Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Gifts

Two half-moon hubcaps off a ’56 Chevy
A garland of seaweed
A pair of beach-glass earrings shaped like the
history of Buddhism in America
A rusted compass rose
A ticket to see The Flying Burrito Brothers
at Ash Grove, Los Angeles, November 7, 1969
A barnacle-encrusted horse shoe
Chuang Tzu’s butterfly
The rhyme scheme from Gerard Manley Hopkins’ Pied Beauty
Eskimo pajamas

A knowing look from brown eyes that have seen the things
I only thought I saw

Friday, December 20, 2013

There’s a taqueria at the end of every rainbow

Someone says (quite naturally) “Never
eat anything bigger than your head” 

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

A shopping list:
1) Flowers (light & dark)
2) A pavement saw
3) A repair manual for a California fan palm
5) It wasn’t easy but it had to be done

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

From here the ocean is
blue, green, turquoise, white & slightly tilted


This is where the West begins & ends
(the East as well)


I’ll meet you someplace
between where you’re going
& where you’ve been

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

feathery                                 between the stuttering neon
(feathered)                            & the wet pavement
wisps of smoke

Monday, December 16, 2013

Das Gedichtete by Patrick James Dunagan

There’s a wonderful sustained resonance that rings throughout Das Gedichtete, the new chapbbook by Patrick Dunagan.  Whether you hear it with your ears or in some labyrinthine hallway of the mind, it’s like a tuning fork that was struck on the concrete floor of a house of mirrors a hundred years ago, or maybe just a minute ago, but it continues to hum, dialed in to a frequency that causes bubbles to pop in a dream, which describes a presence I think these poems claim. 

I took the assemblage of these lyrics to be both a meditation and an improvisation upon the essays in Adorno’s Night Music, which Dunagan cites as an inspiration, if not a source, or launching pad, for these hauntingly beautiful songs –

Objects in transformation
beloved images
depicted in mental form
evoke memory of Something
no more real
than the scars embedded
upon them
                        (page 6)

There’s no escaping the fact that we are eternally “eavesdropping” on the ventriloquist at work in this artfully composed collage of largely untitled verses.  Dunagan is adept at not only throwing his voice, but at strumming the language.  He is taking a philosophical vocabulary, monotone and appallingly logical, and is tickling out a melody.  This can at first seem merely a poetic exercise, later maybe a bit like hotdogging, but at its core Das Gedichtete is a finely crafted sequence of events that “Go beyond meaning”.  As good a definition of “The Poems” as any.

born into this
eternal delight
how suddenly
it lasts
            (page 18)

Das Gedichtete is published by Ugly Duckling Presse in an elegant chapbook format and only costs $10. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Eric Dolphy’s Third Eye

All dark velvet, darker silk,
you know what I mean,
maybe you’ve been there?
strumming Telluric currents
emerald & steel
& where it falls in the index of beach pavement

shifting sand             There to glance a moment
surging water           carrying a bent tuning fork
                                     & a bag of flashlight batteries

The drumroll pipes in advance of the sea-
tumbling across the arroyo alleyway
between tattoo parlors & dive bars
hustling kelp blossoms beneath
the reliquary palm trees of winter
shadowed in pale sunlight

It’s all within walking distance

drifting sand             Conscious recollection
painted water           arranged in acoustic patterns
                                       maybe you’ve heard it?

Chinese surf music
Engines in the bougainvillea
Peruvian wind chimes

often folded into the origami seascape
half past sunset on Green Dolphin Street

Friday, December 13, 2013

One for Odysseus, Elpenor, Tiresias & all the boys down at the shop

What goes here is now gone
a fleeting memory if even that
mid-morning sunlight slanting in thru the
asian pear tree
yellow leaves that
have their own light
as I’d like to think we all do but
wait until after midnight

hibscus chrysanthemum candelabra flashlight

All it takes is a slight push
the city sliding into the sea from whence
w/torches lit we return

shadows disperse & reconvene in a parking
lot near the beach

& though the tide may carry you away
it sometimes brings you back again
blinking the salt water out of your eyes
staggering beneath the neon glitter of sunlit mist
dragging yr knuckles through the sand

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Little Green Bag

Maybe a minute before sun-
rise the surface of the ocean
its dark iridescence heaving &
falling (a complex delivery system
driven over an edge that seemed so pure
once upon a time)
hammered steel
& velvet & neon eyes blinking


(my name is difficult to pronounce as well)

The cool sand streaked w/tar
dual pipes breaking over the reef
threaded w/mist like
Chinese postcards mailed from Guadalajara

& so down the broken concrete steps
one more time reading the waves as though
they were words on a page

There are moments that reveal
less of what we truly are but
this isn’t one of them

