06 September, 2019

from Field Notes: millionaire whore's bath/ bad dreams

K├▓ng  (Nothingness)
I don't know if I've ever been so relieved to hear the sound of a toilet tank refill.

They turned off the water this past Tuesday for nonpayment. I've been without water before -- on the road and living out. I know how to ration and prioritize. I've learned to survive on very little. That doesn't scare me. And even with no water, we still had a roof over our heads. We still had a comfortable bed. We even had a supply of clean water for coffee and cooking, and two rain barrels of water we could use for gray water for non-potable purposes.  There was plenty of food and the ability to cook it. I knew we'd be ok until the snafu got fixed.

But I didn't like the idea of having to think like that... at home.

Most of the time when I'm off the road and at home I bounce between embracing everything I love about being home and feeling like a fraud. Over the years I've grown more accustomed to the domestic sphere; but I can't ever escape the sensation of being a baboon, lumbering around and trying really hard NOT to wreck the place. When they turned the water off --

I found myself wondering about the fleeting nature of high concepts like home and comfort.

It wasn't a question of panic. It was a question of being pissed off.  Pissed that I'd let it happen. Pissed that I wasn't being mindful. Pissed because, even when I was drinking, I made sure utility bills were paid... or at least, paid down. Pissed.

But sometimes being pissed doesn't help. Anger can be a powerful, but dangerous motivator. Being pissed... that's a paralytic.  And we didn't have time for that.

So, we rationed our clean water for us and for the dogs and cat. We had 6 gallons of clean water, which meant if we were careful, we could make it last more than long enough to get the bill paid.
 ____

Dream from the first night:

In the dream I was sitting around a fire in the middle of a dark, expansive wilderness. I've dreamed of this wilderness before, but not of this particular fire. Sitting around the fire with me were my dad, my grandfathers, Steve (my first ex-father-in-law). The other elders are there, too, but there are a lot of them and I can't make out their faces in the darkness. I'm holding my red Bybee coffee mug. It's warm and full of coffee. Dad, my grandfathers, and Steve were holding cups, too. The smell of coffee hugs the air, which is cool. Late autumn. I can't see any trees, but I know their limbs are almost stripped bare.

Looking down, I'm dressed in long sleeves for the weather. I'm wrapped in a blanket but can feel the chill of the night air on my fingers. My hands are covered with tattoos. The firelight makes it look like they are moving: the snake writhes under my sleeve and back down, a crow flies, fish swim. I think I can feel the tattoos moving up around my shoulders, up the back of my neck, and into my ears. No one is surprised by this. I'm not surprised by this either.

All at once there is a great wind and a stagecoach drawn by six white stallions rushes by. The horses eyes are lit with a fire that breaks the darkness ahead of them. I catch a hint of trees, the outline of houses, a trail I didn't know was there. None of my companions moved away from the road as the coach passed. Neither did I.

As it passed, I caught her scent and heard her laughter. I jumped up to follow her, but the darkness closed around the coach just as easily as it opened.

A voice -- not my dad's my grandfathers', or Steve's -- said YOU HAVE TO STAY. SHE HAS GONE AHEAD, AND YOU MAY NEVER BE READY TO FOLLOW.

___

I've taken more than my share of baths out of a sink. It's all about hitting the high -- and low spots.  I have to admit, though, that even I took pause when I used bottled water for a whore's bath. I doubt that Paris Hilton felt as fancy as I felt with my daily ration of wash water.


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30 August, 2019

From Field Notes: 22 Aug 2019 (cool cats and a muckraker's city)

Leaving Chicago on the 5:45 pm Cardinal. By this time tomorrow, I'll be in Ashland (KY). Had a wonderful time at the reading. The record store, No Requests, is nice little place.  One of the owners told me they're also  a record label focusing on  local bands. They release titles on cassette... reminded me of those single or two song cassettes you'd find as a special right before an album drop or to fan up interest

My friend and poetic comrade Jeri has a lovely apartment with a polite and friendly roommate and two cats, both of which resisted my attempts to take pictures of them. They tolerated me well enough and were almost friendly by the time I left for the train station.


