Tuesday, December 15, 2009



I watch the space shuttle take off as my teacher explains rocketry in a way a room of third graders can barely understand:

He tells us a charge fires through the center of the rocket igniting all two million pounds of fuel at once. The whole thing becomes a giant controlled explosion pointed at the ground, sending the rocket up at seven hundred and sixty miles per hour. Mach 1. That, he says, is how we escape the earth.

I watch transfixed on the TV as a plume of gas one half the heat of the sun flares from a joint in the engine, causing the rocket to rotate out of its housing, strike the external tank and alter its attitude relative to air flow so that technically, Challenger did not explode. Rather, it disintegrated from aerodynamic force.

I have had insomnia ever since then.

I am told it’s because I think too much. I have a friend who worries too much. She takes Fluoxetine to inhibit her serotonin reuptake and to sew the lips of her dream voice shut. When my father and I run out of things to say we drink a spirit fermented from agave to avoid the howling silence where our apologies should be. An old friend turned to Jesus when methamphetamines failed to replace his wife. He says his life is a controlled explosion.

I am tired of watching them leap from cliffs because they wish they felt as deeply as the rocks below. I am tired of men with fifty-thousand-dollar degrees saying they have the technology to repair them. I am looking at the rocks and I am scared that the greatest minds of my generation are lining up to sell me plastic wings.

Sometimes my insomnia gets so bad I can’t sleep unless I listen to the static on the TV whispering, shhh…

My mother walks with a cane even though her new hip is made from the same material as the space shuttle. Open her coffin in a thousand years and the hip will still be reusable.

When Challenger disintegrated, only the cargo and crew were lost. The rockets survived. Kept going. Kept pushing up away from all things human, as if the engineers who made them ratcheted into their guts a desire to do just that.

Late that night I asked my father, “where do you go when you die?” He told me to ask Jesus. When I cried, he held me tight. It’s okay David. Shhh… It’s all right. Sometimes you just think too much.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Below are three entries, one for each of the shows on the Bay Area portion of the tour I'm doing with Jen G under the handle, The Pincushion Orchestra...


I sat entranced, watching the stage like a small woodland creature unable to commit to fight or flight, as Chris Bundy stood before me, twice his normal height, having dawned a halloween costume that looked like a cross-between a dildo and a hot air balloon.

Apparently it was the costume from the film "Kabluey," sleeper hit of 2007

The theme of the night was the left over halloween candy slam. And folks came correct, decked out in all their glory. I don't remember much else, having sampled more than a few of Faultine Brewery's signature ales.

This much is clear:

-- Kat Dietrich knows how to wear some glitter. Her commitment to Sparkle Motion is, in this commentator's opinion, beyond reproach.

-- No one took their relationship angst out on MACLA's thermostat, like that one time. You know who you are.

-- Our first San Jose Slam feature went off without a hitch and we can't wait to return. And yes, my saying that I want to return to the slam I used to help run causes something of an existential crisis

but I'm cool.

Thanks Chris, Kat, Tristissima and the rest of the 408 for giving us a jolly good homecoming!


Walk to the back wall of "Dalva," one of the few bars in the mission district that (a) maintains a classy if understated aesthetic and (b) has yet to be overrun with scenesters, and you will find a gem of a performance space.

It's small, about the size of a drunk tank (and with essentially the same clientele), dimly lit and not without a hint of cellar-like dankness. In short, it is exactly what you picture when you think of a San Franciscan poetry venue. It could not be more so if they passed out berets, copies of "howl" and drams of absinthe fresh-squeezed from the curtains of Vesuvio itself.


The reading was good too. There were some very rowdy drunken senior citizens which, despite their interrupting my shit, I had to adore in a very non-ironic sort of way.

Sadly, the poetry mission has since dissolved. I didn't do it. It was out of my control. Really is too bad. But for anyone who lives in the city, check out Dalva. Maybe they'll let you have an impromptu soiree in the newly unoccupied back room. . . Also check out 16th and mission on Thursdays, the SF slam, and the open mic Mondays at Brainwash, where Jen and I hope to feature early 2010!!!


The Cool Show was the most fun Jen and I have had performing in a while. Walters and Staedlar and their wacky antics warm us in places we need three mirrors to see.

For those who were not there and who know the poets in question... yes, Jen G, myself, John Staedlar and Joshua Walters did a show together. You know how some plans look great on paper but don't work out in practice? This was like the opposite of that. Made infinite sense but only after it happened. It was like when you accidentally spill BBQ sauce on your french fries and you're like, "shit" and then you're like, "wait a second" and then your like, "hey!"

Yeah. Cool Show. Who knew?!

By the way, everyone in San Jose needs to check out Slave Labor Graphics. Awesome comic book store... and so much more. so. much. more.