Monday, December 9, 2013

Nevermind the flying robotic jellyfish

Tell me something I don’t
know & we’ll
let it go at that thinking
as the reflection lays flat

by merely looking up
we may be just that
far gone & described
even the long way round

Sometimes we drift like this
gathering what others have
let fall whispering like a
20 dollar bill across the counter

from one hand to another
if you think that way
the one with the floral design
& secret compartment

a system of ropes and pulleys
with which to orchestrate the
evening tide as we should either
hitch that mule up or turn him

out to pasture rather than haul
it all back to a place that possibly
exists only in the mind
A page torn from one Homeric

hymn deserves another but
you can burn out the clutch that way
speed-shifting from cypress to starfish
& back again

That blue sparkle on the water
looks as though it’s been spot-welded
to a piece of sheet-metal
& it’s a brand new day

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Molotov Cocktails for Two

That the sunset sky is soaked in
gasoline speaks for itself
like a mirror smeared w/lipstick

You might want to ask what it means but
that’s the wrong question the
notion of anything having a “meaning”
is a short, dead-end street w/no
interesting scenery at all

I am more inclined toward
listening to bubbles
in the water
quite possibly in Sanskrit

That all this could resemble the bent
fender of a stolen Chevy Malibu is
coincidental like my hand beneath your skirt
driven off a cliff just a few miles south of here

where together we can watch the sunset

which I think you’ll agree
looks like a tangle of bright cold flames
hidden beneath a rock
on the bottom of the sea

Sunday, December 1, 2013

In my paintings

Blood colors
(crimson, vermillion, rust, or
silver) stain the ceremonial
t-shirt & jeans

I could never see the percentage in
dealing in the sacraments
but then I’m always cutting corners

A norteƱo accordion is tuning up on the beach
& for all I know multi-colored tears are filling the
eyes of strangers all over town

Green, pink, orange, & blue perhaps
which is strange for this time of year
when pearls & moths should be the prevailing hue

but just as she would reclaim a thousand ships
& tie them round with a colored ribbon

any color will do

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

An Epithalamium for Joanne & Donald

[A gong is struck offstage, & as the reverberation fades a conch shell trumpets, & then someone rings a bicycle bell.]

CHORUS (comprised of Buddhas, bodhisattvas, sea nymphs, brujas, blacktail deer, a tribe of California quail, & 2 towhees) – Is the paperwork in order?

                        BANG! (backfire from a 1962 Dodge pickup truck)

JOANNE – It took us 35 years to get here.
                                                My hand in yours
Your hand in mine

DONALD – Fairest lady, we are as two currents of water thus intertwined.

CHORUS – Harken ye, the gathered
& those that are scattered far & away,
Devas rise up & take flight
like bubbles from champagne!


[Violins, harmonicas, and Hawaiian slack-key guitars commence, drowning out THE JUDGE ADVOACTE who continues to speak unheard.]

DONALD – The sun shines upon the foggy glass lake & we shall go hence.

CHORUS (accompanied by a seagull & a chainsaw) -  Lo, they are showered with petals of rose & of nasturtium, all hail!

JOANNE – Well!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Go Ahead & Shoot

A wine-stained tombstone cutback
w/a kamikaze cross-step
however improbable
believes in itself.
Everything I know I learned at the movies
but I didn’t mean it that way.
Darkwater eyes blinking in the sun
as slick waves tumble into foam.
I thought I could taste tequila
& feel the warmth of concrete
radiating up thru my sneakers
at midnight
on a street I didn’t recognize.
Just me & “The Poems”
on the wrong side of the beach
looking for a needle in the sand.
Miracles happen when god makes the impossible
possible.  Breathing is essential,
I suppose, although often impractical.
A day half buried in the sand
half washed away in the tide.
“I didn’t even realize it was happening
& then it was done.”
November 19, 2013.  The mind opens & shuts.
I seem to have lost a day.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Silver Eyes & All

Hung on the wall like an ornament
Impossible hydraulic palm trees
rattling in the night on Beach Street
            their several garlands hoist
                        ensigns of light & proportion
into the star-studded moonless sky
with blonde on blonde enameling
just a few dark syllables from where
moist lips press stained glass
begging if you want me to look

“Impossible doesn’t mean very difficult. Very
difficult is winning the Nobel Prize: impossible
is eating the Sun.”    – Lou Reed

Never Apologize: Never Explain
I can’t tell you what I say to the
stars at night because it comes from a
place where there is no language
& no tune to carry it home

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Between terror & lust (w/glass in yr sneakers)

I love when you blink my eyes in the chrome sky
it took me years to get that act down
sharpening the edges to a point where they no longer
cast a shadow

