Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hound Dog

Hmm.... I’ve done some crazy things.
But I haven’t done this one yet.

1.31.2010 #2
1.31.2010 #1 (drawing)

Almost Einstein

Almost Einstein
January 30, 2010
#2 Pencil on Index Card

[click to enlarge]

Also: a silent sequence of drawings

In the Forum: East, West, home is best. Welcome, stranger.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Art in the Afternoon

I was back at Goodwill the day before yesterday, and yes, I did buy a couple of books: a stubby 799-page edition of The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, and Masterpieces of American Indian Literature, a 623-page volume edited by Willis G. Rigier. Total investment: $5.98. But joy of books aside, this was one of those trips where I felt the need to handle as many things as I could — unlikely vases, rusted frying pans, baskets, spice racks, candle holders, dishes, cups, battered hats and coats, artificial flowers, angels with harps, waffle irons, salt shakers, stereo speakers — all the while inhaling the pervasive scent of moth balls, which I imagined poised in waiting avalanches behind each exit marked “Alarm will sound.” A little boy was trying hard to decide if he wanted a stuffed blue dinosaur. His father insisted he make up his own mind. But it isn’t easy to make up your mind with so many objects speaking to you at once — voices the father, bless him, didn’t seem to hear. An hour after I was home, I could still smell moth balls. Their medicinal perfume had attached itself to my whiskers, hair, and clothes. I stopped at a mirror. In the late afternoon light, I looked like a painting from the art aisle: dented and framed, $4.99.

In the Forum: hounded by delivery problems.

Friday, January 29, 2010


A shadow on the snow

                      after the last flake falls

        on my old black coat

(first publication)

“Fate” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: fifteen unpublished novels.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

After Van Gogh

After Van Gogh
January 28, 2010
#2 Pencil on Index Card

[click to enlarge]

1.28.2010 #3
1.28.2010 #2
1.28.2010 #1

Character Study

Character Study
January 27, 2010
#2 Pencil on Index Card

[click to enlarge]

1.28.2010 #2
1.28.2010 #1

Rags and Bones

When I write, I still think in terms of acres and rows, shovels, shears, and plows. Early in the morning, I hear voices in the barn, see ghosts by the well. Sometimes, when a whole day goes by and all I’ve done is broken up some good dry kindling, I think of my old man, who once said farming is what I was meant to do. I think of his old man, too. Some things, like love, you never do outgrow. Farming for the art of it. The need to sweat. The smell of open ground. It’s all rags and bones, I know. Then evening calls and the birds all settle in. Leaves. I hear them whispering, by the thousands.

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

In the Forum: absence of anything.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


This smooth black keyboard, coffee-stained,
and its eager, sensuous response.

(first publication)

“Affair” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: nothing.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Winter Sun

Winter Sun
January 26, 2010

[click to enlarge]

1.26.2010 #2
1.26.2010 #1

Not to be taken from this room

An Oxford Anthology of English Prose. Chosen and edited by Arnold Whitridge and John Wendell Dodds. Oxford University Press, New York (1936). 950 pages. $2.50.

The One Volume Kipling. Authorized. Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc., New York (1935). 1,030 pages. $2.00.

The Complete Works of Homer. The Iliad done into English prose by Andrew Lang, Walter Leaf, Ernest Myers. The Odyssey done into English prose by S.H. Butcher (an omen, perhaps?) and Andrew Lang. The Modern Library, New York. No year given. 800-some-odd pages. $2.00. Was once in the student’s bookstore at S.F. State College.

Within the Tides. Tales by Joseph Conrad. Complete Works, Vol. X, Kent Edition. Doubleday, Page & Company, New York (1926). 211 pages. $2.00.

The World Almanac and Book of Facts for 1956. Edited by Harry Hansen. Seventy-first year of publication. Published by New York World-Telegram and Sun. Discarded from the Rogue Community College Library reference section, despite the warning, “Not to be taken from this room.” Tiny type. 896 pages. $1.50.

[click to enlarge]

In the Forum: in the good old days, before e.l. and z.t.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Obituary: Remembering Tim Hinshaw

The following piece was written for the February 2010 issue of the West Side Newspaper, a community monthly founded here in Salem by my friend, Tim Hinshaw, in 1987. In 1993, against all sound judgment, we joined forces and began editing and publishing the paper together. During the next two years, in what might be called a small-time media circus, we started two more papers: one focused on business (of all things), the other on light news and entertainment. While my whole life has been ridiculous and continues to be, those days stand out. They are a tale of friends who were often so far out on a limb that it sagged to the ground, at the last minute affording our escape. Then again, maybe it broke and we were too happy and dumb to know the difference. Either way, Tim is gone — I still have to say it and write it in order to remind myself that it’s true.

