Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Bill Cunningham on the 1973 Battle of Versailles Fashion Show

Certainly his whole life points to the same conclusion, but in case there was any doubt: a man who tears up at the thought of a saffron jersey dress, worn at the right moment, could only be a mystic.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Bird Cherry

You chosen sober sipper,
crowing sewer, be my ripper,
carry fresh cot-foiled kipper,
come inside

Oh laking glow, you stake and stave
patterned on this pitted cave,
grackle sitting in my grave,
be my guide

Cast your roots and purple gloomy
looted secrets, whisper bloomy
leaflet shells and flame chutes fuming,
flickered wide

Lantern light shaking side-shimmer,
gleam this raking sultan swimmer
touch my web, let outthreads glimmer
back in slides

Make my seams seem like a shadow
silhouetted silver plateau
seraphic word help me sing
that flashlight song upon your wing

It’s only healthy, only decent
to obsess when you have eaten
and drunk that strong wedding water—
in her hand, a band you bought her

Something she wouldn’t regret
throw a bridge, work up a sweat,
make your lungs a gusted harbor
beaten by your lusty ardor

Though the link may never catch
let it sink into your hatch

Disbeliever, quiet praire
some day there’s a bright bird cherry
and a girl that I may marry

There’s no gainsaying the morning
There’s a phosphorescent warning

There’s the borrowed antler beauty
and the branch that blooms right through me

When you’re close I’m nowhere near me
but your glowing always cheers me

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Happy Easter

Come you all: enter into the joy of your Lord. You the first and you the last, receive alike your reward; you rich and you poor, dance together; you sober and you weaklings, celebrate the day; you who have kept the fast and you who have not, rejoice today. The table is richly loaded: enjoy its royal banquet. The calf is a fatted one: let no one go away hungry. ...
He has despoiled Hades by going down into its kingdom, He has angered it by allowing it to taste of his flesh.
-John Chrysostom

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Asesino Lent-o: Four By The Growlers

These first three were recorded almost a year ago, when I kept catching the same cold.

And this one, recently recorded, I'm very happy with.

I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God. As, in a theatre,
The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed
With a hollow rumble of wings, with a movement of darkness on darkness,
And we know that the hills and the trees, the distant panorama
And the bold imposing facade are all being rolled away—
Or as, when an underground train, in the tube, stops too long between stations
And the conversation rises and slowly fades into silence
And you see behind every face the mental emptiness deepen
Leaving only the growing terror of nothing to think about;
Or when, under ether, the mind is conscious but conscious of nothing—
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
Of death and birth.

- from "East Coker" by TS Eliot

Friday, March 30, 2018

Roosters - Elizabeth Bishop

At four o’clock
in the gun-metal blue dark
we hear the first crow of the first cock

just below
the gun-metal blue window
and immediately there is an echo

off in the distance,
then one from the backyard fence,   
then one, with horrible insistence,

grates like a wet match   
from the broccoli patch,
flares, and all over town begins to catch.

Cries galore
come from the water-closet door,
from the dropping-plastered henhouse floor,

where in the blue blur   
their rustling wives admire,
the roosters brace their cruel feet and glare

with stupid eyes
while from their beaks there rise   
the uncontrolled, traditional cries.

Deep from protruding chests   
in green-gold medals dressed,
planned to command and terrorize the rest,

the many wives   
who lead hens’ lives
of being courted and despised;

deep from raw throats   
a senseless order floats
all over town. A rooster gloats

over our beds
from rusty iron sheds
and fences made from old bedsteads,

over our churches
where the tin rooster perches,
over our little wooden northern houses,

making sallies
from all the muddy alleys,
marking out maps like Rand McNally’s:

glass-headed pins,
oil-golds and copper greens,   
anthracite blues, alizarins,

each one an active   
displacement in perspective;
each screaming, “This is where I live!”

Each screaming
“Get up! Stop dreaming!”   
Roosters, what are you projecting?

You, whom the Greeks elected
to shoot at on a post, who struggled   
when sacrificed, you whom they labeled

“Very combative ...”
what right have you to give   
commands and tell us how to live,

cry “Here!” and “Here!”   
and wake us here where are   
unwanted love, conceit and war?

The crown of red
set on your little head
is charged with all your fighting blood.

Yes, that excrescence
makes a most virile presence,
plus all that vulgar beauty of iridescence.

Now in mid-air
by twos they fight each other.   
Down comes a first flame-feather,

and one is flying,
with raging heroism defying   
even the sensation of dying.

And one has fallen,
but still above the town
his torn-out, bloodied feathers drift down;

and what he sung
no matter. He is flung
on the gray ash-heap, lies in dung

with his dead wives   
with open, bloody eyes,
while those metallic feathers oxidize.

