Ongoing Poem.4


Could be years before moon comes again.
I make a clean nightly blessing, never purer
yesterday than today. I allow myself
a calming beverage when day has alltheway
worn down. Like some traveler, moon gives
credence to whited winter branch,
makes of every new town a sweet nerve,
town tired of looking in the mirror rejuvenated
if not refurbished in travelermoon’s eyes. Moon
may nevermore come, or could just be waiting
for my dearest, most open moment.

I make fires & throw in gemstones
that the moon not fear me desperate.
Moon, if pearl, prefer not be coveted,
prefer be admired, respected, depicted,
not pulled down from milkblack fabric.
Of course I be a sidewalk sidewinding,
pulling out my own grasses for undertire crush.
I need no grasses, no puddles. If I be
a naked path, a naked prayer, then I be
my most touchable when moontime arise.

Length of a blurred moment. I: antenna,
stuck in wild wind, make signal unreportable,
for there be no switchboard commander.
I: glasscrack dome, slither in raindrops my skin,
pummel my bloodflesh with lightning & snow,
inhabitants grow curious why soul bears crack,
why weather goes so unrepelled. Tarot moon:

open thine craters! bear no napkin smudge.
I be the cleaner of misdirected foe. I know
no sleep like moonsleep, when I
am unchunked from earth, lifted to space.


Felt red feet make porch wobble,
reckoned traveler breached home yard,
& I, supposing respite
from lonesome moonphase worry,
crumpled all my tissues,
buried them in firewood,
watched tear make spark & smoke.

Quoth I:
          Put stiff weapon aside, carry out
          nebulous proof elsewhere.
          Take care to remain unclean.
          Sanctuary begs no spotlessness.
          Leopard came ready with spots; on human
          whittled down to cheek & nose contexture,
          sometime within iris, crystal salt bloom.
          Put down dream-swath canvas, corner-frayed
          & browned by travel, do not use
          your hand to indicate, use your hand
          to touch, touch me & treebark,
          light up elsewise locus, put down
          dream-swath canvas, proceed to naked dark.

He came into my arms. Heard him whisper,
couldn’t tell what. Then he slept.
I never believed him when he spoke,
but I never told him so.
I liked him best in truthless motion,
chewing a fingernail, drinking water slow.
He knew this.
We never said anything.
He drank of me as from a faucet,
I fed him like a mother does
a barren, wayward son.


Ongoing Poem.3

self is a many-tentacled thing.
saw it on the highway, merging,
saw the sun stoke the rush amid cloud-kingdom
above most regular earth sweat.
sun has arms that long ago threw the first great curves
thru the solar system, eventually made beasts
& later made them flinch,
but first earth: the naked stone borne of centrifugal dust
& asteroid tremors & light. from it all, earth grew deep color.
red-dust canyon, nose-tickle green forest,
sea-layer blue sky nightcrumb beach dream,
earth developed all these perspectives,
then shot them into hungry & hungrier skulls
that sun had used its great curved arms to create.
deep color & flinching beasts gave skulls cause to interpret,
segment, to develop the concept of self:
to see the singularity,
to comprehend the singularity,
to wish to become the singularity, and—
well, it’s a little bit sad.
not a tragedy in & of itself, but sad enough
to be responsible for wealth disparity & the like. it’s this:
self cannot collapse in on itself fully enough
to make full sense of its sense of inner embattlement.
what i mean—there is tumult, there is rage.
sun becomes a ball of liquid rage
& in so doing creates an eden at its outskirts using tentacles
of photosynthetic light. over time,
causes many more many-tentacled (& occasionally skulled)
things to appear & then attempt full self-collapse
until it becomes clear that their efforts are beyond vain—they are blind.
skulled selves develop conceptual tentacles to combat inward emptiness.
—to wreak some effect on outward forms,
this will be the antidote, self says to itself.
self’s tentacles have an easy time destroying,
have a more difficult time caressing,
self desires both. it takes more effort to caress than to destroy.
having scarcity of effort, self endures constant difficulty.
enduring constant difficulty, self gets sad, desperate, alone:
seeks out the insertion of other tentacles, finds it,
gets happy for a moment.
in comedown, questions whether happiness
is a myth perpetrated by the wealthy.
after many such questions, self becomes perfectly bewildered,
agrees that perfect bewilderment is bliss.
—self is a many-tentacled thing, sun says to itself.

