ll never be here again
although I’ve never left

knowing every ripple in the pavement
& where every shadow falls & when
with tattletale bells & pipes
carving your name on the wind

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Marooned in Sunset Rust

Nothing like nada
                              a drip of blue be-drizzled
                              of green
                                                & galvanized steel

              beneath the dark of the summertime
                              bombing the coast highway
where I get paid in cheeseburgers
              & Mexican beer

Thinking about the seagreen Yater pocket rocket
& the baby Yater spoon
in Dale Herd’s basement
in Beverly Hills

relics not of this world but the next

& from there I drove my mom up to Zuma
for a late lunch wondering how many times I’ve
taken this road or has this road taken me?

All those times I drove it with my eyes shut
so as to feel every bend in the pavement
as it coincides with every wave that curls
in around the point

rippling through the file of polaroid snapshots
in my head the palette of faded colors
reaching from there to here

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Nine seagulls spinning in the sky
random swoop patterns maybe
not so random after all?

“The world is its own magic”

This is your one-way ticket
to the Golden State
1. It Came From the Sea
(a giant octopus ripping the hell out of
the Golden Gate bridge)

2. “I’m going to sit in the sand
& listen to my beard grow”
―Kevin Opstedal


The wind off the water speaks
church Latin
only us former altar boys
know what it means

“S h h h says the Holy Sea”

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Opstedal reading on The Poetry Show (KUSP FM)

Last Sunday, June 26, I was on the radio reading from California Redemption Value.   You can listen to it online.   God knows what the chatter sounds like (I'm not going to listen to it myself) but I did read as many poems as I could.   The Poetry Show.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Built for Sunset

All them immensities of the sea
at dark of noon beneath the midnight
              candles burning in red glass jars on
Mexican voodoo shrines
                              iron saints, Bhikkucitas,
& left-handed martyrs attending

a beach scene as rendered by
Picassos of Duchamps,
Diebenkorns, Ruschas, and
O   p   s   t   e   d   a   l   s

Even the pavement is eloquent
if you listen

North of Malibu
ocean spills over edge of sky
all at once
in B-minor

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Return of the Creature

Amazing Grace, where is thy sting
As she slept I whispered
dulce nadas
to the avenging angel
tattooed on her ankle

Los Lavalamps
reinventing the light as it would
seaward reflect
the walls of a tidepool clock

Sultans of Swing
Whatever drowned indulgence resigns
the threat of remembering obvious
intentions the beach road humming
like a wire exhausted all lingering regret

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

New from Otoliths—"Drainpipe Sessions"


Just released.

Drainpipe Sessions
Kevin Opstedal
44 pages
Otoliths, 2011
$10.00 + p&h

Beneath the relentless surf ghetto aura that pervades these Drainpipe Sessions there is a place where nothing is revealed, acknowledged by the grace of having been there at all.   It’s the catch & release method of poetic composition, the B-side of a once and future flashback, stubbornly adhering to a lyric drive where the measure is meant to be taken in a single breath.   “If poetry is the Atlantis of the arts,” writes Noel Black, “then Kevin Opstedal can breathe under water, and each poem is a pair of shades for a beach blanket apocalypse.”

Available here.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

“There is a fathomless light”

The shattered chrome drainage mirrored on air ripples the mainline stem to float the memory.   Your reflection on the surface of a burnt spoon like the face of Jesus on a tortilla, with redwood stringers glassed in, & diesel sand driven beneath the foam.   We were on the outskirts of an ancient city, like Jerusalem, or Tijuana.   I was there to learn the measure, I said, lighting matches beneath the tidewater architecture & shattered pipes, drizzled in turquoise, in silver, & rust.   Recalling empty parking lots, fjords, & a history of violence, contrary to the haze (my legacy), with mudslide tremors & gaited horses that rustle like palm leaves against the ravished pertinence of so many bronze wings slashing the sky behind you like a kamikaze hood ornament.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Theme from the Unknown

