A Redneck on the Barbary Coast

Tighten up.

Ursprache

My poetry professor

God rest her tender blonde soul

And yes

I did have one poetry professor once

Who urged me

For the sake of our student teacher relationship

To please Joe just compose music instead

 

My ex poetry professor always

Said cliché

Was the first language

Of deep emotion

So don’t hate it lover

Just edit it lover

Brutally the fuck out

 

Ariel forever with the cats as equal people

So maybe it’s why I heard her undead voice

Tonight feeding my elegant

Princess Lunchbox

Who surely eats enough cat food

To save two kids’ lives in Africa

Per day

 

Meant as a metaphor

Albeit played

Of Western decadence

Which I had wanted to write about

Before both thoughts sublimed to tears

For the lost lover and all the kitties

Who taught me best how not to write at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Where Then

The sound

A stranger’s cough

Outside the kitchen window

Quickly results in me

You can’t sleep there man

Him peering back into the tac light

For some human eyes behind my voice

Asking

Where can I sleep then?

 

 

 

 

Woman

Either I need a wider mattress

Or smaller lovers

Or both

Or neither

And just to accept that woman

By her very nature

Is a bed hog

 

I was saying to a friend

Who happened to be an older gay man

That I wished I had

Had more choices as a child than being

Either a straight man

Or a gay one

 

And he said

Yes

Bisexuals always had a rough time of it

And I said

No

You’re missing my point

 

The man I wanted to be

Could have been

Was at least

Fifty percent

Woman

 

Not to wear a skirt though

Multiple drunk trannies

Assured me I have

The legs for it

 

Or hold a male part tenderly

In my mouth unless

Of course

It was my own

 

I just wanted

I just wanted not

To always have to be

So hard

 

Wanted a slow soft bath

Alone

In my own hot tears for

No reason at all

 

And it’s completely inappropriate

In today’s political climate

So

I’ll say it

 

To all those men

Who hid their true you

Just because it

Was a mother fucking woman

 

Me too.

 

 

 

 

Mr. Crews

Sixth grade history

1975

Mr. Crews had a Jimmy Carter bumper sticker

Hidden inside his briefcase

 

Did we see that in secret

Or did he want us to discover it

 

Of all the things he taught then

I remember

 

The Middle East is a tinder box

When World War III begins

It will begin there

 

In Palestine

And this

 

If you want to solve the world’s problems

Just have all the people in New York and Africa

Trade houses for a year

 

The Bicentennial was coming

Viking was headed to Mars

Anything was possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Zero

 

While it’s true that I’ve never been to South Africa

I did once buy a plane ticket to Johannesburg

To visit the woman I loved

 

We were to marry

But she made it pretty clear

We weren’t living there

 

Despite its renowned landscapes

The place is a shithole

Nobody moves to ZA

 

Unless they are coming from someplace shitholier

Like Zimbawe

Or Chad

 

To them

Capetown feels like Paradise

Or France

 

Not being a hydrologist

Or any other kind of factologist

I can’t explain how a city of four million people

 

Runs out of water

It hurts my brain just thinking about it

It would hurt my heart if I had to explain it to my kids

 

Fortunately

I have neither children

Nor an Afrikaner wife

 

Equally fortunate

Nobody gives a fuck about the Dark Continent

I can’t believe this even made the news

 

Meanwhile

Tick tock

Less than three months to Day Zero

 

Stay thirsty my friends.

 

 

 

 

America 2018

Anyone who knows anything

About me

Knows that I love America

 

I’m constantly annoying

My San Francisco friends

By standing up

 

Placing my hand over my heart

Singing all the words

Breaking into tears toward the end

 

In my living room

When the Anthem plays

On TV before a game

 

Which is why I really don’t have anything

Bad

To say about our current President

 

It’s America

And he is my president

What’s not to love

 

And it will break my heart

And I hope I don’t live to see it

But

 

It’s not the eighteenth fucking century any more

Or even the twentieth

One world

 

So I’m willing to give up my nation

My nationalism if need be

 

No really

I am

 

As long as we can all agree

Planetary concerns outweigh personal concerns

The global language is English

 

Earth gets renamed America

Or its closest Mandarin transliteration.

Complicated

Here’s the deal that

It’s not like I didn’t

I already knew about

Like years ago

The only bad things you do

To the point where

When I play that song

People are like

Joe

Please stop

 

Now you’re out of my head

And if

I’m still into your mind

Which I’m not

Thinking about the bad things that if I

Can’t explain the

 

Only bad things that if I

Want you forever

Even when we’re not together

Scars from the lawn chairs

By the pool house didn’t matter

 

Oh

And the restaurants where

Nothing’s that bad

Where

Suffocating’s just a metaphor

For not being able to breathe right

 

And you’re the same voice

Not exactly forced

But encouraged to listen

To the clerk at Body M where

Joe’s K-Ranch branding iron

Is actually going to cost

A bit more than a tattoo

Are you ready with your card number

 

Eyes closed

One and only one single nail scratch

Yes

No one is thinking straight here

Mostly us

And for the foreseeable future

Heels on

Numb.

Low Earth Orbit

They may have been weak

As radio pulses go

But HAM operators could pick them up

And for three months

Sputnik 1

Was the greatest dream we ever made real

 

On January 4, 1958

She burned up reentering the atmosphere

 

Still soon

Humans were living in space

 

Apollo-Soyuz

Actually separated and landed

Three days apart in Summer

1975

 

But Skylab

Jewel

Disintegrated over Perth

July 11, 1979

 

Salyut’s deorbited

One after the other

In regular succession

 

Mir

March 23, 2001

 

Some day it will be the ISS

First wonder of the postmodern world

A fireball on the horizon

In the Southern Hemisphere

 

Sad thought

But the lesson obviously isn’t

Stop flying

It’s just

 

If you don’t want your spaceship

To fall from the sky

 

Launch it well beyond low-earth orbit.

1981

Downtown Norfolk

Virginia

And the only thing different that night

Was beside each ashtray

Down the bar

By the pool table

Suddenly

A little xeroxed placard

Reports of men

Getting sick in New York and Miami.

There’s This Thing You Have To See On The Seventh Floor. I Insist.

The Modern Art Museum in my town

Is supposedly San Francisco

Called MOMA

Like every and yours probably too

 

The collection just so perfectly

Like

 

Doesn’t matter

Art still but well hiding and

 

I need a shower after

The pretty patrons

 

Who goes to museums to look at art

Anyway

 

We all know

 

This MOMA’s not for hanging art things

Seriously or occasional first dates

 

Conversations

 

But

She likes to talk

So we meet for something

Third floor cafe

 

And

 

I like looking at her mind

Sketching the crazy shit her

Hair does tied up

With large canvases behind

 

In skylight and sun

Which is technically starlight

 

Colors saturated to stupid

There and whatever

Is left of our thinking

Looks and looks

 

The larger question

Of how this was a poem

Is it wasn’t

 

It wasn’t even lunch

If you must know

It was tea

 

And a cookie.

Idée Fixe

“… no impression must be allowed to dominate you, only fructify you; just as the artist, seeing an object, does not worship it …”

  • Aleister Crowley from “Peaches” in The Book of Lies

 

 

Here’s the thing

I love dogs

Everyone knows that

And yes babe

I had mentioned

Thinking about getting one

 

At some point

 

BUT YOU CAN’T JUST BUY ME A PUPPY AS A SURPRISE CHRISTMAS PRESENT AND COMMIT ME TO FIFTEEN YEARS OF CARING FOR AN ANIMAL I HAVEN’T EVEN MET ADORABLE AS IT IS WITHOUT BRIEFLY ASKING ME FIRST

 

Sorry to scream at you in all caps

 

Sure it was

A totally sweet and loving idea

Thank you

Just

Next time please

 

Ask me first

I would have told you

I wanted a new gun

For Christmas

 

Let’s wait on the dog

Until we have a place

With a bigger yard

 

 

The Hardest Words I Know

 

 

I don’t know about music

In the slightest

Except for

Stuff

What my friends are

Into and fortunately

They’re all younger

So my playlists remain

Relatively dope

 

The other thing they’re really good for

These really good friends

Is reminding me

To

 

They say things like

What’s up

Dad

Didn’t you just

Tell us the

Like

Whole reason

You were so broke

Was

Artistic integrity

And

Even though compromise

Is still recommended

As exercise

 

So are pull-up’s

Bud

 

Stick with both

Jettison one

 

Mix-tape

Count To Ten

Lovers
Fellow citizens 

Can we please all step off

For a hot sec 
Me too

Really just

Back the fuck up

And breathe 
That’s good

Whatever you were thinking 

Of saying

About politics or culture 
Deep silent exhale
See

I feel better already 
God
America.

This Misunderstanding About God

So now the Saudis are bombing Yemen
Swell
Seems they don’t trust Iran
And who can blame them

But the Iranians really can’t trust anyone
So when they find friends in Yemen
Or Iraq or Syria or Lebanon
They do everything they can to hold on to them

But this poem
And yes it is a poem
Isn’t about the early stages of World War III
It’s about God

There’s all kinds of tangled mess in the Middle East
Which I don’t need to explain to anyone
But what’s driving me crazy above everything else is
This whole Shiite Sunni shit

Speaking as your average American I just don’t get it
Because from my couch
They all look like the same dress-wearing angry dudes
In need of some serious manscaping and a beer

But hey
White Europe spent a few centuries
With Protestants and Catholics
Thinking they were from different religions and therefore at war

It seems kind of late in the course of human civilization for this to be necessary
Something so obvious
But I feel like I need to step back
And remind people about the true nature of God

First of all there aren’t different Gods
There are only different names for God

Secondly nothing written in any book was written by God
It was all written by humans about God

What’s best about these books though
Is how they consistently describe the identical phenomena
God is everywhere and everything

No one knows God’s name
If you say you do you are arrogant ignorant
And a sinner

There have been a host
Of messiahs prophets saints
And mushroom eating visionaries
Who all reported the same experience

God is music
God is endless

God is in you and everyone else you know
In that crappy purple Scion
The particularly virulent Ebola strand

Everything you see
Everyone you meet
Everywhere your imagination strays

It’s all the same place
We are all the same thing

There are no enemies
There is nothing separate from yourself
You are God

But don’t get me wrong
I’m a guy
I like war

With its airplanes and explosions and
Guns
Every conceivable caliber
Mmmmmm

I particularly like the idea of a war
In the Middle East

I envision this cascade of conflict
That first wipes Islamic fundamentalism off the face of the Earth
Followed quickly by the Zionists
Then finally the Christians

So rage on zealots
Die well

Just don’t you dare
Invoke God’s name in any of this.

Bodhisattva Fatalism #2 – Andreas Lubitz

I don’t know what makes a pilot
Plunge a plane full of strangers
Into Alpine oblivion

But I have to assume
Things weren’t quite right
In his heart or in his head

With a little more advance notice
I would have flown back to Düsseldorf last week
And personally put a double-tap in that heart and one more in that head

I’d been planning to go visit Martina there anyway
And I’m getting too old to be stingy with ammo
Or snap freaks’ necks with my hands anymore

But no one ever gets that glad opportunity
Which is why we remain so constantly frustrated
And besides

I forgive Andreas
More than that
I love him

I’ll just add him to the motherfucking endless list
Those lost souls the rest of us
Will have to keep coming back for lifetime after miserable lifetime

If I sound pissed about it
And worn out
Well, who wouldn’t be?

Leading all Beings to Enlightenment
Is a slow and thankless task
Frankly, it’s rather tiresome.