If the witty banter shared between Walters and Dan Vado, SLG proprietor, are any indication The Cool Show or something like it should be happening again soon. Stay tuned for more.

Meantime, many thanks to all who came. All who did not, well, you missed Jen and I waltzing on stage while Staedlar plucked away on guitar and Walters dreamed of roasting chicken.

Stay hungry my friends


Monday, November 2, 2009

The somewhat tardy Las Vegas post.

I'm currently in Albuquerque, waiting for my thoughts to gel before distilling the week's events into a proper post. In the interim, I thought I'd share a few of my Las Vegas exploits. For those of you who don't know Jen G. and I are currently doing a spoken word tour under the handle, "The Pincushion Orchestra." Our kick off happened, appropriately enough, in San Jose, at the Kalied Gallery. Vegas, alas, held no performance opportunities for us. The excursion was purely and simply, for shits and giggles.

Here's what I posted on the way there:

The evening finds us haggard after much logistical tedium. Alas, the car is prowling south on 101, filled to the gills with enough food to last the next two months. Beside us, a tanker truck filled with coffee-- as are the guts between my ears. Tonight we ride to Vegas. By Friday, Albuquerque. AD/DC "Hell's Bells" erupts from the iPod. Gotta roll.

While in Vegas Jen and I tried very hard to maintain our reputation as bottomless whiskey wells. Unhappily, our powers have waned.

On the bright side I purchased an Aston Martin while I was in town (photo above)

see more photos here.

The highlight was, by far, the Erotic Heritage Museum... 2,000 square feet of pornographic memorabilia. Emblazoned on the wall, the sexual rights of all human beings. To paraphrase, my personal favorite: the right of all to sexual expression regardless of age, gender, social awkwardness or perceived lack of physical attractiveness.

amen... amen.

And now a poem about a ghost...


To the ghost that haunts my favorite bar, I can see why you want to spend the afterlife here. The place isn't one of those cookie-cutter Irish pubs with cardboard cutout leprechauns dancing at the flanks of a wide-screen plasma TV compliments of the Bud-Ice St. Patty's Day ad campaign. Here, you know the owner's Irish when you walk in to a portrait of the Queen of England, caught on camera picking her nose in the middle of a Remembrance Day parade.

Catching people off guard is of course your specialty.

I can understand the occasional spinning coaster, or the nickels and dimes sliding across the bar. But when you threw that pint glass at Jody, it stopped being funny. That's when I started getting free drinks in exchange for staying late so that whoever had to close didn't have to do it alone.

When it was time for the famous last words, “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here” I got to keep drinking. Emboldened with my fluid courage I got the jobs no one wanted. Bathroom duty. Just before close I saw a couple walk out of it gazing at each other through bourbon-laced smiles. Now, the whole place smells like vaginal secretion and bad cologne.

Drunk as shit, scrubbing the porcelain, I know the owner's a poet because there's an Oscar Wilde quote above the stall. "Work is the curse of the drinking classes." A hundred years ago this bar would have been filled with coal miners and it would have been owned by the same corporation that sent them to choke in the shafts, taxing their taught shoulders by day and by night, their love of the glass. And I wonder if you, the specter that dwells here, had been a guy like that.

But later, wiping down the bar I think of the regulars, the old cats who spend so much of their twilight slumped in one place that through the rag I can feel their elbow-shaped divots in the counter.

And I knew, you weren't one of them. You had to be a bartender. You made your living standing eight inches away from their faces, close enough to feel the warmth of their breath as the whiskey fumes rose out of them. That's why some drinks are called spirits. They float around in places where souls are not at rest.

The one thing you have in common with people forced to work beyond their limits is that you don’t realize, you're already dead. You become part of the place you put your back into, like two trees twisting into one tangled mess as they grow into each other. And when I saw Shaun's face white and pasty as a pool of frozen bird shit while he explained that something tried to choke him in the walk in refrigerator, I knew you had some unfinished business.

In Mexico, La Llorona drifts over riverbanks crying for her murdered children. On Pamlico Bay, some say they see Blackbeard the pirate combing the shore for his severed head. They will never find what they're looking for.

And neither will you.

The kegs will empty. The glasses will chip. The jukebox will get hooked up to the internet allowing dudes from Soho to play Nickelback till their hearts content. But as long as working people come in for a pint and a place to rest there will be a thirst it's not your job to quench.

You know the owner's a socialist because he has a picture of Marx above the bar; a man famous not just for his resemblance to Santa Claus but for being so misunderstood when he said, "Once you set foot in the workplace, your labor and the body that makes it are owned by your employer." Now that you are free, your soul your only possession. Don't let him own that too. You don’t have to go to heaven or hell, but you can’t stay here.