The cats eye me
with far less suspicion.
Their gazes say
you will miss us.

Off Lakeshore Drive heading into  the downtown business district, the Uber driver used Ida B Wells Drive. I wonder if anyone driving it knows what she endured in the name of truth just to have a stretch of street named after her.

Holy mother of muckrakers,
sweet lady of malady, madness and letters
have mercy on us!

Taking a smoke outside Union Station the Jackson Street,  I'm soaking in the city yet again, one more time. The weather is cooler, than it had been, and the sun is shining.  There's a few of us there, smoking. Even though the Canal Street doors are open to the public again, the Jackson Street door is more convienent for smokers. The others are huddling in shadows and I find myself drawn to the light around the corner. Street hustlers mix in the panhandlers. I see the hard push on a few unsuspecting travelers trying to wave off the nicotine  mists. But the ATM is right over there, I hear one say. 

What a shame:
out of shadows cast by brick, steel, and glass
violence bids hello
with a handshake and a sharp smile.
   

20 August, 2019

In Motion


Chicago --

Getting out of River City is always fraught. Or, at least, it seems that way lately. I tell myself it's important to remind myself: it's the time of year. Summer travel is a always a little .... more. More crowded. More expensive. More prone to run late. 

I decided to cheat on the old grey dog and use Megabus for my run up to Chicago. Yes, I could have taken a bus up to Indy and rode train... except that regional train travel is complicated thanks to the monumental lack of foresight that led to the decommissioning of the Indiana State Hoosier. It would have extended this leg of my trip a bit too long, and I would have had to spend at least one night in the Indiana Depot... an accommodation I've experienced many, many times too many.  In order to be an even more particular traveler, I opted for the option. -- at the cost of an additional $2 -- to reserve a specific seat. I chose one on the left side of the bus, next to the window, near the front, on the top level. 

That proved to be a complete waste of time. Not only was the bus an hour late, but my seat and the one next to it were taken up by a future seminary student and his prodigious amount of luggage. I wasn't the only one to fall prey the hopeful, false advertising.  Two women across the aisle and one row up from me were actually sitting in seats that had been reserved by a young woman and her friend. When the young woman attempted -- politely -- to explain they were sitting in her seats, they were incredibly rude. Sure, they were probably still sore at being bamboozled. But that's no reason to call a fellow sufferer a bitch.

Bus travel isn't my preferred mode, but it gets the job done. Mostly. At least regionally.

So I remind myself the delays are seasonal. Interstates are construction- choked arteries. There are more people on the road, and because we're heading out during rush hour, delay is almost guaranteed.   But there's been a steady increase in people moving around the country by bus. Flying can be prohibitively expensive, and trains don't go everywhere people really need them to go.

More people are in motion, for reasons and excuses to numerous to list. No, they're not traveling; at least, not traveling in the sense that I travel. And they're not vacationing in that Sunday Morning retirement IRA commercial sense, either. But people are in motion. Not in control, but still in a damned hurry. And because of this, and because public transit goers tend to see themselves as consumers rather than the consumed, the gentility and etiquette I saw a few years back is wearing off like tired, neglected paint. 

But the sunset in Indiana, just north of Indianapolis, is lovely. The colors are autumnal: purples and blues highlighted with splashes of tangerine, splashed across the sky above an endless ocean of green fields waiting for the harvest. And that, more than anything, is why I don't drive.
   

13 August, 2019

Escape


Central Air is busted. We sleep with the windows opened strategically to take advantage of the cooler night air. At 3:37 in the morning, the storm that will make today boil blows in. Cool breeze. That fresh, taciturn kiss of almost autumn rain. Far off threat of thunder and lightening.

At 3 in the morning, the dogs are restless. They always know. I ignore them until the sound of their paws, like a telegraph operator in an old western sending a message at gunpoint, makes it impossible. Pulling on my pajama pants, I motion for the dogs in the early half-light through the window. Part sunrise, part light pollution from the airport. Ubi, the skittish one, is afraid of storms but is overcome by curiosity and the need to piss. 