Remembering Tim Hinshaw

When you ride around with your best friend and business partner on a hot day in a small pickup that’s prone to overheat, certain things are bound to come out. One of them is colorful language — especially when the radiator blows a hose, your wallet’s empty and your office is miles away. Tim Hinshaw and I didn’t always make sales calls that way, but we arrived at our clients’ often enough in comical disarray that some of them, I’m sure, saw more value in the entertainment than the ad space.

They may have been right. Back then in one of his West Side columns, Tim referred to us as “a fat, laughing Irishman and a bearded Armenian.” I thought those were great credentials. But the truth is, we worked hard at putting together a paper West Salem could be proud of. We worked just as hard at showing off the tangible and intangible wares of those who advertised in the paper. Time and again, we were told, “Hey, that ad we ran really worked.” The best part, of course, was that they sounded surprised.

Tim and I first met back in 1988, only a few months after he’d started the West Side. His office was in a narrow space in West Salem’s old downtown district on Edgewater Street, a few doors down from the Reader’s Guide bookstore. He was smoking a pipe, and was clearly amused that a friend and I had started our own magazine and come to him for some publicity. He was also sympathetic. He took our picture, jotted down the most believable facts, and a few days later the story ran.

All the years I knew him, Tim was for the little guy. He had nothing against the big guy — indeed he was a big guy in stature and spirit. But his greatest delight was in helping those who were struggling to get ahead and pay their bills. And if they couldn’t pay them, well, there was always next month.

Time passed, as it always does. The magazine ran its course. For a time I tried my hand at legitimate employment, but having grown up wild and free on the family farm, I never could get the hang of it. Our paths crossed again, and after a particularly grim job that blew up in my face, fate took a triumphant turn and we wound up publishing the West Side together.

Two writers, two inveterate word-lovers, two soft-boiled characters who loved deadlines and loafing in between — you couldn’t have found a better combination, unless, of course, you expected to build a successful, thriving business. In a nutshell, there was something wrong with our accounting methods. We almost always had enough to pay the printer and the post office, but when it came time to pad our nest egg we discovered Mama Bird had already flown the coop.

Let’s be clear — I would trade nothing for those days. Besides the gift of his humor and friendship, Tim taught me a lot about life inside the newspaper business. I was a fiction writer and poet, and a few sordid things in between. I had the talent and the knack, but he had the background and experience. He lived and breathed the news, and was accomplished in all its forms — feature, exposé, hard news. He could rattle cages and make public figures squirm, but it was something he hated to do. His philosophy was far too simple and graceful for that: live and let live.

He made mistakes. I made them too. But in this life you have to make mistakes, and our friendship was rooted in them. And for each, I can count at least a hundred instances of joy, as well as an abiding sense that our time together was a rare gift indeed.

I know, and my wife and children know, the kind of friend he was. Now it’s time that everyone else knows, or is reminded, and gets at least a taste, a hint, of what the world will be missing.

There are many stories I could tell about this crazy, lazy, talented fellow, Tim Hinshaw. Indeed, so many have come rushing in again since the night I heard that my dear friend had died.

Once, when he was down on his luck, he needed a place to stay. My wife and I had a spare room at the time and invited him in. When he arrived, he entered with a big smile and said, “Honey, I’m home,” and home it was for the next several months.

One night after supper, his son, Matt, who’s the same age as our oldest son, stayed for a “sleep-over.” There was only the one queen-sized bed in the room. Matt was about 14 or 15. Bedtime rolled around. Passing by the door before they’d closed it for the night, I saw father and son propped up against their pillows beside each other. Tim had taken a book from my shelf in the room, and was reading out loud in a low booming voice to his son.

It was a beautiful, timeless scene, one I’ll never forget.

And now, as Tim used to say when he was about to finish the paper each month, “it’s time to put this issue to bed.” Good night, old friend.


Tim Hinshaw
Jul. 20, 1948 - Jan. 11, 2010

Tim Hinshaw, writer, editor, publisher and long-time newspaper man, passed away in his West Salem home on Jan. 11. He was 61.