Friday, September 25, 2009


MIKE STUMBLES OUT on the porch like he thinks this might be a dream. He just woke up. His face skin is sunken and his eyes are beady and raw, like Richard Gere’s would be if he stared at the sun. He grabs a cigarette pack and shakes it. It doesn’t make a sound—fuck. Without saying anything, I take out my last cigarette. I pinch it in my lips and strike a match. I love matches, watching the flame pop, hearing the sizzle as the tobacco catches and the stale sulfur smell when I flick them out. Each is a one-time use commodity. Thin and temporary.

Tonight, as I watch the smoke lift in a thin stream like a contrail, there’s something about all of this that I find abjectly terrifying. I hand Mike the lit cigarette. He looks at me like ‘you sure?’ Three months of touring as a performance poet has perfected in me the ability to appear as if I am not concerned, in the slightest, about homelessness, poverty or cancer. Of course I’m sure.

It’s humid. My shirt suctions to my love handles. We’ve been friends for thirteen years but for some reason I fold my arms to cover my flab. I don’t ask him if he wants to hear my latest poem. But I desperately want to read it to him. I want to read it off the computer screen and listen to him say hm, mhm, and aha. I want to look up from the words every fifth line to catch him nodding his head. Poetry can do that. It can elicit involuntary bodily actions. It can make people want to see you naked despite your man boobs. It can get people with nice legs to buy you beer. It can make people weep as they congratulate you, unable to articulate why they’re being so “emo.” And when they say this, “sorry I’m being emo.” You can’t let it end there. You have to tell them, “You’re not being emo” or “it’s okay, be emo.” Saying this is what separates performance poets from rock stars and televangelists.

Mike will never listen to one of my poems and cry. I will never listen to one of his and cry. We’ve been doing this for a while. There’s a callousness that comes with that. Not that we’ve lost our hearts. We just have husks around them. When something is worthy of making it through, we let it in. We let it force us to see the world in color again. And then we say mm and mhm— the only indication that we’ve heard something so dope it’s made the lining of our stomachs perspire.

Mike drags his cigarette. He tells me he has an idea. He wants more poets to tour, to see things from the perspective of a poet on the road for the first time—my perspective. If more of us don’t get out there he’s worried the art form might begin to stagnate. He wants me to write a blog. I can call it How To Tour or Perform Poetry On A Shoestring or Making Money From Poetry, Kind Of, Not Really. It’ll give poets the tools they need to tour without breaking the bank. He tells me I’m perfect for it. Show them how to stay in the black.

He takes another drag off the cigarette and stamps it out prematurely. “Sound good?” he asks, “think you can show ‘em how it’s done?” I look at the half unsmoked cigarette in the ashtray, knowing I won’t be able to buy more for at least three days. When Mike leaves I will fish it out and save it for later.
“Hmph,” I say, “No problem.”

1. AIRFARE: $620.00

THREE HOURS on the plane and I remember why I don’t want babies. There are at least three of them onboard. Every eight minutes, one of them erupts. The sound is shrill and sustained. Sometimes one crying spell triggers another and it becomes like a contest to see who can hit the frequency that’ll crack the windows and vacuum out the cabin pressure. And it isn’t just the sound. It’s how when you hear a child cry, it reminds you of a fear you’ve learned to ignore—that you might never stop being hungry.

“I just fed him,” a mother says, bewildered.
“Fed him what?” answers a male voice. It’s a deep voice made deeper because it’s trying to be quiet. It has the timbre of someone yawning into a tuba.
“The apricot stuff,” mom says, “The stuff he likes.”

I haven’t seen it happen but somehow I know that she’s one of those mother’s that breastfeeds in public and will continue to do so until the child is eight years old. These people exist. I saw a YouTube video of an eleven-year-old boy suckling at his mother’s breast. It cuts to him on a swing set saying, “There’s nothing like it. Better than mango juice.” The boy tells his mom not to wear a bra, ever. So she doesn’t. When the day comes that I can watch this video and not want to loosen the bolts on this kid’s tire swing, I will consider becoming a father.

I sink into my chair and sniff at the in-flight magazine. It tells me about the fly fishing in Delaware, the dolphin watching in Florida. I haven’t had a cigarette in four hours. I want to tamper with the smoke alarm. I want to get caught but refuse to put out my cigarette. What’re they gonna do? I want to stand toe-to-toe with a flight attendant in the middle of the isle and take long slow drags and when the kids start crying I want to entertain them by blowing one smoke ring through another. Everyone will be appalled. It will be coarse and rude and uncalled for. But it’ll make the kids smile. It will feel like winning the lottery.