Bodhisattva Fatalism

Once you get drunk enough
Or high enough
Or have meditated yourself
Into whatever place your nonself
Needs to be in to tune in

You pretty quickly realize
That long ago and many times before
You already promised
As God and your Beloved bore witness

That you would never walk through the Pearly Gates
Alone

No Nirvana for Joey until
Every last murderous scumbag
Every rapist
Every member of ISIS

Every primate still evolving
Every Ficus tree and microbe
Not only on our beloved Earth
But everywhere else throughout the multiverse

No Nirvana for Joey until
They all get there first
Which will take a good long while
Basically forever
So that basically means

No Nirvana for Joey
Ever

Which is fine
That was my own choice
And I’m not pretending to be some kind of saint

I’m so hammered I can barely type at this point
Much less
Catch my own train of thought
Which was

To say
I’m sorry and want to apologize
For all the ways I don’t really give a fuck

But if some people and their friends
And their country
And their church
Don’t want to be moving us all at least slowly
Closer to enlightenment
Then they are my enemy

Or rather
Not my friends
And it would make all our work here
A hell of a lot easier
Frankly
If they just got reincarnated right now

And I’m not asking you to do it
I’ll take care of everything

Their wrists only hurt until the injection or slug kicks in
They lie down on the carpet or sidewalk or kitchen floor for a minute
And feel better
Soon

And I’ll be there soon too
In just a second
Right after I get done losing my patience again
Over some random act of rudeness or selfish driving

Because whatever myth you heard about loving kindness
About Enlightenment
When your life plan
Extends into the trillions of years
Times a trillion

You realize that you don’t have to put up with people’s shit
Or even be nice
To douchebags in this lifetime
Whatever negative karma I accrue will get sorted
In the countless lifetimes to come

So since everyone is so into
Living In The Present 2015
Here’s what you can do to stay alive

Look me in the eye
Wait your turn at a four way stop sign
Treat women as equals
Don’t blow up anything I care about
Which is basically everything

So don’t blow up anything
Unless it is an asteroid threatening the Earth
Or a flat tire
Or a balloon at a birthday party
Or

Your lover’s phone for no reason at all
Except to send a thousand texts
Saying

I love you
I love you
I love you

Downtown France 2015

I don’t know all that many cartoonists
Outside of Facebook
But I do know a lot of animators
Which is basically the same thing
And let me tell you
They are no threat to anyone

Lisa’s cat is significantly more vicious
And he only weighs twelve pounds

What disturbs me most about today’s
Latest
Terrorist
Action

Is psychology
Or the lack thereof

How an ill mind could warp
A human finger
Through an AK trigger guard
And then squeeze on
Defenseless overdressed Frogs
At their IKEA workstations

Mon Dieu

Well
Truth be told
What disturbs me most is
That they didn’t try that shit
At my office

Not that I have an office
But at some job site somewhere where
My brother and I might have gotten a chance to engage them
Conversationally
Man to man

Yet another opportunity missed

Well maybe my French friends now
Start reconsidering
Their guillotine
Their concealed carry laws
And what Post-Colonial guest workers
Actually cost

In terms of spent shell casings

As far as offensive art goes
I consider myself a bit of an expert
If you check my portfolio

And though I’ve often been tempted
I have yet to find a drawing
Even an early Rauschenberg
Worth dropping the hammer on

Or a quote idea unquote

All of which I would be glad to discuss in person
With suitable representatives from Al-Qaeda
ISIS
Or any of the rest of their Bronze Age towel-headed
Vaguely bi-curious friends

You know where to find me:

Joe Metzler
1930 Ellis Street
(Between Scott and Divisadero)
San Francisco, CA
94115

It’s a light blue building with white trim

I’m in the upstairs flat

Come armed.

The Worst Of Times

I have multiple close intelligent friends
Who seem convinced
We now live in the worst of times
And that the End Days are at hand

With the amount of ammo and food and
Fuel I stockpile
You might think I was one of them but

These friends are much more than seriously pessimistic
Depressed about the state of the world
Some are borderline suicidal

Not me
I just don’t see it

I mean
There may be wars looming with the Neanderthal
But we will certainly win them and
Afterwards there will be peace

Sure
Today there is poverty and starvation in Africa and America
But not for much longer
If you think about it

Crazy towelheads and the fucking Jews and
Born-again Christians raging meekly still all
Far too ignorant to scare me and
Soon to be euthanized and
Or bred out of the gene pool
In any case

So
Who cares

Stop worrying

And what
Is the source of my optimism
You might ask

Well
For one
Gay Marriage is now legal in thirty five states

A future present I
Dreamed of for decades but
In all honesty
Never thought I’d see

Not only can we conceptualize a Higgs Boson
This year the LHC confirmed its existence
Another crew launched to the ISS this morning and

We just landed a probe on a comet
Which was no small task or
Easy accomplishment
Believe me
I’ve tried

AIDS is now a manageable condition
Kind of like Athlete’s Foot so
The beautiful boys
Can almost stop dying
Altogether

Sure
The world is getting warmer
But she has been warmer before
There used to be Redwood forests in the Arctic
For Christ’s sake

But beyond the facts and science
Which grumpy people can argue about
All day long
If they wish

These are still the best of times
For the same reason they always were

Humans are beautiful
Ecstatic
Infinite

You there, human
Are beautiful

And we will work it all out
Soon

If you are reading this
Then don’t
Because it contains a spoiler alert

Our destiny does not involve World War III or
Global ecosystem collapse

There will be no planetary pandemic
Nor catastrophic rise in sea level

No random asteroid impact
There will be no new Dark Ages

And why

Well the short answer is
The gravity of love

The long answer is
The gravity of love

Sure
We are smart as a species
Didn’t we name ourselves
Homo Sapiens after all

But we are so much more than wise
As you well remember
We are God
You and I

And God would never let anything happen
To his children
He has too big a heart for that
You have too big a heart for that

The broken will become whole
The blind will see
Stem cell therapy works

We are going to unite this planet
Colonize space
And live forever

We
Meaning you and I
Will one at a time
Repair every single heart
That has ever been broken
And it won’t cost the taxpayers a penny

Because that’s
What we do

All we have ever done
Since time began

It’s
What
Makes us human

Amen.

Love Is ….

Love is love

Is a high plasma love forge
Casting twelve penny nails from unsalted butter
Replacement knees from Japantown seaweed
String and whatever else we have left
Lying around the apartment

Love is
A love laboratory in an undisclosed location
Working halfheartedly at the computer
On trans-warp space travel
Between naps

Naps are a love sign
Signaling surrender
Or at least that
This afternoon
I will fight no more forever

Chief Joseph was an Indian
Ridden to ground by freed darkies
Looking for some skull to squash
Moving on up
To the top

Fortunately love
Has short term memory problems
Can’t remember what it was so angry about
Forgives the worst last night plus five cocktails
Often and too easily

Silly love
I love your ready bilingual wit at parties
That snappy Seventies outfit
Those singular shoes I have never seen anywhere else
And your makeup

Thank you again love
For your smart
Your slender
Your trademark big eyes
Mezzo voice and that nonstop hair

I shudder
To think
Just how many people
I would have killed by now
Without you.

Cross Pollination

When you cross an Afghan Royal Kush
With OG AK-47
You might end up with some dank chronic weed

Or you might be stuck with thirty pounds
Of cluster-fucked airy bud
That no one wants to buy

It depends a lot on genetics
And weather
Temperature humidity sunlight

And fertilizer

When you cross the world’s smartest guy
With the world’s prettiest girl
You could get magic

But each year is different

You should also be prepared
For multiple pieces of crockery
Launched toward your head

Fellow farmers
My advice in that situation:
Duck.

Love Is A Thing That You Break

Love is a thing that you break
Like your dishwasher
Or shattered iPhone screen

That Ming Dynasty vase
Left alone on the bookshelf
During an earthquake

Ulysses and Faust survived the fall to the floor just fine
The Ming Dynasty vase
Not so much

Love is a thing that you fix
Like a flat tire
Or poor spelling

Flowers help

Love is a love poem
Letting the easy words win again
Trying not to be too fancy.

I Love You Good-bye #2

I am so totally not into you right now
Sorry

No offense
Old friend

You still look
Just as cute

Without disputing
That in your world there

The smartest people consider you bright and strong
And generally funny

And
No doubt

You could be those things
It’s only

From where I’m at now
And everything

I can’t possibly see
How this works itself out

Our friendship

There
Or here or

You know
Successfully anywhere

The water
She flows

So sad
And

Good-bye.

Has It Been Thirteen Years Ago Already

The image I always remember from that day
The look on my brother’s face
When he met me in the hall

Brian was awake first
And had been watching the morning news
He wanted me to warn Deirdre before she went out to the family room

I know his face
I knew it was bad

He said
Something terrible has happened

I wasn’t surprised about the towers or the planes
Everyone had seen that coming for years

I wasn’t even all that sad
Just bummed
Because I knew war was next

Okay
Maybe I was sad

The first word out of my mouth was
Mossad

The second words
Had something to do with Paul Wolfowitz

And I saw
In a rush of Divine clarity
How the next thirteen years would unfold

Pretty much
Exactly as they have

Deirdre woke up later and fell to pieces
Robert Presley, God rest his soul
Came over with a bottle of Wild Turkey

He was afraid because he lived
Across the street from The Mint
And who knew what was a target at that point

Or even
How many planes were still in the sky

We were shit-faced by noon

Brian and I made sure the guns were well loaded
And like all the rest of America
Just prayed for something to shoot at

But as it turned out
There was nothing there

No target to acquire
And that
Felt extremely frustrating

Which is why everyone was so happy
When our President showed some initiative
And started blowing up towel-heads by the hundreds
And then thousands

And believe me
We’re not done yet

In fact
If you’re Muslim my best advice to you is
Shave that beard
And convert to Christianity
Or better yet
Atheism

Because we are coming for you
We won’t stop
We don’t sleep

Nothing personal against your faith
It’s just evolution, man

The smart will kill off the stupid
Because frankly my Neanderthal friends
We don’t want you around
Corrupting the gene pool

We want to colonize space
See women in positions of power
Legalize gay marriage and, you know
Progress
As a civilization

Fundamentalist religion is the Ebola of our culture
So after the white blood cells of Rationality are done with the Arabs
We’re coming for the Jews
Then the Christians

All you various species of dinosaur
Be warned

Up in the sky
Comet.

The Naked Now

Love is a thing
Filled with stuff

Humans who are normally shy
Even about just shaking hands with a stranger in church

To say nothing of gazing long and hard at themselves
Naked in a full length mirror

Suddenly want to strip
And press their imperfect flesh

Against the sweaty skin
Of another

The other

Because that sweaty naked other is always
The one.

Surfing Lessons

Surfing Lessons.

Surfing Lessons

Sex is salt water swimming in
Your round eyes
Orgasm is accidental

When we too far out
Get hit by the bulletin that
Waves have their own science

Fluid dynamics both
Modeling surface disturbance
And the lower interactions

Peak and trough
Described as perturbations
Stochastic oscillates

That can either cancel themselves oblivious
Or amplify double
What you/we all wish for and fear

Either fix those brown eyes on the beach or the horizon
But please look somewhere
To guide yourself in and out

Then close them both
You will die today
You will be just fine.

My Man

I want a man who can actually carry my weight
Over the threshold and across the creek

Not metaphorically but by
Using his arms and lower back

A man who smells faintly of whiskey and
Or at least cigarettes

This stronger stranger who
I saw him cry twice

Once when we were streaming Netfix
And that other time.

How To Troubleshoot Your Apple TV

Plug the unit into an AC power source and a modem

When your significant other displaces the supplied Apple remote
Under the sofa
Or beneath the cushions

Indulge them in their search

When they insist on using the remote
To scroll through the menu
One letter at a time
Instead of using the phone or iPad to type

Indulge them in their search

Do not under any circumstances
Suggest how the remote
Might have ended up
Under the couch cushions

In fact best to just keep your smart mouth shut
Kind of like in college
Where
You remember how that felt

When you learned to keep quiet
And support them in their search
While every night your heart swore
To never marry into that shit

So what are you now
Did you keep your promise

Where is her damned remote?

The Land That California Time Forgot

I miss that place
Where manners mattered
And I would forgive
Its backward sense of time

To hear a yes sir
Please
And thank you Ma’am
Here in California

Occasionally

Not as some kind of unusual display
In front of her parents
But just as how
Normal people talk to each other

Everyday in
The same
Vein we have to
Still give more despite

Because of

This other newly popularized idea
That you should get something back
For your daily good deeds

Where it sounds like but

Isn’t a waltz
Isn’t Christian
Isn’t in the Scout’s Oath

And basically
Shouldn’t have a seat at the UN
To say nothing of any kind of voice
In the future choir of humanity

And, yes
People, not just old people
Still sing harmonies
Together

But I digress.