Ongoing Poem.2

moon hung like earth-
ornament, blind creature, orange sliver,
bore weight, setting over nighttime
slow & cozy. i had water in my veins
when i steered the car home from dinner.
i glistened & reverberated,
peeled out from earth’s portent,
museless & unguided,
heard moon ring out its heavy echo
like a blind window whose curtains murmur.

i’ve also met the sun on slick fortresses.
bricked, all dewy, the ground battered & grey,
it shone like incense.
the polished flower blossoms,
it shone like music.
the sub-weeping of tendril ‘cross tree trunk,
it made communion with the moon
a competitive endeavor, & the moon
much later made sad eyes
at everybody who had been watching.

here: bird mumbles throaty, a moment by the pool.
bald pallor, thick inevitable, bird mumbles throaty
& wind licks car window.
car stays quiet. i love machinery.
i make a liquid sacrifice
every time i press the gas.
i made a house here for my most favorite ghosts,
one window for sun & one window for moon.
the ghosts finally believe i’m treating them adequately.
i couldn’t live without them—i translate their murmurs.
i am no bank, but i give them everything special,
& they repay me with one sonorous moan.

Ongoing Poem.1


got soft gut hunger.
i blame quizzical evenings,
perusing the channels of the dead,
dead men with dead hands,
big poems! big songs!
nourishment like this:
a single song redeems a single moment,
—a string of moments, synthesized by memory into just one—
wherein ‘sound & vision’ made enough light
of the late-night hopeless like me
that sleep could come as a shroudless truth.
then morning: soft gut hunger.
whence? from nourishment? O:
the ghost of the steadiness of a single moment
rumbles in his readiness for more.

now see me: lone like some ruinous river-merchant,
great simple diner chair,
i have with me a burger,
plus too a pocketful of secrets,
down, down, down in the jean-chasm,
& like any river-merchant with a decent pitch,
there’s a lot i’m not telling you.


some green day, i’ll be a better listener.
collecting the crumbs of unfinished conversations,
i’ll pool them into lilting paraphrases
that bear more fruit, more venom upon repetition.
here’s one shameful early attempt:

time has but the barest of obstacles,
any heavy feeling just an eddy in the stream.
& if i ever grow tired of rambling,
know that i never uttered nothing truer
than that imperishable adage:
‘here’s to feelin good, & here’s to feelin bad.’

i took it from townes van zandt.
he’s in the forest just the same as me,
& we both heard the birds mention it,
the leaves give a shiver that suggested a full sentence,
then felt the sun set too early, which encouraged us to leave the g’s
off the end of those present progressives.

i apologize for all my insensitivity. i never meant harm,
i just thought i was clever,
i thought you might want to witness a magic trick.

to repeat: bend the branches toward your lips & bite.


The Ideal Husband

Father John Misty | I Love You, Honeybear


Honeybear.jpgHe prays at the Altar of Authenticity, and he’s not sure whether his
prayers redeem his egotism. Neither am I. He loves his wife—desperately—and he’s just as desperate to know whether his multicolored past is a good or a bad omen for such a thing as Authentic Love. In times of doubt and insecurity, the narrator burdened with a “useless education” casts up his most powerful (read: complex) terminology, his most broad-sweeping concepts, in hopes of deconstructing all doubt from here to eternity. Sometimes, as in “Holy Shit,” it really works. There: instead of relying on the deception-cum-power of the far-out-ness of such odd products of consciousness as “Planet cancer,” “Coliseum families,” and “Incest streams,” he smirks: “What I fail to see is what that’s got to do with you and me.” It’s when he has the good sense to ground his internal concept-sparring in external reality that we feel a connection. His bitterness at unconsentingly inheriting privilege starts to smell suspiciously like pomposity (is a “useless education” really that much of a burden, Father John?), but the love story is so sweet that it’s hard to stay mad. My request for project #3: more prayer, less egotism.