Had I won the lottery, I wouldn’t be here. I would have followed the cardinal rule of planning air travel: BUY YOUR TICKETS THREE MONTHS IN ADVANCE. Three months is a good rule of thumb. Do it and you’re sure you’re getting the best price. What’s more, you can be a bit choosey. You don’t have to take the dregs—the flights that bring you on endlessly circuitous byzantine adventures, routing you through cities that are out of your way because at the last minute that’s the only way to get it sorted. Also, it’s a little known fact that airfare costs depend not only on when and on what airline you’re flying but also to what specific airport. I saved almost a hundred dollars once by flying into Baltimore instead of DC even though they’re relatively closer together. When you buy tickets on line there will usually be an option to search for “nearby airports.” Select this option and you may get lucky. Eventually you’ll develop a knack for knowing where the best deals are.

By the end of my tour I will have flown from San Jose, CA to West Palm Beach, FL, to Worcester, MA to Orlando, FL back to Worcester, then to DC, then to Vancouver, BC. This is all highly unorthodox. Usually, people stick to a few states at a time, and go by car. At the risk of stating the patently obvious, you have to consider how much you’ll be making at each gig and then weigh whether or not it’s worth it to travel there. If you’re just starting out and the venue doesn’t really know you, you can expect at least $50.00 for a slam feature (though it’s often more). It’s fun to feature at open mics too but often they can only afford to pass the hat and let you sell your merchandise. You might only make $25 bucks for that performance. Some venues offer around $100.00. Sometimes more. It depends. Everyone’s different. The name of the game is COMMUNICATION. Get a straight answer from everywhere you’re featuring as to how much they’re paying you and how they’re handling merchandise sales. If they ask you to make them an offer don’t be afraid to tell them how much you’ll need to make sure you don’t loose money. Remember, your art and your time are precious. Don’t sell yourself short. No matter what they’re paying, ALWAYS HAVE MERCH (I’ll discuss this in detail in another entry).

If you’re like me however, you might decide to take a loss on travel expenses if it means putting yourself out there and developing a good rapport with the different enclaves of the spoken word community. Don’t forget about the long-view. It might be worth it to loose money on a gig, if that gig goes really well and if you make friends and fans for life.

If you’re like me, you will buy your roundtrip plane ticket from Worcester to Orlando three days before you have to leave. It will cost you $250.00. You will realize that you are doing three shows and will make about $100.00. You will click, “purchase” and watch $150.00 wink out into oblivion and the next time you hear a child cry you will be unsettled by the notion of an insatiable hunger. But at least the shows will be fun and next time… you’ll plan ahead*.

*By the end of my tour, when all my other expenses were said and done, I didn’t make back my money. The main culprit was the $620 dollar slug that was dealt to my gut for airfare—by far my highest expense. Had I either planned more shows or went to venues that were closer together, I would definitely have at least broken even.

2. CHAPBOOKS: $110.00

AN HOUR IN FRONT of the copier so far, warm toner-scented air venting from its gills, and I keep making accidental eye-contact with the homeless man across the room. It’s somehow obvious that his brown t-shirt was once yellow. He claws at a keyboard, long hair floating just above the table. He looks the way Christ would look if you dragged him through a sewer then had him check his email. We’re separated by a windowed partition. The glare on the glass gives him a halo when I look at a certain angle. I can’t help feeling like we have something in common, something other than being the only unemployed people in this Kinko’s at three am.

I’m here to make chapbooks for the rest of the tour (1) (2). Tour. I like the sound of it. I like mentioning it off-handedly to people—sorry, can’t make it. I have to feature in Vancouver that week—like it’s a job (3).

This is because there’s a part of me that still wants to be a rock star. This part of me is a mulchy layer resting under the skin but above the flotsam and the gray matter and the old hurt. It wants everything I wanted when I was thirteen.

Tonight, I’m in Salt Lake City. I have a full three hours before my feature starts. Still, I’m nervous. I imagine scenarios that will prevent me from making it—broken copiers, elusive printer drivers, icy streets, locusts in traffic. As always, I want to impress them. Not just the audience, but the host, the organizers, and the inner circle of regulars. I want to walk in like I have a noble purpose and a ruthless plan.

I want to answer probing questions with seven words and a smirk. I am tired of how people expect poets to be disorganized, fragmented, vomitous, reticent, obsequious, yet brilliant and superficially rude.

I select the by-pass tray (4) on the keypad. Some unseen force sucks one of my blank cover sheets from the tray and into the copier’s byzantine guts. A kind of symphony rises from it: the whir of a hundred tiny motors, billions of microscopic fibers rubbing against each other in all that warm machine dark. I listen to the spinning belts squeaking in like mice talking in their sleep. I make eye-contact again with the homeless man. I start writing a poem about him in my head. I ask myself, “what does he mean?”
I make up a story. I like to think that he came a long way to be in Salt Lake, like it’s destiny, oceans of time floating him to this exact place. Antwerp. He’s from Antwerp. I decide this and feel obnoxious and dirty, like I am coated in this invisible film.

