Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Better Way

As I look back on the year now ending, I’m amazed by how many wonderful people I’ve met without leaving my desk. Readers, writers, artists, poets, thinkers, teachers, and curious others from all walks of life have immeasurably enriched the passing days.

I thank each and every one of you who are linked in my “Reading Room” and who have linked here, as well as those who have expressed your thoughts in the comment section, be it once or dozens of times. I’m inspired by your talent, energy, and insight, your willingness and need to share.

I’m also grateful to those of you who come and go and return in silence, because in so doing you allow me to imagine your lives and wonder what it is that we might have in common — more, I’m sure, than we realize.

To those who have signed on as “Followers,” thank you once again for jeopardizing your reputation. Somehow, it doesn’t hurt as much when you know we’re in this mess together.

My thanks to those who have exchanged books with me, and who have surprised me by sending yours as gifts. I treasure them all, and keep them here in the room where I write.

I still can’t get over the kind reviews that have been written about The Painting of You, the positive comments about it, and the other blog posts notifying readers of the book’s existence. It makes its subject matter easier for me to bear.

To those of you who have purchased my books, thank you for your demonstration of faith and practicality.

To those who find something of interest or value here and in my main website, you have my gratitude. Writing communicates nothing unless it’s read.

There was a story once. Perhaps I should tell it. It’s about a world in which the inhabitants placed the concerns of others before their own. Their last war had come and gone, and there were none to take its place. Each child was a welcome addition, and was encouraged to dream. The elders were revered. No one died: when their bodies were no longer needed, their unencumbered spirits entered the hearts of those they loved, and who loved them, and dwelt there until, at just the right moment, they returned as light in a newborn’s eyes. It’s about a world that is here now, if we really want it — if we are not so enamored of reality that we cannot imagine a better way.

Recently Linked: Speaking of followers, Brent, another fan of the Norton Anthology of English Literature, is the newest crew member aboard this sinking ship of words. Thanks, Brent.

My thanks, too, to Aleksandra for posting a link to my “silent sequence of drawings,” That Which Is Left Unsaid, on her blog New Times Arrived.

In the Forum: a curious quest involving Chinese food.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Resolved to Revolve

A calendar

like a roulette wheel,

red for day, black for night,

my last dollar






(first publication)

Recently Linked: My thanks to Vatche for signing on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature, and for linking to this blog and to my main website. Vatche is a seventeen-year-old writer living in Southern California. He has a new blog, The Student Writer’s Mind, which is also linked in the “Reading Room.”

“Resolved to Revolve” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: an empty fortune cookie.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


A sky so heavy, the trees and houses can no longer hold it up.

(first publication)

Recently Linked: A friendly welcome to Elaine Anderson, who has signed on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature. Elaine lives in Fonthill, Ontario, Canada, and runs two websites: The Town of Pelham Public Library, and Fahrenheit 451: Freedom to Read, a discussion on censorship through the Pelham Library in Fonthill.

“Storm” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: five miles in five hours.

Monday, December 28, 2009

December Days

Surely we must know our bodies and minds have seasons, and that a mere shift in geography is not enough to fool them. It is winter now to the depths of my thought and bones. Fly me south, move me out onto a summer street, and I will shiver just the same.

Forum Update: Daddy sang bass, Mama sang tenor.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Light Upon Our Shoes

Lost in San Francisco, I met a preacher who couldn’t speak, a tall man concerned with giants, a homeless man who wanted what I didn’t have, a trio of young thugs who threatened to beat me but didn’t follow through, a little boy searching for his mom — I followed him down a side street and saw him safely home, then crossed beneath a dripping stairwell where a young man was playing a marble game and betting against himself ... reaching in my pocket I found what I thought might be a phone, part TV remote, part bright-red plastic toy, and was about to call my son when I came to a flight of metal stairs leading down, turned at the landing, took a narrow ladder the rest of the way, and there I met another boy who said “Don’t renounce me” three times as if I already had, and I fished in my pocket and found a sodden book of matches, only one of which seemed sound, and I tried to strike it to shed some light upon our shoes, to prove to him that mine were not mine, and his were his.

Added yesterday to the Annandale Dream Gazette. My thanks, as always, to Lynn Behrendt.

Recently Linked: My thanks to Grandma Scott for signing on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature. You can visit her website, The Gifts of Dawn, here.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Day After Christmas

Like this chocolate
slowly melting, he thought,

sweet even after
it’s gone.

(first publication)

“The Day After Christmas” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

Friday, December 25, 2009


After removing five acres of raisin grapes on our farm in the fall of 1972, and before planting nectarines there in 1974, my father and I grew watermelons in the open ground. For most of a blazing San Joaquin Valley summer, “we busted our ass,” as the saying goes, doing all the work ourselves — replanting the weak spots early on, thinning the plants, turning the rampant growth out of the canyon-like furrows, and irrigating the patch daily. The picking was handled by a black crew led by one Leo Johnson and his sidekick, a husky comedian everyone called “Bee-bop.”

Upon each successive picking, my brother, several of my friends from high school, and I picked up the melons, pitched them to each other in a line, loaded them onto a trailer pulled by a tractor creeping through the field, and hauled them into the yard, where subsequently the melons were tossed up to me one by one into a truck headed for a wholesale market in San José. We also supplied one of the grocery stores in town, earning as much as five cents a pound for our effort. That meant more loading and unloading, but a pickup load was child’s play at that point.

The plywood sign in this picture was nailed to a power pole on the main road a quarter-mile east of our house. The line under “melons” followed by an arrow reads “¼ mile.” As soon as it was up, people flocked to our yard, where we had set up a “watermelon stand” under the welcome shade of our mulberry tree. We sold a lot of melons that way, at retail prices — every farmer’s dream.