Rhapsody for an Internet Nudist

My Facebook is completely public
Always has been
I’ve got nothing to hide
Go look if you don’t believe me

On it you can find
My home address
My cell phone number
Date of birth
And more details than you could ever possibly have wanted
About my personal life

As far as I am concerned
Internet privacy is a delusion anyway
If some evil somebody wants to read your shit
Or find you
They will do it anyway

In that situation
A firearm will help
A lot more than privacy settings
Anyway

But the illusion of privacy remains
And sustains us
Passwords
Firewalls
Curtains and door locks

Clothes

The first thing that happened
When Eve led Adam down their wrongest path was
They put on clothes

With that single gesture
We severed ourselves from God or whatever you want to call It
The every daily nightly dressing we are so accustomed to
You ask how could this be such a sin

Which just graphed the ballistics of our Fall
It’s depth and trajectory
Point of impact

When we regard the sinful as the norm
And think of the previous purer reality
As weirdly uncomfortable
But

How many among us
Really truly wants to spend a weekend nude
On a nude beach
Or even in front of our significant other
With the lights turned up
At this age

I certainly don’t want to take out the trash
Move the car for street cleaning
Go to work or the Safeway
With no clothes on

You and I both so totally
Prefer the illusion
That we ourselves
Our coworkers
And everyone else on the bus

Is/Are not sweaty hairy naked apes
Who shit and smell
And climax and cry

No
We are citizens and neighbors
Colleagues and friends
We only show a little skin
Now and then
To remind us of what was

Still
I’ll keep my clothes
Thanks
And you keep yours

But in my online life
Whatever the fuck that is
My Avatar has obviously
Gone back to Nature

So this whole interaction might be more comfortable
If we both just looked each other in the eyes.

Bar Tab

I guess that
That shit must have worked
Twenty years ago

The smell of young curled hair soft
So brownish long
No one asked questions in the club
Or at your thesis review

How you held softly
By their thin throats
Strands to wrap
Silly faces

Their cocks in your mouth
For everyone
At that party
To see

Some say beauty is its own prison
As long as it lasts
Ten to twelve years
Plus parole

And I’m not impressed by how well anyone
Speaks Mandarin
Hybridizes orchids
Or paints with oils

If one fucks like an ignoramus
Who never met God then

No
You’re not young enough
To use that excuse anymore

I am not paying our bar tab
Good-night.

Genius

Brian said Dennis pre-explained his reasoning as something like
Our shared warming deforestation plus the rockets and the ache of poverty
How many families who don’t expect a flushing toilet tonight like people have in America
Or any toilet at all
Who just want some drinkable water they won’t ever get and

Brian didn’t realize at the time that these were Dennis’ reasons
For suicide

The last months
And especially weeks have been particularly hard for humanity
Children blown apart on bombed beach sands
Soldiers reluctantly preparing for war yet again

Kissing their wives goodbye
In Arabic Pashtun Russian and Hebrew
Imagine how that looks against the curvature of Earth from space
From the ISS

Pretty fucking stupid

Between the Jews so determined to save themselves at the expense of this planet
And the towel-heads so desperate just to survive so they can destroy the same planet
Old School Medieval style

Meanwhile in the Ukraine
War reminding the few remaining Idealists about how human things really work
Politics and that shit ain’t pretty

The genius of humans is Stockhausen meets Schopenhauer manifold how
We can construct a vessel out of metal stuff and rock dust we dug up from the earth
That will hold three hundred and travel at almost the speed of sound
Thirty thousand feet up in the atmosphere
Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur in under twenty-four hours with cocktails

But we wouldn’t be true humans
If we hadn’t also at the same time constructed a gun
That could track and shoot down a plane going six hundred plus miles an hour
Out of the moveable sky at thirty plus thousand feet
With a single shot

How could you not respect
How could you not love these simultaneous
Levels of genius
How could you not pray
For your God or the aliens
To put us out of our collective misery soon

Before this brilliance does any more harm
Than it already has

Peace.

Learning to Fly

For everyone who ever jumped out of a window
At an otherwise mellow party
On acid
Thinking they could fly
And died
I just want to say
Thanks for your service

Maybe your body didn’t quite
Achieve the adequate thrust
To become finally airborne
But your mind did its best
And our genome will forever remember
That grateful flight your family tries to forget

They are the present
Soon to be past
You are
Were
The future fish who climbed onto the beach
And died

Gasping for air
Baked in the sun of new days
A couple billion times over
Until you became a dinosaur

This future now
Where attorneys flit effortlessly through the air
From a balcony home in Noe Valley to their perch in the Financial District
We take this for granted because of you

Evolution isn’t quick or pretty
And maybe that’s why God gave us the Bible instead of facts
To teach the Simple patience

But God is also cute and sometimes kind
He knows whose tongue to put that tab under
He chose you
He chose now

Fly.

For Mrs. Land

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Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

Self-discipline is the yoke of the free man.

 

 

 

Savages

One hundred fifty thousand people
Fled Mosul today
That’s like
The whole population of Santa Rosa

I wonder what they’re doing tonight
Those cars will run out of gas soon
How many hotels can there possibly be
Between here and the Turkish border

And back in the town of two million they left behind
Who delivers the produce to the grocery store tomorrow
And day after tomorrow
Can I still get a bus to work for instance

Not likely

So now ISIS controls Mosul
Most of Fallujah Ramadi and Kirkuk
You remember Kirkuk from the last century
And Fallujah every day in your prayers

A lot of good men and women died there
And for what

Well, misguided as it might seem in hindsight
They died for an idealistic vision
That freedom and democracy and
God forbid, civilization would be appreciated

Embraced

It was a good thought
Admittedly a simple thought
A typically Christian thought
America’s naïveté is its charm after all

So now we know
That Saddam should have stayed
Assad should have stayed
Their people weren’t fit for democracy

And foreign policy will return to what worked before
Support dictators strong enough to keep the natives in line

Though I prefer the earlier term
Savages
It’s more honest
That’s what they really are

Whether chopping off heads and hands
Poisoning the water before burning down the girls’ school
Or burying gay people alive
These crazy towelheads have got to go

It may not be this war or the next
But I predict a future
Where Arabic is a dead language
An academic fascination.

On Speaking German – Part One

What if I had studied French

Or Italian for that matter

As it is I speak German
Maybe not exactly like a native
But near enough to pass socially

Which always happens after a certain amount
Of time spent in country
Or lovers too lazy to learn English

Don’t get me wrong
Speaking a second or third language is cool
No matter what language it is

As it is I speak German

And in the future
German will be studied like Greek
So people can read

Schopenhauer, Goethe and Marx
Wittgenstein, Nietzsche and Planck
Luther, Heine, Schwitters, Mann
Etc., u.s.w

In their native tongue

It’s an excellent mental exercise
Speaking in other tongues
And I recommend all of them

I’m just saying
Chose carefully
Because every language comes with its price

With its literature
And a travel menu
And style of people
Each differently mannered

Mandarin and Swahili
For instance
May be challenging

But who really wants to live there or eat there
To say nothing of the bathroom situation

On the other hand
I love a late Mozart symphony with schnitzel and beer

But fear that German may have made the worst of my serious side
At a time in my youth
When I should have been drunk on a beach somewhere else

I don’t hold that against her
It’s just

If I had it to do over again
I’d start with Portuguese.

Vegas, Baby!

So, I made it to Vegas before I made it to fifty
But only just barely
And why not

From our smoking room on the nineteenth floor of the Tropicana
We watch the steady stream of 737’s landing
Hard and heavy through mid-altitude mountain turbulence

Another load of well-intentioned citizens
And another and another

There was a reason I never wanted to visit this place
Maybe more than one
The way the ambulance sirens start at ten p.m. and
Don’t stop until four
EMT’s collecting the comatose
One after the other

Taking them to where they
Wash the great unwashed

The way everything is a little bit broken
Light bulbs mitered joints grout lines
Ten thousand dollars worth of tile in the casino bathroom
Not one piece of it set straight

Plaster seams that aren’t butted flush
Chair rail down endless mirrored halls
None of it trim or level or anything else

Everything here an approximation
Of something better classier more
Exotic but not really

Still
Apparently near enough for the intended audience
Ten yards and a running mule
Is what we said in the theater
Meaning it doesn’t have to be perfect

Or even close

It just needs to look halfway real under the footlights
For a minute or two
Paint her pink and call it done

The quote outfits
No mother would let her daughter out of the house in
If mothers had daughters they raised in houses
With clothes anymore

How much water to flush
How much middle American shit
Into some hole in the desert

Friends artists
Good people I trust tell me
There is something to learn in this spectacular decayed
Glittering shiny
How it all catches the eye

Trying to pretend that even white trash black trash and
Kamikaze card crazed Japanese tourists
Deserve their own Burning Man

Well here you have it America
All our very best and worst

Which may and seem to be the same thing
If Al Qaeda or any of their towelhead friends wanted to hit a
Morally justified soft target
They should come to The Strip

Like the Trade Towers
Where no one shed a single tear for seared investment brokers
Suiciding toward the sidewalk
Just the firemen who rushed in to save them

Or Sodom
Some dude’s curious wife turned to salt for her curiosity
Leaving behind only the mean and boring Jews to procreate
To the point of World War Three
All these millennia later

But what does any of that matter
Here

The Republic is dead
Viva Las Vegas

I need a (frozen) drink.

The Better Speller

Thank you
For being the better speller

Thank you for your eyes

For helping pay the rent
Reminding me
What’s important is the thank you

Its spelling
And the eyes

Those jeans of yours
You know the ones

For letting me bourbon enough
To smoke till I become myself
Which isn’t so bad after all
Turns out

Thanks for the pentameter of up above
And the iamb scanned slowly below

The geographies mapped
In this apartment

The cartographer’s children we never had
Never will
How beautifully they turned out

For the lasagna
And movies
And popcorn
For everything else worth tasting

Then tasting again
Because our so hungry sings
Of more and more you

Lisa, you

Thanks for the murderous crazy
For screaming when words don’t work

For the desperate scratches
The towels
For the Diet Coke
The sourdough bread

For saying yes

Thank you.

Text Message

Okay, so

The backcountry story is
I am an hour up a dirt road
In the middle of absolute nowhere

Mendocino County, California
Many miles from a cell tower

But I keep getting
A text alert
And it’s driving me fucking crazy

My iPhone doesn’t work
In these hills
So why

Oh, wait
It’s not the Apple factory Tweet ringtone I’m hearing
It’s a real live bird call

My confusion
Highly disturbing.

Missing Lisa

Missing Lisa
Is like the future
When humans miss their coastal metropolises

The Internet
Sunlight
And food

Because I remember
How friends used to whine
About the warming and
This or that extinction spasm

Friends who now just want me to find someone to trade
Sex or children or anything else for ammo and water
Someone who is in HAM radio contact with Richmond or Baltimore
Where no one has heard anything in weeks

The last six crew members
Riding the ISS
Blindly and bravely
into the Pacific

The slow tropical feel
Of the ceaseless clouds

How under such conditions
People and things get tweaked

Tectonic plates seize up then rupture
With no measurable warning in the slightest

All of which creates a much larger mess
That could easily have been avoided
By
Leaving me safe in her arms.

Coyotes and Starshine

Jacking off in the woods alone
Late at night
Naked

Only coyotes
The moon
And starshine on your good hand

To remind you where you are
What you are
Doing

Few secret pleasures in life
Are finer
Than this.

Cooking Shows

It sounds, what
Like something Wittgenstein wrote
In one of his notebooks
Specifically Culture and Value
How a singular proposition, while ordinary
But too logical to be left in silence
Could be so riveted on each of us that
Even philosophers must admit it in writing
When feeling there
More than any place before
Final perfect stimulus
A slow lifetime
On this particular sofa
Watching cooking shows
Planning future dinners
With the linguistically immaculate fiancée

This Miserable Thing Called Marriage

I can’t name one single married friend
Who is happy true
In their marriage

I mean full happy
Like this is the only one of dreams
And I never ever want another

Even briefly

Our sex life is broad
Soul filled orgasmically
Smeared across the bedroom walls

They respect me
And I trust them
Even now

But everyone I know
Especially my friends with kids
Just wants out

Like if their spouse were suddenly to die
In a random car crash
On the Golden Gate Bridge

God fucking forbid

It would be sad and horrible
Require weeks of healing etc
But be strangely liberating at the same time

Search your heart
Call me a liar
If you can

I wish I could warn my gay friends
So giddy in their rush to City Hall
Don’t do it

Take a breath
Look at your parents
Reconsider.