Then I realize I ran fifty copies with a type-o. I could let it go, sell the books anyway. But “hole” is not “whole” and everyone knows it and I will look like an idiot to anyone who reads it and I wish someone would just burn every page and drive a railroad spike through my brain (5).

It was easier when I used to steal them (6). I could probably devise a way to steal them now. But it would feel weird—like a conceit that I can’t make being a poet work legitimately. I correct the type-o and run the books again (7).

Back home I fold and staple (8). The tedium doesn’t bother me. I enjoy the minor surgery each book requires. The paper is warm and crisp and I like knowing that I am doing the work a machine ought to; touching each one, personally seeing it through its completion. This is a different kind of hypnosis from the one you experience in front of a copier. It’s not staring passed the walls. It’s staring into your own moving hands. It is a quiet shuffling rhythm. The commitment to process that writing poetry requires has made me good at this sort of thing. There is a moment here where a card stock cover shakes in my hand, playing a wobbly atonal minuet, and I am happy in an uncomplicated way.

I ride to the venue with the books in my lap. They are chintzy in a valiant way. The only reason to take them seriously, if any, comes from their contents alone. Each one is a chance for merit to win out over glamour. They are everything rock stardom is not.

I like my chapbooks most when I fantasize about my own sudden epic death, like you do. If I died tomorrow, I would not leave behind money, a car, flatware, a jacket with lining, children, memorabilia, a legacy, a pet, a house, or anything old and engraved.

I would leave debt—a non-thing—a void—a yawning negative slab of minus. It’s not that my chapbook says, “look at me, I was here.” It says, “look at this.” Someone made it and it says something you should hear, something you can’t hear anywhere else (9).

The venue is an earthy cafĂ©, one of Salt Lake’s growing bohemian enclaves. Everyone that comes to the show has less money than I do. They are also one of the happiest audiences I’ve ever performed for. Some of them smell bad but better than the Zest fully clean Mormon couple that tried to convert me earlier that day. I smell bad too. This breaks the ice and a way that is pre-conscious achingly pure. I know that tonight will end with me giving chapbooks away for free (10). It is one of the best shows I have ever, ever given.


(1) Always make two versions of chapbook: a large and a small. The large should contain the poems that you’re most excited about at the time and should include at least some of the work that you’re going to perform. The small book is key. It contains between 2 and 4 poems. If you have to make a choice between pretty expensive covers for the small book or the large book, put them on the small book. They sell. Trust me. Having both books helps you avoid undercutting the price of your large book. Keep your large book price in the ten dollar neighborhood and your small book in the two dollar neighborhood.

(2) If your on a budget, don’t make all you chapbooks at once at the outset of the tour. Make enough for the first few shows, then see how things go. Have a system that allows you to print and assemble them quickly (i.e. have a master copy and a book stapler on you.)

(3) I don’t know of any way of being a successful touring poet while still holding down a day job. Everyone I know that makes it work considers it his or her job. While it might not be your job forever, it is important to approach your art with a certain professionalism. Think of it as your occupation—the thing you do. When someone on the road asks you what you “really” do, tell them you’re a poet and offer no other explanation.

(4) It is important to use cardstock covers for your chapbooks. Even if everything else is a shitty lame-ass Kinkos copy, at least there’s the feel of a real cover. This is just as easy as making regular copies. Most copiers have a by-pass tray. Put your cardstock in that tray, select “by-pass” on the copier controls, then make your copies.

(5) Never ever allow a type-o to remain in anything you put out for people to read. People will see it and loose confidence in your writing. It doesn’t matter if you’re never going to see them again. That cheap-ass book is how they will remember you. Besides, you’re a poet. You should care more than anyone about your words being correct.

(6) I am not a fan of theft per se. That being said, if you have the opportunity to liberate printing resources from Kinko’s in the service of making a chapbook, do it. If have any lingering qualms about stealing from a major corporation for the sake of your art, watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9uh7wQ_iIs

(7) Always print a test run and examine it carefully for type-os. Most people better at proofreading on actual paper than they are on the computer screen.

(8) Print your copies so they come out collated. This makes the assembly process nine hundred times easier.

(9) Before you decide to go on tour, you have to be confident that your writing has something new to offer. I don’t mean that you should convince yourself that your voice is original. Rather, be honest with yourself. If you’re not doing something that is, in some way, different from what’s out there, then sit down and write something that is. Don’t be different for the sake of being different. Be unique in the way that a good poet is always unique even if their work is made of reused parts.