He is best known to area residents as founder of the
West Side Newspaper, and most recently for his regular column in the monthly publication he launched on Edgewater Street in 1987. He had also worked at the Capital Press in Salem, the Herald and News in Klamath Falls, and the Daily Journal of Commerce in Portland.

Born in Bend, Ore., he moved with his family to Monmouth in 1959 and attended area schools. He graduated from Central High School in Independence in 1966, and later served in the military from 1967-71 in Vietnam and Japan.

Widely traveled and read, he was putting together a book of his columns and writings, Annie’s War and Other Tales, when he passed away. He was preceded in death by his brother, Jon, and father, Ted. He is survived by his son, Matt, and daughter-in-law, Lacy; his mother, Clara; his sister, Vicki and brother-in-law, Mike; his brother, Jeff, and his sister-in-law, Linda; and many relatives and friends.

Recently Linked: I’m pleased to welcome Jemma Saare as a new follower of Recently Banned Literature. Thanks, Jemma, for signing on. Thanks, also, to Lynn Behrendt for posting my Finnegans Wake dream at the Annandale Dream Gazette.

“Remembering Tim Hinshaw” is my newest Notebook entry. Old notes are archived here.

In the Forum: psychedelic suds n’ duds.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


My secret life? is an ocean.
Shipwrecks, storms. Unexplained lights.
Hideous depths. Lost treasure. People waving
from wild, imagined shores. This friendly
albatross gazing at my neck.

(first publication)

“Rime” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: door to door with Robert Stone.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Days of Future Passed

William Michaelian
Salem, Oregon
Photo by Tim Hinshaw

[click to enlarge]

1.23.2010 #2
1.23.2010 #1


Those times
when the dead
are near

when you see
their faces
in the wallpaper

when the branch
bends low

and the road
is a river

that knows
where it goes

when there is here
and far is as near

as your hand

who but you
who but you alone
who but you

to tell everyone else?

(first publication)

“Prophet” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Finnegans Wake

I arrived at the stadium with my cherished copy of Finnegans Wake. I was joined by several others in a grassy area, a kind of walkway high upon its rim. We were to give a performance of some kind. As the stadium filled with people, I put my book on a long narrow table, then fell into conversation with a grown friend from grade school. She seemed to be in charge. She asked if I would be singing. I told her I hadn’t planned to, but could if she wanted. The stadium grew louder and louder. I went back and looked out over the rim — there was now a sea of people. Everyone was dressed in white and holding a little round light, a kind of third red eye glowing against their chests. Afraid I might fall in, I stepped away from the edge and stood by some foliage. I was on a narrow graveled road. From there, I could see that my book was missing. The sun had set. The performance began. I couldn’t see him, but I immediately recognized the voice of James Joyce. He was reading a passage from his book. It was then that I realized I had completely forgotten what I was supposed to do. In my foolish confidence, I had felt so prepared that I hadn’t brought any notes. The reading ended. Joyce was followed by someone playing an electric guitar. The musician was facing the audience, but standing in a shell where he couldn’t be seen. My stomach was in an uproar. I knew I was next. But I couldn’t go on. At the last moment, I asked someone if he knew who had stolen my copy of Finnegans Wake. He smiled and shrugged. As the music ended, I set off down the road, embarrassed, disappointed, ashamed.

Recently Linked: My thanks to francoguerrazzi2009 for signing on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature.

In the Forum: Avoid slovenliness of form.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Highly Recommended

Two wonderful poems by Russ Allison Loar:

                                   The Word

               Cold Water

Forum update: Eschew surplusage.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Dark Tide

Dark Tide
January 20, 2010
#2 Pencil on Index Card

[click to enlarge]

1.20.2010 #4
1.20.2010 #3 (drawing)
1.20.2010 #2 (drawing)
1.20.2010 #1 (drawing)


January 20, 2010
#2 Pencil on Index Card

[click to enlarge]

Also: a silent sequence of drawings

1.20.2010 #3
1.20.2010 #2 (drawing)
1.20.2010 #1 (drawing)

Executed in Poor Light

Executed in Poor Light
January 20, 2010
#2 Pencil on Index Card

[click to enlarge]

1.20.2010 #2
1.20.2010 #1 (drawing)

Early Morning Walk

Early Morning Walk
January 19, 2010
#2 Pencil on Index Card

[click to enlarge]

Forum update: grand balletic circles orbiting common centers of gravity.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Daniel Smith: Fatherland

by Daniel Smith

Longhouse Publishers & Booksellers
Green River, Vermont (2010)

“New poems from this midwest farmer & poet detailing generations
of hard work and earned abilities, plus pulling up stakes from
one long term family farm in Illinois for Wisconsin.
In three-color fold out performance.
There are both signed and
unsigned editions.
$7.95 / signed $15”

[click to enlarge]

A dozen poems spoken by the land, echoed here by the voice of man.

