Saturday, December 17, 2005

Contrary to Common Belief
Good guys don't always wear white
sometimes they shine leopard green
orange red even yellow

if you want to know a man
watch the way sinewy night
curves next to his sorry spine

why a man fights to wear black
along a taut stretch of hide
how he enters your brown eyes.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

CellPhone Poem 16: More Breaking Up
burned sage smudge sticks in the house
drank vodka & pomegranate juice
spliced my heart saw it beating
there was no getting past you
this number will always have static

Friday, December 02, 2005

CellPhone Poem 15: Waiting for the Call
I'm waiting to get the call in the fumes of the Caldicott Tunnel
or along the MacArthur Maze where I'm queued up to pay the bridge toll,
in traffic listening to the radio CD player boom box in the car next to me,
cellphone ringing waiting for speakers to announce the doctor's diagnosis
if I need surgery got the job when I'll be moving need to pick her up
and what the hell I'm supposed to do now I have nothing
to remind me should've saved your messages
water under the bridge going over in a bucket
everything freezes until coffee spills. My head is hot.

Today I'm sitting in the back of the 72R bus
with a woman talking to her mother,
I know because she keeps saying, "Mom, I love you, Mom.
You have to believe in God and ask for help."
The good daughter of San Pablo with blonde highlights
gets off where I do, but jumps on another bus
spreading her message. The cellphone in my purse is ringing.
My mother died years ago.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The News
it always takes longer than I want for anything to happen in direct proportion to the depth of my longing, which is not to suggest that if I stop insisting the world cough up what it owes me right now, it will happen; au contraire, the forces of watchfulness will be on to my game and make me wait, teach the lesson of submission to the one thing I care about, and just when I think I’ve finally got whatever it is I’ve been looking for, it turns into a squall of hummingbirds, disappears down the red throat of morning.

Braking News
while big cranes slip beneath the Bay Bridge, we two play hooky, out-of-practice after I don’t know how long of hurling Homeric epithets at each other, my green-eyed Econoline van, wearing sweats and peeling down quickly to basic moves that holler back to an earlier time when you weren’t taking pills to keep your heart going, and when I had a full set of lungs; I pedal with my tongue, you inside my mouth; we speed down the hill, brake for hesitation, come crashing into each other. On one side of the bed as you stretch out, I think you must be a cold black star, collapse, and leave me alone.

Bad News
and for years, I sat around believing you’d take action, that everything was going to change, but the exercise machine remained a clothes hanger, the goggles never made it to the pool, and I never made it to your bed, only the breathing machine that slept with you regulating each sigh while you waited for the father you never knew to come home.

Good News
there are always drugs: Lanoxin, Lasix, Carvedilol, Tolinase; your every day over-the-counter Tylenol Extra-Strength, Tylenol Migraine, Tylenol for Right Brain, Aspirin to take every day for the rest of your life, codeine, morphine if you're on a medical plan or have a good dentist, in-your-eye designer shots of Botox, pain-killers, depressants, uppers, downers, antihistamines, glazed maple donuts at two in the morning.

News Update
finished swearing up and down a Targ├ęt parking lot, phoned my friends and authored messages to an old e-mail list announcing how I’d decided to give up the whole damn thing forever, forget about whatever “it” happened to be at that particular moment, except whatever “it” was, bugged me to the height of my crotch; so I take a ride to the Wine Country. Stay in Calistoga where I soak in a heated pool, listen to frogs all night practice their croaking, and I realize they’re speaking my language (!) and I get everything they say, like love me, love me.
Parking Karma
There's a single woman who reaches into her pocket to retrieve car keys, her head lifted slightly, the angle of her chin indicates how far down the street her car is parked. Sometimes I target a car on this side of the fire hydrant near the lamppost; sometimes in front of the bakery. Today the car is outside the pizza store. I see it.

Before she slides into the front seat, she checks the meter, just to know how closely she missed getting a ticket. The thrill. She presses the car remote and pops open the trunk, places two shopping bags next to each other. Straightens a box of tools in the back.

All this time, my right directional signal flashes red stakes out the spot, warning off all challengers who idle by and drive off. It must be my RayBans. I focus again on the owner who turns the key in her ignition and buckles her seat belt. The car hasn't been washed in weeks. A gray streak cascades down the trunk. By now, she knows I'm waiting as she continues her ritual, turns on the radio and adjusts the rear-view directional mirror.

Finally, there's nothing left to do and she pulls away. Now's my chance. I pull in. I'm parked outside the pizza store. A boy standing in the doorway drips a string of cheese from his slice. I think about getting a slice, too. I look at the clock. I need to get to my group.I've been a member for one month. We meet every weekend.

I'm working to extend my parking karma range from two blocks to three.There's someone in my group who's been coming to meetings for a whole year. He can do it from six blocks off.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

CellPhone Poem 14: Breaking Up Where XBox Marks the Spot
The day after Thanksgiving
I'll walk across the Great Mall,

and use a credit card with a revolving account
that turns pennies into gold and gold into health plans,

taller than I ever thought possible, slinky
with thighs like Sonya Blade in Mortal Kombat,

living at the edge of a culvert
where security systems cook dinner for the homeless,

a member of my own Special Forces unit,
carrying a knapsack of turkey bones

wrapped in tinfoil, the power
to grow apartments from pizza crusts,

feeding a voice inside my computer
so I sound like Stephen Hawking on a good day

standing at midnight in the Garden of Eden
wondering what God was doing before he broke out the world.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Cellphone Poem 13: Cancel Service
I robbed banks for two years straight
they never caught me except on camera.

I dressed up whenever I did a job,
the kids were in San Francisco with their grandmother.

Once they started school I'd hoped there'd be more time
for me to pull off the Big One,

wearing heels, a sheath, maybe a skirt.
I was working in the public sector so I had to dress the part,

because my kids needed things and I needed them,
so there you have it. Sure, I have skills.

I could've checked off a bunch of boxes,
but that'd be like sticking a pin up my pinata

on mornings when I walked to the window,
I was the leading lady instead of him giving me orders,

my husband with no hands in his heart,
a man who never got me except between a rock,

and a bed. After I went solo,
he starts calling on the cellphone

saying how much he loves me.
I didn't need to hear that. I was Number One,

but his calls turned me into the CellPhone Bandit,
and then all the law wanted a piece.

I'd become too good at my own game,
robbed more banks than I even had birthdays.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Listening to a Funeral Oration for Rosa Parks
at the Gas Pump

And late enough for me to pull into the station
without queueing up, ignition off, radio on.
I was a pearl onion caught between the big toes of a gas pump,

my week'd been crazy with nothing going on,
a daughter who'd just passed her driving test,
now she's got a California license,

and I'm coming back from the DMV, running again,
slide my ATM card through the slot,
hear the Michigan Governor eulogize Citizen Rosa,

who sat down so that we could stand up,
when it seemed everyone got out of their cars,
filling up on all those free words.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Seinfeld: The Broken Glass Episode
My elbow did it:
pushed a glass over the edge to the kitchen floor.
Suddenly,

the glass had become two-dimensional and garbage,
while I had become a person with one less glass,
but that's what happens when an elbow

starts making its own pointed remarks
(elbows are you listening?).
It was an asymmetry of the universe,

I was one glass down,
and something had to give.
I started sweeping.

I kept sweeping,
started to dream about pulling glass
from the bottom of my feet, saw blood streaming

chandeliers on the ground
crystals to light my way,
which is how I learned to walk on broken glass.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Cingular Wireless: Raise Your Bar From the Basement
Doesn’t getting a promised rebate also constitute being able to use the rebate? I always thought so, but it seems that telephone companies, CingularWireless in particular, has found additional ways to squeeze more money from the consumers' pocket.

Here’s my story. I renewed my cellphone contract, formerly held with AT&T, which was recently bought out by Cingular. This simple act of renewal was its own nightmare, since for some legal or other convoluted reason, even though Cingular bought out AT&T, their data records and customer base aren’t a shared entity. But I digress.

After weeks of phone calling and speaking to innumerable cheery young customer service representatives reading from various scripts, I finally was able to order my phone, which came with a promised $50.00 rebate. However, when the phone itself arrived, it contained no rebate coupon so I needed to spend additional time on the phone. It turned out that this was a Cingular phone, but it had become tainted by my previous association with AT&T, so the coupon had to be ordered through a different path.

Cingular received my rebate request on 8/15/2005, processed the request on 9/07/2005 and I received the card in early November. I know because I kept the paperwork. It took about three months to get the rebate, but as a trained consumer, I was glad when it came. However, this was not a check, but a card, similar to a credit card. I used it to pay for a meal. But it was later rejected at most other places like supermarkets.