(10) Don’t give chapbooks away for free too easily and don’t be too stingy. Remember, this is your job. Respect the fact that your book is worth something. People will see that and respect it too. At the same time, if you can see that someone really liked your work and they really don’t have any money, give it to them. Don’t just give it to them. Have a conversation with them. Write them a personal note on the inside of the book. Print neatly. Look them in the eye when you hand it to them. Without gushing or being obsequious, tell them you’re glad they came to see you. Congratulations, you just made a fan.

FYI, there are more entries to come. Below is a list of what I plan to cover. Each will be it's own chapter. I'm going to try to keep them all in this one posting so that they're not scattered all over the blog. Will include an entry at the the top of the blog to let you know when I've posted a new chapter.

Cheers, DP

--BOOZE: $80.00
--LODGING: $0.00
--GAS: $0.00
--GROCERIES: $200.00
--DINNING OUT: $45.00
--BARS: $101.50
--CIGARETTES: $96.00

Saturday, September 12, 2009


I have been watching MAN VS WILD with Bear Grylls for the last four hours. I tell myself that if something I see saves my life one day I don't really give a shit if it's fake. But it's not like I'm going to be in the jungles of Vietnam or the slopes of Everest any time soon. They should do a show where they drop him into the heart of Vancouver (my next show) with nothing but a few chapbooks and a roll of duct tape.

I like his accent and the way he says things like, "John Thomas." Quote, "you've gotta watch out for leeches out here. They love to hide in crevices. There's a story about an American soldier in Vietnam who had a leach swim right up inside his John Thomas and attach itself to his bladder."

Good to know Bear. Good to know.



My grandfather kept a garden
Diverse as an Ellis Island Ferry
In which no scent
or color ever repeated.
But when it came to his second language
He was never one for variety—
The only English
He ever spoke to me being
“Dabbie. You help me today.”
Hearing it, my hands would cramp
In anticipation of the work
that was to come.

He had tomato plants bent in helix
Around spiral fences
and squash bulbous and heavy
causing the arms of their plants
to sag back to the earth.
Once, I plucked them too early.
That night dinner was a chewy stirfry.
We gnawed like cows on cud
Compliments of my untrained eye.

The next time I heard it
“Dabbie. You help me.”
I was demoted to weed pulling.
This being the only manual labor
I’d ever known
My chubby paws curled around
Thorny bases—Every hour my hands
Slowly swelling into pincushions.

As I worked
My grandfather’s gaze fell soft
On his bouquet
Everything from cabbage leaves
to jalapeno vines
And I sensed that he was not
Lost in thought
As much as admiration.

The kind that only a man
Who spent five decades digging
irrigation on a company farm can have.

Those fields
were as different from his garden
As two plots of land could be—
Flat uniformed boxes
They subjected the eye to an ocean
of asparagus. One shade of pale green
beveling over the horizon.

I have seen people work them
With their eyes closed. The arc
Of the sickle becomes like a heartbeat—
In lettuce country, severing heads
Like drawing breath. When I remember them
I receive visits from an unspoken fear
That too many of our actions are involuntary.

But the gardener knows liberty.
I’m sure his only disappointment
Were the flowers at his funeral.
One kind of rose,
One hue, the same
Perfumy sweet stench.
So different from his back yard
With its teeming huddled masses.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009


The weather in Massachusetts is perfect. P-E-R-F-E-C-T. I've been staying in the town of Worcester since Nationals in West Palm. For the first time in my adult life I dedicate most of my time to writing, performing and following through on my whims.

Today: jogging by the river, finishing a poem about the crush I've been nurturing for over two decades on Sarah Connor (see below), performing at the occasional slam, open mic, house party. I'll be here till mid Sept. Then it's off to Vancouver, Canada-- which is Shangri-la, S-H-A-N-G-R-I-L-A, to feature at their Labor Slam.

This is actually the second version of this blog. The first contained an attempt (somewhat successful) to coherently present some of my thoughts on the struggle between labor and capital. I was happy to have written it but once it was on the page I decided I was pretty much completely over posting it to the blog. If you want me to whisper sweet labor-related nothings in your ear... just email me.

Here's a new poem.


Sarah Connor,

When I saw your biceps
squirm under your skin
while you did pull-ups
in a maximum-security institution
for the criminally insane

I knew the kind of girl I wanted.

But being with you wasn't easy.
Once, you used the last of my flour
to make pipe bombs.
You said, "what's more important
the survival of the human race
or your empanadas?"

And I said, "Lady, if rising from the ashes of the apocalypse
means I don't get my pocket of chicken mole...

I guess I can live with that."

You were the kind of lady,
who could pick a lock
with five minutes and a paper clip
all the while hopped up
on enough anti-psychotics
to turn the cuckoo's nest
into a bridge club.