I stand on the back porch and wait. Soak in the cool air through every available pore. It is 4 in the morning.

Being so accustomed to control when hubris fails 
we are still monkeys finding God in a cool breeze
and in the distant thunder, a lullaby.

06 August, 2019

Hashtag Sick: A Word-Thing


I am sick of the world through a social media lens

I am sick of bad distillation,
sick of all the negative inflation,
sick of feeling like I’ve been infiltrated
                                                                with a social disease –

some social disease fermented in the belly
of a sick, poisoned pig
gestated in the minds
of fear-mongers and profiteers

tired of being told to lock my doors
tired of being told the cops are my friends
tired being told white fascist terrorists
                                                              are just “mentally ill.”

We are all mentally ill!
We are sick with fear
being fed through a social media tube
sick from being screwed with social media lube

tired of being told
by one more keyboard psychologist
with a Google Search PhD
that this fascism
is not what we see

and that all we need
is a gun-toting Jesus
to pave our safe way.

I am pissed off and sick
of a country crucified on an AK

pissed off and sick
pissed off and sick
pissed off and sick

and the only thing I know
the only real trick
is to get far away
from this social media schtick:

to put on well-worn boots
to put on my hat
to grab my rucksack
to pick up my walking stick

and see the world through a lens unmuddied
by profiteers and fear mongers --

to see with a vision unmolested
                                unassimilated and
                                divinely unsullied.

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31 July, 2019

[re: lines on the day I remembered my father's birthday]

"Your skin starts itching once you buy the gimmick"  - Iggy Pop/David Bowie


For years I drove out by the old house to see what the new occupants had done to wreck the place. The time I drove out and saw the buried wagon wheels at the end of the driveway, like some broken redneck gate straight out of HGTV and the western-chic issue of Better Homes and Gardens, I knew my father's imprint was worn off. Finally, indescribably, gone.

And even as I write this, I don't know that I ever made peace with that -- until now, as I come to terms with how I feel about being at my mom's, and how my own wounded vision has impacted not only how I feel about this place, but about my Losantiville as a whole. 

Only now do I understand that I must see this place like any other place -- and that this vision must extend to all places. Even the ones I allow myself to be attached to.


Summer ends just as it begins.
Places abide in a mourner's memory,
an early morning dew. No house
holds out against the wind. No island
holds out against the current.


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17 July, 2019

Letters from Trumplandia: Born of the River -- Louisville, Kentucky

Yesterday, 50 homeless people were displaced in the #compassionatecity. Contemporary urban living means dueling with the cognitive dissonance created by political reality chaffing against the marketing. Bourbon and BBQ for the tourists, for whom the mayor stands, while human beings are treated like the dirty laundry no one wants to deal with.

But this is, I suppose, just one more day in Trumplandia, one more day in the Mayor Greg Fischer's shiny mirage -- the photo op he lives in as he attempts, poorly, to salvage his political legacy.

This wasn't the Louisville blog I wanted to write. I wanted to write in response to a recent call for Belt Publishing -- a publisher I respect, by the way -- for writing for about Louisville for an upcoming anthology. In their call, they refer to Lousiville as a southern city... a mistake that many people make. The local Chamber of Commerce -- otherwise know as Greater Louisville, Inc. -- bills us as a southern city. Local liberals, progressives, and some of the radical left call Louisville a "blue island in a sea of red." All the people whining about the removal of Confederate statues and brandishing the stars and bars as if Kentucky was part of the Confederacy embrace this southern niche with the same vigor that the majority of the country also embraces it.
Mayor Greg Fischer (WDRB)


The truth, with all due respect, is this: Louisville is not a southern city. But it is a river city.
Unfortunately being a river city along the Ohio River means owning the muck that comes with it. Louisville's history of exploiting and isolating populations. The West End and the black community with a botched bussing plan, redlining, and imminent domain. The city's unofficial war against The Russell Neighborhood. Shanty boats. Nativist Know-Nothings and the Bloody Monday Riots. The slave trade. Gentrification. Keep going back. There's more to find. Too much more.