I got on the phone again. Through Cingular’s labyrinthine customer service center, I was able to find out that the balance on my card was $15.76. A cheery customer service representative advised me that I could use the remainder of the balance by “splitting the difference” with another card.

Really, should we have to go through all this trouble to use a promised rebate? I think not. Instead, I feel that this is simply a clever way for Cingular to collect some of that $50.00 multiplied by a lot of other frustrated consumers like myself, wearing down our resistance to corporate greed by making everything difficult.

I protest!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

No. 23
Mike dropped off a hundred t-shirts for me to sell in the lobby of the theater. I saw Lulu skulking around outside with her camera in one hand, and her bounty of t-shirts in the other. Don't ask me where Clyde was. Working some job, I guess.

So I had to decide how to balance my newspaper sales of "Homeless Security" with my new inventory item. Thank goodness the theater owner was some kind of weak-kneed liberal who didn't mind me setting up shop to the left of his ticket window. So many of these owners freak whenever they see a homeless person because they think it's going to drive away customers. As long as I keep myself relatively clean, I never find that I'm a scab on the general premises. Why on the contrary. I think I add an interesting mix to the general boring fare that passes by without so much as a look. In fact, that's what I like about selling newspapers.I play a game with myself about who's actually going to see me without storming by like I'm a piece of warmed over shit. Usually, I'm right. Every 20th person or so I can spot some one in the crowd. What do they have in common? Hard to say. I think it's a zig-zagging aura they've got coming off of their fontenelle's where their life spirit sits. Clyde told me that. But never mind. Time for me to get to work.

"Want a paper? He was relatively tall with cute dreads dangling around his face like a shower curtain.

"I bought one from you yesterday."

"What about a t-shirt?"

"I've got a million t-shirts at home."

"I bet you do. But not one like this." I held up Osama's name on the front.

"Is this for real?"

"Sure. This is a grassroots thing."

He shoved his hands into his pockets. "I don't know."

"What if I throw in something you've never seen before?"

"How much did you say it was?"

I knew I had him. I tied my tongue into a knot and his jaw dropped. "That'll be 10 dollars," I said.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Rondeau for the Lost Lenore
Help me to look, for I lost her there
deep in a field, or on a burnt pier,
stuck between two rotten planks of wood,
not making noise, even if she could,
kicking around a shuttle of years.

Long ago I remember she stood
on a fire trail, wearing a fleece hood
loosely, without covering her hair.
Help me to look.

She's gone so long without eating food,
take-out on-the-run that tastes no good.
I'm not sure if I know how to clear
her heart's basement, look in the mirror
when she sang to the singing blood.
Help me to look, for I lost her there.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Yizkor (Memorial) Service
Yom Kippur 2005


I'm watching darkness
embrace a glittering thumbnail
someone had trimmed and left years ago
for the cleaning lady as it rolled across the floor
into breadcrumbs, cat hair, a tissue blown by the opening door
into a tent of good-bye kisses, yet the nail,
painted glow-in-the-dark still blazing pink,
catches the light and is swept from the room
on a braided tassel,

as I follow the meditation,
but keep wandering to thoughts of my new vibrator,
a molded purple plastic water-proof super glide,
waiting for me at home tucked between my socks and panties,
which I bought the weekend before, while doing food shopping
and going for a walk with my friend and her dog,
the solemnity of making our days count,
well, I want to feel good and I need batteries.
That's how I entered the High Holydays. In a blaze.

Monday, October 10, 2005

No.22
We decided to use our existing marketing channels. Granny had the movie theater crowd sewed up, Clyde was going to work the wash-and-dry crowd at the laundromat, and Lulu would concentrate on school cafeterias. But we weren't going to stop there. I was elected responsible for getting the model t-shirt produced, and for designing a Web site to help sell the shirts, and for the ultimate broadcast.

"If we get thousands of people coming out to hear Osama streaming over the web, how's he not going to show up?" I reasoned. Plus, he wouldn't necessarily have to divulge his location, which was key to the success of my plan. I gambled that the opportunity for Osama to speak to a ready-made audience of thousands would be as irresistible as a free-interest loan from the World Bank.

I got busy. I put down my water-bottle next to the computer. First I designed the t-shirt over the Internet, dragging and dropping text and pictures on a handy blank canvas of a white t-shirt. I choose colors, named my date, checking to make sure I wasn't setting a time during Ramadan, and gave the domain name of the site I was building to find more information. Since the domain hadn't been registered yet, I grabbed it: www.osamaspeaks.com. "Hear Osama on www.osamaspeaks.com, May 20, 2006."

Done. I had a highly satisfied sensation that was similar to winning a superbowl pool. I made a mental note to be sure to provide an audio file so whatever came together could be downloaded. Exhilerated, I took another swig of water. But suddenly, the light from my basement window shimmered before me in the shape of Lulu. Time slowed down. She touched my cheek with her hand. I can't remember anything else, except she set up my networks and made them run. Thank God I'm a geek.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Notebook from the Year One
It's a small room I live in,
but the rent's okay,
a bedroom with two windows,
utilities paid.

I sleep on a couch,
I eat on a door,
when company comes,
they sit on the floor.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

No. 21
"It's the theory of market share pressure leading to groundswell," I explained. "We print up thousands of t-shirts announcing a meeting with Osama bin Laden at a certain time and place, say runs of 1,000 at a time and we finance more runs with the sales of previous t-shirts; sell 'em wherever we can, whenever we can, all we do for the next six months or so is sell t-shirts ; I'll build a web site to help us sell the t-shirts. As members of the t-shirt collective, all of you can pocket a certain percentage of the sales; say two percent."

"Five," said Clyde.

"Five," I said. "Then we take things from there. With millions of people publicizing the event and waiting to hear the biggest terrorist of all time speak to them over a public broadcasting system, how can we fail?"

"We need music," said Lulu.

"And to sell food," said Granny.

Then went out for another cup of coffee to discuss the details.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Content Management System

And while I'm waiting for you in the car like an otter
floating beneath a hood of water watching the sky
pull itself into threads of orange taffy, I swam away
to Chicago and the punch press factory near O'Hare Airport,
where I met Johnnie with mahogany skin and red straightened hair
and Eola from New Orleans who said:
"Life's like powder on a powder puff, just ready to blow off;"
and a woman from Argentina who thought I was pretending
not to be Spanish so I wouldn't get deported,
a time in my life just before three-alarm fires

started to go off and I had to skate down the freeway,

when we ate three-course meals in 20 minutes
and heated food in a microwave that smelled like a roach coach.
I remember when the lugging machine punched a hole through my finger
and the foreman drove me to the hospital in his car where I spent the evening
filling out worker's compensation forms, and worked the next day
anyway and didn't make my quota; something about the thinness of the sky,
the way the airplane balances on a diagonal wire
the way Chow Yun Fat did in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,
walking on tree tops,
which is a good trick if you know how to do it.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

No. 20
Clyde, Granny, and I walked the half mile from my apartment to the theater. People were queued up at the bank window. The street was filled with people sipping coffees, and I saw a hold-out with a cigarette who was blowing smoke. Clyde and Granny had fallen a few steps behind. I began looking around the corner for Lulu.

"She'll be there," said Granny.

"There's another one?" he asked.

"Yeah, and this one has a camera."

"Whoa, baby. We're making the papers."

"Only the ones you're smoking."

"I'm sorry, Miss. You can't take pictures without a permit," said an officer to Lulu who was standing in the middle of the street. "You'll have to move." Lulu kept her eyes buried in her frame. The youngish officer, who judging by the peach fuzz on his chin, might've been a rookie assigned to the school crossing on any another day, stepped closer to her side. "I'm sorry, Miss, you're not allowed to stop the traffic. Cars were queued up behind her, and they were honking their horns.

"Lulu, c'mon," I said, stepping into the street.

"D'you know this woman?" the officer asked. He looked a lot taller once I was standing next to him.

"Yes," I said, taking her arm. "Lulu, what are you doing?"

"Well, mostly waiting for you," she said picking her head up. "But I thought I'd get some footage of how we're supporting the oil companies by driving around at different times of the day, in different light. Great diminishing angles from the corner."

"Thanks, Miss," said the officer. "You can't stand here."

"Geez," she said. "You don't have to go ballistic."

"Thanks, Miss," he repeated, "I'm just doing my job." He stepped aside and started to wave traffic on.

"First you get a college education, then you can't get a decent job, and then they want to arrest you. I think the country is going down the tubes."

"Amen, to that said Granny," who'd finally caught up to us.

"Amen to that again," said Clyde.

Lulu put her camera back into her satchel. I introduced Lulu to Clyde. "Granny knows him. He wants to work with us."

"So, Thinktank," he said to me, rolling back on his heels and winking at Granny. "What's next?"

“T-shirts," I said. "We're going into merchandising."

Friday, September 30, 2005

No. 19
[digression] Clyde wanted to join the party, so we head in the direction of the nearest live wire, which to my mind, was Lulu who had struck a chord within my shredded heart. I was hoping that she still planned to meet us in the lobby of the movie theater, whereupon I had a plan to start moving in the direction of Osama bin Laden. As crazy as it seemed, I think I'd fallen upon a foolproof idea. Because if you look at the history of programming languages, they don't last forever, since technology changes, programming styles change, and good languages last only 15 or 20 years; a man like Osama fell into the same category. Let's say he had shelf life, which was only a few years left until he became ho-hum on the international market.

Likewise, I reasoned, but actually, I lost my bookmark of reasoning. I was aware of being able to concentrate more and more less. Prowlie's glass and light was beginning to emerge again in my consciousness and I didn't know what that meant except I had to follow it to its ultimate logical conclusion.

"Paranoid schizophrenic," I'd heard someone once say of me.
[ / digression]

Back to the party.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

No. 18
For breakfast I rustled up two cups of coffee, brewed over a spoonful of instant, and two bowls of assorted dry cereal, poured out from the bottom of a bunch of almost empty cartons. Okay. The cereal was a little stale, but who cares if you've got milk. Right? Sometimes I can sound like a fucking commercial. So Granny stuffed her sleeping bag back into some expandable netting and then spent the rest of the morning in my bathroom cleaning herself up while I danced around waiting to take a piss.

"Come on in," she said. "I don't care."

"Don't look."

"Are you out of your mind? I'm behind a shower curtain."

I pissed, brushed my teeth, and washed up. By the time I got dressed, the water had stopped running, but she was still futzing around in the bathroom.

I decided to sit down at the computer balanced on a snack table outside the kitchen.

"You ready?" she asked after I had almost finished checking my email.

"Huh?" I couldn't believe it. Cleaning up had done things for Granny that I couldn't have imagined. While before she had been some indiscriminate age, a raunchy gnarly thing curled in upon itself, now she appeared radiant, a woman in her late thirties, and her light brown hair; well, it almost had sheen. I was glad to see she was no longer wearing several layers of multi-colored shorts, now dressed in a black shirt with a stained red top, clearly rescued from some Goodwill sale pile.

"Stop looking at me," she said, throwing her bag over her shoulder. "Let's get going. I'm not use to being in one place."

So we walked up the side of the house, past the recyling bins. I saw a man going through my bottles. He looked familiar. "Say, don't I know you from somewhere?" I asked. He was this black guy. All I knew was that he was built like a line-backer.

"I've never seen you before in my life," he said, holding up an aluminum orange soda can.

"Yes, now I know where I saw you. You were the ticket taker at the movies up the street the other night."

"Yeah, what of it?"

"Nothing much. I remember you bumped in to me."

"Hi, Clyde."

"Hi Granny."

"You two know each other?"

Granny nodded. "I know a lot of people."

"So you got yourself a place to stay last night," winked Clyde.

"You can think whatever you want to think."

"Say, you look good cleaned up," he laughed.

"Clyde and I have done street time together," she explained to me. "But right now he's holding down more jobs than you can count on two fingers."

"Three right now," he said. "Going through the recyling bins is a sideline. I work at the theater in the evening, the laundromat across the street in the afternoon, then I haul off the glass whenever I can, and get five cents a bottle."

"I'll probably see you in the theater lobby real soon," she said. "selling newspapers. But in the meantime, I'm going with a couple of these bums to build a mass movement."

"Anything I can make money at?" he asked. " I need time off from one of my jobs."

Sunday, September 18, 2005

No. 17
"I use to be pretty," said Granny, "not that you'd ever believe it," and she held up her hand in my face when I tried to protest. "You don't have to say anything. And my hair! I bet you wouldn't believe that I almost was hired for a shampoo commercial. The people said they'd never seen anyone with the kind of sheen I had in my hair, especially for someone with light brown hair. Light brown hair usually doesn't do much of anything. But I was eating back then. I think it was the nuts. They say peanut oil has a lot of vitamin E."

Was that so, I thought. My hair was starting to thin on top and I wasn't ready to reach for the Rogaine. Maybe I should eat more nuts. "So what happened?"

"I can't wash it, brush it, so I just keep it braided down my back. But it's so dirty, it weighs two tons. I can hardly hold my head up."

"No, I mean about the commercial. For shampoo."

"Oh, that," she laughed. "They hired someone else. And you know what? She scrunched up her face. "That girl hardly had any sheen. She and the photographer were sleeping together."

"Sometimes that happens," I began, wanting to say something to Granny about bum breaks. I kept feeling I had to be nice to her to help make up for society's injustices.

"But that's the way my luck has been. Never knew my father. My mother went crazy by the time I was ten. Not that I really could tell the difference. It was all crazy. I thought that was the way everything was. You could say that these past two years on the streets have been my most sane."

I could tell this was going to be an all-nighter. "What do you mean?"

"You're not interested."

"Why do you say that?"

"You're just being nice. I'm not going to sleep with you. Now don't think just because you're listening to me..."

"I'm not the least bit interested in sleeping with you. First of all, I've got at least four hours of work I still have to do. And second of all, we're on a project together, which means we can't sleep together."

"Why?"

I stumbled for an answer. "Because it's unethical."

"Oh," she said, folding her hands into a neat pile on her lap and looking more relaxed. "So what do you do?

"I'm a programmer," I said.

"TV? Radio?"

"No, I program languages. Like XML."

"What about XXL?"

"Do you program also?"

"That's my t-shirt size." Oh, by the way," she said, "I lied to you before. It wasn't peanuts that gave my hair that sheen. It was rosemary oil."

Rosemary oil. I made a note to ask her tomorrow where I could buy the stuff. If my hair had more sheen, it might help to make up for everything else it was missing. "Good night," I said.

"Good night," she chirped back, and shook out a sleeping bag from somewhere inside her shopping bag upon my old couch.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

No, 16
Granny was now a person with food in her stomach, a situation which definitely agreed with her. We sat on the living room couch; her feet rested on an an unread pile of InfoWorld magazines stacked on my coffee table. Granny didn't talk much. We stayed up for several hours and sat in front of the TV, until I couldn't stall the inevitable. I had to start programming and finance my mass movement {all bathroom jokes aside}.

I knew she was the lady in the house, but beats the hell out of me if I was going to let greasy Granny spend the night sleeping under my blankets. I didn't care how dirty they were {my blankets}, which as far as I was concerned, was nothing compared to eau de Granny. I just thought Lulu had been pretty slick to dump everything into my hands and run off with her video recorder.

"Uhh, I'll make a bed up for you on the couch," I said.

"You're gonna let me sleep here?" she said, startling herself back into a sitting position. "On your couch?"

"Where else? There's only one bed in the apartment."

"You really don't have to do that," she said.

Yeah, and didn't I know it, which is when Granny decided to tell me her life's story.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

No. 15 (continued from July)
We walked to my apartment that was a few blocks away. If this what it took make my life interesting once again, I thought, I was up for it. "So Granny," I asked. Do you like spaghetti?"

"Yes, indeedy, needy," she said. "I've got the sauce." She ransacked her black bag for a moment and pulled out a jar of Newman's Best. "I went shopping this morning," she said to me, and winked. "The trick is getting into the store."

"What do you mean?"

"Don't you know diddley-squat? Granny's gonna teach you. In order to shop, you have to get in the store, and in order to get in the store, you have to get past security, and in order to get past security, it's important they don't know your face."

"So how'd you get past security?"

"A different guy was on duty this morning," she said. "I scored."

"Basil-garlic," I said. "My all-time favorite."

She smiled. "I figure you got a stove in your apartment."

"I even have a loaf of bread," I said and found the key. I jiggled the lock just the right way to open the door. Granny followed me to the refrigerator. "I forgot something." I said.

"Tell me."

I closed the refrigerator door and opened up a few cabinets, realizing that I didn't actually have spaghetti, just another jar of sauce.

Granny's face dropped, but then she recouped. "Heat them up," she said. "We'll have soup."

I did, and we had plenty of bread. But then there was all that Top-Ramen in the back of my closet, and who said you couldn't put sauce on a noodle that comes packaged as its own raft?

"Score," said Granny. "Totally score."

Monday, September 05, 2005

CellPhone Poem 12
Calling to find out if I can go
pearl-diving this evening
inside your mouth,

as I sit on a chair that dreams
of becoming a crocodile
climbing the hills

that turns into a bridge
connecting two short points
to a distance

as I wrap my legs
around whatever it is
we can become.

*
Me? Fine. I know.
You? Okay. Great.
Just for today?