Every day a doctor slipped you twenty cc's of Thorazine
The way Girls Gone Wild hands out body shots at Mardi Gras.

First night we met
I bought you a proper drink.
Want another round killer, I said.
You said, don't call me killer.
and I said, sure thing tiger.

I couldn't help it.
You started my love affair
with broad shoulders
and old scars.

And you had so many, your back
looked like those parched riverbeds
only border guards and dead coyotes
know anything about.
Running my hand over it,
I read your story in Braille.

The one along your spine,
was when a terminator
slashed you at Pescadero.

The one on your side,
a plasma burn you got
blowing up a computer lab.

The one by your neck
you asked me not to touch.
That was the boyfriend
you shacked up with
so your son could learn Jiu-Jitsu.

There were a lot of guys like that.
You gave them their ration
of sweaty nights without foreplay
or eye contact.
And all they had to do
was show your boy how to fuck shit up.
And smile and nod while you talked
about the days of reckoning
yet to come.

You said you liked me
because you could tell
by the way I listened
that I believed you.

And because I never asked
what all the others did.
Did daddy fool around?
When's the last time
you had your meds adjusted?

But I admit I'm curious
about what it's like to see your reflection
in a skull of mirrored metal
that crossed the banks of time
to choke out your last whimper
because it had nothing better to do
with its Oedipus complex.

Why bother saving this?
When you have fewer scars from machines
than you do from the men who made them?

You don't have to answer that.

You can just keep waking up at dawn
and staring out the kitchen window.
Love watching you do that.
I ever tell you how good you look
in first light through fresh smog?

There's something so beautiful about a city
before it's had its cup of coffee,
before the first engine turns over,
when we're all still paralyzed
by our dreams.

You know all about that,
don't you, tiger?

Remember what you said to me,
when I asked you what went through your head
after you killed that thing?
I mean, how do you save the world from self-annihilation
and then wake up the next morning
and make pancakes for your son?

And you just looked at me and said, "Baby it's so cute
the way you act like those are two separate things."


Sunday, August 2, 2009


I was once given the following creative writing prompt: Telling the absolute truth is impossible but try to do it anyway. First, write one statement you know to be absolutely true. Second, riff off that statement.

Here goes...

Stockings are hot.
whether shinny or sheer
netted or lace,
they turn my heart
into a sauna.

When she wears them
I want to shine her toenails
to a high gloss
with my tongue.

I am convinced they came
before the leg.
On the fifth day,
God shazamed them
into being
along with skies
and riverbeds

and only later
came up with oxygen,
water and calf muscles
to fill them in.


Friday, July 31, 2009


When asked the secret to Judo, founder Jigoro Kano said:
“When the enemy wants to come, welcome him.
When he wants to leave, send him on his way.”

The first time I asked what this meant, no sooner did I utter the question than I felt a pair of arms fold under my chin and shrink the space around my neck until I could swear I heard angels singing, “Michael Row the Boat Ashore.”

And the distant voice of my teacher, Master Song, saying first, learn to grip, then, learn to let go. Strange teaching methods considering that the word “Judo” translates to “the gentle way.” But it makes sense. To get the arm lock, you don’t grab. You rest your hands, like he's made of eggshells you’re afraid to crack so that by the time he wants to leave, he has to wait for you to send him on his way.

It’s true that wrestling is awfully erotic for an activity shared between two straight men. Like the way lovers convey themselves through contact, you only know someone so well until you’re knotted into them.

I never had to learn things like this, by the language of the bent wrist and the pinched artery. Some people are born pressed into the ground. But for someone who grew up in quiet safety filled with words and books it took some time for the wisdom of hard, cold floors to rub off.

But on the night when two gentlemen in a 7-11 parking lot cordially asked if they could come on my girlfriend, I thought, when the enemy wants to come, welcome him.

This [snap] is how long an unplanned fight lasts. How long it took them to split my eye and swell my lip until my face looked like the bottom of a starfish. How long it took to hear police sirens around the block. How long it took one of them to flee the scene as I tangled myself around the other and hear his voice shrink to a whisper in my hands.

How long it took me to understand, through contact, how hard this kid’s life had been. You don’t roll on someone in this part of town unless you’ve grown up pressed into the ground, the wisdom of cold, hard floors hardly an option.

I could have held him for the sirens, but by then something I once heard about a gentle way took hold.

When the enemy wants to come, welcome him.
When he wants to leave, send him on his way.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Someone in my screenwriting class is writing a screenplay about an apocalyptic future. Before you balk at the idea, there's actually much more to it than that. I'm being vague because I'd hate for someone to steal her premise. We all know how much Hollywood is clamoring for fresh new, unrecognized talent these days.