                           I was raised on rusted sunsets
& spoonfed sea mist until I learned the proper footwork

from deep green to turquoise

& now every day is Kung Fu Saturday
with psychosomatic swimming pools the size of Nebraska
rearing up on their hind legs when the wind shifts
& it always does
                             just about this time of day
as the haze gives way to
    kool-aid colors
             served on a half-shell
by an out-of-work exotic dancer in a seaweed bikini
who knows my name 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Exit Music

A Feeling for Leaving
Walk in one door & out the other
An explicit ritual
intended to rattle the ice in your drink but
since there’s nothing like it in the phrase book
let’s just say my heart is like a carburetor
flooded w/salt mist

The Long Goodbye
We did the shuffle then
I guess it was predestined
but we played it too close
The wind said what it had to &
sealed each kiss with airplane glue

3-Part Harmony
You say “Aloha”
I say “Adios”
& the mockingbird says

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Pacific Pipe & Forge Co.

Something doesn’t work, leaky
valve, got bent, blown fuse,
left out in the rain

over-the-counter pain killers not
much good for anything

Hauling water on a shoeless morning in November
takes care of the spiritual calisthenics for the day

No one picked up on the reference to green
nettle tea (Milarepa) so it’ll just have to be
our little secret

We’ll plead the fifth,
as Eddie says, “sometimes
science isn’t good with words”

I had to double-back to make sure it scanned
if only because it was the birthday of John Keats
he would have been 218 years old & most
probably wouldn’t even be able to lift a pen
let alone a flask of laudanum anymore

Keats was born on Halloween
as were two of my 3 sisters

Today is November 2, All Souls Day,
or El Dia de Los Muertos

which along with All Hallows Day &
All Saints Day, as any good Catholic knows,
forms the triduum of Hallowmas

At this time the peek-a-boo veil between the
material world & the spiritual world thins to an
almost transparent layer which is why you may want
to disguise yourself so as not to be recognized
by the dead

Tomorrow the time changes
from Pacific Daylight Time to
Pacific Standard Time

“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”
Milarepa may have said that
& if not he should have

We speak a similar language
but no two people ever speak the
same language

Some things are better for being lost
in translation,
    bent, or broken
maybe that’s just the way it’s
supposed to be

Friday, November 1, 2013

In drifts from out

The clouds lay flat against the western
sky like shadows clinging to a brick
wall which from here resembles the warped
pages of a water-
damaged book
the inscription illegible
a map of veins that have burst within the
suicide morning glories
cascading around your shoulders
You gave them away as if anyone could
along w/the signature bump & grind that made the
coastline easy to understand
but difficult to pin down
whispering the way it sometimes does
in the heart’s house
as though it was the first time
& I’m bending like a blade of sand
against the late & early fogmist
w/the steel drum song of El Pacifico
piped in thru the tide
                        darker than yr eyes 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Deep down in the groove

for Lou Reed

From the lounge act’s raucous
to the last chance tango
across the bare concrete
You were there
when I wasn’t
& I needed that then
the way I need it

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Autumn, Rilke, & the First Winter Swell

A scrap of paper tumbling across the pavement
driven along the gypsy string breeze

I wonder where it’s going
                                                where it’s been

but then doll-like syllables
falling  past the lark & seagull sky
painted in colors I couldn’t begin to describe
distracts me like pebbled glass
in what appears to be a peep show mosaic
they should sell tickets to down on the pier

Summer was very great but now it’s gone
& I’m holding on as best I can
when I should just let go let the surge take me where it will
fog spilling in from Japan on a satellite hook-up
preempted by a late-breaking tide

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

You Don’t Know What Love Is

I had cut the deck to the Ace of Tentacles.  Don’t look back they say but we always do.  The road to Playa de las Palmas was arduous.  I was riding the clutch & she was commenting on the tuck-and-roll upholstery. There are things that are meant to be whispered like seafoam across the sand & I told her so. We had been running on fumes ever since we crossed the border, & we’d gone too far to turn back now.  It’s late at night & it starts to rain.  Windshield wipers slapping like a metronome keeping time.  It’s difficult to see in the blinding glare of oncoming headlights, but is that Janet Leigh hurtling through space towards the Bates Motel?

Monday, October 21, 2013

14 Movies : A Sonnet

for Edward Ainsworth

The Wild Bunch
Cisco Pike
Vanishing Point
Two-Lane Blacktop
The Getaway
Repo Man
The Long Goodbye
The Last Detail
Blade Runner
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
Dog Day Afternoon
Big Wednesday
Apocalypse Now

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Like a trick you can do w/an ordinary deck of cards

The spaceship touches down
on the bluff above the beach
but I’m not worried I got
1) a machete in the car
2) a bottle of pharmaceutical grade tequila
3) & you
looking like Ava Gardner
in The Night of the Iguana

Today is Thursday but it feels more like Taco Tuesday
diving into a puddle of wet sand
& surfacing like the Jack of Hearts

while stolen shoes & a hand-carved contingency plan might
alleviate the symptoms
we’re still hollow-eyed lifers
testing the water on the last coast on earth