Now, what makes this a Christmas photo is the little round train track nailed to the back of the sign — because this piece of wood was first used as part of my Christmas present sometime around 1961 or 1962. The train itself was very small and heavy. It consisted of an engine, two freight cars, and a caboose. There was also a snowcapped tunnel no more than eight inches high and a foot long. I was thrilled each time the train disappeared briefly into one end and emerged from the other. So were my brothers. So was Dad.

[click to enlarge]

“Watermelons” added to Penny Thoughts and Photographs.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

East of West LA, by Kevin McCollister

East of West LA
Selected Photographs
by Kevin McCollister

If Pub
Los Angeles

ISBN: 0-9674720-6-7
Paper. 60 pages. $20.00

[click to enlarge]

I’d been following Kevin’s blog and admiring his photographs of Los Angeles for quite some time when he announced the forthcoming publication of his first book, East of West LA. As a spin through his archive shows, Kevin is very generous with his work. That’s one reason I wanted this book: my purchase is a way of thanking him for his effort and care, and for all the hours he spends walking the streets of Los Angeles, a city that, despite its renown, still harbors more secrets than starlets. I also wanted his book because his pictures are so good — both as documents of a place easily trivialized and often misunderstood, and as a physical record of an artist’s life and outlook, the latter underscored in an excerpt from one of the author’s poems, “As Real As Sunlight,” shared in publisher Brooks Roddan’s Foreword:

          I don’t want to be
          the guy who smugly hates the world
          although I frequently am so I walk
          north to simply see myself as here,
          on these streets and seeing myself
          as here is often enough, an
          antidote to fear and restlessness,
          especially if the street is—
          let’s face it—ugly but that’s
          too much about thinking
          and not enough about walking.

In East of West LA, Kevin McCollister captures a Los Angeles lined by mean streets and populated by people often down on their luck. It is an after-hours kind of book, to be examined alone in a room lit by a single lamp. Eerie landmarks, idle taco trucks, empty tables and chairs after a party, diners at closing time, Mexican musicians, the homeless and disenfranchised, a tiny crucified Jesus down from his cross in the grass of someone’s backyard — these images remind us that life goes on with us or without, each at our peril, and yet, what a glory it is to be here and witness it all.

The book is beautifully printed on heavy matte stock. The darkness of many of the photos make its study an intimate experience. Some shots, though, most notably the black-and-whites of landmarks, are cinematic in scope. McCollister’s vertical photo of a pier in Santa Monica under brooding clouds is worthy of The Grapes of Wrath — this, in a volume that measures slightly less than six by eight inches.

To bring home these kinds of pictures, the photographer must put himself physically and emotionally at risk. That is the source of their wisdom.

Recently Linked: A friendly welcome to Miemie, who nearly slipped in under the radar with her imageless profile when she signed on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature. The same goes for ayala.juana, who has been lurking in the shadows for an undetermined time. Thank you both.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Shopping

Little boy, each fart a triumph,


squeezing his hand.

(first publication)

Recently Linked: My thanks to Sandy for sharing and linking to my poem, “The Clerk and the Windmill,” in this StumbleUpon review page. Thanks also to MBT (Masai Barefoot Technology) for signing on as a follower.

“Christmas Shopping” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: smoking cigarettes and watching “Captain Kangaroo.”

Monday, December 21, 2009

That Which Is Left Unsaid

That Which Is Left Unsaid
A silent sequence of drawings
(HQ recommended)

Link to That Which Is Left Unsaid added to News and Reviews.

The Norton Anthology of English Literature

The Norton Anthology
of English Literature

Sixth Edition, Vol. 1

W.W. Norton & Company (1993)
2,586 pages, $3.99

The Norton Anthology
of English Literature

Seventh Edition, Vol. 2

W.W. Norton & Company (2000)
2,963 pages, $3.99

[click to enlarge]

I need these two books, of course, like I need another hole in my head. But there they were, just two shelves down from An Island Garden Daybook, waiting for me in all their onion-skinned glory. And speaking of shelves, I found this one the same day for only $7.99. I tried the books on it while I was still in the store, and it’s really quite sturdy.

In the Forum: dark beer, cheeseburgers, real French fries, ice cream, & the opportunity to take a real long sleep.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Grim Reaper

I was using a pair of hand shears to clip the grass growing along the edge of a sidewalk when I was joined by a man who was curious about what I was doing. His hair was white and very short. His head was narrow. He was wearing glasses. He asked if he could see the shears. I stood up and handed them to him. As I did, they became an ax in his hand. His first swing was aimed at the grass. The blow landed perfectly just where I had stopped cutting. He took a breath and adjusted his grip. My body tensed with fear. His second swing was aimed at my neck. I yelled myself awake.

Added yesterday to the Annandale Dream Gazette.

Recently Linked:
My thanks to Ed Baker for signing on as a follower. His website, Bare Bones Bonze, is also linked in the “Reading Room.”

Forum update: Do I really need this chair?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Parody Anthology

A Parody Anthology
Collected by Carolyn Wells
Charles Scribner’s Sons
Published September 1904
397 pages

Image: inside front cover (click to enlarge)

After Whitman . . .

An American, One of the Roughs, a Kosmos

Nature, continuous Me!
Saltness, and vigorous, never torpi-yeast of Me!
Florid, unceasing, forever expansive;
Not Schooled, not dizened, not washed and powdered;
Strait-laced not at all; far otherwise than polite;
Not modest, nor immodest;
Divinely tanned and freckled; gloriously unkempt;
Ultimate yet unceasing; capricious though determined;
Speak as thou listeth, and tell the askers that which they seek to know.
Thy speech to them will be not quite intelligible.
Never mind! utter thy wild commonplaces;
Yawp them loudly, shrilly;
Silence with shrill noise the lisps of the foo-foos.
Answer in precise terms of barbaric vagueness
The question that the Fun editor hath sparked through Atlantic cable
To W . . T W. . TM . . N, the speaker of the pass-word primeval;
The signaller of the signal of democracy;
The seer and hearer of things in general;
The poet translucent; fleshy, disorderly, sensually inclined;
Each tag and part of whom is a miracle.
(Thirteen pages of MS. relating to Mr. W. . t W. . tm . n are here omitted.)
Rhapsodically state the fact that is and is not;
That is not, being past; that is, being eternal;
If indeed it ever was, which is exactly the point in question.