I never learned the art of patience
& at this age I don’t suppose I ever will
the check is eternally in the mail
so that I hear myself say
“Look out for that which swoops down upon ye
in the darkening,
I knew what I was doing
even when I didn’t (know)
as it might be superimposed
the light strumming the valves & hinges
spacing themselves more gracefully than
I would have expected
out along the edge of a drowsy numbness
that was easier to trust than understand

Monday, June 13, 2011

Glass Harmonicas

Whatever is going to happen like it already has.   To what purpose then a late turn in the drop explaining less than that unwritten equation with palm tree silhouettes carved into the sunburnt sky.   I’m holding on only so that I can feel it slip away.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Phone It In

The wind sings the ocean’s anthem
reaching way back to when you first began to fall

“Who swallowed the pearl of wisdom this time?”

some undifferentiated motherfucker…

silver water
ocean beads
              Tsunami Shotgun
                              “When it’s your dice or mine, all
or nothing,
              that she be there in all her splendour”
              (Charles Olson)

& nothing else, a blank page, wiped clean
Desire continuously, or at least driven off the
end of the pier

“When you do something, you should
burn yourself up completely, like a good bonfire,
leaving no trace of yourself”
―Shunryu Suzuki

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tropically Distrubed

“Was you ever bit by a dead jellyfish?”
clairvoyant alcoholics from Downey with buckets
& flashlights (grunion run on Venice Beach some-
time in the mid-sixties
Turkey buzzard gliding over the coast
quick moment
1. think of Lew Welch
2. turn the corner
part of an actual pattern the synopsis of
several dreams I’m still listening to even when
I pretend I’m not (dreaming)
I hear every footstep wing-flap fin-
splash & the Heart Sutra played backwards
on a surfboard strung with piano wire
& just left of the sun there that’s
a rogue bit of cumulus
26,000 miles from home

Monday, June 6, 2011

from The Varieties of Religious Experience

Extended Forecast

Reading the thermometer in Latin, half past Topanga, Santa Barbara & Nagasaki.   A leaf slowly turning yellow, then maybe orange, & later becoming almost translucent?   It’s later than you think, but four hours earlier than that in Samoa, glowing in the dark, a dark like silver, & damp.   We can no longer submit to a compromise so inconclusive, whatever relentless details inform the beach pavement, tilted in the rain, with your picture on the cover.   A cut-off low will bring variable high cloudiness & gusty winds overnight.   The weekend will see monsoon rain & winds riding in on the Pineapple Express, whipping up the waves, channeling the voices of the ancient lost Lemurians.   Begging indulgence without vows or refuge, sinking deep into the underwater pavement, dissolving pearls in gasoline to justify your margins, betrayed by space & time.   The random apprehension where sea meets sky in the pretense & the vapor, to reconcile the distance & the time it takes, steeped in heavy breathing, designed to lull you past the coma.   The lost continent of Lemuria was first discovered by the Vikings during their annual Kon Tiki Barbeque & Surf Competition in the South Pacific.

Stomping with the Lemurians

Augustus Le Plongeon claimed that ancient Mayan writings proved that the Maya of Yucatan were not only older than the later civilizations of Greece and Egypt, but were descendents of a civilization that had existed on the lost continent of Mu (later known as Lemuria).   An Anglo-American explorer named James Churchward, a close friend of Le Plongeon, wrote that the continent of Mu stretched from the Hawaiian Islands to Fiji & from Easter Island to the Marianas.   His findings were set down in the five main volumes of the Mu series published from 1926 to 1931.   By studying various ancient texts Churchward believed he had discovered the existence of the long lost continent that had sunk below the Pacific Ocean after a cataclysmic earthquake approximately 60,000 years earlier.   According to Churchward, the Hawaiian Islands & the Pacific Islands are the remaining mountain peaks of that lost continent.   Madame Elena Petrovna Blavatsky described Lemurians as the third root race to inhabit the earth.   They were egg-laying beings with a third eye that gave them psychic powers & allowed them to function without a brain.

Moment’s Notice

Early morning aerial shot zooming down on a beat-up ‘64 El Camino parked on an empty stretch of the PCH overlooking the beach.   The El Camino is overall a pale sunbleached blue, the hood is bright green, the driver’s side quarter panel painted with rust primer, passenger door black, rear gate white.   There’s a surfboard & a wetsuit in the back.   A man & a woman lean against the front of the car, gazing out at the sea.