Key Tracks:

Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Lovers)

The Ideal Husband

I Went to the Store One Day


i don’t have much, but i also don’t have nothing.
to have nothing. i could well have never had nothing.
can you have nothing? does it have weight?
if so, is it heavy? or is it lightness?
let’s assume it’s a heavy thing. a physical nonentity,
but a substantial presence nonetheless.
a quiet glittering thing, a quiet glittering ghost:
‘freedom’s just another word for nothin left to lose,’
a thing in that vein. i’d say that right now i have
a portion of nothing. half of nothing.
we will allow for now that nothing is divisible.
to have nothing is to be a blank page,
some kind of canvas, a poemable sheet,
clean but for the mischief you invite.
a chiefless page, unchiefed page, chief-inviting in its blankness.
transcription itself is a mischief, the pollution of nothing,
nothing implicitly containing the promise of correctly expressed something.
but there is no absolute correctness. merely graceful wrongness.
so: chief well the word across the page, the void, nothing,
& make a beautiful conscious effort, effort of consciousness,
& as consciousness itself is the reducer of reality
to sense, & then convoluted to language shortly after,
consciousness itself is half of nothing, experiences half of nothing,
knows the feeling of nothing, & doesn’t properly know how to respond,
but tries anyway. i don’t have much, i have some basic knowledge of
& rudimentary experience with my new geographical location.
i know a few people semi-happily.
the rest is how the page will fill with the poem.
my life, here, is what i mean to imply when i say ‘the poem’.
my life will be the earnestly if half-properly chiefed poem.
the filling of the page already part-filled.
will i long for these days again? almost certainly.
i long for them even now, as they drift noiselessly by.
(a day makes no clicking sound when it finishes,
unlike a light switch, which clicks
like the friendly wink of the sun
that none of us has ever received
but that all of us believe our efforts merit.)
the days drift noiselessly by.
i long, & will long for these noiseless days,
when the sum total of my possession
is more nearly nothing than it could ever be again.

Swordfishtrombones: An Explication of Strange

Good morning America! Why is today unlike any other day? Because today, I am commanding  everyone who reads this sentence to click the YouTube link and listen to “Underground,” the first track from Tom Waits’s exceptional 1983 LP, Swordfishtrombones.


 I wonder what they’re looking at so androgynously

Of those of you who have enough time and attention span to obey what some self-righteous blogger tells you to do, I suspect that many of you stopped the video after about fifteen seconds—if that. I go further to suspect that those of you who stopped the video were motivated to do so by the decidedly unattractive sound of Waits’s voice, and/or the eerie, raw instrumentation. You might be asking yourself such questions as: Why would anybody make sounds like that? Or perhaps, Why would anybody want to listen to this? You might even be so bold as to criticize it for its undanceability—for which I have no retort.


If you do indeed fall into that category, you have fulfilled Tom Waits’s mission.

What? What do you mean? Does he not want listeners?

Almost: he doesn’t want a particular type of listener. Instead of attempting to tailor his weirdness to endorphin-addicted massive audiences, Tom Waits built his career on going to every length to undermine those expectations. If you listen to the remainder of Swordfishtrombones, you’ll understand what I mean. Sore thumbs include “Frank’s Wild Years,” the tale of a peaceful suburban man, in whom, one day, something bubbled over, so he burned down his peaceful suburban house and drove a nail through his peaceful suburban wife’s forehead; and “Dave the Butcher,” a creepily bare instrumental, the backbone of which is a descending chromatic organ line, played on an instrument that sounds as old and used up as its song’s supposed protagonist. Aided by the title, the wily melody and asthmatic wheeze of the keys evoke the gut-churning moment just before the slaughter.