In the Forum: an ongoing nightmare.

Friday, December 18, 2009


Alone in the house day after day with my mother’s antiques, I realize how easy it would be to become one of them — to be tricked out of my life by this ghostly winter light.

In the Forum: book-buying habits.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


December 16, 2009
#2 Pencil on Index Card

[click to enlarge]

In the Forum: the hunt for Volume 2.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

An Island Garden Daybook

An Island Garden Daybook
by Celia Thaxter

with pictures
and illuminations
by Childe Hassam

Houghton Mifflin Company (1990)

[click to enlarge]

And so my strange little education continues, again courtesy of Goodwill, where I found this lovely hardcover in perfect-if-not-unread condition for a penny less than two dollars. The book is set up somewhat like a desk calendar; most pages have between three and five dates with horizontal space enough to write in, and there’s a generous margin beneath the month that’s partly filled with Thaxter’s thoughts, both practical and poetic:

It is curious that the leaf
should so love the light
and the root so hate it.

Inside the front and back covers, the plan for Thaxter’s garden is reproduced, along with a list of the fifty kinds of flowers she grew.

In the Forum: Racks & racks of strange fashions, old neck-ties, belts, pullover shirts, pants w/ gigantic middles.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sunday Supper

We had almost finished our meal when I suddenly felt as if my departed father had eaten too, and that with his stomach full, he was enjoying his grandchildren through my eyes and ears. He was so satisfied, he lit a cigarette that only we two could inhale and smell — and then, just as quickly, he was gone, and I was myself again.

Recently Linked: My thanks to Conrad DiDiodato for linking to Recently Banned Literature from his blog, Word-Dreamer:poetics. Visitors will also find a link to Conrad’s blog in the “Reading Room.”

In the Forum: ugly, unique, and curiously appealing.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Passing Through

A very small lobby, with a single pew occupied by two men talking quietly. They’re in their seventies, both are dressed in winter clothes, and they have on scarves and hats. There are bundles and papers on either side of them. On one end there’s just room enough for me to sit. When I do, I notice a narrow table under a grimy window across the room, hardly more than arm’s length away. There are papers on the counter. They look like forms or documents of some kind. Through another little window to my left, I see a wall of ornate metal boxes, each with a number on the door above a copper keyhole. I think of pennies. I decide I’m in a post office or a train station.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I’m standing at a dirty sink in an old warehouse. Blood is running down my face. There’s a curved gash under the left cheekbone. I thought it was healed. I thought it was a scar. Now it’s open again. My eye, a separate entity watching in horror, also begins to bleed. I turn the faucet, but there’s no water. I set off through the warehouse. There are dusty shafts of light coming through holes in the roof. They strike the floor at odd angles, like searchlights. I see a man, a cousin who died in his seventies almost thirty years ago. He’s wearing a tie and a crumpled brown suit. I say hello. He looks at me but doesn’t answer. I wonder if he can see the blood. I leave him behind. I hear what sounds like water running in a bathtub. I step outside. My wife is there. I say, “I thought you were going to tell me.” She replies gently, “I did tell you. Don’t you remember?” She hands me a cool wet cloth. I press it against the wound. “Almost,” I say, but the image of it is quickly gone.

Added this morning to the Annandale Dream Gazette. My thanks to Lynn Behrendt.

In the Forum: Mr. Sage Beerbelly Poetaster.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Words as Legacies

I’m deeply moved by Annie Wyndham’s kind appreciation of the first volume in my Author’s Press Series, The Painting of You. She says her blog entry at Jottings of an AmeriQuebeckian isn’t a review, and perhaps in the traditional sense that is so. But her thoughts on words as legacies are music to my ears.

Thank you, Annie.

12.12.2009 #2
12.12.2009 #1

Haiku for December

On cold days like these,
even the sun envies

a poet’s cup
of tea.

(first publication)

Recently Linked: My thanks to Honky Magoo for signing on as a follower. You can visit his blog, Worthy Words, here.

“Haiku for December” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: a minor question.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Footnote

While scrubbing the kitchen floor, I imagined bananas in the hold.

12.11.2009 #2
12.11.2009 #1

Into a Strange Land

All around me,
the natives
are breaking words
against battered

The dust of syllables
is in their eyes and hair;
even the children
are yellowed by it
and old.

Poor graceful
creatures they are,
strangled by shades
of meaning.

I love them,
love them all.

Over the land
there runs a network
of gleaming rails.

On the rails
rugged cars loaded
with the detritus
of their craft
are sent chugging
to mills on the horizon.

Inside the mills,
the bits of words
are ground into
a fine paste,
then treated with
a strange compound,

The paste is then
poured into molds,
where it dries
until it hardens
into sturdy
weightless blocks,
which are used
to make buildings
that hold dreams.

The buildings
are scattered all over
this strange land.

There are as many,
almost, as the people
who raise them.

Many of the dreams
wither and die.

Only a few survive.

They are the most
beautiful things
I have ever seen.

From Songs and Letters, originally published November 20, 2005.

Recently Linked: Best Poetry Blogs: A Baker’s Dozen. What a pleasant surprise to find Recently Banned Literature included in Joe Hutchison’s round-up of poetry blogs! The article, his first at, is a helpful introduction to blogs as a resource for poets and readers alike. Several that I frequent are also included, showing either good taste on Joe’s part, or proving that he’s as warped as I am. Either way or both, I know I would have included his blog if I were making such a list. Come to think of it, I already have. The Perpetual Bird is in my “Reading Room.”