So I'll come over
maybe in a few hours.
Around dinner.

We'll stuff plastic bags
with clothes for people
in New Orleans.

Take them to the Grand Lake Theater
any time from the morning commute hour
all through the night.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

CellPhone Poem 11
It's me. All my important
numbers. Ring tones.
Daffy Duck & Pastures of Plenty.
Beseme Mucho & Beethoven.

All my significant others
gathered beneath one roof
a press away
distilling voices

into the daily grind
blinking when its cell
runneth over
with voice and text messages

video grabs
eyes closed shut
or an abandoned meth lab
there for all to see.

My whole life stripped down
to ankle bracelets
from single shining chip
to shining chip.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

CellPhone Poem 10
So on the day of your eviction
three blue sentinels stood
at the edge of a parking strip,

almost a year
since your father had died
on a Sunday that stretched into police reports,

when sunflowers in the backyard
spit their black and white seeds
into my face.

You hugged me then
mostly because you didn't know what else to do,
before you crawled beneath the linoleum and sub-flooring

and buried yourself hissing my name.
Go away. You are a mother
of Shit Heads.


You said other things to me
I can't repeat
because I am a mother,

and because I'm trying to remember
how you're my son,
who taught me the miracle that life is.

I'm not sure when you started to hate
with the green stare of a cat's eye marble,
who'd already dismissed me from my post.

I don't know how a child can even do that,
you who discovered pill bugs beneath every rock
and tamed snails,

always searching for more
through mint and calendulas,
maybe learning from them

how to hide your terror.
Are you listening?
Can you hear me?

Friday, August 26, 2005

CellPhone Poem_WhatIs
A cellphone poem is music
how we sound

as we dial talk text message
and the breath between

the warm bath
of lymph nodes

that keeps lines open
in our groins back and forth

between listening
and expression

at right angles
broadcasting

I and Thou
me and you

perched on a molded cornice
where a voice speaks its essay:

Hold on, hold on
a soul shift does not occur

in the limelight,
it comes from shadow.

The planet will heat up,
species will die,

but when, and how many
and can we change?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

CellPhone Poem 8
I'm here
walking down the supermarket aisle
where the strawberry yogurt
meets the fish counter.

Why d'you think containers of yogurt
are near the fish counter?
Those two things don't go together.
Yogurt sauce over salmon

is the closest I've ever come
in my whole life to anything like that,
but I don't think it was yogurt,
maybe cream cheese.

I'm here
sitting on the bus counting my change.
The Queen is eating bread and honey.
I said that to be funny.

I'm here speaking to you from the dental chair
in the few minutes I have left to me
before the dental assistant
sticks blue goop in my mouth.

I'm here,
but I'm almost ready to leave.
I've been here all day
standing in line.

What do you mean what tickets?
They're the ones for Andy's birthday
this weekend he was coming in from Fresno
and we were going to take him out.

Remember? I'm sitting in traffic.
Actually, I'm sitting in my car
listening to the radio,
and all I can see are brake lights.

It'll be hours
until I can return
to my reality show. I'm here,
but I want to be home.

Monday, August 22, 2005


CellPhone Poem 7
I'm repeating this again
because it needs to be repeated
like a bobble-head
that keeps waggling its eyes at me.

About time.
About him.
About me.
About place.

A woman warmed her nose
inside a tunnel of fingers. She saw:
eye-gougers, pliers for ripping ears,
a necklace of nails.

There was a small door
in a large wall
covering the spot
where something breathed.

On Hitler's birthday,
he'd served cup cakes
iced with red swastikas
to a guest with 1,000 eyes.

Now the interrogator gets close,
drenched in contempt.
The only thing protecting her
was his jet lag.

Later on, burning tires
floated down a river of oil.
Others sold images of the Virgin
on grilled cheese sandwiches.

About time.
About love.
About face.
About now.

It keeps coming up.
Memory extends my hair
to the next country.
Call me ASAP.

Sunday, August 21, 2005



CellPhone Poem 6
I don't get it.
Why'd he say he'd get in touch
when he didn't?

When the next set starts,
he said he'd call.
That was three weeks ago.

Sitting. I'm almost there.
I'm looking out the window.
Take-out.

You told me
you didn't want to cook.
I don't want to either.

Pick me up. No, rice.
A few minutes.
Stop screaming. I got it.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

CellPhone Poem 5
Waiters are bringing wine to the table
Chardonnay - the house
we have to leave in a half hour

here they come
did you talk to the realtor
about the surge protector?

I can see grass out the window
sprouting over my parent's graves
it's where last time they walked

my friend's test was positive
the cancer is malignant
she wants to lop them both off.
CellPhone Poem 4
Once I jmpd frm a cliff
I had time to fly.
I was a fly-grl.
U so l00kd dwn on me.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

CellPhone Poem 3
I cn taste salt on yr shouldr
as u Ntered me lke you wre throwng
a duffel in2 the bck-seat of a car.
Neithr of us evr l00kd bck.

Friday, August 05, 2005

CellPhone Poem 2:
I called officials from Tokyo,
just like you advised,
gave an interview on prime time,

also an anchor in New York who wanted to know
what I'd eaten for breakfast,
as if viewers hadn't heard

enough about cereal bars
inside the shuttle.
We discussed the wing heat shield.

The anchor wanted to know how it's possible
to peel foam so thin it's like sand.
I told him carefully. We laughed.

But when I talked about earth from outer space
where air appears thinner than the pulsing white
of an eggshell, how the planet's scalp

is scarred with the stump of ridges,
the anchor talked to me during commercial break.
He said to can it.

You, who allowed me
to see creation, I am slow of speech,
and slow of tongue.

*

I am an old voice
that seeps through stone,
one stone at a time,

I am the so-called old man
that has heard way too much
speaking for myself.

Whenever I open my mouth,
it's Biblical.
Who knows what to say?

Do u think it's easy for me sounding
lke this all the time Now u've done it
R you satisfd U don't have to sound lke me

For God's sake u're an astronaut Moses tlked the sme shit
abt nt knwing wht 2 say Wht do u nd?
Sme kind of staff?

Keep rpeatng the sme thng u knw
people hear insde their own holding pattern becse
who wouldn't wnt 2 be held love catches throats

& strngs thm up
wth their own snd
rather than bng loved it's so mch easier.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Cell Phone Poem 1
I'm leaning against a parking meter
looking at a car that's not mine,

but it's a nice car, a two-seater,
taxi-cab yellow sports coupe

blinking aren't I hot from its tail-lights,
and if you follow the arc, spreading its wings,

two molded lines that meet on a hood,
which is to say it's lunch-time,

and I'm hungry for a sandwich with pickles
and stoneground mustard dripping from the side

of a sour dough roll that's been cut
into two halves folded over roast turkey,

but then I couldn't talk on the cellphone,
my ear pressed into the metal,

my ear picking up signals,
listening for a voice that's not there.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

PortFest
The thinness of skateboarders
disappearing into their own silhouettes.

Seagulls on a wooden merry-go-round
that keeps capsizing.

Parents chasing children from running off
the curb of the ocean.

Water steaming sparkle.
Pelicans leap-frogging.

A mandala of pony-tails
tied together with string.

A water bottle of music
with wings.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

No. 14
Money. The bane of my existence. The constant worry of my days, the ultimate sticking point to which I'm stuck -- how to pay bills and become an upstanding member of society with a significant credit debt that will make me one with my brothers and sisters who've been taught, like myself, to be consummate consumers, to owe my soul to the company store, to shop for the best deals, clip coupons, compare notes at the mall, dealer warehouses, showrooms, place items into online shopping carts that I build during the day to replicate the world in a virtual environment where members of the global society can continue to shop, to spend money, to pay for things, because more attention is literally and figuratively paid to being a good consumer than to ever being a good citizen. Do we even know what being a good citizen means anymore? Do we teach these things in our schools? And why do I care so much, why am I hounded by these questions, doubts, by money, the awful and critical decision of what to buy, when, and how much is enough? Some days I want to be like everyone else, just go out and blow a wad of money and not think about the consequences, not wonder about the violence I am doing by consuming more of the world's limited resources simply because I can. What's stopping me? Who's stopping me? What are the limits?

"You've got a far-away look in your eyes," said Lulu, waving her hand in front of my face. "Are you seeing the light again?"

"Far from it."

"So who's got money?" said the woman, "or are you both bums?"

"What's your name?" I asked her, drifting out of my personal fog. Sometimes, I can sit in place for hours and hours and allow my mind to travel without a passport. But that was before I'd discovered my purpose in life and met Lulu.

"Graneviere," she said. "It's a French name. But you can call me Granny. So I still want to know," she said. "Whose got the money and are we eating in or out tonight?"

