Saturday, April 25, 2009

Riding With Jimi

This button on my strap
Here to remind me of that
Black Caesar with pink curlers in his hair

Festival of love in a helicopter
Raining down bad luck
Riding with Jimi
In a stolen pick-up truck

Gypsy moon and stars
Twinkle sporadic
Someone put something in my tea
My buckskin fresh from Canada’s freeze
While Seattle was a distant memory

Waking up the crowd
I heard rockets blast from your Marshall stacks
I think I left my stash
In the glove box

Now I’m wondering where you are tonight

Three on the tree
Hotwire in the dashboard
Three days without sleep
Watching history crash
Ducking into a Dodge
Walking like a duck
Driving through the mob
In that stolen pick-up truck

Sisyphus rising
In the new light of dawn
Ride my dragonfly to my castle made of song
Tell New York City and the Village to get lost
Goodnight, goodbye, so long.

--winter 2007, Barcelona, Spain

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Home Plate

Summer 1982, Nevada, Iowa

In our little town of 5,000 it was possible for even mediocre athletes like me to play first string on all the teams. I was a pulling guard in football, smashing into big corn fed farm boys at high speeds. I ran track, played basketball and was a catcher most of the time on the baseball team. We had pretty good teams and once we made it all the way to the regional junior varsity championship, one step away from competing in the state tournament.

As usual I was catching, but this game all of our good pitchers were being saved for the Varsity championships. The coach was putting guys on the mound who had never pitched before, and I spent a lot of time chasing balls to the back of the fence. In the fifth inning out of seven, a runner scored from third base while I was digging a wild pitch out of the grass along the fence line. After about four pitchers, we were somehow still ahead 5 to 4, partly because of two runs batted in by me when I hit a double in the second inning.

Now in the fifth inning, the new novice pitcher walked two batters and the bases were loaded with two outs. We couldn´t afford to walk another batter, so the coach switched pitchers, but I wouldn’t see the result of this strategy. On the second or third pitch, the batter swung and nicked the ball slightly. My right hand, which should have been safely hidden behind the catcher’s mitt, was absentmindedly peeking out, and the foul tip caught me like a bee sting on the tip of my right ring finger, ripping my fingernail out at the root.

I started screaming all the swear words my 16 year old mouth could conjure up, and the families behind the fence and dugout looked on in disbelief because I also had let a runner score, tying the game. The coach ran out to silence my epithets, but I held up my hand in his face and he nearly passed out from all the blood covering my hand and pouring down my arm. He walked me over to the cold water faucet and called Dr. Hall so I could go get some emergency stitches.

When I got back to Rev. Billy Sunday Field, the score was Nevada 5, Ballard 8, and I saw my dejected purple and gold teammates shaking hands in a single file line with the new regional champions in red.

When I went back a couple weeks later to have the stitches removed, Dr. Hall was not in, so instead one of the nurses soaked my finger in hot soapy water to soften the scab which had grown over the stitches. She didn’t know how to apply local anesthetic, and her silver tweezers dug into my nerve endings, trying to find the small knots Dr. Hall had made. I didn’t wince from the pain, but the young nurse had to leave the room a couple times to collect herself, and she kept looking at me as she picked away, asking if it hurt or not.

I felt bad for her. They say dentists have a high rate of suicide, and I figured young nurses couldn’t be far behind.


Urban Shocker
Pitched till 1927
Swept the series
Behind 110 games

Golden dragonflies from Spain

Glenn’s viewfinder taking pictures of the earth

Document of provenance
Mother Anne-Leigh
At Mt Lebanon
Putting blankets in the chest
Shaking out her dance

--Summer 2007, New York City

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Lucrecio and Ajax---Part Two

Uncle Milton was at the police station when Lucrecio and Officer Max arrived.

´I guess you´re coming to live with me now Lucas´ Uncle Milton said. ´Don´t worry, you get used to the trains rolling by. In fact,´ he said with a gleam in his eye, ´Sometimes the click clack, click clack just gets down in your soul and you cant help but shake and shake and shake and dream of where the trains are going!!´

Lucrecio was silent on the long drive back over the Silver River to his Uncle Milton´s shack by the railroad tracks. He had only been there a couple times before with his parents, and scarcely remembered a thing about the place other than the fact that there was nothing else around for miles. Uncle Milton could rev up the engines as high as he wanted with no neighbours to complain and the winding roads and abandoned lands around the railroad tracks were perfect for test driving the racer he had been working on for years.