In the Forum: Grandma has really taken a shine to Bukowski.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Woman of Samaria

While preparing No Time to Cut My Hair for publication, I was reminded of another writing project I almost but didn’t quite assign myself back in 2005. At the time, I was reading around in a 1947 anthology called A World of Great Stories, a hefty collection of short fiction from around the world. My idea was to read each story in the book, and before moving on to the next, write a new one of my own. The book contains 115 stories in all, so this would have been an even more ridiculous task than my Hair collection. I was especially interested in the kinds of stories I might write while engaged in reading such a variety. I’d be a fool to say common sense prevailed, but something certainly did, because soon thereafter, caught up in my mother’s growing health crisis, I began writing more poetry and much shorter work in general. I was, of course, just as interested in the kind of work I’d write under that new circumstance. And with the ordeal now mostly behind me — I say “mostly” because it seems I’ve yet to come fully to grips with that difficult period — I still feel the same way. Here’s a journal entry from that time in 2005:

It would also be a shame not to mention Gabriel Miro of Alicante, Spain, whose short story, “The Woman of Samaria,” I have not read. Years ago, we raised Alicante grapes on our farm. The Alicante is a seeded grape prized for its red juice and the color it imparts to wine. For a time in Fresno, I worked at a nursery with a young man from Japan. He knew something about making wine, and was quite interested when I told him about our Alicantes. When the grapes were ripe, I arranged for him to have some. My father picked them himself and brought them to Fresno. Unfortunately, not long after that, I left the nursery in search of thornier roses, and the young man and I fell out of touch. I don’t know how the wine turned out. Gabriel Miro studied law at the universities of Valencia and Granada. William Saroyan begins his novel, The Adventures of Wesley Jackson, thus: “My name is Wesley Jackson, I’m nineteen years old, and my favorite song is Valencia.” And then Wesley says he likes the way the fellow hollers at the top of his voice: Valencia! In my dreams it always seems I hear you softly calling me! Valencia! Dat tarrata Dat tarrata Dat tarrata, dat ta ta! Gabriel Miro worked on a “sacred encyclopedia” in Barcelona and wrote many novels. Two of the best known are Our Father San Daniel and El Obispo Leproso. I myself have been to San Luis Obispo, in California. Miro was born in 1879. He died in 1930. Did he finish his sacred encyclopedia? Or did it finish him? It is easy to imagine him surrounded with books and papers and notes and candles and bottles of fine Spanish wine stopped with fine Spanish cork, working away on his encyclopedia, wondering what was really sacred and what wasn’t, and becoming angry when he realized he’d mixed up the two. Had he lived a long time, say another eternity or two, he might finally have figured it out. Was he married, I wonder? Did he have children and grandchildren? If so, they were probably the only encyclopedia he really needed. But it is easy for a man to become distracted by seemingly sacred things, and to miss perfectly good home-cooked meals trying to put them into some kind of meaningful order. Next to Christ, for instance, you would have chrysalis and chrysanthemum. On the same page as Aquinas, you would have alto saxophone and apple. Under God, you would have I’m hungry — for everything.

Recently Linked: I’m pleased to welcome Pedro Nunes as a follower of Recently Banned Literature. Mr. Nunes is an art collector at the Pereira da Silva Art Gallery in Porto, Portugal. He also contributes to a blog that focuses on the life and artwork of the Portuguese sculptor.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


December 8, 2009
#2 Pencil on Index Card

[click to enlarge]

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


peeling an orange

              my father did it this way

       with suicide hands

(first publication)

“Detail” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: broken glass and bottle caps.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cold Spell

Still dark, more coffee, restless as my mother’s wind chime.

(first publication)

“Cold Spell” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

As the Conversation continues, Grandma meets Bukowski.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ed Baker, Restoration Poems

Restoration Poems
by Ed Baker

Country Valley Press

First edition published in 300 trade copies.
Design by Mark Kuniya

[click to enlarge]

Note: My thanks to Ed for getting in touch and generously sending his book my way.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Out of Season

Out of Season
December 5, 2009
#2 Pencil on Index Card

[click to enlarge]

12.05.2009 #2
12.05.2009 #1

A tree, a hand, a waterfall

A tree, a hand, a waterfall. The night sky, fire, a child’s worn out shoe. A grain of salt, a breeze, and a stiff paint brush. A painted hand, a stiff tree, a firefall, a child’s worn out grain of salt, a night breeze, a brushed sky. A worn out hand, a salty shoe, a child’s stiff fire, a falling tree, a painted nightgrain, and a brushed wet breeze. In the worn out night sky, a salty hand paints a child’s burning tree with a stiff shoe in the grainy breeze beside a falling waterbrush. Yes, I can see it all quite clearly. Maybe that’s my problem.

Entry from One Hand Clapping, dated December 12, 2004.

Recently Linked: My thanks to abutresonoros for signing on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature. You can visit his blog of the same name here.

In the Forum: up the down staircase.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Face to Face

Clear and cold. A cat on a fencepost, turned into an owl by the moon.

(first publication)

Recently Linked: My thanks and a friendly welcome to Kulky Nakai, who has signed on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature.

“Face to Face” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: She puts on her reading spectacles, grabs a bottle of vin ordinaire, & heads back down into the book-vault, alone....

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Salt Fragrance of Depths and Distances

Another kind review of The Painting of You, the first volume in my Author’s Press Series, was posted this afternoon by poet, teacher, and literary observer Joe Hutchison as part of an entry that also includes a welcome introduction to Rachel Barbe’s award-winning chapbook, Addressing 30: A Timeline, and two impressive samples of her work.

About the living and writing of my book, Joe is quite right: “The saying of it is a lonely thing.” But it is also a thing of joy, and for as long as I can remember, the two have gone hand in hand.

Amish Friendship Cake, Surprise Version

As it is with writing, often it’s the surprise of a new, accidental combination rather than the recipe that counts. I don’t know how to make Amish friendship cake; that particular recipe was passed along to us from my wife’s friend, and my wife tends to its culture. The cake is the product of a ten-day process, during which she feeds the starter at regular intervals with flour and sugar, and roughs it up in its plastic bag in between. The mixture grows and grows; the bag threatens to explode; finally the day comes for baking in loaf pans, and a little of the starter is saved for the next go-around.