Walking to and through 420

Walking to and through 420
Celebrations in Golden Gate Park
I was struck

By several thoughts

There were black people
Way more than you ever see in SF
Anymore these days

They must be from out of town

In fact most of these celebrants weren’t from The City
Which made me sad to realize these days now I guess

San Francisco has to import its freaks
From the suburbs

Hippie Hill was shoulder to shoulder
Two dollar joints or five dollar cookies
Which made me realize
Some people still pay money for pot

And that I’m not in Virginia anymore

I don’t actually know what the rest of the country is like
But I do read about it on the Internet
Things there sound far away
And kind of grim

Except for the gun laws of course

As for San Francisco this sunny Easter afternoon

It did my old man’s heart good
To see so many kids
Who just wanted to get high
And just didn’t give a fuck

I thought
There is hope for America
After all.

Soft

My brother’s face
Is soft as skin
His eyelids lowered
Toward the keyboard.

Haute Cuisine

The way the nose
Tastes the entree

Still being plated
In the kitchen

That how her jeans come off
Says my nose was right

Again and down
And spice

If tomorrow the noose
Tonight’s last meal

Was more than this convict
Ever deserved.

Fighting Stephen Sharp in the Schoolyard

 

Those friends who know me know

Joe is a jealous lover

A terribly mean fighter

 

Who tries to choose loving when possible

Because it smells and tastes salty

Helps everyone’s shared karma

 

But remembers battle yields her own pleasures

And those born strong

End up having to fight eventually

 

It is expected

 

Grade school seemed like multiple conflicts per month

Not ones I started

But those fuckers picking on my brother

 

A something that never worked for me

So if you want to get on the school bus this morning bro

Meet me behind the church and now

 

Which was

The how of why I learned to combat

 

Take your sad chances with this Metzler

Or learn some manners

And don’t ever call him a faggot again

 

But by then Brian became so strong for himself

And transferred to another school

Where he didn’t need that kind of help anymore

 

Which brings me to Stephen Sharp who I should have helped but didn’t

The final schoolyard fist fight of my short career

And hopefully last hand to hand combat experience ever

 

Steve was so everything a man would want and glee club fabulous

Where I had no idea what that even meant at age fifteen

Yet still somehow knew enough to call him faggot

 

A sentence I don’t want to remember speaking

But did and fear

Probably said to my own brother at some point

 

I assume Brian has forgiven me

I am too scared to ask

 

In any case

One day

Steve wasn’t having it anymore

 

And we found ourselves standing

In an adolescent circle on the lacrosse field

Of Lord of the Flies wannabees

 

He knew I was three years into karate

But stood up and meant it

Hit me square in the face like a lover would

 

So the other boys would call me the faggot

Give him a short week of peace

For being brave with the bully

 

Steve died in the first wave

The one that took all the prettiest

And brightest and best from us

 

My parents were friends with his parents from church

So I heard the whole grim ICU story

Back before there were meds for HIV

 

I meant to call him

I really did

 

But by then it was too late
He had already left us

 

I wanted to say

Something like

 

Steve

I am so horribly sorry

 

My brain was warped

Growing up in Portsmouth, Virginia in the seventies

 

I didn’t mean to hurt you

Which shame I now carry into subsequent lifetimes

 

The metrics of atoning for a sin

Without any equation to solve

 

This calculus homework you left

Wished on no one, Stephen

 

You were young and perfect and you lay in that hospice and died

 

I don’t expect some pardon

Just the hope

 

That long years ago

You forgot all this

 

Where now your new house

Makes nothing but dance all day

 

Exquisite

Choral

 

Loud

Free.

The Brotherhood of the Table

September 20th

It’s cold in the drying room of the barn loft when my alarm rings at 6:50 a.m. I can see my breath in the sunrising mountain light as I shiver up off my floor bed and stumble past the as yet empty drying racks on my way downstairs. It’s September 20th and every morning will begin just like this for the foreseeable future.

Martin has been up for an hour already. He’s had his first cup of coffee and started a fire in the wood stove. It’s still too early to run the generator and whatever charge the solar panels gave the batteries yesterday has long since been depleted by the trimmers. No satellite TV or Internet just yet.

It wasn’t so long ago that we didn’t have either of these modern conveniences. Hell, the wall and door for the bathroom are novel luxuries.

I’m up before the other guys so I can use the one flushable toilet and the coffee pot before the morning rush. Plus I have to cook breakfast and get out to the patch to pick in time for work to start at eight.

Each morning is exactly the same. Each breakfast is bacon with eggs cooked in bacon grease, the way Martin likes them, and toast. In another three weeks everyone will be sick of this but for now it is a welcome warm start to what everyone knows will be a long and tedious day, eerily similar to both yesterday and tomorrow.

I try to remember to roll some cigarettes now for the hours ahead but often forget. Soon my fingers will be too sticky with resin to do much of anything. I grab my Felco’s and a couple empty garbage bags and head out into the garden to take some first cuts. None of the plants are really ready but the crew is all here and we can’t pay them to sit around the Table and do nothing.

Each year is the same but different. This time all the plants are late despite the dry summer. The ones in the greenhouse were decimated by spider mites and the guerrilla garden was covered in powdery mildew. The full sun garden did okay but not great. Some years everything comes off early. Some years it’s mold we have to worry about, some years wild pigs.

This is my fifth year with Martin and my seventh Harvest. I used to tell myself that each year would be the last but I’ve stopped doing that.

Spyrock Road, California

So far up a dirt road no stranger could ever find their way out. That’s where the old-school pot farms are. Parcels where people started growing forty years ago when the legal climate was a little different than it is today. Hidden somewhere in the rough hills each community named only by its justly notorious road: Branscomb, Dos Rios, Bell Springs, Briceland, Salmon Creek, Iron Peak and of course Spyrock. Spyrock, where they say not everyone who drives up here always makes it back out.

Just this year there was a homicide on an adjacent parcel which resulted in half the neighbors’ gardens getting busted but not ours, thank goodness. From the ridge Martin and Boyd watched the whole thing, helicopters and all. Just like the old days

You turn off the 101 on to Spyrock about eight and a half miles north of Laytonville. Someone will have to tell you exactly where because it’s not marked on the highway. Cal Trans used to put up signs but the locals always took them down by nightfall so eventually the authorities gave up.

The first half mile or so is actually “paved” these days but after that it’s just hard pack gravel and dirt for the next hour. There are power poles for people just off Spyrock. They end at the Middle Road gate. Another three more gates stand locked between this point and the gardens.

These hills are most frequently described as rugged. They are unpleasantly short on level building sites.This land isn’t good for much of anything except ranching which, who does that anymore? Ranching, and logging, which was exhausted fifty years ago. All these crazy mountain roads were originally cut for falling and skidding Fir. The soil is too steep and rocky for agriculture. Pot is grown in barrels or boxes with dirt brought in from somewhere else, someplace fertile.

Still, for a boy from the coastal flats of the Chesapeake Bay, these hills are spectacular. Fierce rock cliff faces and long views that change from ridge to ridge. You might be able to see the Pacific on a clear day and, unless there is thick fog in the morning or a particularly bad winter storm, you can always see the Trinity Alps at the other end of the Emerald Triangle.

Last century this was primarily Doug Fir forest. Georgia Pacific had something to say about that. When they were done it was split up into twenty acre parcels and sold to the future pot farmers of America. The remaining second-growth Fir is slowly succumbing to bark beetles. We felled two dozen dead trees last year. This year it will certainly be more.

In their absence the hardwoods have thrived. Coast Live Oaks and Madrones in their differently twisted grace are enjoying the sunny breaks in the lost canopy. Poison oak is simply everywhere. It is the first item of flora you will need to be able to identify if you come to visit. I can’t stress that strongly enough.

Except for very boring people, nobody likes nature writing. So, I’ll spare you the descriptions of the manifold Spring wildflowers that Martin so loves to photograph. The flocks of wild turkeys, the doe with her yearling, the black bear we saw on the road last week, the high lonesome sound of the red tail that nests on George Washington Rock.

None of which anyone here now will be able to enjoy for the next month because we are all trapped from sunup to sundown in this barn or a trim shed just like Martin’s. Some will have more amenities, most will have fewer. A nearly identical scene is taking place on half the parcels between Sonoma County and the Oregon border.

“Mommy, where does marijuana come from?”

“Well dear, you know how your Uncle Joe has to go away for a month each Fall?”

I think everyone remembers their first trim show. And most every year there is at least one new guy to remind you how that felt. Normally they are self-identified stoners which is how they got hooked up with this line of work in the first place. But even after having smoked their whole lives, they’re always astounded the first time they see a twelve foot tall marijuana plant. “Dope!”

I sure remember the first time I sat there and some very serious looking older man with a beard, openly carrying a firearm, dragged in a a stuffed green garbage bag of unprocessed weed and emptied it on the table in front of us. Five-pointed leaves the size of your head and chollas as big as a grown man’s forearm. “Sick!”

Believe me, the novelty wears off in the first hour. It is quickly replaced by the slow grinding tedium of an assembly line. The weed comes in from the field. It never stops coming in from the field. Depending on the temperature and humidity that day it could be brutally sticky and impossible to handle or wet and firm and easy to process.

We waterleaf it, plucking off the biggest leaves at the base of their stems. Each reach into every bud with our fingernails and thumbs wishing for a thimble that never comes and wouldn’t work anyway.

This is followed by a wet manicure with titanium Fiskars and then it’s up to the drying racks where I sleep. Dozens then hundreds then thousands of individual stalks strung by their hanging buds. Each string of every rack labeled on the end of the aisle like shelf stacks in a library. Garden and plant number. Execute and repeat.

Despite the monotony, there is much that is miraculous. Everyone has seen pot seeds at the bottom of a bag. They are small, smaller than a pepper corn. That a tree-sized plant, twice as tall as I stand, could grow from something so tiny in six months is hardly believable.

And slowly we get schooled by these green trees, all of whom are female, by the way. How the layers of leaves we strip enfold the bud in solemn protection. A mother swaddling her babes.

I think most people who smoke pot give very little consideration to where it comes from and don’t have the faintest idea how much work is involved in bringing it from the field to the marketplace. A fundamental disconnect which could almost function as a thesis if someone wanted to write an essay on the topic.

Society

The first time I came up Spyrock Road it wasn’t to trim pot. It was to work as a contractor, which, supposedly, is one of my professions. My brother and I came to spray foam insulation on the walls and ceiling of Burt’s steel barn. The same steel barn I am trimming in right now.

The reason we drove the four hours north for this work was: one, to help a friend, two, for the money and three, because there are no general contractors left in Mendocino County or electricians or plumbers or roofers. All those guys decided to farm pot rather than toil in the trades and who can blame them.

Marijuana cultivation, also known as pot farming, also known as illegal, has been a tremendous boon to the local economy in many ways. The lumber yard, grocery market and above all the nursery are thriving. Big rig flat beds stacked with palettes of potting soil idle six deep on Dos Rios in Laytonville in the Spring.

Everyone’s hippie palace homestead is immaculately remodeled with hand milled floors, a hot tub, guest house, giant array of solar panels and a deck long enough to land a small plane on.

So is it legal? Yes and no. In Mendocino County they passed an ordinance that people can grow twenty-five plants per parcel, which is what we do, more or less. Last year the sheriff said he wouldn’t go after any gardens under a hundred. What they want are the big time operations, the cartels and the people wrecking the hills. Stealing water from a blue line creek, for instance, is a big no-no.

This could be of real interest to an anthropology student. Except that anthropology as an academic discipline, like a forest of Douglas Firs, doesn’t exist anymore. So, the work will fall to sociologists and I greatly fear their statistical analysis, more suited as it is to the corporate boardroom … but I digress again.