& we’ll be here as long as the gods keep sending us these
postcard sunsets signed with love
which is something you find reassuring somehow
but it’s not that kind of love

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Something for the girls back home

Waking up on the bottom of a swimming
pool just in time to take a little siesta
if it wasn’t for the thunder of your eyelashes
& the fierce undertow at low tide
stepping off the sunny side of your gondola
onto concrete damaged like Mike Tyson
or me
w/a bloody nose & a greasy blonde
beneath a sky melting like a box of crayons
in the Painted Desert

That’s what made surfing The Cage so tasty
back in the day
The resurgent blue cut with foam
could be your formal invitation to
death by drowning
& it would be just like
dying of thirst in a monsoon
riding in on the shattered chrome drainage
of a single tear

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Alien vs. Predator, or The Last Days of Disco

She was there when I got back & it was easy to see why she stood sideways with her sisters in every snapshot pasted into her family’s photo album.  The engines in her eyes were designed for another purpose, one that had yet to be exploited.  Her neon lip gloss gave every word she said a luminous presence that made me think of lights along the pier on a foggy night.  She claimed her mirror engaged her.  It was the kind of dance St. Vitus could appreciate.  I responded with a pipeline tango to music performed by a surf punk band called Horse Latitudes.  My shirt got torn in the exchange of pleasantries.  Love is not a dream returning, she said.  A puff of smoke dissolving, leaving a feather-shaped print on the wall, like the shadow of a wing in flight.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Two Wave Hold-Down

The steam-driven calliope churning underwater. 
Bells in the kelp grove. 
A slab of concrete rotting on the beach. 

I’ve got a hymnal full of the stuff. 
All tricked out & rationalized
like a full-metal bikini swamp anchored to the reef
            slowly swaying like a grass skirt beneath the waves
                        with hand-carved flames
as a classical rendition of the same war of attrition
ripples the mainline stem
to float the memory
of bended knees & cracked radiator hoses
                        on the rusty side of the cypress grove
                                    where the tide plays Topsy on a drainpipe
which is never enough it seems nothing ever really is
you had to be there
from the froth of Ocean crossing
to layered transparencies in the book of the evening sky
& I suppose the appropriate body art
which highlights the memorial slideshow
that begins & ends
right here

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Rust never sleeps

Numb w/the relentless details
you could bounce a quarter off the sky
or break an eyeball in a Mexican stand-off
w/the Three Graces
which is reason enough to invoke
Tethys, Amphitrite, Kalypso,
& various lesser sea nymphs & mermaids
cascading vertically on the steps
of an extended vacation
sharpening a southern accent w/a book of Latin
verses & a coping saw
mumbling like no one I know
on a streetcorner in Venice Beach near Sherman Canal
saying “The Egytians built the world’s first
canal almost 4 thousand years ago”
a fact that inspires visions of the pharaohs carrying shovels
& walking sideways
& who knows what desire sleazing up w/the late
afternoon breeze stirring the dust in yr brain
like a black pajama death wish shuffling through beach sand
which could be a
heroic tragic flaw if you’ve got the lungs for it
but with pinpoint hollow eyes reading Ecclesiastes
thru binoculars
in the grip of your own personal endless summer
with all expenses paid
except one

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Reading to Celebrate the Release of Ed Dorn's COLLECTED POEMS

Friday October 4, 7:30 p.m.
2179 Bancroft Way
Berkeley, CA

with Jennifer Dunbar Dorn
and guests:

Maya Dorn
Micah Ballard
Eileein O’Malley Callahan
Steve Dickison
Patrick Dunagan
Stephen Emerson
Gloria Frym
Owen Hill
Joanne Kyger
Duncan McNaughton
Kevin Opstedal
Cedar Sigo
Sunnylyn Thibodeaux

Featuring historic recordings of Ed Dorn
from the SFSU Poetry Center Archives.

Low income $5 at the door
no one turned away for lack of dinero.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Gallons of kool-aid spilling into the sea

There was no place else to go
so I parked it in the spot reserved for those
who have a history of violence
& waited as the tide rushed in
across the sand

No music yet the palm trees on
Beach Street seem to be
gearing up for a rendition of
“Hooray for Hollywood”
buried in a slice of cold ocean water
bite down                     release
burnt kelp, blue agave, morning glory

I know, I read it backwards
on hands & knees     
beneath the display window
A suntan neatly folded over the
balcony of my heart

Silver wrists & fog
drifting in on the wings of Chuang Tzu’s butterfly
as they affect a tropical storm
forming in the Pacific
south of Baja
                                    & the way shadows
fall against her cheek at sundown
as I excavate a smile

5:31 p.m. & the sun is like a turquoise ring
on a finger of fog