We are not a southern city, with all due respect to southern cities who have the actual geopolitical and culture underpinning to make that claim. The mistake people keep making about Louisville is that they keep trying to insist it's a southern city. It's not. Louisville is born of the river, and the river pre-dates any geopolitical classification.

Unfortunately, we are responsible for the muck that comes with it: Economic piracy. Greed. Exploitation. Dehumanization. Because just like the river flows west and into the Mississipi, so does the muck. Inhumanity spreads like a disease, whether it's the city's policy of dehumanizing the homeless or Trumplandia's policy to dehumanize people at the border and put children in concentration camps.

And no, I'm not suggesting all the evil starts here. But some does wash up on shore on it's way.

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02 July, 2019

Los Angeles June 2019 - the last leg home

The bus shot down I-65 out of Indy, headed to Louisville, trying to make up for being an hour and half late out of the gate. The old grey dog was loaded for bear. Every curve and bump seemed to tear at the fabric of the thing, like it was held together by duct tape and chewing gum.  The guy next to me was a nervous little germaphobe  in a slim fit flower print shirt who moaned audibly at every rough jump and turn. The woman in front of me was a bundle of nerves who found out about a half hour from Louisville that she wasn't on the bus to Cincinnati.

I chose to give myself over to sleep instead of worry. That was the only thing I had control over. I don't know that I ever felt more free than that moment.

Every wind sheer cuts sharp.
Each bump a prayer. Rough currents
carry home this wandering fish.





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13 June, 2019

Baboon Lumbering

Compiled in the early 12th century, Konjaku monogatarish├▒, or the "Tales of Times Now Past" is an anthology consisting of more than one thousand tales form India, China, and Japan. This print illustrates a scene from the story of a turtle who tried to kill a monkey because he heard that monkeys' livers are effective medicine. The turtle invited a monkey to his place telling him that there would be lots of delicious food. Anticipating the feast, the monkey climbed on the turtle's back to cross the ocean. When they were far out to sea, the turtle revealed his true intentions. The clever monkey then confided that he had accidentally left his liver hanging on a tree branch on the shore. Tricked by the monkey's claim, the turtle returned to land, where the monkey quickly scurried to safety high in the tree. Despite their adversarial roles in the story, the turtle and monkey in this print look to be friendly, thus giving the image an overall bucolic ambience.

I offer this image from a 12th Century manuscript and short explanation from the archive notes just to add a bit of context. Hopefully it will make sense by the time I'm finished with this post.

During my morning meditations a while back, it struck me that I am a baboon riding a turtle. I'm still unwrapping what all this metaphor means, but if I'm being honest this particular revelation didn't come as a great surprise. A few years back I started a long series of poems, many of them unread except by me and most of them probably not all that good, in which I wrote myself as a baboon. The phrase BABOON LUMBERING, or at the very least the image of it, was a central theme of those poems. It best described how I felt in the world.

Although my formal education is relatively extensive, my self education really began while I was still traversing  high school. I'm sure I went to classes my senior year, but I don't remember much of that year ... the year my dad died. What I do remember is spending a  lot of time in the very small high school library, obsessed with these dusty old books on the reference wall that no one ever paid any attention to. There was a huge series... maybe two or three encyclopedia sets long... of THE GREAT BOOKS. The first volume covered the major writings of Aristotle. Of course I didn't start there. I started with Descartes and The Scientific Method. I don't know why I started there, except that in the early time of mourning Dad's death, I found the religion I'd grown up with to be little or no salve. So maybe, I figured, maybe science will offer something else.

It didn't. Not really. But it did start to give me framework with which to view the world. There are two major element to the Scientific Method that matter here and now: evidence and observation. Although I'd done ok in school (I was a lazy student) I don't know that I ever learned anything about oberserving. And it was through the process of reading Descartes, Bacon, Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, and as many other of The Great Books as I could read, that I began to understand the difference between just SEEING and actually OBSERVING.