Economically, pot has saved this region of rural Northern California, which otherwise would have been left in Detroit-level poverty facing the loss of fishing, logging and ranching, in the wake of repeated fishing logging and ranching.

Societally, however, I don’t know. When you have to import contractors from two hundred miles away because no one remembers how to do anything other than tend these plants anymore?

And even though it is ostensibly legal or at least normal there lingers the psychological impact from the atmosphere of paranoia. Everyone is secretive. Everyone has several hundred thousand dollars buried around their land somewhere. Everyone is lying to the IRS. Everyone is living in Nature but no one can just walk around the hillside for fear of stumbling across a property line onto someone’s patch and/or then getting shot.

And now, 2013, the economy is changing again. When I started, an ounce of weed was worth more than an ounce of gold. Now it would take five times that much pot to make a similar transaction. Sure there is much less criminal risk and fear but also much less profit for the small farmers.

Weed isn’t grown just in these remote hills anymore. Indoor operations in the big cities and in the suburbs have flooded the market and those guys can grow year round. The “medical” dispensaries have monopolized the retail market driving competition up and wholesale prices down.

Add to this the new weed snob culture which puts the most odious enophiles to shame. Hipsters and yuppies with their imaginary varietal hierarchy that makes most pot farmers scratch their bald heads and ask just what the fuck is wrong with San Francisco and how many more years they will be growing. But little of these concerns touch us right now. Today is October 1st and all we have is the table.

The Table

Martin is the boss. I am the foreman. The table is our reality. It is locus and focus, and not to be unduly redundant, matrix, source, and home. It is our reason for being. Here.

On the first day every trimmer takes his place and that is where you stay for the next month. Choose that place well. It determines everything. Who you will face in conversation all day, every day. Who will sit at your right and left side. Above all, your place in the Roto.

This table is actually quite nice as table’s go. Real quarter sawn oak. One of Burt’s many semi pseudo valuable antiques. Hoarded here in his barn anticipating some imaginary future purpose. For now just turning slowly black from resin and the repeated years of trimming.

I’ve always thought of the trim show as a variant knitting bee. Maybe that’s because for my first two seasons it was all women, except me, around the table, talking and trimming. The men were out in the gardens or on road guard down by the gate or sorting and vacuum sealing stock in the drying sheds.

The last five years it has been all guys around the table but, believe me, they can talk, too. The knitting bee, the barn raising, harvest time. A community of people coming together briefly for hard work in a common cause. The world village could use more trim shows these days, in my humble opinion.

This is Fellowship. This is what you learn about your friends. This is how you bond to complete strangers when people work and live so closely together for an intense period of time. Like soldiers in war or monks at a sesshin. Sitting there, the six of us around the table for eight to twelve hours a day, we talk. We can’t help but get to know each other. Fairly intimately.

We all share the same struggle. The day is long and steals a little bit of your soul when you realize that tomorrow will be exactly the same and there is no end in sight. Those who suffer together…

It is also dangerous. Not actively dangerous like a construction site but passively like you could potentially find yourself on the wrong end of a gun, whether wielded by narcs or rippers it makes little difference. My .45 sleeps in bed beside me. Martin’s 12 gauge is within easy reach of the table.

That criminal stress and the short sporadic seasonal nature of the work always makes it hard to find good trimmers. Who is there available who doesn’t have a normal job and a possessive lover? Who can just take a month off life to go into the woods and shoulder this kind of risk for a few thousand dollars? Normally it’s people who are kind of desperate and on the edge. Like me and my friends.

Because now they are my friends, even the ones who were strangers three weeks ago. We have cemented that friendship through our own set of rituals. The rituals keep us focused. Keep us sane. And the most sacred is the Roto.

Everything that happens at the table happens by rotation. Bong hits, dish duty. Music. The rule is one complete album per person, in rotation. No double albums and no repeats until the last day. Na$-T plays Wu Tang. Ogos plays Radiohead. Martin, Buddy Guy. Tyler, Of Montreal. Boyd, Black Sabbath. Sam, something sad. Me, Evelyn Evelyn. And then we go around again, then again.

The circle of music plays in counterpoint to the other circular process of pick, waterleaf, manicure, hang, buck. We play Sparky to start the rips. We rotate the beers to keep them cold and the ice packs in the weed coolers for the same reason. At ten we break. At noon we eat. At two we take shots. We imagine the rooms where all this weed will end up. We miss the sound of a woman’s voice. And at the end of it all we have built a bond closely akin to love.

Week Three

It’s October 15th. A car comes down the “driveway.” It raises little alarm because it must be a friend, someone who knows our gate combo. It is, in fact, a PTA mom from the local high school. She comes by each year selling pizzas to raise money for the marching band. She knows the farmers and crews are both hungry and very generous tippers.

The drying racks are green and full now. A well stocked library of cannabis wisdom. My bedroom smells like a ganja sauna. I fall asleep each night amidst tens of thousands of dollars of crop. I fall asleep easily, exhausted and sore.

I remember how sore I used to get from sitting zazen fourteen hours a day for a week at a time. Worse than ten rounds in a MMA ring. By week three everyone is so sore they can barely move. Wrists spasm regularly with stabs of pain. Ibuprofen no longer helps. Some move on to Vicodin. Backs seize up. Some of us trim standing. It helps for a little while but then nothing helps anymore.

The band of brothers is starting to grow cracks. Like astronauts stationed on the ISS. This seemed cool at first and you know that I love you, man, but all I dream about now is being away from you. That and the long drive home. That and a fat, I mean phat, stack of twenties tucked under the seat of the truck.

Each year is the same. Just when no one can take anymore and is verging on killing the one guy at the table who won’t shut up, and you know who you are. When even the atheists bend a knee to beg God, please, please, please never let me set eyes on another pot plant again as long as I live.

Suddenly it is all over. The Autumnal Anticlimax. There is still more weed in the field but the executive committee has had enough. We add up the hours. The crew gets paid. Everyone wakes up together at the same time from the same bad dream.

Martin and I sit alone with our canned beer and shot glasses around the now quiet empty table. We wait for an email that says the guys are back home safe. We swear, once again, that that was our very last harvest.

Until next year.

Please Jesus

Jesus instructed me to give All
And expect nothing in return

If you don’t like the word Jesus
Substitute the word manners

If you need instructions
On how to differentiate

Between the word Jesus and the word manners
You are an idiot

And should probably
Check out my YouTube video

“Christian Ethics
And Why I Wish You Would Learn To Be Polite
Before I Have To Shoot You”

Christians who give freely
Know they will get nothing back
In return

Christians in relationship
Are more than
Equally enough susceptible

To being fucked by atheists
Who have no God
And care only about themselves

But that’s not really a problem for us
Right?

We turn the other cheek
Until it it is bruised beyond forensic recognition

And then some
And then some more

But let’s not forget that
Jesus was no pussy

He threw the money changers out of that temple
And could have leveled Rome in an instant

If he wanted to
And he did want to

But didn’t do it
Something stopped him

Please Jesus
Stop me tonight

Before I do something
I might regret tomorrow.

One Tongue

The BBC just told me
There are some 529 official languages in Nigeria
Making it one of the most linguistically diverse countries
On the planet

Of course it remains
A resolute shithole
No one would ever want to move to
Or live in, even briefly

Most of these Nigerian tongues are like owls
Nearing extinction

UNESCO says
There are over 6,000 languages
On the planet

Many of them won’t survive
Even to the middle of this century

And I guess that is sad
The writer of the BBC article certainly thought so

And I guess I kind of agree
But also don’t

I would actually prefer a little less diversity

Earth is a big planet
If you’re an ant
Or a virus

But we the people realize our home
Is just a speck of cosmic dust
With a tiny film of moisture
Clinging precariously to its surface

And that within said margin
Of wetness
We very temporarily abide

Humans couldn’t even survive thirty seconds naked
On the surface of Mars
To say nothing of in the vacuum of space
Which is basically where we really do live

If you had to give driving directions to an alien

Which is why
I like going past Mission High when class gets out
I like the future of America
Otherwise known as Earth

These little teenage troublemakers
Aren’t brown and white and yellow and black
Well, first of all
There are no black people left in San Francisco anymore
Not even in the projects but

The students of Mission High are a new color
Which doesn’t have a number in the Pantone chart yet
But is coming soon to a planet near you

The point is

I like diversity
Especially biodiversity
But let’s be practical

One language is enough
For this one small planet
And that language is English

One race is enough for me, too
And actually
I prefer the term species

Regarding race as leftover
Mengele science which
However fascinating
Is still retarded

I would personally be
Embarrassed as fuck
If the aliens landed tomorrow

Trying to explain 6,000 languages
And 200 countries
Infighting over the crust
Of a minor oblate spheroid

So
As much as I wish they would come
And come soon
I hope they don’t see me
See us
Looking like this

At least not for another couple months
We need some time to get our shit together in the Crimea
And also
Lose a few pounds
Before we are really presentable

In public.

Pry It From My Cold Dead Hands

Sure you can register my guns
Write down their serial numbers then
Try to confiscate

All the
Remaining firearms
In America

But it won’t be easy
Because we already bought them
Well oiled and stashed underground

Times a billion
And we’re ready for you
Of fucking course they’re loaded

Because if guns weren’t loaded
They’d just be big black metal sticks

Which, mmm
Big black sticks

Remind me
Where was I going with this?

Valentines Then and Now

(Heart Shaped Bruises That Remind Us of the Price of Love)

In our work as General Contractors
My brother and I routinely drive
From one end of The City to the other
And back

Admittedly it’s only seven miles
By seven miles
But we do get around

We swing close
We swing wide
Our truck is always full enough
To earn its carbon footprint

Sometimes we swing
A little bit out of the way
To pick up groceries
Or Valentine’s Day presents

Things that aren’t necessarily
All that business related

And I will never forget the afternoon
Ten years ago today
When we swung by City Hall
To marvel at the line of couples
Stacked down Polk Street around Grove
And up Van Ness

All the TV cameras
It was like a miracle
It still seems like a miracle

I thought I was fifteen when I went to my first gay bar
But I must have been sixteen
Because I remember driving

The three of us
Henry Dennis and Joe

One gay and two straight
Three best friends
It seemed only fair
That a third of the time we would go

Anyway the straight clubs
That would let us in with fake ID’s
Were more than a little questionable
The Butterfield Stage

The gay bars though
Smokey pool tables and Tom of Finland art
Never charged us cover
Looked at our fake ID’s
Or any ID at all for that matter

Someone always bought us beers

I’ve got a lot of fond memories of The Garage
That was the first place I ever saw two men slow-dancing together
It was 1982 and they were both in uniform
Norfolk was a Navy town
After all

But 1982 was also the year that
Little
Xeroxed
Cards
Appeared on that bar top

Men have been dying in New York
And Boston
And Amsterdam
It acts like a flu
They call it the Gay Cancer

After that everything turned bluish-black

In 1992 when I moved to San Francisco
You couldn’t get on a bus
Without a fellow passenger’s KS lesions
Of course they could have your seat

There was no reason
For makeup
To cover it any more

At that point
Everyone had them

Get off the 8 Market at Noe
And it seemed like every fifth guy
Was walking with a cane

I have never felt more glad than now
To be called an old man

Recounting how then
When I was your age
How bad things were
Where everyone used to hide

I’m beyond happy you don’t remember any of that
That your now is the new normal
The sailors men and women
Getting married on base

The generation of gaybies headed to college
The bigots wrinkling and dying off in droves

My advice to the youth of America
Is this
Forget your history

Don’t listen to old music
Or read books written before the year 2000
Above all else

Please
Don’t build any more memorial gardens
To the pains of the past

Dance till you are drunk
Till you drink yourself sober
And when the hangover wears off
Concentrate on terraforming Mars.

An Extra Day

“And the wind cries, Mary.”

Tomorrow the dentist will pull my seventh tooth in as many years.
These aren’t baby teeth. They won’t grow back. I’m forty-nine.
The only thing that will replace this tooth is a denture.

I had started writing a whiny-slash-scathing editorial about the life of artists
In San Francisco this afternoon
How they pay for their craft with their blood and their teeth
Because they can’t afford to visit doctors and dentists.