St. Peter’s sin
was worse than that of Magdalen   
whose sin was of the flesh alone;

of spirit, Peter’s,
falling, beneath the flares,
among the “servants and officers.”

Old holy sculpture   
could set it all together
in one small scene, past and future:

Christ stands amazed,   
Peter, two fingers raised
to surprised lips, both as if dazed.

But in between
a little cock is seen
carved on a dim column in the travertine,

explained by gallus canit;
flet Petrus underneath it.
There is inescapable hope, the pivot;

yes, and there Peter’s tears   
run down our chanticleer’s   
sides and gem his spurs.

Tear-encrusted thick   
as a medieval relic
he waits. Poor Peter, heart-sick,

still cannot guess
those cock-a-doodles yet might bless,
his dreadful rooster come to mean forgiveness,

a new weathervane   
on basilica and barn,
and that outside the Lateran

there would always be
a bronze cock on a porphyry
pillar so the people and the Pope might see

that even the Prince
of the Apostles long since
had been forgiven, and to convince

all the assembly
that “Deny deny deny”
is not all the roosters cry.

In the morning
a low light is floating
in the backyard, and gilding

from underneath
the broccoli, leaf by leaf;
how could the night have come to grief?

gilding the tiny   
floating swallow’s belly
and lines of pink cloud in the sky,

the day’s preamble
like wandering lines in marble.
The cocks are now almost inaudible.

The sun climbs in,   
following “to see the end,”   
faithful as enemy, or friend.

Good Friday; Stations of the Cross - Malcom Guite

I was lucky to hear Malcom Guite read his sonnet for the 9th Station at the Trying to Say God Conference last June. Even via Skype, it was unforgettable.

VII Jesus falls the second time
Through all our veils and shrouds of daily pain,
Through our bruised bruises and re-opened scars,
He falls and stumbles with us, hurt again
When we are hurt again. With us he bears
The cruel repetitions of our cruelty;
The beatings of already beaten men,
The second rounds of torture, the futility
Of all unheeded pleading, every scream in vain.
And by this fall he finds the fallen souls
Who passed a first, but failed a second trial,
The souls who thought their faith would hold them whole
And found it only held them for a while.
Be with us when the road is twice as long
As we can bear. By weakness make us strong.

IX Jesus falls the third time
He weeps with you and with you he will stay
When all your staying power has run out
You can’t go on, you go on anyway.
He stumbles just beside you when the doubt
That always haunts you, cuts you down at last
And takes away the hope that drove you on.
This is the third fall and it hurts the worst
This long descent through darkness to depression
From which there seems no rising and no will
To rise, or breathe or bear your own heart beat.
Twice you survived; this third will surely kill,
And you could almost wish for that defeat
Except that in the cold hell where you freeze
You find your God beside you on his knees.

       - from "Good Friday; Stations of the Cross" in Sounding the Seasons

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Cabled and calm

I recently remembered some songs I loved as a kid. Consequently, I’ve been feeling little pangs of gratitude at having had a musically genius older brother share with my newly teenaged self, the kind of tunes that’s still send me up a tree.

Back then my way of seeing was largely formed by music, and I had earbuds in so often that it permanently damaged my hearing. Beethoven said, "I will hear in heaven." If I get there, I wanna pretend I can't hear him.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Tom Waits two ways

In Praise of Self-Deprecation - Wislawa Szymborzka

The buzzard has nothing to fault himself with.
Scruples are alien to the black panther.
Piranhas do not doubt the rightness of their actions.
The rattlesnake approves of himself without reservations.
The self-critical jackal does not exist.
The locust, alligator, trichina, horsefly
live as they live and are glad of it.
The killer whale's heart weighs one hundred kilos
but in other respects it is light.
There is nothing more animal-like
than a clear conscience
on the third planet of the Sun.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Incompetent AI: Volume 011010

If you're someone who worries about the takeover of artificially intelligent machines horning in, take comfort in this algorithmic fumble. I've heard Tom Cruise bears a striking resemblance to Tig Notaro, but I've never confused him with Mike Birbiglia.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Lulu's Bakery & Cafe, open 24 hours

Tonight I went to my favorite haunt, Lulu's Bakery & Cafe. It's a downtown diner of the sort Charles Bukowski wrote about in "Nirvana", only with real frenetic substance.

I like going there to do something by myself around other people. "Yeah, this is a good place for that!" my waitress Barbie laughs, adding her tips in the seat left of me at the counter. That's her real name. 

Bob Seger plays and my mind rolls backward: A few years ago I used to stop by every night around 12 with a book, Walker Percy's Love in the Ruins or David Griffith's A Good War is Hard to Find or Douglas Adams' Mostly Harmless. It was there I learned decaf still has some caffeine, the riddle of why six or seven cups left me unable to sleep solved.