The first change she made to the recipe was to add blueberries. Superb. Then she tried blackberries. Again, superb. Strawberries, as expected, were terrible. They were too sweet for the sour mixture for one thing, and for another they broke down and spread throughout the cake, leaving it somewhat wet and mushy.

These days, after I shower in the morning, I make some chamomile tea, and while that’s steeping I eat a piece of friendship cake. I put it in a cereal bowl and top it with fresh homemade madzoon. After I finish my treat, I drink the tea at my desk and get back to work. And that is exactly how this piece is being written.

This morning, though, was the scene of the latest surprise. When my brother and his wife visited us recently from Armenia, they brought with them a beautiful pomegranate. Yesterday evening my wife and I broke it open. The seeds were so good, I practically wept. I didn’t think of it then, but about half an hour ago when I was preparing my snack I suddenly realized that they would also go with the cake, blueberries, and madzoon. So I put some in. And I was right — the flavor was incredible, no less than a symphony on my tongue.

And yes, I am quite emotional when it comes to pomegranates. They are so beautiful, and there are so many memories associated with them, of fathers and grandfathers and Old World dreams. I could never feel that way about a banana. My mother never made banana jelly. But her pomegranate jelly, and the way the sun shone through it on the Sunday morning breakfast table, was an experience divine.

When my brother and I visited Armenia in 1982, the first person we met was eating a pomegranate. He smiled, and offered us some seeds.

“Amish Friendship Cake, Surprise Version” added to Let’s Eat. (Past food entries archived here.)

In the Forum: an amazing archeological find.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Note to Biographers

As further proof of my eccentricity and worth as a subject, I’ve decided to retrieve my email correspondence and type it out on my old Royal. Please send a case of paper, a case of scotch, and at least five new ribbons.

Respectfully yours,

The Author

In the Forum: the definitive book on new poetic forms of the 21st century.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


My old black sport coat has a hole in the right elbow. I discovered it yesterday. I don’t know how long it’s been there, but it’s about the size of a walnut, and the area around the hole is quite worn. I could go on using the coat, but that would only hasten its demise. And yet I need the coat, for the warmth and friendship it provides. I also don’t want to abandon it. I refuse to treat it like an old coat.

An idea: a photographic portrait of the coat not wearing me.

Another idea: a lengthy interview with the coat.

A third: record the coat’s reminiscences, beginning with its earliest memories as a child in Hungary.

Idea Four: an award-winning black-and-white documentary.

Five: hang the coat near my desk and keep it supplied with cigarettes.

6: commit suicide and be buried in the coat, but only if it’s willing.

: starve to death in the coat while insisting that I am Yuri Andreievich Zhivago.

ask the coat what it wants :


: :

: : :

Recently Linked: My thanks to N. God Savage, a writer and philosopher in Belfast, for signing on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature.

“Devastated” added to Notebook. (Old notes archived here.)

“Boyle’s Law Goes to Hell” added to Useless Information.

In the Forum: the feathers and cockroaches of a musing, philosophical organism.

Monday, November 30, 2009


November 29, 2009
#2 Pencil on Index Card

[click to enlarge]

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Stars and streetlights
mingle at a night convention,

fall silent when I enter
the room.

(first publication)

Recently Linked: My thanks to dicle for signing on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature. A student in Istanbul, dicle has two blogs: Hear Me! and Kağıttan Ayakkabılar.

“Late” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: Gary Every’s Shadow of the OhshaD.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Philip Rowland, Longhouse, NO/ON

journal of the short poem

Issue 3
March 2006

Editor: Philip Rowland
Cover design: Hiroshi Soeda

Tokyo, Japan

Edition of 200 copies

* * *

journal of the short poem

Issue 7
Spring 2009

Editor: Philip Rowland
Cover design: Hiroshi Soeda

Tokyo, Japan

Edition of 200 copies

* * *

someone one once ran away with
by Philip Rowland

Publishers & Booksellers
Green River, Vermont

[click images to enlarge]

Note: Special thanks go to John Levy for sending me these beautiful publications.

Friday, November 27, 2009


An old man reading at a table,
a curious ghost standing beside him,
lighting the pages with a candle.

(first publication)

Note: After this was written, I remembered that I already have a poem by this title, a slightly longer piece done in 2006. I hate to repeat myself. Then again, Death does, so why can’t I?

Recently Linked: My thanks to Joe Hutchison for linking to Recently Banned Literature in his entry about Tom Montag and Tom’s blog, The Middlewesterner. Joe is right — Tom is “in the zone.”

“Death” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: a long nap.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


My friend and I were in an elevator and when the door opened we stepped out into his village in Greece. The ground was lush with soft green grass. There was dew on the grass, and a drowsy blue dragonfly on his coat. There was a small gathering of people. They were his friends and relatives, but there were also some strangers present. In halting English, a man greeted me and asked my name. He was in his sixties. His face was broad and weathered by the elements. His hair, what was left of it, was gray. I told him my name. He said, “William. What does that mean. William.” Before I could answer, he started speaking in Greek. Then he wandered off. I was alone. It occurred to me then that I would have to learn Greek. I told myself that it would be easy, if I let it be easy. I said a few words, and when I couldn’t understand them, I smiled, because they seemed to fit in with the conversation I’d heard so far. There was a wall beside me now. A wall without a ceiling. I could hear Greek voices coming from the other side of the wall. My friend was beside me. His eyes were bright with happiness. He needed a shave. It reminded me of my childhood, and touching the stubble on my father’s face. I looked at my palm. I wondered if I should. I did. He closed his eyes. “Brothers,” I said. We were now at the edge of a granite cliff. Dark clouds, patches of blue sky. A man’s shadow on the opposite wall of the canyon. Far below, a river from my youth, an old road beside it, small enough to be a worm in my hand.

Added yesterday to the Annandale Dream Gazette. My thanks, as always, to Lynn Behrendt.

Recently Linked: My thanks to diipo for signing on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature.

In the Forum: the victim of a traumatic grafting accident.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sunday Supper

It fits in my palm,
this grape leaf

with veins that lead
to my grandma’s house.

(first publication)

“Sunday Supper” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

The release of No Time to Cut My Hair noted on the Main Page and in News and Reviews.

In the Forum: what happens when you’re bitten by 86,865 words.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

No Time to Cut My Hair

No Time to Cut My Hair
Author’s Press Series, Vol. 2
ISBN: 978-0-557-20222-5
184 pages. Paper. $12.00
eBook: $4.00

Fiction. Short Stories.

This is the second volume in my Author’s Press Series. Copies can be ordered securely online here*. A complete electronic edition — an eBook with front and back cover images — is also available for download here.

*If you’d like to order directly from me for any reason — you’d like a signed copy, you don’t have a credit card or would rather not use one online, etc., — I’d be happy to oblige. Just drop me a line using the email address at the bottom of the page and we’ll go from there. Paypal is an excellent option.

Book Description: Designed and published by William Michaelian, the Author’s Press Series was conceived as a set of relatively inexpensive, uniformly designed titles meant to explore different themes and facets of his writing. The second volume, No Time to Cut My Hair, is an engaging collection of seventy short stories written during a ninety-day period in 2002. While style, length, and subject matter vary, the author, noted for the brevity of his poems and the lyrical force of his prose, demonstrates a keen understanding of the short story form in pieces meant not only to be read, but heard.**

** Have I ever mentioned that I used to work in advertising?

Also in this Series
Vol. 1 — The Painting of You

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Poignant Irony

When you have a moment, please read Paul L. Martin’s review of my book, The Painting of You.

Thank you, Paul.

And my thanks to those of you who have ordered the book so far.

I remain grateful for a life so rich that words can lift us up and break our hearts.


My thanks also to James Leese for signing on as follower of Recently Banned Literature. James is an artist/designer “searching out ways of visually describing the beauty of mathematics as a fine art.” You can visit his blog, Steadfast As Thou Art, here.

I’d also like to welcome th£ ba$tard, who insists that “behind all the morals, philosophy, mind wrestling, soul searching and spirit probing, there is a true story.”

And finally, my thanks and a friendly hello to freepangaea4ever.

In the Forum: the Yawp exhibit.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Shakespeare and Company

William Shakespeare, Charles Reade, F. Scott Fitzgerald,
The Brothers Grimm, Boris Pasternak

Eight volumes
4,527 pages


[click to enlarge]

Recently Linked: My thanks to Bob Arnold for linking to my main website from his blog, A Longhouse Birdhouse. Be sure to visit his bookshop when you’re there. Thanks also to Mt. Wood for signing on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature.

In the Forum: a hundred cigars in three days.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Rural Route

White birches,
or are they widows

at the well?

Dusk comes so soon.

From Songs and Letters, originally published December 29, 2008.

Coffee Time and Birch Scrolls added to Penny Thoughts and Photographs.

In the Forum, another reaction to yesterday’s Birch Scrolls: “Wow. For some reason I see birds & shamans in there; specifically, as I look closer, it’s a shaman dressed in bird-garb, one arm uplifted, feathered wings rising behind him. I’m not sure what he's up to, exactly, whether it’s a healing ritual or what. Actually the shaman is located in some particularly remote region of Siberia. The day is cloudy. There might be some chanting in the background. Really, the whole scene is rather scary.”

Friday, November 20, 2009

Birch Scrolls

Birch Scrolls
November 19, 2009

[click to enlarge]

In the Forum: Why would anyone not worship a tree?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Nightest

The Nightest
by John Levy

Publishers ~ Booksellers
Bob & Susan Arnold
Poetry, First Editions, the Arts
Green River, Vermont

The largest Longhouse foldout possible, many sheets of twenty poems
selected by Bob Arnold and designed in three color tucked into two varied papers,
heavy grassland (shown here) and brown batik.
Signed and unsigned wrap around bands.
Unsigned $12 / signed $20

[click to enlarge]

* * *

— Other Publications —

Number 7

featuring John Levy

Hassle Press: 27 Treverbyn Rd., St. Ives, Cornwall TR26 1EZ

Waiting for the Right Time
Poems & Prose
by John Levy

The Legal Studies Forum
Volume XXXII, No. 1

Note: For my review of John Levy’s book, Oblivion, Tyrants, Crumbs, go here.

Recently Linked: A friendly welcome to Vern Myers, of Beaumont Texas, who has signed on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature. Vern, an environmentalist and runner, is author of the blog Running Green.

In the Forum: the birch exhibit.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Making music of our pain

This afternoon, after raking up a mountain of debris from a recent windstorm (sounds almost like I’ve been editing), I discovered this entry about my book, The Painting of You, posted by Chrees in his fine blog, A Common Reader. His thoughts are greatly appreciated, as are the questions they raise.

11.18.2009 #3
11.18.2009 #2
11.18.2009 #1

Patent Pending

“Licorice with training wheels.”

What I said to my wife when we saw some colorful “fruit twists”
at the store in the baby food aisle.

11.18.2009 #2
11.18.2009 #1.


November 17, 2009
#2 Pencil on Index Card

[click to enlarge]

In the Forum: a triumphant weed thriving against the odds.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Scene from a Recurring Childhood

Stick-horses snorting impatiently
by the school room door; the high Sierra;
the valley floor; dirt on my clothes
and hands; my father smiling,
walking this way.

(first publication)

“Scenes from a Recurring Childhood” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: book covers made from military uniforms.

Monday, November 16, 2009


My brother has been working much too hard. As he speaks, he sways from side to side, like an elephant or a bridge. All at once, his face turns gray. But his eyes are as bright as ever. My mother, young again, brings supper to the table. We sit down. The gray departs from my brother’s face. I can see dry hills through our old kitchen window.

Added yesterday to the Annandale Dream Gazette.

In the Forum: Howie and the Wolfman with traffic and the weather.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

On this Autumn Afternoon

A birch tree shudders,


“I have yellow leaves for eyes,”





(first publication)

“On this Autumn Afternoon” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: Nate Lewis and Jimi Hendrix.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Coffee Time

Coffee Time
November 13, 2009

[click to enlarge]

Recently Linked: My thanks to PO Johnson for signing on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature. The poet lives in Norway and writes the blog Pumas and Johnson. He also contributes to the newly launched Flowers of Sulfur.

In the Forum: three more photos of Robert Louis Stevenson.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Self-Portrait on an Autumn Afternoon

Self-Portrait on an Autumn Afternoon
November 12, 2009

[click to enlarge]

In the Forum: a new issue of Barbaric Yawp just around the corner.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Poems for Prayers

Since I posted my get well card for Brian Salchert a couple of months ago, his sister has been kind enough to keep me informed of his health. While his hip turned out to be not as bad as originally thought, it is not expected that Brian will regain the use of his legs — a condition complicated, apparently, by a blood clot on his spine.

Through it all, Brian had been trying to use a laptop computer someone set up for him, but therapy and other activities left him with little time. Then, late this morning, I received a new message from Jean:

Brian is in the hospital again. This time he has pancreatitis. He needs a lot of prayers.

I think if I were to substitute the word “poems” for “prayers,” Brian would understand.

11.12.2009 #2
11.12.2009 #1

Autumn Fires

On the sidewalk after coffee,
my dead father appears long enough
to inhale the smoke rising from my friend’s
freshly lit cigarette. The three of us
smile, say nothing.

(first publication)

Recently Linked: My thanks to Gabriel Leverance for signing on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature. You can visit his blog, The Joy of Books, here.

“Autumn Fires” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: Superstitions of Apartment Life by Pedro Ponce.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Little Guide to Life’s Secrets

For the fun of it, here are the books I brought home from Goodwill the other day:

Irish Myths and Legends
by Lady Gregory
Running Press
Philadelphia (1998)

Hardcover, 446 pages, $2.99

Death of a Salesman
by Arthur Miller
Penguin Books
New York

First Penguin edition 1976;
date for this printing not given

139 pages, $.99

Chinese Fairy Tales
Illustrated by Jeanyee Wong
Peter Pauper Press
New York (1961)

Hardcover, 61 pages, $.99

A Little Treasury of American Poetry
Edited by Oscar Williams
Charles Scribner’s Sons
New York (1952)

Hardcover, 860 pages, $2.99

Everyman’s Library
Pocket Poets
Alfred A. Knopf
New York (1994), eighth printing

Hardcover, 252 pages, $.99

by Kurt Vonnegut
New York (1991)

Paper, 215 pages, $.99

Palm Reading: A Little Guide to Life’s Secrets
by Dennis Fairchild
Illustrated by Julie Paschkis
Running Press
Philadelphia (1995)

“A Running Press Miniature Edition”

Hardcover, 144 pages, $.99

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Self-Portrait in White

A man and his donkey; a snowy field; a cart full of bones. The wind.

(first publication)

“Self-Portrait in White” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: reading with tweezers.

Monday, November 9, 2009


On my way home. On foot. On the wrong road. A sudden steep climb. Hands and knees. The road ends at the mouth of a cave. Inside the cave, a colorful framed painting on the wall. A button to press — an old brown coat button. The painting slides up. Behind it, a young man leaning over a narrow table. Test tubes. Board games. Dice. He looks up, says, “I will call him.” He goes. Returns, followed by another young man. Both are grinning. I think, “Oh, no, they want to sell me something.” Quickly, I press the button. The painting slides back into place just as they start their song and dance. Literally.

My thanks to Lynn Behrendt for including this dream in the Annandale Dream Gazette.

In the Forum: stovepipe hats and the Community of Others.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Henry was my great-grandmother Eliza’s husband. I know even less about him than I do about her. Flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood — I remember my mother saying the fall from his horse that killed him was no accident.

[click to enlarge]

“Henry” added to Penny Thoughts and Photographs.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Oblivion, Tyrants, Crumbs

Oblivion, Tyrants, Crumbs
by John Levy
First Intensity Press
Lawrence, Kansas
Paper. 194 pages. $16.00
ISBN: 1-889960-16-0

I wish I’d thought of that title. But of course I have my life, and the man who penned it, the poet John Levy, has his. And from his book’s opening pages, as I nodded in silent approval of poem after poem, I found myself caught up in that warm feeling of newly discovered friendship that defies distance and the ordinary boundaries of the printed page.

John doesn’t write complicated poems; the language he uses is simple, but it’s simple in the way the calm surface of a pond is simple, complexity shimmering and beckoning just beneath:

      (After Basho)

      My poems aren’t
      really mine. Any more

      than a frog
      owns its croak

      or its splash as it dives
      beneath the green surface.

      You see the surface translated
      into language

      ripples. (The frog, invisible,

Indeed, poet that he is, he loves words too much to take them merely at face value. Other, more playful, poems also show the deep impression words make on him:


      Imagine voting every four years not only
      to elect a President but also

      to add a few more words to what, and how, we
      think. Who’d campaign for them? I’d wear those

      campaign buttons, bringing to mind the
      title of Gertrude Stein’s book, Tender Buttons. Oh, to

      treat words tenderly, try not
      to forget how much they bestow

      their largesse and
      largeness, and their lovely lovely part

      in governing
      our thoughts.