Being so bummed about the state of my mouth
And so riled with the stratigraphy of our Union
I was almost poetic, truly.

Then I got the news about Mary.
She was also forty-nine
And as of last night she is no longer with us.

(Silence)

I can only imagine how happy she would have been for the dentist to say
You are going to lose all your teeth
And need a full denture by the time you are fifty.

Instead of the oncologist saying
It’s back
It has metastasized to your liver and kidneys
You’re close, miss, but you’ll never see fifty.

(More Silence)

Mary
That little blonde unflappable ball of seriousness and everything else
When we were school kids
How can I make you see her?

I can’t.

I want to attach a link for the Facebook pics
And her blog
And her life
To this poem,

As if it would make a difference.

But not do any of that or anything else
Just write about how death sounds like a cliche
When you write about it
But is actually real and hurts people

Everyone and everything it touches
Her parents
Her husband
Her kids.

We were a small class
We weren’t overly friendly
But all knew each other
Through those days

And through the years
And through Facebook
Became even closer

More close.

Some day, someday soon
It will be my day to die
And your day to die
But that day is not today

It could have been
And perhaps it should have been
But it wasn’t

So this (then)
Might seem to beg the question

What should we all do tonight?

What would Mary have done
With this one extra day?

An Extra Day

“And the wind cries, Mary.”

Tomorrow the dentist will pull my seventh tooth in as many years.
These aren’t baby teeth. They won’t grow back. I’m forty-nine.
The only thing that will replace this tooth is a denture.

I had started writing a whiny-slash-scathing editorial about the life of artists
In San Francisco this afternoon
How they pay for their craft with their blood and their teeth
Because they can’t afford to visit doctors and dentists.

Being so bummed about the state of my mouth
And so riled with the stratigraphy of our Union
I was almost poetic, truly.

Then I got the news about Mary.
She was also forty-nine
And as of last night she is no longer with us.

(Silence)

I can only imagine how happy she would have been for the dentist to say
You are going to lose all your teeth
And need a full denture by the time you are fifty.

Instead of the oncologist saying
It’s back
It has metastasized to your liver and kidneys
You’re close, miss, but you’ll never see fifty.

(More Silence)

Mary
That little blonde unflappable ball of seriousness and everything else
When we were school kids
How can I make you see her?

I can’t.

I want to attach a link for the Facebook pics
And her blog
And her life
To this poem,

As if it would make a difference.

But not do any of that or anything else
Just write about how death sounds like a cliche
When you write about it
But is actually real and hurts people

Everyone and everything it touches
Her parents
Her husband
Her kids.

We were a small class
We weren’t overly friendly
But all knew each other
Through those days

And through the years
And through Facebook
Became even closer

More close.

Some day, someday soon
It will be my day to die
And your day to die
But that day is not today

It could have been
And perhaps it should have been
But it wasn’t

So this (then)
Might seem to beg the question

What should we all do tonight?

What would Mary have done
With this one extra day?

I Wonder How Am I Still Here

I receive communications
From the newly passed
The long since gone
And the currently transitioning

Lisa was raised
In a house full of atheists

So she thinks I’m just drunk when I say that
I spent this whole afternoon in conversation with Mary

About what to expect in the near term
How her soul can stay with me as long as it needs
Take whatever it needs

And that her karmic debt
Has been assumed
By an anonymous patron

A classmate from prep school

Sorry I missed the thirty year reunion

We all get old statistically
Take flight according to our manifest
Given weather conditions stay favorable

I’ve been briefed on all that and am ready to go
It sure would be great to see my dad again
And Dan and Randy

A drink together with Lucky
And Dorothy and Maria and Tye

Statistically it should be me
The overdue overweight almost fifty
Lifelong smoker and heavy drinker

With no health problems at all
Whatsoever
I don’t deserve it and tonight
I really feel that

For her children and
Her husband I’ve never met
Mr. Awesome with the catheter and everything else
The best and worst of their vows

Dear God,
I haven’t asked anything in a long time
But tonight could you please just take
Whatever little good there is left in this world
And send it Mary’s way.

Anyone Remember Post Modern Art?

It’s 2013 already
Or fourteen
So get over it

Post Modernism is something
People’s parents did
Back in the day

It’s like the Sixties
Betamax or the electric car
Another charming idea
That didn’t pan out

I can’t even remember
The last time I thought
About a piece of art
Philosophically like
With my brain

And I must say
It feels a whole lot better now
Not to be always intimidating everyone else
At dinner parties.

Our Next Third

Honey,

Gone to Safeway.
Back around 5.

Sorry to miss this afternoon.
Forgot about your yoga.
Wish my sweet fiancée had been home instead.

Don’t clean the apt., but
Good News:

Met another Melanie.
Can you believe it?
Film student, cashier at the Booksmith
Big Cassavetes fan, loves L Cohen
Brunette, of course.

Plus:
Glasses!

Anyway, her lunch break and
We came back to Ellis Street
Wanting you!
Where were you?
Stupid fucking yoga class.

Really tropical first exchange, though
In your absence
Sure you’ll so love the straight hair,
Her small perky
And acting skills.

Might be a contender
For our next best supporting…
You can be the judge
But, please wait to shower
Until we get home

M. apparently whips a mean soufflé.
Invited her to stay over and cook tonight
Prefers white but will drink red
Hope that’s not a deal-breaker.

We’re getting TP, coffee, wine, dessert
And stuff for dinner
Text me if you need anything else.

Left her pics
On your desktop.

Love,
Joe

Those Wings On My Lips

What are those wings on my lips
A moon-confused moth
In love with the light
At the tip of my cigarette.

Ruined

Sometimes
When you get so mad where
You just say those things

That could ruin everything
And all the other stuff
Which gets shared too much

Where you never meant to mess it up
To the point that
They are ruined forever

But by then it’s too late
To save anything
And you realize

You just fucked yourself.

Good Driving Record

Motoring down the 101
With felonious weight
In the back of my Tahoe

I follow every traffic law
Always signal never speed
To the letter

And for three hours
A rust Honda follows me
Driving just as perfectly

Some call us criminals
But the best drivers in America

Are illegal immigrants
And drug smugglers.

Perfect Astrolabe

It seems like
Everyone I know
Is falling out of love
Hard

I mean
Couples into their second decade
With houses and kids
And shit

All gone
Not because of infidelity
Or anything drastic
Mostly just boredom

The complaints I hear
Are general
About a lack of
Interest

Connection
Communication
Consideration
Concern

Cherishing
Or caring
Or love
Respect

Sex

I don’t want to be that way
I don’t want to be that man
Sad
Angry

Sitting on the couch
Resenting her movie selection
And all it implies
About her soul and stuff

Someone told me
Over and over again
Relationships aren’t easy
They take work

I think it was my parents
Or everyone else
Who ever planted a red flower seed
And was astounded

How fully it blossomed in spring
Then shriveled in winter
And cut me when I pruned it
Hard

I just thank God I work in construction
Not the metaphor business
Otherwise
I’d starve

But I don’t listen to gardening advice
And I build the way I want to
This ship is sailing past the end of the earth
And beyond past

I just sighted down the barrel of my astrolabe
Aligned the freckles on her torso
With the stars in the Northern Hemisphere
And plotted our course

Out of here
Perfectly.

Clarification Waltz

Just to be clear
I don’t kill people for money ever
So don’t ask

I don’t kill people for sport either
Unless they are in season
And happen to wander onto my land

I kill for revenge
Love honor
And poor driving etiquette

Killing’s a mess to clean up
And I wouldn’t recommend it
To neat freaks

But if you are in the right
Wrong mood
Nothing relaxes quite like

Murder.

Why Can’t Every Woman in Hollywood Look Like Judi Dench in Skyfall?

“To hell with dignity.
I’ll leave when the job’s done” – M.

So
Lisa’s out for the evening
Watching a subtitled black and white film
Or doing some other chic-type shit

The important thing is
I finally get to watch what I want to
Bond, James Bond

Last night we saw Glenn Close
Damaged
Such a beautiful woman

And terrific actress
Whose own face wouldn’t
Allow her to act anymore

Skin frozen
Beneath multiple surgeries
And injections

I just can’t stand to look at it
Loving women too much
To face them mutilated

Across the screen
Or anywhere else
Which is why

I was so happy
To see those lines
Etching Dame Judith’s face tonight

Who learned to forget
What beauty looks like
And

Why are we all so scared
When women grow old
And strong?

I Paint Her

I Paint Her.

I Paint Her

Hockney has become obsessed
With the camera lucida
And the idea that the Old Masters used it
To cheat

They weren’t so great at painting after all
They just traced stuff
The way I do

The way
I could never render
Her body in brushstrokes

But can trace it with absolute precision
If I follow the line of each slow curve
With finger and tongue

I paint her in the dark
With my eyes closed
Letting scent guide me

Down

Home.

The Tally

“Here is something you can’t understand
How I could just kill a man.”

No one ever really likes to talk
Too much or too loudly
About how many people they’ve killed

Who’d be keeping track anyway
At parties

Or where we buried
Burned
Left them
In most social circles

Lisa pretends to
Not want to know
Because some day it might come up in court
And she hates to
Have to
Lie

Even the first few with Brian
Weren’t just for sport
Which is not to say
That there wasn’t a certain sporting element

They had done some things
Moderately to terribly wrong
We corrected them

Maybe the others that came later
Were more about craft
And good manners

As if there were ever
Going to be a judge

It’s just that
I’m sure you agree

Certain people need to be punished for their sins
Not eventually by karma or
Later by the Hand of God
But right now

And that job always falls to someone like me
And my brother
And our closest friends

Good folks with quiet basements
Or isolated parcels of land up north

Where it’s calm
Where what’s most striking
Is how in the moment when we send them away
They are always so soft and so sad and so
Very like who I might have been that

I could almost die a little too.

Beirut, California

We hunker down here
Like the stubborn residents
Of a war-broken city

Watching neighbors flee
Never to return

Where all the shops we loved just close suddenly
And don’t ever reopen.

With most familiar streets destroyed
Unrecognizable

We walk this town lost
Hoping to meet some old friend

Who hasn’t lived here for years.

No one lives here anymore.

We don’t wait for mortar rounds
We wait for the eviction notice
Our own turn to leave

Where the sick fucking thing is that
We built this City

And the even sicker fucking thing is
That we few still stay here

Praying for the moment
All of us used to fear:

An earthquake
A cataclysm

Something
Anything

To devour this scourge or
At least drive it somewhere
Far away from San Francisco.

The Hairs She Doesn’t

It’s
The hairs she doesn’t notice
Or pretends not to
How

They catch the sundown
Crossing her brow
In the
Candle

Light
Isn’t just a metaphor
For love
It’s a kiss

Time never saw
The start
Or the end
Of.

Routine

It’s not this routine
We can’t ignore
When each night means safe
And that warm so long

So long
Whatever get’s dreamed of
Legs or jeans or
Maybe hair it still

It comes true in daylight
Again
Can we please just always
Again

Again.

Year of Loving Dangerously

Three hundred sixty five days ago
We switched from chatting on okcupid.com
To actually talking over the phone

So we could plan our first date
In Dolores Park of all places
The next day

Tomorrow
August eleventh

It’s not safe to meet a stranger
And fall in love with them

In the park or online
Something could get broken

People are famously unpredictable
They throw stuff
And cry at the wrong films

They hang up
Art that might be considered dubious
By some

They have strange proclivities
In the bathroom
And around washing dishes

It’s not safe to meet a stranger
And fall in love with them

To give up
Your rent controlled apartment

Your job
Your freedom
Your old you

With no escape route left
Where do you go
When the hard times come

The answer
Of course
Is the couch

Immobile locus of solution to
All the problems we created
And everyone else’s as well

Couch as matrix
Couch as nexus
But I digress

People often ask me how to walk through fire and
I tell them it’s easy once you remember
Fire can’t hurt you

Every molecule that’s worth a damn in us
Was born in the cataclysmic death of a star
So long ago we have almost forgotten

No that wasn’t the poem I wanted to write this evening
But I’ve got a midnight deadline
And you are already asleep

Soon I will join you
I want to get up early
So the first words you hear tomorrow morning are

Happy Anniversary.