In the Forum: moonlight isn’t really moonlight.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Such misery — and I cannot help
but think

would this not also be
a perfect time

to lay down our guns

or will we ever care
that much

(first publication)

“Haiti” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: a small slice of the pie.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Of Time and the River

Of Time and the River, by Thomas Wolfe. “A Legend of Man’s Hunger in His Youth.” Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York (1935).

886 pages. $3.95.

Image: Wolfe in 1937, by Carl Van Vechten. (Source.)

[click to enlarge]

1.17.2010 #2
1.17.2010 #1

Family News

No calendar this year from the old insurance man in our hometown.

(first publication)

“Family News” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Shepherd’s Song

Your hour, my century,
said the mountain.

Your stone, my grief,
said the man.

Your words, my longing,
said the wind.

(first publication)

Recently Linked: My thanks to Jim Moffitt and Michael Scuro for signing on as followers. Jim is a professional photogrammetrist whose interest in art is revealed in his blog, Jim’s Watercolor Digest. Michael is an artist catching up on all things personal and philosophical in his blog, Nailed to the Floor.

“Shepherd’s Song” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: find the typo.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Bob Arnold: In A Cabin, In A Wood

In A Cabin, In A Wood
by Bob Arnold

Longhouse Publishers & Booksellers
Green River, Vermont (2010)

“Well over a dozen new poems from the Vermont countryside
of daily chores and everlasting love. In three-color fold out performance.
There are both signed and unsigned editions. $7.95 / signed $15.”

[click to enlarge]

This delightful collection really doesn’t need to be reviewed. It needs to be read. Grace is alive and well in 2010, joy the only command.

In the Forum: rum, beer, and fishwrap.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Today a Door

Today a door through which
I’ve come and gone
countless times

creaked —
just like the ones

to my own

(first publication)

Recently Linked: My thanks to Shortz Magazine for signing on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature. You can visit the ShortzMag blog of daily flash fiction here.

“Today a Door” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: two dumb crackers.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


For the record, I wrote yesterday’s entry, Render Unto Caesar, the previous morning. But not long after posting it, at about eight-thirty, I became unaccountably apprehensive — something was wrong somewhere, but I didn’t know what it was.

The feeling stayed with me for the next hour or so, then it let up on my way downtown to have coffee with a writer-friend of mine. As was almost always the case, he wasn’t there when I arrived, so I sat down with a cup to wait. I finished it alone, then left, thinking he must have forgotten it was Tuesday. It had happened before.

I went home. Not two minutes later, the telephone rang. It was the administrator of the little care facility where my mother lives, calling to say that Mom was having a lot of pain in one of her teeth. So I quickly arranged an appointment for her with the dentist. As it turns out, two of her lower front teeth need to be pulled. And I thought, well, there you have it, my mother and I have always been on the same wavelength — no wonder I was nervous.

Meanwhile, I tried calling my friend a few times. He didn’t answer.

Now, the reason I’m writing this after one in the morning is that I’m wide awake after receiving the call that informed me of his death, in bed, of a heart attack or massive stroke.

For the past few months, Tim Hinshaw had been putting together a collection of his old newspaper columns. Back in the mid-Nineties, we published a small community paper together. I won’t go into that now; let’s just say we’ve been around the block a few times. And let’s also say that this first time around without him seems awfully strange.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Render Unto Caesar

A drawing of Death in which folds upon folds of digestive organs are revealed, a gastric mural showing all races of man in various stages of decay and alarm — a war here, a famine there, an inquisition or a genocide, skeletal children still begging for bread, a farmer and his dog, a little girl absorbed in a game of jacks, a tired mom. On his face, or hers, depending on the day and light, a tale of heartburn, hunger, fright.

(first publication)

“Render Unto Caesar” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: Tweeting 101.

Monday, January 11, 2010

London Bridge

A person so pungent, so overripe, that after you pass by him in the grocery store, his smell stays with you for hours, refusing to leave your nostrils, making you look twice at the food you’re about to eat, reminding you of dead animals on the farm, or worse — all of which, despite the shock of revulsion, seems familiar and even appealing, the call of the wild, a glad primal leap.

