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.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Radio Alarm Clock

There was music coming from every direction
& an offshore wind sweeping in from the foothills
A warm wind that made the waves stand up on their hind legs
crosshatched in the doctored photograph
that hung from the rearview mirror

From here it’s a clean shot to the ramshackle
tenements of Shangri-La
steeped in ruin & candlelight
Who knows what other vicarious redemption
holds a rail of saltwater to the floodlit street that cuts like a wing
into the damp night air

I thought it all resembled a tragic misinterpretation of Baudelaire

as intimations of fiscal responsibility dogged my unerring
sense of dread
To walk the streets of forever as they slope down to the sea
was all I wanted.   Palm leaves mumbling in the wind.
Beneath the beach concrete I guess maybe Chumash boxsprings
& faces carved into obsidian mirrors
as if any proof was required.   Anyway you didn’t have to
follow me there to read the soft sky repeating itself above
the wet sand moving beneath my feet

still running the voodoo down

I thought I knew the latin phrase for this
& the green sledgehammer light that filters down to the
ocean floor

Monday, May 9, 2011

If you can’t skid past the diamond light etched in the sky you could always torch a palm tree

…à toutes les tarentelles des côtes…

The light & the dark were perfectly balanced & I staggered through it wearing sunglasses.   It takes a finely threaded stone & a feather of regret to slip the noose aside the pink velvet & tsunami warnings
scanning the dial for the sound of gulls
cemetery shadows
mother of pearl
The Ruins of Time
…all the tarantellas of the coast…
gilded sheetmetal icons with glass eyes & sacrificial beer can huaraches
Han Solo rainwater with a morphine drip
A spoon the color of the sun almost crosses into cool territory
(Tijuana, New Jersey, just south of Zuma)
crippled dreams
bloodshot smile
Egyptian bird head
mythological liquor store clerk
“There wasn’t anything as spooky as those shadows on the pavement”
costa azul
glass beads
raw silk
“leaving & branching”…

From drownpool carnage to neon inscribed I kept the level gaze intact.   The least silken but reed brown greens of kelp-lit eyes & secret watery extensions were my guide.   What daydrums of cypress parse in sonic platitudes along the gypsy string breeze got snagged in high tension wires before I could ascertain the categorical echo.   Dark passage veering off the reverence.   Revelation still a kind of threat with the light streaming through it. A two-headed pit bull nailed to a prop-driven crucifix drowning in the empty pool of sunset if only to rattle the bones of your heart.   When it’s over there’s still a flicker of wine-colored silk & skatewheel tremors receding in the rearview mirror with dactylic precision.   In another century or three all is forgiven.   From the ruins we’ll watch the fog slip in beneath a subliminal sunset following the zig-zag line that runs from low tide to adios as you anticipate a velvet mirror fadeout with that number 4 expression on your face & those empty swimming pool eyes like six pound shadows.

Friday, May 6, 2011

(I Think I’m) Surfing Japanese

Prophecy like pure chance
resulted in Medusa & the two-way mirror
Delphic shadows on the boardwalk
& the cigarette I didn’t smoke on the pier that night

Her hair like dark water crashing against the jetty
drenched in corrugated steel

& with dripping steps up the ruined concrete stairway
back to the overlook parking lot
a heel of sidewalk groaning with albatrossian hang-time
to hold abeyance with sunset hardware
& a grip of dreamless blonde sand

All the baptismal vestments
& drugstore sunglasses required to perform ablutions
pouring water from a plastic gallon jug over my head
before peeling off the black neoprene & throwing on
t-shirt, shorts, sneakers, sweatshirt against the chill
rips & blades of cold air knifing the damp

Who did it matter what incumbent gloom attends
with plumes of mist tuning E-strings in the eucalyptus

Dusty murmur of ragged palm trees attending

& whoever they were they knew my name

Thursday, May 5, 2011

“I can barely / hear my mind rattling” –Lewis MacAdams

I have no idea what time it is (twilight)

late & early

the last time I was here it rained

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Coming Soon...

from University of New Orleans Press

Between the Spaces

There are only three places in that Europe I want to see—
Holland, Hawaii and the Holy Land.

                                                    —Philip Whalen

Following         one, two…
              any number at all

& a chorus of eucalyptus trees

We adorn our flesh with
              words & pictures here
knowing that they too will
                              dissolve in earth or flame
              when the last breath’s taken

                              Difficult to write when eaten up by the
                              desperation of poverty—
                                                it just doesn’t scan

              check check check

It’s ten minutes to sunset

glass shattering in slow motion

              I’ve seen it myself a blue light that
              gets golden & flares out (green)

some of it parked in the labyrinth, outside
                              I want to go back         backwards
the old watusi two-step (not in memory of the
Underworld (earth & sea (LIFTED
However we got there

ocean spills over the edge of the sky

evidently something was lost in the translation
tilted like a gull
above the relentless Pacific

& I meant every word of it

Sunday, May 1, 2011


The late great poet F.A. Nettelbeck gave me this snapshot sometime in the 1990s.   Ghosts.