Levy lives and works as a public defender in Tucson, Arizona. This part of his life is a rich source of poems and a springboard for self-examination, as is time spent with his children and parents, who play a delightfully instructive role in the book. His shortest poems move me most — poems you’d think might have been tossed off in passing, but which belie years of observation destined for glory in a single moment:

      almond blossoms
      in grey dusk appear
      as if their tree weren’t there


      unless asked to
      who would look
      under a butterfly in
      for a butterfly shadow


      If There

      If there were a poem
      made of only one letter

      let it be the V
      growing behind this white swan

      in the blue black water

Cover painting: Leslie Buchanan
Book design: Lee Chapman

(click to enlarge)

Note: This is one of two books I received from John, who kindly sent them my way after receiving a copy of my book, The Painting of You, from our mutual friend, the gifted poet Vassilis Zambaras. I was delighted to learn that John and Vassilis go way back, and that the two spent time together in Greece. This experience and more is the subject of John’s other book, We Don’t Kill Snakes Where We Come From: Two Years in a Greek Village (Querencia Books, 1994), which I hope to start reading soon.

Recently Linked: My thanks to barefoot.navigator for signing on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature.

As the Conversation continues, we finish one page and start another.

Friday, November 6, 2009


What better way to explain it, than this hailstone here in my palm?

(first publication)

“Life” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

Published earlier today: The Fall and Rise of the Autumn Empire.

The Fall and Rise of the Autumn Empire

For my grandson, Isaac

One year, when this fig tree
was small, your great-grandmother
picked the yellow leaves
before they could

(first publication)

“The Fall and Rise of the Autumn Empire” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: let not your trumpets be troubled.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Full moon

the blinds,
these lines

on my
wife’s face

will be


(first publication)

“Jealousy” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: a violent friend, a brimstone enemy.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sky’s the Limit, Part 2

On my way home from an errand downtown, I was absorbing the fall colors when I was suddenly struck through by the desire to see the portion of California’s Sierra Nevada foothills that lay just east of where I was born. I’ve taken many a slow drive through those hills, in every season, borne along by silence, thought, and emotion that seemed part of the rocks and dry grass themselves, under skies brooding, empty, and troubled, and at times defined by a single column of smoke or a hawk soaring with outstretched wings. Feeling as I do — as I still do twenty-two years after leaving the San Joaquin Valley and coming to Oregon — it’s little wonder that, on the rare occasions I’m asked about my influences, I begin with the place of my birth and the area around it, rather than any given writer, friend, or relative. And yet I do feel at home here, at least most of the time — and foolish, and rich, and defiant, and happy, and proud, and lonely perhaps most of all. I feel at home wherever I am, especially alone in a crowd, and I dig my graves as I go.

In the Forum: The Silverado Squatters and an old photo of Robert Louis Stevenson.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

California Classics

California Classics
The Creative Literature of the Golden State
by Lawrence Clark Powell
The Ward Ritchie Press
Los Angeles (1971)

[click to enlarge]

Works and authors discussed:
Anza’s California Expeditions, by Herbert E. Bolton; The Journey of the Flame, by Walter Nordhoff; Death Valley in ’49, by William L. Manly; The Land of Little Rain, by Mary Austin; The Wonders of the Colorado Desert, by George Wharton James; The Shirley Letters, by Louisa Smith Clapp; The Luck of Roaring Camp, by Bret Harte; Roughing It, by Mark Twain; The Splendid Idle Forties, by Gertrude Atherton; Up and Down California in 1860-64, by William H. Brewer; Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada, by Clarence King; The Mountains of California, by John Muir; Two Years Before the Mast, by Richard Henry Dana, Jr.; The Silverado Squatters, by Robert Louis Stevenson; McTeague, by Frank Norris; Martin Eden, by Jack London; California Coast Trails, by J. Smeaton Chase; Give Your Heart to the Hawks, by Robinson Jeffers; To a God Unknown, by John Steinbeck; California and the West, by Charis and Edward Weston; The Vineyard, by Idwal Jones; The Cattle on a Thousand Hills, by Robert Glass Cleland; Ramona, by Helen Hunt Jackson; Reminiscences of a Ranger, by Horace Bell; Land of Sunshine, by Charles F. Lummis; Boy on Horseback, by Lincoln Steffens; Oil!, by Upton Sinclair; Merton of the Movies, by Harry Leon Wilson; The Day of the Locust, by Nathanael West; After Many a Summer, by Aldous Huxley; Farewell, My Lovely, by Raymond Chandler.

Recently Linked: My thanks to Aleksandra for sharing “November Sky,” from my book Winter Poems, in this photo entry of her blog, New Times Arrived. What a wonderful surprise!

I would also like to extend a warm welcome to Rocío Márquez, who signed on this morning as a follower of Recently Banned Literature. Rocío’s blog is La Tormenta De Strindberg.

In the Forum: California Classics.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Spitter’s Light

Spitter’s Light. Also known as Daylight Savings Time.

Buried deep in One Hand Clapping, there are references to a man who lived across the street from us only, it seemed, to spit. He spat in the morning when he came out for his paper. He spat a short while later before he left for work. He spat as soon as he returned home. He spat when he picked up his mail, and he spat each and every other time he stepped outside, until night fell, when, presumably, he spat on his kitchen floor and living room rug.

This “neighbor” didn’t spit because he was ill. He did so out of blind habit, and as a way to mark his territory. He even spat in his driveway and on his front lawn, where he and his wife walked and their little boy played.

Since I worked in a room that faced the street, often with the window open, I had to endure this ignorant soundtrack for years, until the spitter finally moved away. It was during that bleak period that I coined the term “Spitter’s Light,” because, for me, Daylight Savings Time meant having to endure an extra hour of spitting every evening. The term is still in use today.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Therefore I Am

Therefore I Am
October 30, 2009

[click to enlarge]

Recently Linked: My thanks to Stephen Baird for signing on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature. Stephen gets around, and has the pictures to prove it. Thanks also to Lola Koundakjian for posting my common speech definition as the Armenian Poetry Project quote of the month.

“Therefore I Am” is the newest, and certainly the shortest, entry in my Notebook. This drawing accompanies it. Past entries are archived here.

In the Forum: which way to the gumball machine?