"I'll see you tomorrow," said Lulu. "I'm going home."

"Meet me in front of the theater at noon," I called to her, and she waved, hitching her bag over her shoulder and disappearing into the bus exhaust at the curb.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

No. 13
We walked outside the coffee shop. The sun was bright. I tripped and had to regain catch myself from falling. "Watch it."

There was this woman sitting huddled outside the door with a stack of newspapers, wearing two pairs of overlapping shorts of different lengths and colors, lime-green and purple, and a hat with a black veil pulled over her face. She shook a stack of newspapers at me like a rattle. The masthead read, "Homeless Security."

"Make a contribution."

"I almost fall and you want me to buy something?"

"Why not? It's the American way. Besides, it was just an accident."

"Then how come you're sitting right there by the door? You deliberately tripped me."

"Get a grip. If you buy a newspaper, I'll show you something amazing."

"Give her a dollar," said Lulu. Some one else came out of the coffee shop and quickly walked away from us.

"Here's your paper," said the woman. Then she showed us something I've never seen anyone do. She tied her tongue into a knot. "It's in the genes," she said, after she'd shown us several times. "They tell me my father could do it, too." She got up from her feet and lifted the black netting from her face. Her face had some nasty-looking pimples that I didn't think was about teenage acne. She looked like she was in her forties.

"You just sit here all day tripping people?" asked Lulu.

"Selling newspapers," she added. "But I don't go tongue-tied for everyone. That was special."

Lulu reached for her video camera. "I can take your picture and show it to you."

Right then, I wished I could've tied Lulu's tongue into a knot, and left it that way.

"Where are you going after you leave here?" the woman asked Lulu.

"We're going to build a mass movement. Why don't you come with us?"

The woman picked up her bundle of newspapers and zipped the fly of one of her shorts. "Sure. I've got nothing better to do. But what're you guys going to use for money?"

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

No. 12
"Not a huge plan," I told her. "More like an outline."

"Outlines are good."

"We've got to find Osama bin Laden and convince him to call for peace because he's the only one who can stop this."

"That's some outline," she said.

"It's the only way."

"Like asking Ariel Sharon to be nice to the Palestinians because he'll feel better in the morning."

"For sure three aspirin and lots of liquids won't help."

"Now you sound like my mother."

"What did she ask you to take when you were sick?"

"Toad's blood and dog drool."

"Lulu!"

"I'm only kidding...so how do you expect to find Osama bin Laden?"

"That's why we have to build a mass movement. Convince enough people everywhere to say that they want an end to the war, that they want to go back home and do things with their friends and family on the weekend, eat a lot of good food, go to the movies, and play music."

She held her forehead with her red fingernails. "That sounds silly."

"What's silly about it?

"First of all, it'll never happen."

"But it can happen," I said, surprising even myself. "Why do we have to accept this crock policians have cooked up?" I said. "I know all about the vail of tears thing, but don't people have a right to live some kind of life that isn't held hostage by policians, greed, and the deals they make?"

"I have to admit, it's a good question."

"So you'll help me?"

"I'll see what I can do. But whatever I do, it's all footage." She hugged her video recorder.

"Deal. By the way, my name is Mike. Mike Powers. "

"I knew that," she said.

Monday, July 18, 2005

No. 11
Just as I was about to answer, I was side-swiped. Deliberately. It was the kind of move I'd seen linebackers make on TV at football games.

"It's you again." It was the ticket taker in the lobby who'd stopped me before on my way in.

"Why'd you do that?"

"You want to talk about it?"

"Yeah." I bulked up my chest with a few quick breaths.

"Hey, man. I don't know about you, but I'm working this morning." He dismissed me and Lulu to the area outside the theater.

"You know that guy?" she asked.

"Not really," I said. "Maybe he needs to do stuff like that to keep his job interesting."

"I wouldn't want to be a ticket-taker," she agreed, and ransacked her purse. She pulled out a tube of chapstick, and ran it over a nasty red bump on her arm. I must've looked puzzled because she said, "It's got lot of vitamin E oil."

"So where do you want to go?" I sized up my partner in the daylight.

"Coffee?" she ventured.

"Sure." We walked down the street where I knew the whereabouts of a cafe that had decent coffee and sold day-old croissants for half the price. Heated up in a microwave, you couldn't tell the difference. In fact, I thought it was pretty decent of the owners to be up front about the freshness of their merchandise. These days, it was hard to know when someone was running a line or a stale roll your way. Except I'd prided myself in knowing the difference.

"You live around here?"

"Yeah," I said, and refrained from any further details. I couldn't be too sure about Lulu. I mean she seemed like an okay girl, but how was I supposed to know she wasn't some plant with runners that would somehow choke me? Let's face it. I've always had problems with personal relationships particularly with women. I can admire them from a distance. But it's the up close and personal that gets me every time. On the other hand, I make a point of taking help where I find it. It's not like I didn't want a social life. Everyone was so busy doing stuff all the time that didn't have any connection to my life. Really, I'm just a family kind of guy who's afraid of commitment.

"So d'you always carry a video camera around with you?" I asked Lulu once we were seated at the table, each set up with our own cup of coffee and croissant.

"I'm thinking of going back to school. Film school," she said. "There's no more money in tech."

She had a point there, but I'd had my fill of studying and writing papers, and couldn't imagine anything less I wanted to do than to go back to school. Right now, it was tech or nothing.

"I'm thinking working with you around this mass movement thing, I can shoot good footage. I need to get a scholarship and the competition is tough."

I took a gulp of coffee and looked at the glass coffee mugs lined up in a row above the espresso machine, and the light reflected on the wall.

"So tell me about this mass movement thing."

"It has something to do with Prowlie."

"Prowlie?"

"Someone you wouldn't know."

She tore end end of her croissant and washed it down with coffee. "You know I think that was pretty gutsy what you did today."

"You did?"

"Sure, most guys I know would never take that kind of risk."

I reassured her, "I've never done anything like that before."

"Just what I thought. I figured you needed a partner in crime."

"I'm not about anything illegal."

"Hey man, it's just a figure of speech." She folded her arms on the table. "So what's the plan?"

I took a deep breath. "I don't really have one."

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Still Life
Skin along my arms is starting to curdle
into waves that cannot be hidden
by exercise class or body lotion.

Maybe I'll melt into moisture
between my two pressed thighs,
or offer a kiss of peppermint,

green and fragile, to a new love.
My books stand upright. Their spines face me
in shelves, some are scattered on a table.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Data Hublet
It was one of those relaxing Saturday mornings where I had a chance to look at my loveable geek sitting behind something other than his souped-up laptop computer. Actually, he was slumped behind the kitchen table and was sipping tea, not his usual double-strength French roast.

"What's wrong?" I asked the geek.

He placed the porcelain cup that I'd bought at a local garage sale on the bridge table. Despite all stereotypes, not all geeks make a lot of money,at least not this one.

"What do you mean?" he crinkled his one brow at me that the boys on "Gay Eye for the Straight Guy" would've just loved to wax.

I stepped up to the plate. "Well, I said, two things," having learned to enumerate things clearly enough so that my geek could go right to the source with a minimum of distraction. "Number one, you're sitting here instead of your office. And number two," I said, stirring the half-and-half into my own coffee cup, you're drinking tea. Tea!"

Behind his hazel eyes, I recognized slight hurt. "Today I've decided I like tea. Besides, I'm designing a data hub," he said softly. "And I need something different."

And was I chopped liver? Last night he'd had a glass a wine with me, but had disappeared for the rest of the evening to "think about things." I should've known better than to even ask, but then again, I'm a glutton for punishment. "A data what?"

"It has to do with business objects."

I hated when he did that, rolling something out there to tease me, and then leaving it alone again. He knew I'd bite. "Okay. I'm listening."

"A data hub guarantees a master identity for a given business object, such as a customer, or a product."

There was nowhere to run or hide. "Say again."

"Say you're in the supermarket and you have a bunch of stuff in your shopping cart." I'd heard enough about shopping carts to last a lifetime. "I mean a real shopping cart," he interjected, recognizing my blank stare. "Say that each item in your shopping cart has a memory about the exact place it had come from on each aisle, and from any section of the shelf."

I nodded appropriately. "Well," he brightened, "your shopping cart would be a data hub with the ability to unify and reconcile common data across a collection of information systems."

I could see that something had clicked for him. Today it wasn't me. But there was always tomorrow. He put down his tea cup, and went to his desk.

Monday, July 11, 2005

At the Summit of Mt. Madonna
Green and purple throated, a hummingbird grazes my arm
en route to Penstemons where it lunges into red,
every thrust a bounce.

