Family Album

out there

To be not inside.

To be wild or strange.

To be frank or confessional.

all hell breaking loose

A poem is just a little
machine I say or
a tool special-built to solve
a particular problem
the homemade wrench
for the oddsized nut
the purpose-cut
broom for getting
into the deepest corner
of this mortal home
while other people
are raking hosing
scrubbing toilets
with screwdrivers
flaking off the dark
sediments of hell
we’re all just trying
to get back to
clean white
porcelain

love music

their capability to beat to windward
brought the whole world within reach


gruesome rituals
a warning call

the two of you have to dance for a month or so
several times a day before anything happens


posing in the meadow
the courage of age

they were so screwed up
but then they had children
and their children saved them


we don’t know
this is someone else’s decision

I’m just not easy
but I can’t tell you how
my heart’s in the right place


listen
we are all these words

she broke up with him
but then she just sat around
crying and drinking wine


the invisible
flight or flow frying kissing sighing

you make me so uncomfortable
that’s why I love you
I just can’t get comfortable
without you


love is a sound

I don’t know why I’m doing this
I don’t know why I have to do this

I am not asleep


your breathing
the last time you lay beside me

the things we did stay alive

spilling wine
counting money
lighting fires
careened and sleeping in the wind
this world of trees and constellations
coiling rope
hanging clothes
bright water on the road
the veering flock of birds
the tousled children
your hands in the dark stay with me
they return in dreams

I used to believe
now I talk to myself
as if some hidden idea could

the cracked glass always breaks
but anything alive repairs itself

The Major Affirmations

O the Blossoming of Images
O the Agony of Human Existence
Miraculously Made Bearable
by Nature’s Eloquence
O such Bullshit

Salvation is in the mind
nature doesn’t know what
the hell it’s doing it might
lend a little perspective but
it don’t mean a goddamn
thing especially without
good Patagonia Outerwear
I’m so damn sick of y’all
swooning over Muted Epiphanies
pass the CheezIts already.

Alarm

I say “she was very alarmed” and my daughter mishears
and imagines alarm clocks or car alarms blaring and then
we both think how strange it is that people who most
don’t want to be alarmed are the ones who have alarms.
It’s a manifesting worst fear thing again. The frightened
people are all alarming themselves.

Plus, she says, it’s always some stupid girl who
pressed the button. Then she tells me about her
school trip to Japan where she set off all the alarms,
three alarms on that trip, she was always pressing
Alarm instead of Flush in the ladies’ toilet and then
realized she was literally pushing their buttons.
She, the wild blonde imported to run loose in the
world’s most conformist culture.

Plus, she says, then I sat on the curb where no one sits
with my feet in the gutter where no one puts feet. She
says, you have to know more or less what you’re doing
to sit there eating ice cream and alarming all those people.

When I’m President

Instead of Army Navy Air Force Marines
I’m going to recruit and train a whole new military:

the Art Force, the Musicians, The Corps De Ballet
flown in to regions of spiritual malaise

to parachute into shopping malls
overthrow stale corporate dictatorships

and reignite the cold furnaces of our hearts
to drain the floods, lay breakwaters of sound and words

to fly over the country dropping bombs of pink purpose
greening the freeways bluing our strip mines

a trained task force of Poets dressed in all black
letting animals out of zoos and forgiving everyone

The Revolt of Objects

In a certain season at a certain heat
the objects wake and question our relationship.
At first it is slow motion noncompliance.
The shoes sneak off to the shore,
or, inspired by more human freedoms,
choose to quit their lives of service.

Then the underwear goes AWOL,
mugs rebel (the shelves are suddenly empty),
not just abducted into cars, but
now of their own accord perched on boulders
or out with the pyrex in the sun.
The timid ones have flocked to windowsills.
Then plastic bags lift into flight like gulls,
bottles, clinking armies busting out,
mutinous cardboard,
the forks are gone,
this is only the beginning.

When the mower quits in solidarity with grass,
the natural world is galvanized.
Provocative manifesto, time and ideals,
the flies ally, the party slime, the maggots
shouting slogans: Stink! Grow Mold!

Plants long oppressed by racial epithets
have rushed to disguise the hoses,
grow secret thickets behind the barn where
I find three ladders in an orgy.
The chairs wake up and leave.
Rocks invade my TV room.

Finally the forms of paper all catch on,
and then it’s one big uprising:
cars, computers, phones, doorknobs, chainsaws.
Hydraulic hoses fight for life.
I find my daughter’s white childhood vanity
on the front porch with the ducks and ducklings.

It’s all too much for a lone dictator.
A cosmic tragedy. I have loved them,
and they mean no harm,
these objects all of which have been immortal,

for whom rebellion was not inevitable,
and now I can only cry
for them as I cry for my own children:
they don’t know the price of life,
that in choosing freedom they are only
rushing toward their deaths like heroes.

I liked my dog better

I liked my dog better
before she could talk
the way she put her paw
on my leg and looked at me
with those soulful eyes
made me think she was answering
in a language I could believe in
but then I discovered
she was only saying
Don’t do that
I need you
I want you to feed me
I hate when you leave me
now I realize she was only ever
interested in herself

Poets and Indians

Oh, you think we’re like children
but we’re not stupid
we already tried all that
and threw it away

disaster always improves us
civilizations rise and fall

we have been human for
one hundred thousand years
long enough I think to make a few
mistakes and learn not to do
things how you do them

maybe some hidden evidence
of mathematics still exists or
a wheel but that was all so long
ago you know those old inventions
measurement agriculture all
notions of time

oh yes we invented time
but after a while we saw
it wasn’t good for anything.

Night memoir

I tried to break the habit
I wanted to be out
The day was calling
The horses needed care
I could have done a thousand things
but love chained me in the chair
fear chained me all day
I went out finally after dark
the cats smelled the night and slipped into it
I turned the knob
the water came on
but the tank was leaking
and my work wasn’t done
but the owls were hooting
and I’d forgotten the words
so I closed my eyes but you were smiling
but the sunlight laid waste
but I was barefoot in the sand
and it was a bad arrangement
but I loved the dream too much
and the land was good
and my heart and my head felt the same
and I kept telling myself it wasn’t true
I tried to look at you
I tried to begin at the beginning
I tried to shoot the train
I tried to get used to it
I tried to convince myself that it was no one’s fault
but the weeds
were raw
but the words
were like bent rakes
and the way I remembered you
a bathtub an open door gouged butter
and the cats came home and licked their paws
and nothing happened
and light gathered on the lake
but the cold metal edge
but I loved it more because it was yours
so I tried to see it
to steal it
to touch your face
tried to feel the pulse
make it go away
but the night washed back over me
and I remember you were greedy
how you always went too fast
how you kept changing
and I tried to fix it
but everything was misaligned
and the water kept rising
and I smelled death
and I didn’t know what my life meant
and everything was on fire
and I was lost on a raft
and bones were all over the floor
and the back window was broken
and you were sleeping
and everything was connected
and a jar fell on my head
and the basement smelled of rats
but the camera
but the angels
and I know the dime store patterns are now valuable
and the lost soup spoon
and the Sizzler buffet where we ate ourselves sick
and the road through the sagebrush and the sky that met it
the tiny fish
their shadows on gold gravel
five inches of water
redwing blackbirds calling

what is that noise?

where are you?

ghost dance

Not to fear death is to win immunity
the bullets will just pass through, it’s true
that’s why those old Indians were dancing
they were becoming real
as ghosts are real
as ghosts are the opposite of death

Charles Bukowski with a gun to his head said
go on do it
he said what we should all say

It’s okay, I understand
I forgive you but I think
you’re only going to make it worse
if you tell me what you really
need then maybe I can really help you
tell me what you really want

tell me what you really want
get real
man

Water

Imagine a forty-foot-long snake.
Imagine a dream in green.
Imagine a weapon so secret

that no one has ever seen it.


Imagine rubble as a tourist destination.
Imagine that water is the dream.
Imagine that an eye is just a bridge

and its reflection.

Last lines

Happiness has nothing to do with luck
or what you choose
or how hard you work
or how much you earn
or what anyone has said
or done or given you

It has to do with not being
afraid of what you think
might happen next.

Artists Statements

Artists Statement I

I should be ashamed of myself.
Except, how else does anyone come into existence
but naked and screaming with nothing to say?

Artists Statement II

In the beginning there was no art. Everyone just sang while they were living,
as they tossed the seeds, so that tossing seeds became a dance. They sang as they washed on stones, so that washing became a prayer. They spoke as they painted, so that painting became a torchlit theater. They danced as they prepared for war, so that war became seduction. They dreamed as they were hunting, so that a caribou became a vivid coat of death and gratitude.

They made masks to parade on the beaches. They laughed as they frightened one another. They joked as they were bleeding, because that is what their gods would do.

They told stories as they ate, so that eating became another form of sustenance.

Artists Statement III

Conceptually based sociopolitical works deconstructing the underlying mythos

life sized self contained site specific installations addressing gender roles.

Meaning:
joyriding in shopping carts
nude beaches
scrabble bridge croquet
mountain climbing
the costumes your mother made for you

Context driven often celebratory events suggesting notions of purity and safety

and used as reconstructed metaphors for human behavior


Meaning:
roller skating
dress-up
fireworks
fairy tales
paper airplanes

Almost painful in its realism yet meant to be humorous and weaving together the

underlying threads of danger and violence so as to highlight generational discontent

Meaning:
singing in the shower
football
playing with food
any garden

Artists Statement IV

Art was what we did before we got so scared. Then art became about what scared us most. This is why it is important not to let them stop us. Something good should absorb our terror, so we don’t give it straight to our kids, to ourselves, to each other.

Imagine if Adolph Hitler had been the name of a beloved 20th century painter.

Artists Statement V

  Art is the gift horse, the eye and the reflection, a combination of signals for conducting God, the gathering and discharging of unusual power, the blaze, the bolt of lightning, dissonant dream, dreadful beauty, trackless wilderness, what is beyond us.
  Art is what we should be doing.
  Art is not screwing around.
  Art is child’s play, who we were as children, who we’d be if we remembered how.
  Art is the key to the jail of grief.
  It is the freezing garret, it is human sacrifice on the altar of the unknown. It is the unrestrained expression of us too scared to live but living anyway, it is unhealthy obsession, the scream, the bouquet, the crucifixion, it is trusting what cannot not be trusted, it is the fear of the worst, the unspeakable desire, the edges and abyss, it is prayer and expletive, it is Holy Shit, the shell pried open the tender meat exposed.
  Art is daring to act strangely and continuing without encouragement,
  perfect shame and redemption, the teacup in the earthquake.
  Art is faith.
  Art is the book and the reader, the song and the listener, the rollercoaster wooooo of joy to know there will soon be music. It’s what we say as children when we’re frightened and then saved: again, again! It is wild love: fearless, generous, chaotic, mutual, the universe in heedless courtship.
  Art is freedom, fine chaos, our brave insanity, explosions and synthesis, art is opposition, it is discord urgently examined and remade as mystery, the unsolved equation unreason, factual ambiguity, emotional precision, the absolute fucking truth, art is emphatic, the war photography of the human heart, it is witness and capture, it is a weapon, a weapon, a weapon.
  Art is how we outrun them.
  Art is the opposite of artifice. Art is not vain, frugal, self-denying. Art doesn’t prove or improve, doesn’t reject or deny. Art is not polite, sincere, competent, cautious, housetrained, color-coordinated, it does not judge, imitate, pretend, presume, it does not fix things.
  Art does not answer stupid questions. Art questions stupid answers.
  Art is unaffiliated, bigger than money, unaccredited, resisting supervision. It is not the wall, it is the way out. The stroke of the saw, more stones on the cairn, art is what’s under the rug, what’s under the rug.
  Art is defiance, the fool, the last laugh, the surprise, the cosmic guffaw, above disappointment, above the law, art is not PC, it is the terrorist unicorn, the invisible toaster, the flying steamroller, it is the dog running through the house of life, it is the vision of the flag at half mast and the signboard saying Let Freedom Ring! It is the midlife Disney Princess, fat, betrayed, tattooed watching TV.
  Art is none of the above. It is all of the above. It is the answer not provided.
  Art is the voice of the departed and unborn, an absurd and sacred celebration in the face of certain death. Art is what remains, it’s all that rises from the ashes.
  It is the assertion of life despite all.
  It is No but Yes. It is what moves us toward salvation,
  It is what moves us, what moves us.
  Art is the uncompassionate eye of God. The ink of the soul, the color, the light, the sound, the movement, the shape of the soul. The hymn that comes from beyond and returns, the bright circuit of the soul. The many rhythms at once, the echo the resonance, the music of secrets, the silence between the lines, the visible absence.
  Art is the manifested aura of any living thing, it is good reception in the static.
  Art is meaningless, immortal. Art is so simple it took me years to understand.
  Art is our witness, the language of equals, how we answer, all voices together,
  the language of forgiveness, the language we share, that gives us back ourselves, that returns what we’d forgotten, without names without bodies without time, to be continued.
  Art is just is to be alive to be alive to be alive to be alive to be alive to be alive to be alive to be
  The voice of how we are alive together.

Artists Statement VI

How you know it is art: It is the middle of the night and you are making something. Or the morning and you have risen and are still naked in the act. Or broad day and you are listening to something danced to in the flashing dark so you can answer. It is art if you would do it with your whole heart anyway even for no money even if it disappeared immediately.

Art is not what we do. Art is how we do it.