Make It Stop

When people ask me
What my dad died of
I usually say
Old age
To avoid further questions
 
But the truth is
We killed him
My brother and I
 
We were the ones
Who didn’t give him any more water
After he started going paroxysmic with
Every eye-droppered drop
 
We knew
We could have put him
On an IV for fluids plus a feeding tube
We knew that
 
A man can survive weeks without food 
But not long without water
The pot tincture seemed to help
And the morphine
 
Today
With Alexander
It was strangely familiar
The letting go not letting go
 
The fight to stay in your specific body
The dying irritability
It wasn’t exactly pretty
Or the way we had planned
 
This transition
The brothers sore but resolute
Brian the strong one
Me with my tears
 
He said later it surprised him
How clear I was
When it came time to make the decision
Because I was a mess in every other way
 
But Alexander had asked me something
In the morning
Spoke in a voice I’d never heard before
 
So ready and
So sad
 
He looked me right in the eye
Three times and said
 
Joe please
Just make it stop.
 
 
 
 

Make It Stop

When people ask me
What my dad died of
I usually say
Old age
To avoid further questions

But the truth is
We killed him
My brother and I

We were the ones
Who didn’t give him any more water
After he started going paroxysmic with
Every eye-droppered drop

We knew
We could have put him
On an IV for fluids plus a feeding tube
We knew that

A man can survive weeks without food
But not long without water
The pot tincture seemed to help
And the morphine

Today
With Alexander
It was strangely familiar
The letting go not letting go

The fight to stay in your specific body
The dying irritability
It wasn’t exactly pretty
Or the way we had planned

This transition
The brothers sore but resolute
Brian the strong one
Me with my tears

He said later it surprised him
How clear I was
When it came time to make the decision
Because I was a mess in every other way

But Alexander had asked me something
In the morning
Spoke in a voice I’d never heard before

So ready and
So sad

He looked me right in the eye
Three times and said

Joe please
Just make it stop.

Make It Stop

When people ask me
What my dad died of
I usually say
Old age
To avoid further questions

But the truth is
We killed him
My brother and I

We were the ones
Who didn’t give him any more water
After he started going paroxysmic with
Every eye-droppered drop

We knew
We could have put him
On an IV for fluids plus a feeding tube
We knew that

A man can survive weeks without food
But not long without water
The pot tincture seemed to help
And the morphine

Today
With Alexander
It was strangely familiar
The letting go not letting go

The fight to stay in your specific body
The dying irritability
It wasn’t exactly pretty
Or the way we had planned

This transition
The brothers sore but resolute
Brian the strong one
Me with my tears

He said later it surprised him
How clear I was
When it came time to make the decision
Because I was a mess in every other way

But Alexander had asked me something
In the morning
Spoke in a voice I’d never heard before

So ready and
So sad

He looked me right in the eye
Three times and said

Joe please
Just make it stop.

Mess

Ever notice
How much
Hard crying
Sounds and
Feels just
Like laughter?

Mess

Ever notice

How much

Hard crying

Sounds and

Feels just

Like laughter?

Eleven

So do you know
How many time zones

There are
In the Soviet Union

Because I’m so fucked up on love tonight
I can’t rightly say when we are even home

It must be some nameable day of a place
That if I knew which one I would pronounce it

Because this year’s weeks only smear their names
Defying to refuse every label

Eleven months and
Eleven remains the only number why

I reek like that singularity
Infinitely dense

Void of volume and quite drunk
Exploding yet again

To leave hopefully
More galaxies than we destroy

The San Andreas in my lower back
She Ibuprofen twitches so many

Condos like stars or freeways
Gone in a cloud of dust

The end of California and
All the rest of humanity

The few who are left clamoring
For some kind of oversight

Pertaining specifically to lovers like us
Who can cause this level of disruption

I’m not going incriminate anyone
But Brian and I took care of them earlier

Babe one more month and
It will be a year already

We have got to get our superpowers
Under control.

Advice From An Old Man

My one blurred tattoo is
A narrow rose which
No fading plant ever blossomed
Or bled out for

But still the burning

What chastises me daily remember which stuff
You believe in Joe and
Please don’t act so old man just
Tell kids keep it real say

Love is the only love

Ink your bodies often dark honest well
My marked young lovers
If you start to regret the thing once
Just don’t stop

True is a sting oozing out

Do it again more more even
This all of us
That we think we are
Will be dead soon soon enough

Kiss her.

Cheap White Wine

As anyone who knows me knows
When it comes to alcohol consumption
I am no snob

The good stuff is great when you can afford it but
I’ll drink the second cheapest bourbon off the shelf
If it means I can have that much more

Hell I’ll even drink Budweiser
If the bar runs out of piss

But cheap white wine will always unmake me

Why would I ever even try
After all these sad years

I mean
The second you pop the cork
Get a whiff
Take that first sip

You feel the headache

Not that you immediately
Have a headache
But you know it is coming

Soon
And strong
Not tomorrow morning even
But before you go to bed tonight

Unfortunately
I’m out of everything else at the moment
And I’m thirsty
And the corner store is two long blocks so

Pass the Chardonnay
And the Aspirin.

Parallax

Sure
Most
Smart
People
End
Up
Having
Different
Opinions
About
Philosophy
And
Art
And
Guns
Socks
Films
People
Or
Things
But
One
More
Second
Of
This
Shitty
Hateful
Fight
Babe
And
We
Will
Both
Want
To
Adjust
The
Angle
Kill
Someone
Or
Semi-angle
And
Die
Accidentally
Focused
Somehow
Staring into the sun forever
Or
Worse
So
Let’s
Just
Stop
It
Forget
It
Midnight
Was
Already
Two
Hours
Ago.

You Wore White

Just please but thanks
Don’t dull my edge here baby
With so much work
And our favorite dance

You remember

Not how many too late dawns
Or this fight we can’t scratch
But that I will always protect you
And I will never desert you

Beloved
Cocaine.

Mimosas

I shudder to think
How many citizens
Started drinking mimosas at seven or eight this morning
Shifted quick to Bloody Mary’s after the decision

And even though was made a graciously booze-absorbing
Benedict at two-thirty with plenty of last night’s bruschetta
Accompanied by the most intriguingly garnished

Still
Everyone in this town is completely fucked up already
And it’s just now sunset

You thought no work got done in San Francisco today
Wait and see what doesn’t get done tomorrow
Watch Walgreens record record aspirin sales

Watch how we all somehow have glitter in your hair
The whole next week
Even when I didn’t go down to the Castro tonight
Because you hate crowds

Or didn’t feel like celebrating
Because it wasn’t the decision we fully wanted

But who am I to be selfish
This day isn’t about me
No
It’s about love

Love won

And what’s a hangover anyway
Brutal as it will inevitably be
Compared to this moment.

Mimosas or Molotavs

Tonight San Francisco giddy
Hot and breathless

Some dream guy suspended
So cute but drowning tomorrow maybe

San Francisco where we’ll see what dances
Who takes their shirts off Wednesday

Brian and I plan to work at ten
Though these plans could change

Everyone’s phones blowing up by seven
Before any normal slacker is even awake here

Time zones
The news

Good we already have champagne stocked
Every Safeway in the City is out for days

But tomorrow of course sadly
We also have gasoline

Wicks bottles various nitrates that
The cops know it too

So weird to plan a holiday
And riot simultaneously

As much as I love the smell of a tire pile on fire
Who doesn’t prefer one kiss that lasts a lifetime

Millions of us ready for both
But hoping for mimosas.

Pratītyasamutpāda

I’m not the first person
To call Nagarjuna Wittgenstein
In his previous life and

I don’t even know if this poem is hers
Or mine
Anymore

Lisa wonders if we are
Codependent what now
Then we shouldn’t

Chris asked today
Why some douches be
So rude on the sidewalk

A Battery Street lunchtime
And everyone simply trying
To get to a food truck and back

But somehow he and I should step aside
When seriously
We’d easier
Snap their necks
Keep walking

Maybe it’s our Carhartt’s
Maybe we were a little overly
Gacked on the Bolivian

Maybe it’s because I was
Reading the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā
All night last night
Horrified
At the terrible state of disrepair
My Sanskrit is evidently in

So my answer was
They haven’t studied
Or fully grokked dependent co-arising
Emptiness somehow

They think themselves separate
Distinct
Whole

Requiring defense
Basically selfish

They weren’t raised in the South
As Christians
Don’t understand hospitality as a family value
Shared consciousness as a philosophical construct
One for all as a social institution

They haven’t grokked grokking
Or the function of the church in society
So inevitably

Lisa and I argued about cosmology tonight
Or rather
I argued and she begged me to
Please shut the fuck up

It wasn’t the first time

Especially about Wilber Nietzsche
Gebser Aristotle et al
Just when I was getting started

And I don’t like
Being shut down

Especially not when I’m on a roll
But as a philosopher
I’ve gotten used to it

Are she and I codependent
Or do we dependently co-arise

As fascinating as the question is to me
I think I’d rather table it
Than sleep on the couch
Tonight.

Bed vs. Couch

Bed is a time
We postpone because

Couch is
What we’ve waited for all day

Sore office feet
Cigarettes and a blanket

Dinner only exactly when hungry and
Another episode of something we both like

Couch is a detailed analysis
Of the entire long drawn-out problem of Art
Including its solution

Couch is everything and all and
If we had to die tonight it would be on this couch
And we would take pictures for our Facebook and be happy

But bed when she does
When its time comes
Is more fragrant

We might conduct our days as civilized people do
But Lisa and I sleep like barn animals

Long warm hairs matted with sweat
Drooling lying on each other

The sounds and smell
Of summer stables

We could die here too
In this place of most truly private

But bed versus couch isn’t a game
Has no winner
And anyway
No one is going to die today

If I had to chose
Between the two
I would chose
Both.

Fingers

I pulled my fingers down through here already
Tonight
If you might remember
A few seconds ago
And that wasn’t enough

Really
Are you seriously going to make me
Draw those same fingers past that same clear point
Once again
Only this time slower and with more feeling

Just to refresh my gmail?

(IPad Haiku # 1)

She Doesn’t Want To Hear About Before

And I don’t ask about her before

Either

Any more

 

Where when I was singular but broken

With the alone of this apartment

Here and dreaming of which never perfect dream girl then

 

But if you must know

I burned for that sleep self to real

Smell exactly like you do in the morning

Lisa

 

Otherwise the fantasy wouldn’t work

If that was not the dreamer beside the here

Where

 

You had to be

So much smarter than I am plus the

Articulated San Diego surf genes that can do anything

Anything they want

Dreamily haired dream girl

 

All fierce and can’t help but

Call me on my own shit when you’re bored

The art whose art just made my art look stupid again now

The way you do

Lisa

 

But dream girl girlfriend isn’t having the

Joe’s lost theater revisited

When she hadn’t waited this long

To play those games again

 

Which

It was about time anyway

And past time really

For me to

If you think about it

 

For me to just drop the various shit

Get so real here

On Ellis Street

Be love at you too

When all is the more

 

And

Also

 

I would have gotten married sooner

If only

I had met you sooner

 

Lisa.

 

 

 

It’s Not Just the Warm

(The Various Benefits of Love)

 

 

It’s not just the warm

The person-sized cat

Sleeping half on me

Every night now

 

Specific light in those cheeks

When I contractor double park

At California and Kearney

Pick her up from the office

 

Soft hey baby take me home

And my hello beautiful I’m a little wired

We have to stop get groceries

How was work

 

The way she doesn’t mind

I smell like a man

Who has been hanging sheetrock

Doing rails with Chris all day

 

Her okay with me

And my various messes

Because there’s no question

What lovers are supposed to do for each other

 

As if all lovers everywhere did that

Every day

When in fact most don’t

Ever

 

Those jeans that say

Look at my shoes

With her hair

That says look at my tits

 

And fingers saying

All this is only for you Joe

 

What language is she speaking anyway

 

In German

Luck

And happiness

Are the same word

 

Any attempts

To quantify this poetically

Will

Fail

 

She knows all that

Swallows it

Tells me to keep writing

 

The feeling of safe

Any number of weapons

Has never given me

 

The sensation of fed

Having no idea

I even needed to

 

Our sofa

Her bare painted perfect feet in my lap

The ring

 

The way everything

Always comes back

To those three little words:

 

Lisa Rae Green.