Right—why would anybody want to listen to that? Why would anybody willfully subject themselves to something so disturbing?

Tom Waits Four Faces.jpg

He takes his drunkenness very romantically

For precisely the reason that it’s disturbing, for precisely the reason that it’s strange. This is music made for people who have been disillusioned by pop music’s fundamental characteristics. Namely: its shininess, its consumability, and its dreadfully short shelf life. Because the majority of today’s radio-pop is produced to eliminate nearly every possible human element—that is to say, the dreaded mistake—it sounds as if it’s really truly perfect. Like a Snickers bar, or a photoshopped Vanity Fair model, Each one has enormous industry backing: teams of people analyzing sales trends to tailor their product to the precise needs of the basic human consumer. This, to many, is harmful. In the best case scenario, it makes you want to consume the product endlessly, which, in the case of Snickers bars, is merely sickening. In the worst case scenario, it presents you with some unattainable ideal, inducing deep-rooted, almost unavoidable psychoses: body image/eating disorders, in the case of photoshopped cover girls.


Tom Watis’s “Underground,” to most radio-pop consumers, sounds as if it’s one big mistake. The voice is the farthest thing from a “good” voice. The production, apart from its rhythm, has no discernible pop elements. The subject matter and delivery have nothing uplifting or recognizably melancholic to offer. It’s one massive, all-encompassing mistake. To which the Waits admirer says, “Perfect.” Undermine my naive ideals. Don’t feed me popular myths. Don’t appeal to my tastebuds; nourish me. Swordfishtrombones, my beautiful, faithful readers, is a full-course meal.

I’ll be clear: I’m not trying to insult anybody’s music taste. Music serves different roles in different people’s lives. I know that I study it with a perhaps needlessly exacting/academic eye. I know that a lot of people—maybe most people—use music as casual escapism from an extremely demanding work/school/family life. I have nothing against that. We all use what we need to use to suit our ends.

I consider all of this because I feel as though, despite its being so early, I’m at a crucial point in my own music career. In this nascent phase, I’ve already faced an enormous amount of disappointment, frustration, and rejection. I’ve seen the successes of my idols and contemporaries, and felt like I’m about three inches too short to ride the coolest roller coaster at Six Flags (Kingda Ka, obviously). So, naturally, I’ve had the thought to, perhaps, make somewhat more accessible music, as that might accelerate my growth rate. It would mean compromising on my principles—but that roller coaster looks like so much fun. I’ve even made somewhat constipated efforts to write pop-friendly music, only to be pressed and gradually overwhelmed by the truth that really, this isn’t what I’m supposed to be doing. I then criticize this thought: “Supposed to be doing? How can anyone really know what they’re supposed to be doing?”

In answering this question, I must call upon principles of faith and principles of pleasure alike. Faith must be unshakable, immune to external bitterness and fearmongering—or at least highly proficient in eradicating them. As for pleasure: what turns you on is what you should focus on. The strangeness, the contrarianism, and the resounding legacy of Swordfishtrombones, for all these reasons, appeals to both my faith-based and pleasure-based principles. At a point in his career when he had yet to make a truly major statement (though admittedly, done some inarguably high quality work), Tom Waits dug into the most slithery, unkempt parts of his psyche, and came out with an unprecedented and most inimitable document. It’s a freak show, a horror story, a critical sneer and a myth; and its message, for someone in my position—perhaps any position—is to stay weird.

In a career, and in a world alike, where most roads lead to the matting crowd, Swordfishtrombones reminds us that the more interesting things are happening in smaller rooms, with lower lighting. Go ahead—pull on trouble’s braids. Trouble might think it a flirt rather than an affront.

%d bloggers like this: