Wednesday, February 1, 2012


(for my friend justin craig)
(and my other friend stuart craig)
(and another friend who shall remain nameless for now) 

(nonetheless, I wouldn’t make
too many assumptions
if I were you)

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A.   there was a person that I ended up almost seeing
B.   there was a person that I ended up almost shadowing

dirt clay sand gravel asphalt
glacier    prairie     magnesium

infant child student stranger

who is able to detect such transitions
with any degree of consistency?
who is willing to track them after
they have become irredeemable?

the evolutionary stage
in which the grotesque and poe-like
very obviously comes to the fore


and by that do I mean
end-of-life strategies
the end of life-strategies?

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sauntering along the water’s edge
the natural debris breathed back and forth quietly

mussel shells, ash, splinters, driftwood,
spikes of chlorophyll, fingernails

all sucked down in a great gulp and held
for as long as it takes to reestablish liquidity-

and by that do I mean h-e-l-d,
the past form of hold,
or h-e-l-l-e-d, the active verb form
of “hell” or “infinite suffering.” 

(either usage is equally mythical
and equally vulnerable to
dangerous and decontextualized
forms of consolation behaviors)  

such as a schoolchild’s satellite model
detonated by a single wavering pattern of frost
which lines and caulks the latent,
soon-to-be-revealed hallucinatory
media engine mechanic

“calm, calm, what do you want from me?”

yes, ask questions, the calm likes that.

“ok, calm, why do I have confidence only in you?  why do I feel only connected to you?  why do you allow me to talk to you in words that separate me from everyone else, even though I learned how to talk only by copying them?”

yes, ask questions, the calm likes that. 
the calm is really into your questions.

“o calm, what is this role I am playing? 
what is expected of me?
haven’t I, didn’t I, already enter you? 
what could have possibly drawn me out of the calm? 
could the calm be destroyed? 
could the calm be disregarded as easily
as we disregard most of the major media outlets?
have they tried to make peace with you? 
or are they just rabid slaves to the calm
like the rest of us?”

teaching us all, 
with fun prime-time examples/exemplars
such as the following candidate's forum:

“I am healthy and strong.  I am honest and super hard-working.  I enjoy a  laugh now and again.  I am focused, well-rounded, reticent, sober, and modest.  I am always friendly.  I make no unusual demands in the bedroom.  My ways are winning and natural.  Everyone likes me.  I can deal with anything.  I am here for the people, the animals, the plants, and the minerals.  My love of order and cleanliness has never given cause for complaint.  My knowledge is well above average.  Everything I am asked to do, I do to the very best of my god-given ability.  Anyone can access the relevant and important information about me.  I am peace loving and have a virtually untarnished record.  I am not one of those who start a big hue and cry over every little thing that comes up.  I am an easy-going fellow.  I can become enthusiastic about every worthwhile cause.  I would like to get ahead.  I would like to learn what really matters.  I would like to be useful.  I have a concept of length, height, depth, breadth, and dimension.  In this wacky world of ours such things are really important.  I know that.  I treat objects with feeling.  I have already become used to everything.  I am better.  I am well.  I am ready for any challenge that life sees fit to send me.  My head feels intact for a change.  I can finally be left all alone.  I would like to put my best foot forward.  Given a chance, I will do so."


sandstone breathing,
etches wandering,
days and weeks not remembering,
no intention, no directive,
not related or spawned by
a now-effaced, interbred series
of split skull infinitives
shock absorbing our pettiness
in the face of infantchildstudentstranger
being torn apart limb by limb

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packets of skeletal shavings
mailed back to his girlfriend and daughters
during his brief stint in the cinder mines,
dangling half an inch from the surface
the refracted glow of lake michigan
stubbornly clings to his memory
while he wanders around incoherent
in a tattered pink jumpsuit
filled with rivets
filled with siva  
filled with terrible delusions of permanence
a novel idea is suggested:
let’s meet up at the homeless shelter
then move on to the fast food establishment
from there proceed to the steel mill
and then the used electronics outlet
then the dollar store
the library
the farmer’s market
the courthouse

we’ll do our level best to find a willing subject
for whom this official document
might have been written,
this one I found just last week
folded up and wedged between the wooden slats
of a busstop bench near kimball and lawrence:

X was recently let out of a state psychiatric facility.  All the reports are that it was a decent and well-lighted facility.  This middle-aged man apparently dipped several critical parts of his body into a bucket of Mountain Dew mixed with hydrochloric acid.  The records indicate that he was made to understand and acknowledge his error in judgment and he is now once again at large, so to speak, circulating freely among the general populace, without any clear-cut sense of his past or identity, under cover of almost complete anonymity, and according to certain officials, “apparently without a care in the world”  (these last 7 words in italics- “apparently without a care in the world

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it seems
there was a person
that I almost
ended up greeting
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it seems
there was a person  
that I almost
ended up channeling
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wanted me to disappear with him
wanted me to go with him down to the bridges
asked if I had any interest in pirating energy drinks
straight from the pipeline near ravenswood;
turns out he had a private obsession
with the so-called tibetan book of the dead
and would chant these 13 or 14
particular phrases over and over,
recombining them, recklessly,
as circumstances or fancy might dictate:

[insert preferred translation here]

this particular version was rendered by the late Samuel Beckett, one of the few authors whom my friend actually ended up almost believing; one of the few individual atoms whom my friend almost ended up meeting- in person!  one of his characteristically odd and recurring suggestions was that we camp down along the banks of the sangamon river, in autumn, each in our own small makeshift tent, with only the most fundamental human materials, tools, necessities.  

we all have the same necessities, right?  
we all have the same tools and materials, right? 

it was his preference that we eat the same 2 or 3 foods over and over;  limit our conversation to 2 or 3 general topics; limit our bodily movements to within a circle physically inscribed in the sandbar, approximately 25 feet in diameter;  regarding musical instruments, limit ourselves to 6 or 7 apiece, yet insisted that we spend the first couple of hours improvising a general theme or motif,  and then utilize the rest of the time allotted to playing endless variations on that single improvised theme or motif.

[the only reason people got the idea that he had recently been released from a hospital was that he would slow down and then freeze unexpectedly smack in the middle of routine, everyday movements, slow down and freeze in the middle of sentences, slow down and freeze at the critical moments of sexual intercourse, in the middle of store aisles, on the subway, in the parks, in the marketplace of ideas-  not because he was weary or frightened or looking to disrupt society but simply because he had always been the type of person who was compelled to study his surrounding environment very meticulously.  (certain mental health professionals have suggested that his particular nervous system may have still been partially locked into earlier forms of the predator/prey matrix of open spaces and strangers.)]  

sure, during an earlier period of his life he had supposedly talked about a “vast seeming emptiness” or “large and terrifying tracts of completely uncharted wilderness” or “wastelands so immense and desolate that the organism is automatically suspended or cancelled” but that was then, before the incident with the one part Mountain Dew to the twenty-five parts hydrochloric acid mixed and stirred together in a cute little blue five gallon bucket.  

(apparently that little stunt branded a little common sense directly in or onto his skull.)  

in any case, after several minutes he would usually emerge from his "trance" and enthusiastically resume whatever "activity" appeared to be "underway", but people were suspicious all the same, and frankly, they probably had good reason to be so. 

yet when earl, my friend, sent me a telegram that he was indeed camping down at the sangamon, I cheered up, and was able to concentrate for several hours on my pathetic attempt to get educated-  to go and get the crucial information, ferret out those essential life events and experiences, those all-important certifications that automatically and instantaneously allow one to proudly stand tall among creatures barely resembling humans as we had been taught as cute little tykes to identify and regard them- now more like interchangeable updates to the massive network of screens and telecommunities, which seem to sometimes constitute the core priority these days- human beings being very obviously the inconvenient and disposable elements.     

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in any case, when it started to become clear that earl, my buddy, was missing, I walked down to the network of sandbars where he usually camps and, sorry to say, uncovered absolutely no trace of anything.  there were no visible human remains, if one could only bring oneself to believe that.  as is customary, several deer came out of the forest to drink around sunset.  it did me good to be near them, to be stared at in fragile and unbroken silence by them and to stare back in an almost but not quite equally fragile and unbroken silence.  it reminded me of old childhood fables of humans living full-time in the forest.  the ones about being still, being hidden, being alone, being swallowed, being breathed back and forth like the debris that snakes along the various waterlines.  the creatures would only come up to the visitor if he or she temporarily adopted their codes of behavior.  and if the visitor ended up being devoured, abducted, befriended, or brainwashed- well, gee whiz, that just ends up adding to the allure or myth of primeval wilderness.