Soon hummingbird will parry Gilias open, first me

who laid on a wooden deck, slats against my back,
moved my hand once to shield my eyes,
but then to the garden

with thoughts of my son's refusal
to find comfort anywhere.
Suddenly, the bird hang-glides

three inches from my nose while I watch its wings vibrate
sizing me up, deciding if I'm another Penstemon,

and I forget about tracing meaning from events
on the back of my eyes.

Now the bird whips my new red hair at high-speed.
I dyed it last night. I could be a flower,
open my mouth to speak, but stop.

The hummingbird flies to the Gilias.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Remembering Memorial Day
what it felt to be who I always was
myself by the beach watching
ocean curl itself into rollers
surrounded by trees, a powder puff
on earth's shingle surface scratching
the air's back;
hormonal love gone,
a Fallopian call for children
gourded into glass and stone
of kitchen linoleum,
what is love now, who am I,
what do I need?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

No. 10 Will Come Again
Everyone left the theater, still chanting on their way out, "Remember Abu Ghraib."

The riot guys surrounded me on stage with daggers in their eyes. "Hey, Mike, you creep." I didn't know that was my middle name. "You better pay up."

"Yeah, we're all expecting those freebies you promised on our search engines."

I wanted to tell them that Google could sell them a product to do it better, but didn't think this was the best time.

"Don't forget, bub," said the Nike GI Joe. "You owe us," he said, putting down his toy Uzi. "Man, how I want to get out of these clothes."

They all left, leaving me on the stage with my chin still balanced on the parquet floor.

"How could you?" asked the woman with the video recorder.

Clearly, the cinema's janitorial contract didn't include sweeping the stage. I dusted myself off. "What do you mean?"

"Excuse me?" She was easy to look at, one of those gym nut types with trim biceps and rounded calves, a sleeve of tatoos ran down one tanned arm and ended with a rose. She kept waving those biceps , making her hair move in a smooth brown curtain. "You pull off this hoax and you ask me what?"

"No hoax. I was being dramatic."

"Great. You're more out of your mind than I thought. My name's Lulu," she said, and extended a hand full of painted red fingernails.

"Mike," I said.

She was packing her video recorder into a leather satchel. "So explain. What were you doing?"

"I was trying to build a mass movement."

"A mass what?"

"I figured everyone was busy all the time doing nothing because we didn't know what to do about anything. So I wanted to find something we could do together."

"Like what?"

"Convince Osama bin Laden to call for world peace because if he steps up to the plate, then the rest of the big leaguers will have to play ball with him."

She shook her head. "You call that a strategy?"

"You got something better?" We were almost out the front entrance. "But now I've ruined everything. I've got all those people mad at me for being a fake. I can just forget everything."

"But don't you see?" she said. "You got everyone to start chanting around the theater. It worked."

I hadn't considered that. "You're right!" I said. "Will you help me to build a mass movement?"

She swung the satchel over her shoulder. "Sure," she said. "I don't have any contracts right now."

"The economy's been in the toilet," I said as we walked out together.

She asked, "You in high-tech also?"

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

No. 9 By Design
Which is where I wanted to be, to go home wherever that was. Any place as long as it was far away from my comic book life.

The Nike guy lifted his heel from the back of my head. "Stop that stuff," I heard him say. "C'mon, you don't have to do that." I heard scuffling, but all I could think of was that my arms hurt twisted behind my back, something I hadn't bargained for.

Prowlie and I had met on Glass Beach near Fort Bragg, a place that had begun after World War II as a city dump, but had changed in my lifetime as the best place this side of the Mississippi River to hunt for beach glass, all kinds of it, blue, green, softly mottled shades of white. It was during the time when I went to community college and was on spring break. We were both at Glass Beach going through the dump and did some trades. He said he had a customer for the purple glass I'd found.

"Hold this glass up to the sun," he said extending the purple shard my way, "and tell me what you see." We ended up spending the rest of the afternoon together and I slept in his rust-bucket trailer.


"Sarge, let's leave," one of the riot gear guys said, dropping a gun to his side. "I don't want to be arrested."

"Wus," hissed the Nike sarge, and stepped on my head harder.

"You're enjoying this way to much," I said to him.

I saw someone else come up to the stage and whisper something in the sarge's ear. In the meantime, the chorus of "Remember Abu Ghraib," was getting louder. People were pouring out into the aisles and walking around the back and the front of the cinema. Even though this was only the morning, other people were walking from off the street to find out what was going on.

In a few minutes, the cinema manager was on the scene. He said to me, "Hey, we didn't talk about my losing money. I thought you were going to work on my Web site." Then he ordered everyone in a voice that was louder than any Dolby system, "Get your sorry asses out of here. All of you."

Monday, May 23, 2005

No. 8 Stays at the Gate
As I lay there with my nose flattened on the wooden floor, all I could think about was Prowlie, my childhood friend who taught me how to cash in beer bottles for their resale value, and how to fool a fish into tasting the disguised metal of a hook.

Prowlie, a lean bean-pole of a man whose head was balanced upon a lancet of spine, got his name because he always hung out in one of the many parking lots that fronted Highway 1. He was a working man, and made his living by hustling tourists who got in and out of their cars, offering recommendations for the best hamburger joint along the coast, the best place to see wildflowers on the other side of the rainy season, where to go to get a transmission fixed without paying an arm and a leg, and where to buy anything else you wanted. Of course, Prowlie had a complicated system of referrals and kick-backs, which were all invisible to his customers and to their whining kids. But at the end of the day, Prowlie never felt he was taking advantage of anybody; no, he was a one-man Chamber of Commerce.

He dressed the part, too, convinced me to let go of a broad-brimmed hat because he said it made him look, "dignified," and always wore a belt in his pants; knew enough about keeping his hands and feet clean and chewing a toothpick to keep his teeth healthy. Tourists wouldn't allow just anybody to sidle up to their SUVs. It took a special kind of person.

His customers gave him something back, too. They told them their stories. How they hated their jobs, or hated their wives and husbands, how they wished they'd moved up to the coast to be near nature but never had the nerve, or how they were driving to a funeral or to visit the redwoods for the very first time.

Prowlie loved the redwoods. He said his mother bore him in a grove outside of Crescent City. "I'm just like the salmon," he told me. "I want to keep going back."
No. 7 is no Trip to 7-11
They pulled my arms behind my back and one of the was forcing me to the floor, all this in front of about 300 witnesses. "Geez," I thought these guys are stupid." One of them looked a lot like the guy popping milk duds in the front row except his Nikes were really clean. I knew because his white laces were almost running a plumbline inside my nostrils.

"You can't do this," I said, choking on my saliva. "Did you ever hear of freedom of assembly?" By this time I was lying spread-eagled with my head downstage.

Nike guy guffawed. "Wise guy, huh. Did you hear what he said?" I think he was addressing the audience. "Ever hear of Homeland Security?"

"Hey, Bub. This is a seminar on outsourcing messages," said the milk duds guy in the front row, who stood up and stacked his double-chins into a single column.

"Huh?" said the Nike guy, digging his paws into my arm.

"This is a technical seminar," said milk duds. "I've got witnesses," and he pointed to the audience. "We all came here this morning to learn something. Now I know what."

A woman swept a recorder above her head. "You're in a shit load of trouble. And I've got the video to prove it." Then she shouted, "Remember Abu Ghraib."

Suddenly, everyone starting chanting with her, "Remember Abu Ghraib, Remember Abu Ghraib," and the guy pinning me to the floor was starting to turn the same color as his Nikes. The rest of the riot squad was left standing in the aisles.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

No. 6 is Quick
Venus was in retrograde, but I wanted to give this group of Busyites who could've just as easily gone to their jobs and slept until noon instead of coming here, their money's worth.

"What we need to do will change tide tables. What we have to do will make each one of us grow two feet. We need to find Osama bin Laden and talk about peace. Because unless we start talking, it's a big mumble. And there's nothing like a terrorist with clout in Washington. Then our days and nights will grow more rhythmic, and we won't wait for the next thing to divert our brains. We'll be able to feel each other."

But before I could put my lips together for the next word, the cinema doors were pushed open by several dozen officers dressed in riot gear. They rushed to the stage. "Arrest that motherfucker! Arrest that terrorist!" I realized they were pointing at me.

Friday, May 20, 2005

No. 5 is no Jive
"Who do you think you are?," asked a large Afro-American man whose jacket had a single button that rested at the widest point of his stomach.

"I'm doing the show."

"But where's your ticket?"

"I don't need a ticket." He waved me inside with an annoyed snort.

So there I was on the stage in my jeans and t-shirt watching people find a seat. It was amazing to witness the numbers of my colleagues who wanted to postpone the inevitability of going to work on a Monday morning. The first third of the theater was filling up. The Egyptian mummies and hieroglyphics decorating the side of the theater were shining in gold-paint glory. I watched more people sit down and park a laptop computer where a giant slurpie should've been. Some wore their best grungies, others were actually suited up and tucking business cards inside their pockets. Let the networking begin.