On my right was her husband, Freddy, and on the other side of him sat their daughter Penelope, face pressed into the glow of a large broken phone screen. That's another name you don't hear very often. 

"I've waited here hours for her to get off," he tells me. Tonight, or over time? "No, like every night she's here." Wow. That sucks, I say. Aside from the hours, it seems like a pretty good place to work though. "Oh yeah, she makes like $200 a night. This place is always busy." 

Sometimes while waiting for her he goes fishing on the Riverwalk off Josephine Street. He's caught a big catfish and some suckermouths. Catch and release, of course. I wouldn't trust a fish from that part of the river either.

The carne guisada taco is not that good, it's kind of runny, Barbie cautions me. What do you recommend? They both answer, the bean & cheese & potato & bacon taco. Well, how could I not try that?

In between sprints here and around, she complains to him about her day and they talk. Sometimes he yaps as she dashes by, "Hey, I'm hungry!" She still hasn't taken his order. It makes me a little nervous. 

After a while, she yells to him from behind the register, "Queso or gravy?"


"Queso or gravy?"

"On what?"

"On your chicken!"


"On me!" and they laugh.

A few minutes later, "Look what I got you!" she says and slides him a big plate of chicken fried steak and corn and mashed potatoes and gravy as sightly as moonlight on a midnight river.

And my meal was particularly good, too. And the coffee.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Better Things

Anyone who's yet to see the Season 2 finale of Better Things ought to do that first. If you're not planning on seeing it anyway, go right ahead.

A little background: Better Things is a show loosely based on the life of its writer, director, and main actress, the very talented and always hilarious Pamela Adlon. It follows the lives of Sam and her three daughters: Max (Mikey Madison), the oldest; Frankie (Hannah Alligood), the middle; and Duke (Olivia Edward), her youngest. The show also features Sam's mother Phylis, played by Celia Imrie.

In this scene, Sam choreographs a dance sequence as a high school graduation present for Max. It caps an episode in which Max haggles for a mother-free graduation party and then suffers the broken promise of an absentee father during the ceremony.

Pay attention here to their facial expressions: Sam's relaxed and steady focus, her self-assured grin. She knows the dance may go under-appreciated like pretty much all the insane work she puts into parenting, but she wanted to do this thing of beauty for Max, and she's nailing it.

Alligood is exceptionally talented, but whereas her mom is also a professional actress on the show, Frankie is just a child. Like any teen, she's very selective about where she keeps her attention. She's quick-witted like her mother, but brash and inconsiderate in an adolescent way. Still a good kid wanting to rally, she's more careful here, more absorbed in her movements.

Sunday, January 7, 2018


Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes —
Some have got broken — and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school. There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week —
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted — quite unsuccessfully —
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers. Once again
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.
The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,
And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
Be very far off. But, for the time being, here we all are,
Back in the moderate Aristotelian city
Of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid’s geometry
And Newton’s mechanics would account for our experience,
And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it.
It seems to have shrunk during the holidays. The streets
Are much narrower than we remembered; we had forgotten
The office was as depressing as this. To those who have seen
The Child, however dimly, however incredulously,
The Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all.
For the innocent children who whispered so excitedly
Outside the locked door where they knew the presents to be
Grew up when it opened. Now, recollecting that moment
We can repress the joy, but the guilt remains conscious;
Remembering the stable where for once in our lives
Everything became a You and nothing was an It.
And craving the sensation but ignoring the cause,
We look round for something, no matter what, to inhibit
Our self-reflection, and the obvious thing for that purpose
Would be some great suffering. So, once we have met the Son,
We are tempted ever after to pray to the Father;
“Lead us into temptation and evil for our sake.”
They will come, all right, don’t worry; probably in a form
That we do not expect, and certainly with a force
More dreadful than we can imagine. In the meantime
There are bills to be paid, machines to keep in repair,
Irregular verbs to learn, the Time Being to redeem
From insignificance. The happy morning is over,
The night of agony still to come; the time is noon:
When the Spirit must practice his scales of rejoicing
Without even a hostile audience, and the Soul endure
A silence that is neither for nor against her faith
That God’s Will will be done, That, in spite of her prayers,
God will cheat no one, not even the world of its triumph.
He is the Way.
Follow Him through the Land of Unlikeness;
You will see rare beasts, and have unique adventures.
He is the Truth.
Seek Him in the Kingdom of Anxiety;
You will come to a great city that has expected your return for years.
He is the Life.
Love Him in the World of the Flesh;
And at your marriage all its occasions shall dance for joy.