Don’t Interrupt Me When I’m Speaking In Tongues

Babe please

Just it’s

You don’t have to interrupt me

Do you

When I’m speaking in tongues

 

Sheldrake finally makes it to

Science Friday 2013

Bllblgrgh up straight

Then how many lobbyists per senator

Real yo

Glrrbbrbrfghlr

 

And my frustration with the city’s

Chinese yng klnrnqwn driving population

The yuppies the techies the hipsters

The rgjdrigl flrfliggridgding ultra rich

 

Let’s see

Brian’s evictionkritipb

Sudden Oak Deathshtdtff

But also the beauty unspeakable

 

Even in tongues

 

Got to stop with the gibberish though

Which is nowhere recognized

As a a rhetorical device

 

Or even interesting reading

Except among the very very bored.

 

The Brown Muse

In vino veritas

 

 

I know some artists work on a regular schedule

Go into their studios at the same time every day

To write or paint or whatever

 

They make lots of art

Lots more than I do

It just isn’t any good

 

I don’t understand why people

Even waste their time on uninspired paintings

Or poems made by a sober person

 

Human history tells us

No one can be a good writer

Without drinking heavily

 

That’s just a fact

 

The brain is like any other machine

Or orifice

That functions best when lubricated

 

If I write

It takes all night

 

Because the first four hours

Are spent watching youtube and drinking bourbon

 

I’ll know I’m finally ready

When I can’t quite read my words on the screen anymore

 

They double and blur

Till I make the font bigger and squint my eyes

 

My muse only appears

In fog

 

But when she comes

She comes loudly

Everything she says is perfect and brilliant

And she lets me write it down

As if it were my own

 

Alfred and Kobla came from Ghana

Blistering drummers

Who thought performing without libations beforehand

Was not just sinful and irreverent

But downright stupid

 

They were right

 

Even if I don’t remember tomorrow

What I posted tonight

I can recognize its reek of smoke

 

Because it was born from fire

Not obligation

And it was true.

Her

 

Baby’s watching Hoarders while I’m trying

To write stuff on my computer

Which is why I love her

Because I don’t need to write those anyway

Especially not just now

They can wait

And in answer to your question

Yes

I would still if she were a that

And a crazy cat lady

Or whatever

 

But thank God she is stuff other

Than any of them

Lisa is sunshine

Seriously and

The view of Ocean Beach from where Geary blends into the Great Highway

Bacon

Emu’s

That clingy blouse

And what still moreover plus

 

Those kittens

But seriously

When she writes my

Jim Tom and Sam they

Take the dream Ginny Jane Laurie and Yoko dancing

Where they all wake up later still drunk

On the asphalt

Of Icehouse Alley

 

It’s some stranger’s bed where people

Get re-interested in reading books for the first time

In a long tine

That any can remember recently

 

So when she paints

Matisse might blush blue

But it’s not blue paint and

Caravagio could demur into his own shadows

Until

The entire New York art world silently

Shuts the fuck up

 

They know

That whatever languages we were taught in prep school

None has a word for

Supernova or

Waffles and mimosas on Easter morning

Pajamas please I’m cold

Devilled eggs

Diet Coke

Or Boolean equations

 

Any words

That could be adequately translated into English as

Lisa Rae Green.

 

 

The Jumper

I lived on Haight Street for fourteen years

I’ve heard enough car crashes to know what they sound like

And that woman’s scream getting run over by the 43 Masonic

 

There are always screams on the City streets

But most of them come from drunken hipsters and/or Irishmen

The sound of someone in true duress is completely different

 

The shriek that two a.m. woke me

I thought I was listening to a car wreck in slow motion

Getting closer “No, please! No! Please! No!”

 

I was still half asleep thinking
What kind of car crash happens in slow motion

Then the horrible thud that shook our building

 

But no sound of metal on metal

Only more screams

Which I realized were coming from the back yard next door

 

Brian and I were the first ones there of course

Her twenty-year-old body on the concrete slab fifty feet below the deck

The pool forming around her head

 

Blood seems black in moonlight

Her skirt up amazing

How un-sexy a tiny little thong looks on a suicide

 

I wanted to pull the skirt back down

Cover her up but by then the cops were in charge

And soon the EMT’s going through their motions

 

What I will remember from that night

The screams her thong how when the officers came up to our apartment

They didn’t say anything about the pot smoke or the shots of bourbon

 

But most of all as the ambulance drove away

The dead girl’s sister huddled on the porch and shrieking

“Why aren’t they turning on their sirens?”

This Town, These Days

In this town

These days

Moving in is as serious

As getting married

Anymore

 

Give up an apartment in San Francisco and

You may never live here again

Ask my brother

Or anyone

 

Lovers can’t

Just

Try out living

Together for a while

See how it goes

 

Because

In order to do that one

Of you will have to

Leave your old place

 

Who could

Afford to pay for two

In this town

Anymore

 

So when she finally gave

Her landlord notice

It was clear to us both

 

Like the facets

In that stone

You know the one

She keeps looking at

 

What was happening

 

Had already happened

 

I do.

Taken By Fog

A friend

Not mine

Taxonomist of light

Exiled my then to a time

Where most things are

As good as can be expected

Some even better.

 

The friend

Bored with that luxury

And this plight of the poor

Pretends not to shop

For ideas or new places

To remember later

In private.

 

Lacking her brushes

I can’t paint the way

She looks to me now

How she stands

There by the marsh

Fading from view

Taken by fog.

What Are These Words?

 

What are these words

They come like

Svelte

Winsome

Languorous

Or was that

Soul-mate

Lissome

Vociferous

I don’t know what

These words even mean

But I enjoy saying them

To myself

When she walks over

And then bends

To change the disc

From Skyfall to American Splendor

They sound good

Prehensile words

Saline and glazed

They sublime directly

From solid to vapor

Condense on the windows in our kitchen

Short three-word sentences

Repeated daily

They flit past my tongue

Bruise the lips lightly

And taste good

I mean really good

That’s why people look them up

Searching for the meaning which is

The place

Where dictionaries come from.

 

 

Flow

So

Normally

At this point on a Tuesday evening

I should be nursing

A bourbon

And branch

And smoking the various

And spitting wisdom

With an unstoppable flow

 

But on some nights

The stories

As well as their girlfriends

Hide themselves from me

And I’m unclear as to where

Because they are my stories

And this apartment really isn’t all that large

 

The words take off their blouses and bras quickly enough

But decline to lie down on my page

Almost as if

They were having their own party

Someplace else

 

Well girls

I’ll wait a few more hours for you to come home

At least I know where you aren’t

 

As for me

I’m doing my part

 

I’m still sitting at my desk

And drinking.

First Facebook Christmas

We were so broke that first Christmas

Twenty-twelve

It was actually kind of cold for San Francisco and rainy and

I bought a plastic tree from the Walgreens in the Castro

Twenty-four ninety-nine and

She decorated it with ornaments from Chinatown

And it looked terrific on Facebook

Twenty-one likes

 

I wanted to do a photo shoot of her as Santa’s naughty little helper

Just to, you know, test her new camera but

She’s holding out for something a little more tasteful and

Those pics will not be viewable on my Facebook anyway

 

Or maybe I should say our Facebook because

She posts more stuff there than I do anymore

Her friends at our Christmas party

Where Gage’s Manhattans slurred my stumbles

But I still managed to make a halfway decent impression because

I am a jovial drunk and a gracious host

Ask anybody

 

Her pics of pizzas and tacos and cocktails and cookies and lasagna

And all the other stuff we prepare for

Our ever more frequent dinner parties because

 

We prefer having people come over because neither

Of us likes to go out particularly

Plus here we can smoke but

 

As any of my four hundred ninety-two Facebook friends would tell you

Especially the thirty-one of them who actually are my friends

What Lisa loves to post the most are

Self-shot pics of the two of us

Doe-eyed and love-struck headlights on Burt’s ugly-ass old couch

 

Everyone’s responses have been positive

My friends like looking at my girlfriend because she is so beautiful

And takes such good pictures

Plus, people are in love with how much we are in love

It reminds them

As for the ex’s who defriended me over those posts of hers, well

She doesn’t want to hear about that/them which

Is fine

 

A very dear old close acquaintance said that Lisa was marking me

Claiming me by posting on my page and

I said I know

 

It’s a digital hickey

It’s like a cattle brand

Something to do with ownership and

Or gender roles

 

Why would that bother me?

 

Lisa Rae Green can

Tattoo her name in cursive and cheap ink across my chest

Lock a leather collar around my neck and

Completely blow up my Facebook anytime she

Damn well pleases

 

I love her

She is going to be my wife and

I want everyone to know it

Isn’t that what Facebook is for?

 

 

 

 

 

Seldom/Never

Seldom have I had such a never as now

Where her various whenever stuff

Crazy as it might seem to me

Still has to stay right here in the where

Where her secret burning thread sews that assorted stuff together

Right near where we stand and fight together

In front of the couch in the living room

Where I lose it

And shout things I probably should whisper like

What is your fucking problem?

Are you deaf Lisa?

I just said that I love you.

Not Exactly A Melancholy Rainy Sunday Afternoon Haiku But Kind Of

I’m going to leave

That half-sucked

Altoids Peppermint Small

Right there

On the coffee table

To remind me of her

Until she gets back

Which,

Surprise

She just did

And now they both

Are gone.

 

 

That’s Our Story

Poems About Lisa

 

I’ve written poems

About Lisa

Where I used metaphors

And made-up scenes

In a rude attempt to describe our

Clearly indescribable.

 

She hates them

The poems, I mean

She doesn’t hate them

She appreciates them

Because I wrote them for her but

She doesn’t really like them.

 

She says, Joe

I just want you to

Write a poem that

Only and truly tells our story

Without the abstractions.

 

But no one will get it.

 

I went to

Meet a girl in

Dolores Park and

She turned out to be

The one I had been waiting for all

These years and

She took me back to her apartment and

Kissed me.

 

The reason she

Kissed me then was

Because

We had already fallen in love

Earlier in the park, you know

At first sight

Despite the wine and my shoes

Or perhaps even earlier.

 

So, maybe this

Doesn’t really count as a poem.

 

I’ll ask the people who

Count poems for a living.

 

Anyway, we

Have our own story that

Is a quiet slow story.

 

Lisa and Joe met

On okcupid.com

An Internet dating site

You should check it out.

 

After a particularly long night of chatting

Lisa and Joe further met for

A first date in Dolores Park

Which also turned out to be

The last date of their lives.

 

Joe had thought

I don’t know if I can date a girl who works at a law firm

Lisa had thought

I don’t know if I can date a boy who is a self-described artist and

Kinda really doesn’t work at all.

 

And how about a cigarette?

 

But somehow it all

Because something in her eyebrows

Where my fingers

But anyway.

 

It didn’t take months or weeks to

Decide it to move in and

Meet the parents and marry and

Live all happily ever after.

 

So that’s what we did.

That’s our story.

 

The Journey

“I talked to your dad. Go pick out a white dress.”

-Taylor Swift

 

 

That the journey

Isn’t so long

If you measure in inches

From chin to knees,

But immaculate and slow.

 

When she used my comb this morning

Before heading to work, for instance

Because I don’t have a hairbrush.

 

How I can only kiss her eyes seriously

When her contacts are out.

 

 

Where if I unclasp the necklace

Here now so it won’t do that thing

Or get lodged, you know

Then dentally

Here, later.

 

And how it’s the same

Where with blouse buttons

Which will only have to also later and then.

 

When okay. That is better.

We, open, lessness.

 

 

How the traveller dwells there

What view from the hills’ side

Him breathing and warm

But wouldn’t we both be better

With it off?

 

Who, yes, to think that

Beneath a hand, my hand

All the organs that keep her alive

 

Would warm so rise

Then quiet slow settle again.

 

 

 

Where when to lower my mouth

Toward (perfect) hands

That unzipper

And slide rules

Where, here?

 

Should truth begin to

Speak her own name

Just now in winter.

 

I would listen and

Write it all down.

 

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