Forum update: tweeting our way through the schools: a viral ad campaign.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

After the Shower

Aspirin has its place, as does a good strong drink. But still my drugs of choice are timeless words and good hot water.

Recently Linked: I’m pleased to welcome artist Anthony Duce as a follower of Recently Banned Literature. His blog, Duce: Drawings, Paintings, Words, is also linked through his name near the top of the list in the “Reading Room.”

1.10.2010 #2
1.10.2010 #1

Dostoevsky and Eichenberg

The Idiot
A Novel in Four Parts
by Fyodor Dostoevsky

The translation by Constance Garnett
revised and edited for this edition,
with an introduction, by Avrahm Yarmolinsky;
and illustrated with wood-engravings
by Fritz Eichenberg

The Heritage Press, New York (1956)

560 pages, $6.95
(“As is,” small stain on binding)

Image: Frontispiece (click to enlarge)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Interview Update

After a lull of several months, a new exchange was added this morning to our RBL Open Interview. That being the case, this seems like a good time to invite readers who have stumbled onto this blog since our last exchange, and who might not have noticed the interview link in the “Reference Section,” to have a look at the page and take part if you feel so inclined. The “rules,” such as they are, are briefly explained at the top of the entry.

1.9.2010 #2
1.9.2010 #1

A Blink and a Nod

I’m alone on my back in a field. A low-flying, slow-moving goose stops directly above me. I close my eyes. When I open them, I see the blind-hungry face of an owl. I show him my hands to prove I’m not dead. His blink is a nod. He moves on.

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

In the Forum: Dang the meringue, this beer has more bang for the buck.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Self-Portrait on Bicycle

Self-Portrait on Bicycle
January 8, 2010
#2 Pencil on Index Card

[click to enlarge]

Also: a silent sequence of drawings

1.8.2010 #4
1.8.2010 #3
1.8.2010 #2
1.8.2010 #1

Droll Stories

Droll Stories. Thirty tales by Honoré de Balzac (scroll down — I’m there too!), “all now especially translated into modern English by Jacques Le Clercq, and printed with illustrations by Boris Artzybasheff.” The Heritage Press, New York (1939). “Banned for obscene material of a sexual nature in Canada in 1914 and Ireland in 1953, the ban was lifted in Ireland in 1967.” (Source.) Illustrations suggestively droll themselves. Will read with glasses on.

Excellent condition. Slipcase. 507 pages. $10.00.

1.8.2010 #3
1.8.2010 #2
1.8.2010 #1


The Complete Romances of Voltaire. Also The Philosophy of History, The Ignorant Philosopher, Dialogues and Philosophic Criticisms. Eight Volumes in One. Walter J. Black, Inc., New York, N.Y., (1927). Two-column format. Mild case of the measles.

504 pages. $3.95.

1.8.2010 #2
1.8.2010 #1

Day of the Dead

Snowy footprints . . . in this weather, any grave will do.

(first publication)

“Day of the Dead” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: a jingle for the good old boys.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

One Never Forgets

I rode a bicycle today. I haven’t been on one in years. The bicycle I rode is new, but not fancy in any way. It has no gears or hand-brakes. I think my wife said it cost eighty-nine dollars. But it does have big rugged white-walls. She gave me the bike for Christmas. Since then, I’ve been waiting for dry pavement. It rained, and then it snowed, and then there was ice, and then it rained again. The bike has fenders, so there won’t be a muddy wet stripe painted on my back, but I certainly didn’t want to ruin its appearance my first time out — unless I ruined it by being on it. It’s more likely, though, that I only rendered it comical. Some young men singing in Spanish while repairing a neighbor’s roof did stop what they were doing to watch and smile as I rode by. Or maybe I only imagined their smiles. Now that I think about it, I also imagined their singing. But I didn’t imagine them — there was no need, because they were there. Or were they? Oh, well. I’m pretty sure about the bike, anyway.

1.7.2010 #3
1.7.2010 #2
1.7.2010 #1

Reading with a Knife

Familiar Studies of Men and Books, by Robert Louis Stevenson. Medallion Edition. New York, Current Literature Publishing Co., 1909. Contents: Victor Hugo’s Romances; Some Aspects of Robert Burns; Walt Whitman; Henry David Thoreau: His Character and Opinions; Yoshida-Torajiro; François Villon, Student, Poet, and Housebreaker; Charles of Orleans; Samuel Pepys; John Knox and His Relations to Women. Many uncut pages. Will be reading with a knife.