MURIEL NITRATE - The ocean is dark like the blood of fuchsias
BENNY IGUNANA - Dedicated to an articulate (though incoherent) neon you might find scribbled onto a spoonful of wet sand

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Less the remnant of a half-forgotten tune

The sunlight filtering down thru a bend in the haze does a rhinestone shimmy out on the water that backpedals to Yokohama.   Pelicans dive into the pavement & come up w/beaks full of hubcaps.   Nothing adds up.   If it ever does I might get hauled away from here in a day-glo blue velvet Cadillac El Dorado w/Eddie Poe behind the wheel & a couple cases of opium-spiked Tecate in the back seat.   That kind of carelessness, it isn’t so easy to master.   Standing on the steps of a more classical rendition of the same war of attrition as my smog blue eyes go blank like the slick rock of exposed tidepools, but slowly swaying like a grass skirt underwater, with hand-carved flames.

from The Varieties of Religious Experience by Kevin Opstedal

Monday, May 30, 2011

As If I Have Seen All This Before

One more “Aloha”
mid-tide, like
the extended version of I’ll Be Your (Broken) Mirror
all fucked up                 (   D   E   S   I   R   E   )
drizzle.        splash.         trickle.         blink.

kelp blossom.

Beer can

gray pavement, crushed velvet
              so customized
                              (except for the ritual
string of pearls)
              Morning, noon & night
(a shadow carved in marble, granite,
steel, ink,
              in six different languages
each one the same)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Horizontal Shift

Dark blue (green) of the sea
      beneath a stainless steel sky and
I’m feeling eventual behind dark
      sunglasses waiting for your
violin solo to pierce the tide
      where even now the stained glass
shatters on rocks older than the
      survival instinct Mexico
disguised as Japan swimming
      closer than the gull-wing mist
that tips your eyes it’s true you’re
      already counting the stars
& I’m whatever reaches back across
      the moist shadow of your breath

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

One More Fadeaway

leaning against the rain

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Rapture the Next Time

I was gonna hoist one to all those
motherfuckers left holding their dicks
when the rapture didn’t
three or four dollars left
in the bottom of the bottle
                one beer can with a fuse in it
The True Meaning of Time
                              & wireless reception
Tell the orange girl
emblamed in the turquoise bikini
              the roach of “whatever”
                                                like a chained dog
                              panting for more
”we which are alive and remain shall be
caught up together with them in the clouds,
to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we
ever be with the Lord”
              Do they ever read their fucking Bible?
“But of that day and hour knoweth no man,
no, not the angels of heaven,
but my Father only”
Truth is I, for one, never paid it any mind
although if it ever was to happen
I'd really dig having a ringside seat

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Invasion of the Body Surfers

We lost it all in a
curled up corner of the sky
tucked like blue velvet over the palisades
but we’ve got the ocean to think about
& an empty parking lot to hold hands with
when we leap beneath the wave
as lit with carbonated sunlight
like beer bottles hurled against the crumbling sea wall
Your inexorable eyes
bend no more than the cycloramic tide
obliquely sequined although I
never thought its prophetic sequel would be
drenched in sunset
lavished with impartial tears
veering on azure blades above the splintered
paradigm its strings recast in silver
unlike the shadow painted on the sand
already rusting in the salt mist that drops like a chunk of concrete
ripped from the page of our
next-to-last last tango

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Leave a Message

Water beneath the ocean
for the sea urchin, for the abalone,
for the suicide’s bath

I never noticed until someone mentioned
there was blood all down the side of my face

wiping the rain from his RayBans

on the flipside of a delta slide version of I Wanna Be Your Dog
                              with subsidiary barking harmonicas
              & tide charts in the upper register

beneath the ripple patterns & regret
tombstoned in the palomino sand

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A surfboard in every refrigerator