The point is, I found myself getting way excited about her idea, following her from the class room to the dinning hall just unloading ideas on her. She seemed to be cool with it. But I realized that I get excited in apocalypse as a general rule.

Isn't there just something about apocalypse? A blank slate. A vast silence. An oceanic solace. It's not that I sit around wishing for it to go down. It's just, I can imagine myself alone, maybe with a few other survivors, each of us with a floor of the Waldorf Astoria to ourselves.

It's not that I want apocalypse. I just want to hear a pin drop in the middle of time square. I want ivy to engulf the sears tower. I want to take time lapse photography of a freeway and have it look like a still.

I wonder, if the shit ever hit the fan, and I was spared, would I still write despite having no reader, no audience? What if I did, and it was my best work ever?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


One of the best artist blogs I've ever read was by Amanda Palmer from the band The Dresden Dolls (who if you haven't heard, you need to reassess life). When I say "best" I guess I really mean "honest." The posts had lots of what you'd expect from a touring artist -- highlights from shows, artists she hung out with, the wily shenanigans that ensued, etc. What struck me was how blunt she was about her own feelings of inadequacy.

One post admitted that she had felt that much of her writing was "trite" and that she often felt out of place when hanging out with contemporary artists who the general public thought were on par with her but who she saw as, somehow, more legit. I'm paraphrasing something awful here.

Point is: here's an artist that I adore saying in so many words that she sometimes feels like she sucks. I mention it because I feel like I see this all the time in creative people. We have to be so good at being self-critical and self-honest in order to do the work we do. These abilities are great but so easily become a run away train. Bad metaphor. I know. (But, see what I mean).

I want to know where the obsession for improvement comes from? On second thought, maybe I don't give a shit. Maybe I just want to know how to harness it. It's not that I want to get rid of it (all we need in the world is more apathy and mediocrity). I want to use it. I want to make it into a tool rather than a personality trait. What's that saying.

You have to be able to see yourself with brutal honesty. But you also need to know that that honesty is medicine, not a weapon.

I'm sure that tomorrow I will look at this and it won't sound as good to me as it does right now. It will seem preachy and verbose. It'll be old news. I'll be over it. I will have moved on. Then I'll do something else. And that is a very, very good thing.


Monday, July 13, 2009


I wish I could stay up forever.
When I stay awake I explain amazing things amazingly.
There are lots of differences between conversations
over coffee at five in the morning
and over beer at three
The main difference is that coffee at five makes you want to kill.
It makes you want to wake up
and build something with sharp metal edges
like a lawn mower
but for people, a people mower.
Beer at three makes you want to draw pictures
of people mowers
and people escaping them.
It helps you explain amazing things amazingly.
One time I went to sleep and then woke up and explained something
and no one got it
and the more I explained it
the more people squinted their eyes.
They looked like finless gold fish in a washing machine,
They looked like they were trying to find the aurora borealis
with the sunroof closed.
I want to stay awake forever.
I want to empty enough beer bottles to trap the aurora borealis
so that I can show it to people
rather than explain it.
When I make people look like finless goldfish by saying things I think are amazing,
I feel like drinking coffee and pulling a ripcord
that will make a silver gleaming death machine roar to life.
Sometimes I don't communicate
and I can't let go of wanting to
and then I sound angry
but I'm not
and people ask me to calm down
and then I tell them I am calm
and then they tell me if I were calm I wouldn't have to say that.
And I want to tell them that if they weren't as clueless
as a finless goldfish in a washing machine
I wouldn't have to explain myself.
I wouldn't want to stay awake forever.
But I do. I want to stay up.
I want to stay up until I'm on a first name basis with the aurora borealis.
Me and aurora.
And aurora would teach me things and touch me in many places I have forgotten
and beam moist light into my eyeballs.
I would learn to hover.
and to shine.
and how to be high and stay high.
and to appear
and how to disappear.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Today finds me tired of paralyzing myself with thought.

I am tired of describing the weather.

So a mist blows through the open gate

of a derelict Barn in Iowa

like the sigh of a forgotten god.

Fuck you.

I want to be at the Barn,

far away from people who say things about things.

If the talent of pointing out what things resemble

were an animal

it would be a chihuahua.

And I would pick it up and punt it over my barn.

I would turn it into a dot on the horizon.

And then I would sit in the hay loft and open my skylight.

So barns don't have skylights

Fuck you.

I made a skylight with broke-backed labor

of your poetry friends who use words like, "problematize."

And I am going to sit under my sky light

and feel the mist.

and the mist won't be anything but mist.

it will be wet and cool.

And I will be alive and the hay will smell like mold.

It's too bad god has been forgotten

and that he's done breathing

and that we don't capitalize his name anymore

that's kind of sad

but not as sad

as an empty barn.