Sunday, December 24, 2006

This Must be the Place

That's the title of the Talking Heads song bouncing out of the computer speakers right now, with David Byrne's voice that always sounded to me like Silly Putty if it were a chord, but I've come to see more in my own art punk daze as a reckoning with suburbia, and a way of finding the animal and romantic in that, and when he says "love me 'till my heart stops/love me 'till I'm dead," it's like the chirpy keyboards and burbly xylophone--catapulting past irony to a post-ironic innocence, a place where the knowledge and malaise of the culture are not ignored but transformed, like in "Nothing But Flowers" where the restaurants and malls are all covered with flowers. Also, no one else that I know of has worn a gigantically oversized two-piece suit and looked as cool as David Byrne.

It's a bright, warm Christmas Eve, and Forest Park was studded with sleek joggers and feeding geese today, and it was cool to see the same sky inverted and rippling in the ponds that I've been jogging past on and off for about fifteen years now, and to get a homey feeling from it. The Talking Heads song is about home, and carries this sense of having reached a promised land, and I got that feeling in Colorado, where the mountains looked like gigantic spikes of some heart monitor reading, filled in with stone and snow, but neat how it followed me here. Hope it's finding you, too.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Tripping the Trypto-phantastic

After a heap of turkey at a table crowded with my awesome fam, the opening of great presents for my pad, and watching my nephews put together theirs, Jacob, my nephew, winding the painted orange hands of a wooden clock, Isaac, another one, who has now flopped down on the mattress by this computer with as much of one hand as he can fit in his mouth and the other clutching his Spiderman blanket (I think the technical term is "binky"), I'm moving from computer to tv to nephews to try to stay awake. It's a good regimen, that's been working so far, and I only have another hour to go before heading to see more friends, and then to church at midnight.

This trying to stay awake for church is a new thing for me, that started last year, in Colorado. There, part of my job was to go to churches and talk about the homeless shelter where I was an Americorps volunteer. The people were wonderfully friendly. They would come and shake my hand after the service, and my hand feels like a map of many others because of it, and there's something about shaking hands that leaves a firm warmth in the palm, that balms the psyche.

Church started to do something similar for me, at that time, except it was more like being shaken gently by a gigantic hand. Whether it belongs to Yahweh, a projection of my father, my Buddha nature, a projection based on enough obsessing about Batman to produce some sense of a divine fiction, or all of the above I'm not really sure. But there's something there, and it doesn't seem to need to be defined. Last night, I felt that sort of burst of peace, walking into my old bedroom, that's now a guest room, and something about the deep blue shimmer of sky mingling with the darker burn of shingles, and the streetlights radiating these spiky coronae like giant Christmas lights, that made sliding into sleep feel like being carried. Esta bueno. Hope your holidays are bringing you peace, too. If they aren't yet, my dosage of turkey was probably about a quarter pound. Add three awesome nephews, and one fading neurosis. I can wrap mine up for you, if you need me to.

I've been trying to come up with haiku about Batman battling different popular figures, and wondering what Batman vs. Santa would be like.

Santa gives gifts, but
Batman takes out bad guys.

Maybe you can finish it for me. Christmas IS coming up.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Sometimes I wonder if every poet has to deal with the rose as an archetype, at some point, if it will bloom from his/her fingers if not written out deliberately, or just cast a rosey aura over whatever's being written.

But I wonder a lot of things that clearly have no basis in fact.

One thing like that, that I've been wondering ever since I started spotting women who were dazzlingly gorgeous, in 6th grade or so, was "Why does she so clearly think I'm unattractive?" The "she" tends to be whatever beautiful lady is closest by, and there's always that assumption, automatically. Not, "hm, she's probably thinking about whatever she's reading on her laptop," but this sort of inverted-narcissistic "man, her looking away from me is a clear indication of her lack of interest."

This afternoon, sitting at the Artisan, this coffee shop in downtown Columbia with really tasty paninis and good atmosphere, I started getting a clear vision of a Batman poem that united a couple of chunks of narrative that have been orbiting and studding different poems for months now, and so wrote what I could think of on the flyleaf and the inside cover of Carl Phillips' new book, Riding Westward, partly because his absolute sense of certainty about the nuance of emotion and relationship helped me inject a little of the same into the fragmented camp narrative, but also because I didn't have any paper.

There was a girl sitting at the table facing me, with the kind of blond hair and white Mac that imply a clear, clean inner light, and the purse in her lips of a kiss, and I had decided that she thought I was weird because I was scribbling, hunched over the table, probably not breathing and maybe even unconsciously humming the Batman theme, and so I did the absolutely terrifying thing that's corollary to Carl Phillips' speaker merging the classical narrative with the one of modern desire, or, on a Batmanic level, Batman walking into a mad scientist's lair that he knows holds a relic owned by his father, one that was used to power a monster, and I asked, "Hey, can I have a piece of paper?" She said, with a slight nostril flare, and the laptop shining its iconizing light on her face, "Is notebook paper okay?" I said yes, and borrowed it, and have had a wonderful day ever since.

All of which is to say that I feel, at twenty-nine, like I'm getting a little objectivity. Thanks for helping me with that, you, person who may know me only as an extended, middle-school-ey ramble about girls. Have a marvellous holiday. I love you.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Man and the Gecko

I'm sitting in the computer lab in the Mizzou library, waiting until my brain kicks into student-paper-grading mode, which it always does. I always get something fun, and informative, and cool out of grading student papers once I start in, but there's that momentary pause beforehand, that natural urge to put them off, that can last for weeks. Today is a good time for that pause to thaw away, though, with the sun out and the snow melting under its gold breath and turning the sidewalks to melt-mirrors where the blue sky runs in a luminous analogue. Downtown Columbia is studded with the after-church crowd, looking stark and clean and happy in deep blue suits, and each computer holds a student rapt with its little kind of holiness, and there's a kind of prayer in the kneel before the screen and the rattle of the keys.

I was reading Yeats' poem "The Man and the Echo" a minute ago, and the three words at the end of each stanza spoken by the man are repeated as the voice of the echo, so he's lamenting "And all work done/dismisses all/And sinks at last into the night," (sorry, I'm butchering it in short term memory), and the echo repeats "into the night," and that echo itself makes echoic meanings. First, it redoubles the stony sense of mortality about the poem, but then, the more I think about it, the more it seems to parody the man's reflexivity, showing the lament as an incantation for its own sake, and I think Yeats is making fun of how a poet echoes woe. But I could just be projecting, because I like the brotha.

Echo: like the brotha.

There's such an effortless sense of ecstasy in his music, and it feels inherently joyful, like the harmony seen in hills that flatten together in mist, but still are distinct, just more like arcs of a rainbow, and I think partly it comes from the iambic tetrameter, and how he just lets the language do its thing, and the act of producing the poem is the act, like Flannery O'Connor said, of getting out of the way of the writing. My scholarly conclusion, then, is that Yeats travelled in a time machine to where Flannery O'Connor was saying that, then vanished back into the emeraldine shadows of his Celtic twilight and wrote "The Man and the Echo."

Hope you're having a wonderful Sunday, whoever you are. I've been trying to think of a larger phrase in which to fit the phrase "the magic of plastic," and, if you can send me one, I'll send you some love.