That lesson has been instrumental, and has shaped me into the writer, the thinker, and the spritutal and metaphysical person I am. That lesson continues to shape my journey because at the core of it is the belief that I am not just here to SEE. I am here to OBSERVE and to write it all down as honestly as I can.

Monkeys and baboons in various mythologies are storytellers, messengers, and tricksters. And while my choice of BABOON LUMBERING had more to do with my general discomfort in the world at that time, I am starting to see that my brain keeps kicking this image back at me for a reason.


And so, here I am. Still lumbering, but more at ease. Experience and observation. Detachment (a kind of empiricism) also comes into play. But I'll save that for another time.


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03 June, 2019

A Tip for Traveling Well (Back in the Tall Grass)


Top of Iroquois Park, Louisville, KY: an Olmsted Designed Park
The top level of Iroquois Park in Louisville, Kentucky is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. It's only open to motor traffic one day a week, and most of the time it looks like the city has all but forgotten about it: tall grass, hidden brambles, vines, and flowers. The path through the tall grass eventually disappears and even though the earnest saunterer isn't that far from the road or from civilization, the wildness of the place takes hold and for a moment, it's possible to forget the nearness of  what has come to pass as civilization.


One of the blessings of my life is that such a place, and others like it, are so close to where I live. I've taken this for granted in the past because, well, my head wasn't quite turned right. I'd allowed myself -- with all the best intentions in the world -- to get distracted by work, by the demands of building a business that I built for what may have not been the best reasons, and by the trappings of a civilization and system that I'd spent years avoiding and actively fighting against.

But as I find myself back in the tall grass, having wandered off the marked path in favor one that I
have no choice to have faith in rather than the sure thing I can see, dictate, and, to a limited degree, control, I feel more free than I have in a long, long time. I was so busy trying to make up some kind of professional life after the one I loved (education) seemed to have left me behind... or, to be more accurate, filtered me out... that I missed the opportunity to really step off the path. Yes, I tried a few creative things until I put together some sort of business plan. But the business took all the energy and left me little room to breathe. And you may point out, Isn't that just the way it is?

No. It's the way I decided it was. That doesn't mean it was true. And no one had any control over it but me. I'd trapped myself in a maze of my own creation, with a monster of my own creation to whom I ceded all control of my life.

When I was finally able to see... or I was blessed with the chance to be able to see... what I was doing to myself, I knew that I had to get back to something basic:

PACK LIGHT.

On any journey, the things you carry are the things that can both help sustain you and make your life miserable. In some cases, the thing you're lugging around will kill you if you let it. So let go of what you don't need. Hang onto what sustains you.

The real bitch of it is that only you can figure out what those things are. But once you do, the tall grass is calling.





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24 May, 2019

Things My Dog Teaches Me, the New Podcast (SUBSCRIBE!) and IGTV (FOLLOW!)


Gypsi… Dog and sometimes Yogi
While I am taking on some freelance work hither and thither, the bulk of my creative energy is being used on … well... being creative. It occurred to me that all the stuff I poured into working towards other people's visions could have been poured into my work, my vision.

It also occurred to me that this is a more natural process... feeding my energy back into my talents, and my gifts is a self-sustaining cycle. Feeding all of that into other people's projects... even projects I like … may feed my stomach, but it draws too close to the bottom of the spiritual well.

And so, here I am. If you missed last week's post about my mostly daily poetry posts on Instagram, check that out here... and jump over to IG and check out my posts. I'm also playing around with IGTV over there. Stop in and give some love, some comments, and pass along.

I've also started a new podcast project: A Record of a Well Worn Pair of Boots: The Podcast, hosted on Podbean. If you look up in the tabs, you can see a new page here with an embedded player. Please give it a listen, subscribe, and share. It's a short format, no frills kind of podcast.... perfect for a bus or train ride, something to listen to in the car, or just to help you get through the office grind.

I know at this point you're feeling punked. What about the fucking dog? you're saying. Well, here she  is:

the thing is that while I get a lot of benefit from my meditation and workout routine, the fact is I learn the most from the world around me... in this case, my dog, Gypsi. She was a rescue when we got her and is 5 years old. Part Catahoula, part Blue Heeler, with a dab of Lab thrown in, she's a wonderful bunch of sometimes over active fun. Unless Amanda' home, Gypsi is always with me when I work out or meditate. And unless she's grouchy (usually about an hour before bedtime), she's always ready to play. And here's what she taught me today while kicking my ass with her downward facing dog:

  • Live in hope (because you just never know) and gratitude (because sometimes you do!);
  • Always be happy to see the people you love and who love you;
  • Try and have at least one really good, squeaky toy.

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14 May, 2019

Why #InstagramPoetry - Why Not??





Poet culture is a funny thing. Depending on who you talk to any one, or number, or none of the following is true:

  • You need an MFA to be taken seriously.
  • MFAs are ruining poetry.
  • Good poets read a lot.
  • Reading too much can influence your work too much.
  • Spoken word is poetry.
  • Spoken word is not poetry.
  • Slam poetry is too much like rap music.
  • Rap can't be poetry.
  • Rap done right is poetry.
  • Poems have to rhyme.
  • Poems should never rhyme.
  • Traditional form is dead.
  • Traditional forms are what make poetry different from other kinds of writing.
  • Poetry must be political.
  • Poetry should avoid politics.
  • Confessional poetry is the only poetry.
  • Confessional poetry sucks.
  • No one wants to hear your angst.
  • Angst is part of the collective human condition.



And then there's the whole mess over Instagram poetry. There are those that see it as helping redefining the genre for a social media age. And of course, there are its detractors and wannabe artistic gatekeepers. And then, the publishing angle, which paints a far more positive picture than gatekeepers and traditionalists want to acknowledge: that poets publishing on Instagram are helping the sale of poetry books.

Rupi Kaur's incredible success is only part of the story. There's all the drama over Atticus and the flame war started by Collin Yost. There's arguments over what IS and what IS NOT poetry. There are lists of Instagram poets to read and, of course, discussions over the trend.



When I signed up for an Instagram account a few years back, it on a lark. I hadn't heard of Kaur, or Atticus, or Yost. I was still a heavy Facebook user and Instagram seemed like Twitter... only for pictures.  I started posting short poems there mostly because the limitations of the platforms gave me some boundaries to work in. I've been focusing on stripping the non-essential out of my work. Sometimes the pictures had absolutely nothing to do with the poem. Sometimes they did. Most of the pictures weren't that good, but it didn't matter.

And, really, nothing has happened. I've attracted some folks who like what I do, but I have no where near the reach that Kaur has. And that's ok. My phone-photo skills have improved. And my poems have improved, too... including the ones that don't get posted, the ones that get submitted to publications and contests. True, not every poem I post is a great poem. But I've learned over the decades of writing that it's impossible to gauge the work that way. I let them loose and they fly or they don't. But they are loose, just the same.

The current through the critiques of Instagram poetry is the same sort of critiques people have leveled at everyone from Bukowski to Emily Dickinson. Supposed experts and aesthetes ("influencers" for you social media savvy folks) seek to define what poetry is and what it's not. They can have at it.  I'll keep doing my thing.

And if you like what I'm doing, hop over to Instagram (@dirtysacred) and give me some love.





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30 April, 2019

On Being Present In Spite of the Kentucky Derby

Hawthorns. Yep, they hurt.
I travel for the same reasons I eventually come home. This is often difficult to explain to people who either aren't pushed in seemingly opposite directions by the currents or who have denied their impulse for wanderlust and diaspora. For those who are similarly afflicted as I am, no explanation is needed, but please, brothers and sister, bear along while I wander this thought to some stopping point or another. 

It's a short leg, I promise.

There are currents at work in both cases, but in neither case am I afflicted by a sense that something is missing or lack of satisfaction. The only real difference is this: when I'm out, I attune to the rhythm of the road almost immediately, like stepping through a door. But when I come home, there's always a reentry process, like having to wait in a decompression chamber so that my lungs can breathe the air of home again.  It's not even about the tangible things in my home life -- my sobriety, my relationship with Amanda, my needy dog or apathetic cat, the house and the familiar and comforting things housed there. Where I have the most trouble is in the intangibles: things that I am compelled by socialization or cultural imprinting to care about: the condition of my yard; seemingly petty and oddly mean-spirited technological issues; the status of our battle to keep the bank from taking our home, in spite of us doing everything right in order for that NOT to happen; business clients who don't pay their invoices on time; obligations created out of cultural necessity -- like most bills, showering, and wearing pants; and locally, the hubbub over the very decadent and very depraved Kentucky Derby -- that fastest two minutes of sport that create that have contributed to a pendulum like boom and bust economy, not to mention labor exploitation, sex trafficking, and the continued exploitation of the city's homeless population in an attempt not to offend the tourists who come here, piss in the street, and call it bourbon.

There are battles here that are worthwhile, and ensuring that rich touristas have positive few of the town I have chosen to call home is not one of them.  But am glad that of the things I hang onto from being out, the things I continue to foster with my personal daily Practice, the idea of being focused on the here and now remains central to my decision-making process about how to (and if) to interact with any of it.

When I'm out on the road, I work to maintain a relaxed but present state of mind, and I try to stay open to whatever experiences and people I can. Through my daily Practice, I'm working to maintain that same relaxed but present state of mind off the road. It's more difficult than it sounds because, in spite of the hassles of traveling (including a lost suitcase), the distractions of a stationary life can fill the ol' brain chamber up with all kinds of things that can distract me from remaining present and being open to the world as it unfurls itself on a daily basis. Things that cause me to miss the beauty and the savagery that are just as present here in Louisville as they are on the road.

Whippoorwills sing
as the coffee cools.
The dog naps, defying
her need to hunt the song
down. Here I sit, listening


waiting for something
maybe the sound
of a gong: a guide,
a rhyme, a tune
encoded in each ring.


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24 April, 2019

Kentucky Writer's Day 2019

"Well, you're cozy sitting back here with all your friends."

I was surrounded by three empty chairs, all of which were leather, soft, and looked as comfortable as the one I was sitting in. I made some off-handed reply, as one does in those situations. Except for me and the guy recording the event for the University of Kentucky Archives, everyone else there was paired or grouped off.

He introduced himself to me. Later I would find out he was some assistant director or under secretary of Kentucky Workforce, standing in for the director who was unavailable today.

"What brings you here?"

"Well," I said, "I've never been to one of these, and it seemed like a good time."

I always find Frankfort to be a beautiful little town in the way that all river towns are beautiful. Nestled up on both sides of the Kentucky River, it's beautiful in the way all river towns are beautiful -- this mixture of old and new, a sense of nostalgia without much in the way of sentiment, and an understated laiz faire attitude about things in general, except for a short list of completely random Things That Actually Matter (Unless They Don't At This Particular Time.)

I'm sitting the coffee shop next to Poor Richard's Books on West Broadway after going out to the Kentucky Library and Archives to watch the inauguration of the 2019-2020 Kentucky Poet Laureate, Jeff Worley. Given that we have a governor who barely reads anything except bible tracts and Ben Shapiro, that we managed to get another poet on the state dime is an extra special pleasure. The Kentucky CoffeeTree Cafe makes a decent cappuccino, has a nice atmosphere with shelves of books, some chairs and couches along with the tables, and variety size of those, too, with even one small table in the back with a single chair for solitary keyboarders and anti-social bibliophiles.

The ceremony out at the Archives was about what I expected. A few speeches and some nice poetry, some of it even read by the poets who wrote it. Right now is the break between the ceremony and the readings of the past and newly minted Poet Laureates, which will be held a few blocks away at the public library. I'll get to listen to the first hour or so of the readings before I need to leave and catch my bus home.