Then I panicked. "What the fuck was outsourcing messages about and why hadn't I thought about this sooner?" I asked myself. So I did what I was best at -- bullshitting.

"Hi, everyone," I said. My name is Mike Powers," and I'm the one who invited you to this seminar. Sorry we have no coffee and bear claws, but I couldn't convince the management to give up their concession in the back. But if you want a Coke and a box of popcorn, they can help you out." A polite wave of smiles flickered through the crowd like a flashlight. "This morning we're going to be talking about outsourcing messages," I said.

"Are they going to be taking more jobs away from us?" asked a man in the front row who was folded inside several double chins, and was popping milk duds into his mouth at an amazing rate.

"It's worse than that," I said. "Unless we find a way to speak to each other, we can kiss any kind of system we got going good-bye. They'll be no networks, no streets, no nothing. What I'm talking about is the disappearance of music and dancing as we know it today. No parties. Weekends will become indistinguishable from the rest of the week. Existence will become pure survival without fun."

The man with the milk duds was popping the last one into his mouth. He reached for his slurpie. It was deep purple.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

No. 4 Hits the Floor
If I know how to do anything it's about establishing separate proprietary connections with partners. But partner is the operative word here. I had to figure out a way for the many to hook up with the few, the many in this case being, all my friends who were suffering from the same busy syndrome that was sending our social lives down the toilet, and the elusive Osama. Basically, everyone had to get on the same page so we could turn one over.

I decided to have a rally, a first megaphone point with one setting, which was always on loud. The local movie theater seemed like a good place. During the day, especially in the morning, the only thing it was filled with was stale popcorn. Plus, the owner was a progressive kind of guy who used the theater's marquee to exhort the public to impeach George Bush. I figured he wouldn't mind renting one of the smaller theaters to me at a cut-rate price, maybe even do a trade, just in case he needed some IT work on the theater's Web site.

I sent out email to all my friends and people who somehow were inhabiting my Outlook address book, about a seminar for IT professionals that had to do with outsourcing messages. Was I being misleading? Well, not necessarily. I was only handing over one jig-saw piece of the puzzle. But mostly, I wanted to make it possible for my friends to get an hour off from their jobs, just in case they weren't working from home like me and able to shift for themselves. I was giving them a way to sell this thing to their managers. "C'mon, a free seminar. It'll only be an hour." Everyone knows that most programmers eat by 11am. I called the meeting for 10:00am.

Friday, May 13, 2005

No. 3 is Me
So there I was sitting at my desk sipping a Coke, watching the bubbles erupt into caramel-spice fissures. If I were a chemist, maybe I'd have analyzed the contents, instead of thinking about my baking soda science experiments in third grade with a bunch of green vomitous goop that had oozed from the center of a clay volcano. But since I'm a XML programmer and not a chemist, my mind quickly drifted from the contents of soda to something completely different. It was the Spiderman decal on the outside of my plastic cup. And it was moving. Actually, it wasn't moving. But the light from the 3 o'clock sun had passed through the cup and reflected what looked like a few letters on my cubicle wall. I know you're thinking this poor guy has been staring at the computer screen for too long. But it was really there, some unknown alphabet I'd seen in my reading but couldn't place. I'd copied the letters down on graph paper and scanned them into the computer, then went into Google hoping to find a match. With a bit more research, I had my answer. In Aramaic, the letters spelled, "You, too, brute." Suddenly, I knew what I had to do. It was more clear to me than anything I'd ever done before. The tone and slant of the letters were all there. I had to find Osama bin Laden and convince him that he was the only one who could bring peace to the world. The alternative was too scary.

But if the CIA, U.S. Special Operatives, the Pentagon, drug dealers, and hired guns from throughout the world could not find Osama bin Laden, how the fuck was I, armed with a collection of Beastie Boy t-shirts and a week's supply of Chicken Top Ramen, going to convince him to come out of hiding?

I just had to. Bin Laden was the only one at this point in time, who could put up two fingers and say, "Peace Out," and really mean it with a vengeance.
No. 2 No Ones are Alike
But just so you don't think I'm a hedonistic creep, I absolutely understand my social life isn't the only thing around. I have some kind of consciousness, even though I only recently arrived in the city after my parents died. I paid off my own college loans, indentured to the workforce before I was old enough to buy a bus pass. I ate my share of donuts and pizza in community college trying to feed myself, which has contributed to this Michelin tire that I'm trying to work off on the jogging track. It all filters down. So what are we going to do? Wait for a new cultural phenomenon like when hip-hop was real and fresh to pull us out of the doldrums? So I came to a decision. I felt good about it. I had this sense of certainty in my gut. It was the same sense I had when my writing teacher in community college told me I'd never amount to anything unless I figured out how to put together a sentence. I'd break into a cold sweat anytime I was in the same room with a keyboard, unless it was to program. I sweated it out, but I managed to put one sentence in front of the other. So I knew. It was the right thing to do. I was going to build a mass movement.

But my outstanding question was how, how was I going to build a mass movement? Now there was a guy I grew up with in Eureka; Prowlie, we used called him because he was always prowling around trying to hustle the tourists along Highway 101 who were on their way to see the redwoods, who use to talk to me all the time. Actually, he didn't say much, but one thing he did say stuck with me.

"Kid, you need to look at the world through your own glass and watch the light spread."

Now, of course, that didn't tell me anything about how to build a mass movement, but at least it was a place to start.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Busy

No 1 Front Street

If I hear it again, I’m gonna scream. “Can’t.” “Got to go.” “Sorry, I’m busy.”

“Busy, busy, busy,” what the fuck is everyone so busy doing? I wondered to myself after calling up friends to see who’d like to zoom by and head off to the downtown microbrewery, pick up a jazz quintet that was getting good reviews in the local newspaper. And plus, the place poured enough beer to last for an entire set. A good deal, if you'd asked me.

“Nah, man, I’d really like to come by, but I’m busy.”

“Sure, I’ll catch you later,” I said.

“Call me up another time, uh, maybe the end of the week? I’m really busy.”

“Talk to you later,” I said.

I was getting pissed off. What was everyone doing, and why wasn’t I doing it with them? I understand the ordinary meaning of busy. Meaning, I’ve got to reload a program on my computer, got to work late, have great tickets for tonight, or want to watch the game on TV. But this was a different kind of busy. A busy that made me edgy because it had no name. All my friends were in a state of being busy, meaning they really didn’t know why they were busy, only that they just were.

“So what are you doing tonight?” I asked. “Maybe I can join you?”

“Nothing special.”

“Then how can you be busy?”

“Don’t ask so many questions, man. I just am.”

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have made a big deal about it. I’m as capable as the next guy of spending time by myself. There’s always the television, or I could do some shopping because the last time I looked in the refrigerator, which was last night, I saw a package of cheese and a jar of spaghetti sauce, and I knew I didn’t want to have that again for dinner. Plus, if I got really ambitious, I might decide to drop by the cleaners and pick up my shirts, or play a few rounds of live billiards on the computer. But I’m a caring kind of guy and something was happening to my friends. They all sounded nervous and preoccupied. Busy.

“What do you mean, busy?”

“Geez, some guys are persistent.”

“I only asked,” I said.

“I don’t know, man. I have a lot on my mind. Have you watched the news lately? I don’t know how to handle it.”

“So why don’t we go out and have a good time?”

“Can’t.”

“Let me guess,” I said. “You’re busy.” That didn’t go over big. I heard a click.

Well, I didn’t know much more than I did before. But that won’t stop me. Here's my theory about busy. There's so much going on, it's starting to implode. The hostage situation, car-bombs, fathers screwing their kids and blowing them up with guns, nuclear show-downs, kids with no schools to go to school to. Man, this shit is affecting my social life.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Birth
Birth expands into the world
bathed in cries

blows a trumpet
to announce the divine

escalates
a human being

across the bandwidth
of the universe.


Birth unwinds
the pattern of a name

finds love
as creation is pain

only wants
to run with it

trembling
on a slender dew point.


Birth is a song
for each life

takes a kiss
and parts the sea

into
shoreline

delivered with a bow
when its done.

Saturday, April 09, 2005


Daughter of Wind and Water Posted by Hello
Name Refrain
My heart contains an extra chamber
where I hide my name from the tide,
the only thing left to me
from the old days. Mine
until I swim the channel.

Named after a grandmother I never knew,
a sound translated from Hungarian into English,
picked by Edgar Allen Poe
whose Raven my mother recited at bed-time,
a solid thing that cast no shadow.

She didn't allow me a nickname.
I stayed who I was,
a girl who spoke to stray dogs on the run.
I see with the brown flecks
of my mother's green eyes,

I'm my father's voice in the shower,
my father who ripped across the Atlantic at such speed,
he diverted the current,
and my mother's attention
from bridling sea-horses with seaweed.

My parents wait for me to swim
past the weekend and beyond the bridge
where seagulls fly above water
looking for a drifting name,
any easy target for them to pick off.

Death Valley, April 2005 Posted by Hello

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Prayer to Death Valley
1.
The desert blooms gold in the spring
where I've come to make a pilgrimage
after years of living in cities.

All I hear is expanse.

Blooms yellow gold with purple mats
spreading across the desert floor
like a beautiful contagion.

I stand below sea level
on a skating pond of salt
looking out on two tectonic plates
and so want to catch it,

the way a flower struts its stuff
on a shelf of rock.

Change me.
Make me new.

2.
All I hear is expanse.

Long ago,
near Hunts Point Avenue in the Bronx,
I strolled with my doll, Judy,
along a slate pavement.

I remember how she smelled
when I first opened her box,
like a bird with the scent
of cut grass on its wing.

She had an alluvial fan of brown hair.

I loved her so much.
When her sawdust brains poured
into my hand,
my mother bought
new dolls to take her place
with clothes, and some could talk.

Imposters.

I vowed silence
until I found out
what had gone wrong,
flew back
to the only place where trees grew
in my borough, Pelham Bay Park.


3.
All I hear is expanse.

I've seen people
walk through a revolving door
to find air conditioning
on a long afternoon
exhausted by heat,
looking for water.

The dead cannot be replaced,
only remembered.

It's creation we know nothing about.


4.
Valley, uplift this daughter.
Fold together my pain.
Change me.
Make me new.

Show me the terrible place where love comes from.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

School Figures
A student of harpoons
with holes drilled inside lungs,
and how to pack caverns
with compost from each day,

until there's no more
batting to stuff down there,
or she's unable to keep
cotton-mouthing his name,

when emptiness forms
a pond of tension
for some recognizable thing
to skitter across, or not.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

On the Job
I've tested positive for boredom,
rushed to the balcony twice, no three times,
hung my head over the pilasters
and hoped for someone Romeoesque
to call me with his swan song
into discus hurling the whole thing:
pension, security, health insurance.

I've tested positive for Baudelaire
running giddy-up in my bloodstream,
invoking his curse for the ego power chumps:
"Manges la merde." Eat shit.

But what can I do? Centrifuge more results?
If I don't figure out something soon,
I'll be addicted to boredom.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Trees in Two Voices
Several trees crowd on a bank.

Does it matter what kind of trees they are?

Yes. Oak, Bay. A few others.
Here come birds to land in their green corona.

Can a bird choose between branches?

Yes. A department store of trees.
Right size, smell. Some trees grow more proud.

Do you mean more tall?

Yes. They steal sunlight.
Smaller trees scavenge beneath them.

Does this make the small trees cry?

No. They siphon water.
Growth is in the roots.

Can you hear what the stream says?

Rush-a-la, rush-a-la.
It's the sound of time washing.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

What's Going On?
Vietnam was televised,
but not the Revolution,
chants echoed across Sproul Plaza,
monks, nuns
doused themselves with gasoline
as an appetizer for a lit match,
Hmong storycloths traveled down river,
while different pieces of soldiers
chatted with each other on gurnies.

I am there on this last day
before cases are dismantled
holding an audio cassette,
but listening to something else,
as adults explain,
"The V they are making is the peace sign."

I am there in these last days of winter,
and see a man point to a display,
"I use to deliver that same newspaper,"
watch children nod with understanding,
as someone touches their finger
to history, how much it hurts.

--written after seeing "What's Going On? California and the Vietnam Era" at the Oakland Museum, August 28, 2004 - February 27, 2005

Friday, February 25, 2005

Anger
for Anita Barnes
1.
Anger raises its own shield so thick
nothing can penetrate it
cry no shout no hand

when invisible shields are up
phasers ready to strike
no getting through

a thousand cobras
in outer space
for too long cold

even for them.
Snakes come home
from whatever ouroboros,

why I wouldn't fly
the first seven years we were married
I heard hissing.


2.
Why was I so angry
a young girl
who had everything

living in the Bronx
commuting to high-school
two hours away

weekends
at a posh
hospital address?

I never wanted to go to kindergarten.
A teacher with a hair-net
who locked me inside closets.

She wanted me
to line up by size,
her mind so boring.

In third grade, my mother
rolled out dough
to make me

into something
she could understand,
my father

with his eyes
of brown leather
bathed in acetone

so soft
enough to see me
rose-colored.

When they both died,
the pie was opened,
I was alone with my anger.


3.
Then there was you,
my husband of 20 years,
with a curtain of anger

you raised
above your daily performance,
Red Velvet Gone Bad,

is what I called it,
with demon authors
who drank you under the table.

At first,
I couldn't get enough,
I was fascinated

watching your aura borealis
spread out in lights
until I became

a character in the play.
You saved a part for me.
I was the villain.

Then the two of us
could get angry.
Every day blades

went up in a salute.
After awhile,
I tip-toed around,

threw words
back at you.
But you were too agile, loud,

had spent years in improv.
What could I do to save myself?
Duck.

4.
You said you loved me.
I can still smell the nicotine between my fingers
from when we used to sit down with each other

at the table and talk
about life and love
and what we were going to eat for dinner,

a tin of smoked oysters,
together with
a glass of red wine.

Why couldn't you see what was happening?
For years we occupied separate bedrooms,
started our day together

in mid-afternoon.
Now you've left me
with our two children

and the sound of my own anger,
which is like water
hissing from a punctured hose

someone's forgotten in the front-yard
after she's been out-of-town
longer than expected.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Brit Shalom: Convenant of Peace
Long ago I looked
at sky and saw
it was all morning glories,

blue flowers
stretching from
the top of my head

and climbing along
an invisible thread
the way Jack's

beanstalk
grazed the window
of a giant's palace.

Now, I'm no longer
a young girl
who can turn

sky
into flowers
during my morning watch,

but, even so,
I practice
beneath a dome

outlined
by winter rain
in curves of light.

I believe once
you know how to hope,
you never forget.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Psyche Talks to Cupid on a Wood Bench
Along Leona Canyon Trail,
miner’s lettuce just beginning
to surface above the leaf mulch,

I wonder, Cupid, where you've flown to
with your strong white wings,
leaving me to watch television?

Maybe you’d planned to ditch me
all along, never getting close,
appearing only as a shadow.

Why else would you never eat breakfast,
go for a walk, dig in the garden,
do things married people do together?

Maybe it was your way of protecting me
so I wouldn’t have memories
to draw inside my blanket.

It worked too well.
I still want
what I can't have.

Maybe you and my parents,
who stormed off so many years ago,
were in cahoots.

So I ask,
what would you have me do?
I hear the burble of an approaching spring.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Paris Super Saver
Last night I took a day-trip to Paris,
packed a bag and threw it over my shoulder,
walked down the checkerboard street, and caught a bus.

Right before me sitting in the back
were Rimbaud and Verlaine cutting it up on a yellow seat
studded with cigarette burns.

I wanted to say something,
but instead, I burped for cover.
They looked at each other,

waved their arms like wands,
veins river-rafting over their knuckles,

and turning from the window
where I pretended to stare, I finally said,
"Thanks, guys. I so needed to get out of there."

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Invocation of the Dead
If the living cannot save the planet,
let the dead confabulate in coffee klatches and tea rooms,
remain polite for a short while
before spinning on bar stools
with the ferocity of a million drunks
spiralling out of control on a cushion
of portobello mushrooms caps
and frisbees covering their collective ass,
let them scream on a ferris wheel of light so loud
so loud someone will hear;

pray that they release their gangs of children
from the sewers of Rwanda,
Bosnia, Iraq, Palestine, Israel, Sudan
or unhinge those stuck between two tectonic plates,
let them dig up AIDS orphans
still young enough to hope for parents,
coax them back for one moment
while we pay an entrance fee
of a punched red ticket,
but forget everything once we're in.

If the living cannot save this planet
let the dead chant,
the first indigenous people,
even as a voice announces,
the park will be closing in five minutes;
after a day of riding Phantom's Revenge,
we realize there's no home
for us to go back home to,
all we can do is to kick a few pizza crusts
to the side of the road.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Death Semi-Waka
Now I know that death
is being in the lot late
next to our building,
hearing my name called, "Lenore,"
hearing my name called
to come upstairs for dinner,
but longing to stay
and watch the colors, listen
for shadows silence granite.