So Lucrecio was worried that changing schools and making new friends would be more difficult when your Uncle lives like a hermit with his run down cars and hot rod dreams and no real job in a shack by the railroad tracks.

As they made the long drive home on Highway 61 along the railroad tracks, Lucrecio took out the gold pocket watch, tapping on the cracked glass to see if it would start ticking again.
´Hey that’s a nice watch Lucas. Where´d ya get that?´Asked Uncle Milton.
´Ajax found it for me!´ said Lucas.
´Oh, I see, okay Lucas!´ Uncle Milton didn’t ask any more questions, he figured the boy was still in shock after losing his parents, and maybe one way of coping was to invent imaginary friends.
A Southern Pacific train raced noisily down the tracks next to the Highway, its whistle blowing up in the distance. Uncle Milton was slowly catching up with the engineer as they read the different boxcars passing by.
The watch did not start ticking again, but each time he tapped it, his bones twitched with a light spark of energy, like there was some electrical connection between the watch and his body, and his tapping was sending an old time telegraph or Morse code through his nerves to some unknown destination.
Suddenly he heard a strange sound above the click clack of the train´s wheels.
´Caw!! Caw!!´ Looking out the window, Lucrecio saw Ajax sitting on top of one of the boxcars.
´Look Uncle Milton!´
´Yeah? You know this crow?´
´That´s Ajax!!´, said Lucrecio, and Uncle Milton just shook his head and smiled.

Ajax flew up onto the hood of Uncle Milton´s car as it crunched to a stop in front of the tiny shack by the railroad tracks.
´Hey, what the heck!!´ Uncle Milton chased Ajax away from the car.
´Caw!! Caw!!´ Lucrecio looked pleadingly at Uncle Milton, who was rubbing his hands together with worry.
´Well, they say crows are just like flying dogs. I don’t know what we´re gonna feed ´im, but I guess he can stay here with us Lucas.´

Natural Progression


Under radiant moonshadow
Swallows glide into non-formation
Unlike Blue Angels
Their wings—
A doppler effect
Like a train or bomber


Awkward weave spins in knots
Crude twine and dirt
It smells of wood as August dwells around the corner


Life fleeing agents outside a world of glass and steel
Into the desert with you
Iron rods you hold
Tipping lives for roads
Leading to more fashion shows
Cocktail party hour umbrella and swans.

---Summer 1993, Portland, Oregon

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Signal From Beyond

1978 Nevada, Iowa

It might not be such a big deal, but I found an authentic arrowhead by Big Indian Creek one day with my cousin Chad. Little Indian Creek cut through our 11 acres of land and Chad and I used to always slog through it, getting cut by the blackberries and muddy up to the knees, to reach the big alluvial plain where Little Indian Creek met Big Indian Creek.

We carried wrist rocket slingshots, highly powerful hunting weapons that we used to shoot at anything alive. Chad carried a dull buck knife in a sheath on his belt. I was Daniel Boone and Chad was my faithful Indian friend, out looking for lunch, or at least something to kill.
Chad had quick reflexes and before I knew it, he had stunned a squirrel, going to find it on the ground where it had fallen from off the branch. He grabbed the unconscious rodent by the neck, its chisel like teeth jutting out, and placed it ceremoniously on a sun baked rock. He unsheathed his knife and with one swift motion sliced the critter from neck to asshole, apparently thinking it could be skinned and slow roasted over a fire. He spent a few minutes tugging at the fur, trying to get one of those carcasses like they have in the old westerns, find a stick and put it over the fire, but the fur got stuck about half way down in the ripping process, so Chad just left it to the crows on the sun baked rock.

We walked a little further along the shore, collecting earthworms for our afternoon fishing. I leaned down to find a flat rock, a skipper, to bounce across the creek, and my hand found the arrowhead. Typical white, as long as my index finger, and very sharp indeed. I thought about the hands that made it, the same sun shining down, and the time that had passed between.