Although I have no part in today's festivities, I wanted to come anyway. Like going to the AWP in Portland this year, I need to start getting to know this part of what my friend George calls (sometimes a bit sardonically) "poet culture." I've paced back and forth for years, stopped at the imaginary border by my anxieties and insecurities. I used to spend a lot of time -- too much time -- drinking and ruminating over whether I really belonged in the same room with these people and being generally resentful if I wasn't ushered in like a dignitary. I removed myself from a conversation and then got pissed off when no one talked to me.

And while I'm a bit too gray in the goatee to be all starry eyed about these kind of things, it was nice that no one gave me the bum's rush. It's never easy being an artist. But it's nice to know that I can, every once in a while, sneak in to the same clubs as the cool kids.
After the new Poet Laureate gave his acceptance speech, I was standing outside waiting on a cab. My new acqauintance, the under secretary, walked by on the way to his car. He asked I enjoyed the ceremony.

"I did," I answered. I was going to go on about how smoothly it went and how I enjoy the brevity and wit of poets. But he nodded in the affirmative and strode off towards his car and towards the next thing on his agenda. As I he pulled out of the parking lot, I stood there waiting for my cab, waiting for the next thing and enjoying the spring air.




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16 April, 2019

From Field Notes: Excerpts, 7th-9th April 2019 - Orange Poppy, Long Gone

7 April


view of the Wakarusa River
Spent the early afternoon downtown. Had lunch with the Market Street Irregulars and then had the opportunity to visit my friend, local artist Heather Houzenga, at her shop at the base of Market Street. We mostly hung out in front of her shop, which lends itself to the opportunity of running into other people. At one point there were maybe 5 of us including Heather, Ray, Dave Cuckler, and Jeff Creath, who split time between Carroll County, Waukegan, and parts unknown with his wife and fellow globetrotter, Kat. There were also two dogs, including Heather's new pooch, Handsome, a boxer mix that is still very much a puppy... but a happy one, and Ray's lovely dog Lady.

It felt good just to be able to hang out on the street without anyone wondering whether something illegal is happening -- one of the graces that is still afforded in a place like Mount Carroll, Illinois.

At one point, later in the day, Dave was downstairs playing guitar and singing, and I was listening through the floorboards. There are moments we experience that resonant, repeat, and carry us backwards and forwards in time, embodying all of our sense memories into a distilled, rich, existential bliss. Listening to Dave Cuckler sing through the floorboards is one such moment, and it let me know that I was, if only briefly, at a place where I still have a home.

Music through the floorboards
that long remembered smile.
A congregation of old friends,
dogs, and peaceful passersby.

8 April

The river is high here, like everywhere else. Parts of Savanna are flooding. The power and prestige of the Old River 1 never ceases to amaze me.

The river lays siege to the flood plain
reminding people (again)
these ancient arteries
will wash away
what passes for Empire.

9 April

I was able to take some time yesterday and walk around town a bit. On my way back to where I'm staying, I walked up the Washington Street hill and over to S. West Street, by the house I lived in here with my ex. Inexplicably, the place is still standing and there's a family living there.

I know it seems strange to some people that I like coming back here. One local musician, a friend of a friend, upon figuring out that I was actually me and discovering that I showed up intentionally to visit, asked what I was visiting for. There's a basic assumption among some folks about this place... an assumption I hear more from people who are born and raised from here -- that there is nothing here. Or, at any rate, there's nothing here that would be of any interest to anyone not from here.

But the truth is that I learned a lot here. Mount Carroll is the place I learned to embrace a place and find beauty, poetry, and music -- even when there is a (very) thin veneer of stasis, greed, and ugliness. It was here I learned to live more in the moment and to seek out community rather than expect it to come find me. It was here that I learned what the word home means -- with all those fraught implications.

It was here that I learned what it means to dive deep and follow the currents. What I didn't learn here was not to dive TOO deep. I had to learn that later.

Some things persist
in spite of soft memory.
What is not erased
is a reminder that 
what we carry in the present
we picked up in the past.

Orange Poppy, Long Gone



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