Smacking my lips at every pantomime shimmer
that ripples on the surface of your tender denial
(a delicate architecture comprised of fishbones & concrete
or a distant memory of civilization
like spilling seawater on the ocean floor
pelicans of copper & of steel
& silk things that rust at the edges of tide pools
when you’d just as soon park it in a barcalounger on the beach
half buried in the sand)
Such passion skids out of control for those who disregard
true romance
like a lull in the action plastered with million dollar bills
which is why I’m loading the squirt gun with tequila
& rocking the mortuary RayBans             at midnight
with knocks & pings in the terza rima

Saturday, May 14, 2011


I was in high-school when I bought a copy of A Season in Hell & The Drunken Boat at Martindale’s Bookstore in Santa Monica.   It was the New Directions edition translated by Louise Varèse.   I still have it.   Shortly afterwards I picked up a copy of Illuminations, also published by New Directions & translated by Louise Varèse.   This was the beginning of a long association with Rimbaud.   Over the years I’ve sought out every translation of Rimbaud that I could, since my French is pitiful.   I really needed to understand what he was doing & why it worked & kept working for me.   That has yet to be adequately answered, so I continue to read & re-read Rimbaud.   Relentlessly.   I’ve kept the Etienne Carjat 1871 photo of Rimbaud (clipped from a book) on the wall in every room I wrote in since 1974.   It is on the wall above the desk where I’m typing this right now.

A few years ago Duncan McNaughton visited me here in Santa Cruz.   We sat outside drinking beer & shooting the shit.   I told him that I felt Rimbaud is more & more important to me the older I get.   I wish I had immediately written down Duncan’s response.   It was brilliant.   All I can recall is that he said “Of course…” & went on eloquently about the passage in a May 15, 1871 letter to Paul Demeny where Rimbaud famously wrote “Romanticism has never been properly judged”.

Last February when the poet Simon Pettet told me that John Ashbery had done a translation of Illuminations that would be released in the spring I was cautiously stoked.   Now that I’ve had a chance to read it, I say it’s a good, solid translation, but I still prefer the Varèse.

Here’s Ashbery’s translation of section 3 of Rimbaud’s poem Childhood

    In the wood there is a bird, his song stops you and makes you blush.
       There is a clock that doesn’t strike.
       There is a pit with a nest of white creatures.
       There is a cathedral that sinks and a lake that rises.
       There is a little carriage abandoned in the thicket, or that hurtles down the path, trimmed with ribbons.
       There is a troop of child actors in costume, seen on the highway through the edge of the forest.
       Finally, when you are hungry or thirsty, there is someone who chases you away

Compare it to the Varèse translation—

    In the woods there is a bird; his song stops you and makes you blush.
       There is a clock which never strikes.
       There is a hollow with a nest of white beasts.
       There is a cathedral that goes down and a lake that goes up.
       There is a little carriage abandoned in the copse or that goes running down the road beribboned.
       There is a troupe of little actors in costume, glimpsed on the road through the border of the woods.
       And then, when you are hungry and thirsty, there is someone who drives you away.

To my ear the Varèse translation just scans better.   Her version of the last line has always hit me hard.   No other translator has nailed it the way she did.

This is the poem Departure

    Enough seen.   The vision has been encountered in all skies.
       Enough had.   Sounds of cities, in the evening, and in the sunlight, and always.
       Enough known.   The stations of life.—O Sounds and Visions!
       Departure amid new noise and affection!

    Seen enough.   The vision was met with in every air.
       Had enough.   Sounds of cities, in the evening, and in the sun and always.
       Known enough.   Life’s halts.—O Sounds and Visions!
       Departure in new affection and new noise.

Varèse captures the urgency & speed of Rimbaud.   “The vision was met with in every air” is direct & fluid, where “The vision has been encountered in all skies” just stumbles over the troublesome use of the word “encountered”.

I could go on & on, & I often do, & will.   Just my personal take on it, but I’d say if you only read one translation of Illuminations make it the Varèse.   If then you compulsively need to read (like me) other translations, I’d say check out Oliver Bernard’s literal translations first, then Ashbery, Wallace Fowlie, and Wyatt Mason. That’s a start.   There is no real end.