I shouted to Chad to come and look. He was part Sioux, or so everyone thought, and of course it would be like finding an ancestor for him or something. I put it into his hand but it seemed to jump out of his hand, hitting the ground and breaking into little pieces. No anger, I simply leaned down and gathered them together in my hand in the same shape and we looked at the spaces between the broken pieces of the arrowhead. Each of us saw different things in those spaces, and the look in Chad’s eyes made me think the road he saw ahead of him was not going to be easy.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Weather of Oz

Spring 1979, Nevada, Iowa

There was a video camera in our Geology class, and the teacher told us we could make a video for our final project. Whatever we wanted to do, as long as it had a theme, like Rock Formations, or Volcanoes or something, and actually explained things about this topic.

I, along with Randy McHose and Mark Stefani, jumped at the opportunity. We had already made a couple videos in Ms Haas' class, doing skits from Saturday Night Live, Cheech and Chong and Steve Martin. In one, I was John Belushi, in like a lion and out like an African Tapir on Weekend Update. We reran it and watched endlessly as the white line ran down the black and white screen, Jay in glasses and a suit, flying over the makeshift table clutching his heart in a mock Belushi cocaine heart attack.

Me and Mark just figured we’d make Randy the star of The Weather of Oz, as we were now calling it, having chosen our theme. We knew Randy wouldn’t sit and do any actual writing or planning of the characters or scenes, but he would be the best actor for the lead part, and ham it up. He would still be called Randy in the video so no one would have to remember a new name. Instead of Toto we had a bean bag frog named Clyde. Mark and I would write and direct, but I did not want to appear.

So Mark and I went to his house to brainstorm and write down some ideas. Mark’s Dad worked for the CIA and Mark said he didn’t know for sure what his Dad did. I only saw him once. I remember we listened to Ummagumma a lot and a couple times we even made pipe bombs to blow up tree stumps.

I did most of the actual writing, I felt Mark was going off on tangents, not sticking to the point or being realistic with the time limit, the people's acting abilities, and the equipment we had. In the end, we decided that Randy and Clyde were to be undercover environmental agents trying to find out who was responsible for the recent, sometimes deadly, weather disturbances in the area.

An unusually long drought had caused corn and soybean crops to fail for the first time in thirty years, dust devil tornadoes were wreaking havoc on once peaceful small town life, and the coldest winter on record had made people think the end of the world was near. After a sudden air inversion over Des Moines during the six o’clock news, which caused the fatal crash of a small passenger plane, this one carrying the African Agricultural Ambassador, a few insiders thought something more sinister was happening, something the public was not fully aware of.

Randy and Clyde, the undercover environmental secret agents, had to go on foot to the weathermens’ castles and find out if which of the two men was the evil weather changer. Then when they found out who it was, they could infiltrate the TV station and pull the plug during the six o’ clock news, announcing to the viewers that all was well, right there on Prime Time.

Our good friend Kendra was the wicked witch, explaining tornadoes to the camera as a mini Lincoln Logs cabin spun on a string in front of Camera Two, eventually crushing her. Of course we edited this part. We filmed a close up of the polka dotted Barbie legs sticking out from under the mini log cabin as Kendra moaned in the background.

The Munchkins became The Doldrums, and we filmed three friends from above as they knelt and sang We are the Do Oldrum Winds, the Do Oldrum Winds, or some such thing I had written in a flurry.

Other than that, the script and story board weren’t very worked out until we got to the point of filming, and then we improvised scenes over a three day rigorous shooting schedule after school. Through the forest, by the river and along the sea went Randy and Clyde, meeting people and strange creatures along the way.
Randy and Clyde see Hal Jacobs, played by Mark, creating some strange weather pattern in his castle and realize he is the evil weatherman. They bust in and catch him redhanded as he is brewing up a crop damaging hail storm over Central Iowa.

After much debate, we decided that the evil wizard Hal Jacobs would not be caught by Randy and Clyde, but in the end the Wizard makes himself disappear, vanishing in the breeze left by Randy’s clutching arms, a trick of the video. We wanted to leave it open to a sequel, Mark's performance practically outshining the unfocused Randy.

Also, in the wake of the evil wizard's sudden disappearance, Clyde the frog is sucked up into a High Pressure stream, blowing up on camera with little Black Cat Firecrackers. We had to film this when the teacher was gone, and open the window afterwards. Randy didn’t like the way Clyde didn’t blow up so good, so he put some Ronson lighter fluid on him and lit him on fire for the grand finale, saline tears running down his cheeks as he announced to the TV audience that the evil weatherman was gone for good. By the time it was all done, there were eleven weather phenomenon explained in detail and 90 minutes of video and we got an A. I wish I still had that tape.