345 pages. $5.00

1.7.2010 #2
1.7.2010 #1

An Orthodox Dream, Version 3

Yesterday during the wee hours, I had three very short dreams that took place in an empty Orthodox church. In each I was swinging a live censer, and singing softly in a language I knew, but couldn’t understand. The dreams were basically identical, except that as the last one ended, I could see my grandfather standing in the dim light near the far wall.

My grandfather died twenty years ago on the sixth day of January, the same day Christmas is celebrated in the Armenian Church. He was ninety-three. My aunt, his daughter, my father’s sister, was also born on that day.

I woke up with this thought: “I’ve either had this dream three times, or I’ve dreamed it on three consecutive nights.”

And so the years go by, all of it real, all of it dreamed, all of it true until we try to take it apart to serve our own purposes, and to allay our deepest fears.

Recently Linked: A friendly welcome to Brenna Barton, and my thanks for signing on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature.

In the Forum: the meringue of beers.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


I knew the geraniums would still be alive despite the snow and cold. But I decided to remove them anyway, since their blackened tops were staining the front walk and releasing clouds of mold each time someone brushed by. Sure enough, their roots, which had traveled a surprising distance during the warmer months, were a healthy green. And they were stubborn. That’s when I felt, or imagined I felt, the weight of someone’s hand on my shoulder — another gardener, perhaps, making way for something more vigorous, beautiful, and new. The moment passed as moments do, and I wondered about the decision I had made.

Recently Linked: My thanks to Orion for signing on as a follower.

In the Forum: lush images.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Wisdom and Lemonade

Does my knowledge, if I may use the term loosely, belong to me? I think not. To a certain extent it’s probably peculiar to me, but I can hardly lay claim to knowledge itself. Or wisdom. I simply know what I know and understand what I understand, and what I know and understand will grow, diminish, and change as long as I’m here. And even that knowledge is suspect. Likewise, I can’t begin to say what portion of these precious commodities I was born with, and what arrived later. My mother liked to say I was “born old.” Maybe she was on to something. To be born old, and then to die young at an advanced age seems a desirable goal.

When we read these words, what is happening, really? Do we approach them the way we do fire, a substance so dangerous and attractive that we can’t leave it alone? Or do we swim toward meaning as if they were water? Among other things, I submit they are a mirror. Do they teach, or do they simply remind? What do they reveal, and how do they reveal it? And how accurate are our guesses about them? As accurate, perhaps, as our guesses about each other.

What shall I do with these words? Since I always need money, I can package some for sale, and hope that someone will buy. The rest I can keep or give away. And yet, whether they have a price on them or not, they’re all given anyway. Because I truly believe that those with prices on them and those without are given. In all their frailty and wisdom, they are my contribution. I don’t know how to write like an accountant. My own accountant understands this and sympathizes. He buys my books, though, because he knows I’m writing for him too.

If I seem like a kid with a lemonade stand, it’s because I am. But remember, the lemonade is spiked.

If I sound like a philosopher too tired or lazy to think, it’s because I am.

If I act like a salesman, it’s because, publicly, I am. Sometimes, the way we behave, I think we’re all in sales.

If I sound rich, it’s because I am. If I sound poor, it’s because I am. I am both, abysmally so.

I’ve met beggars who possess more wisdom and grace than I. Others were morally repulsive.

I know wealthy people who make me ill, and others who shame me with their generosity.

Just before he died, the great short story writer O. Henry is supposed to have said, “Turn up the lights. I don’t want to go home in the dark.” But there is no darkness worse than darkness we embrace of our own choosing.

If I seem to ramble, it’s because I do. But which of us is not the product of the free association of bodies and minds, words and wills?

In the Forum: desiring desirable desires.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Poem I Didn’t Write

The poem I didn’t write yesterday while my grandson was here is the tiny spider he noticed on the wall and touched with the tip of his finger, and which he didn’t see dangling afterward from his hand. As gently as I could, I pinched the silk; the spider lowered itself to the floor, navigated the carpeted terrain to the edge of the couch, and disappeared underneath. Later, as the day wore on, each time he passed the spot, my two-year-old friend lightly patted the wall where the spider had been. Today, the spider is back again.

Recently Linked: My thanks to Gato999 for signing on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature. Gato999 is a “little Italian fable writer.”

In the Forum: the Desire regions of the brain.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Doctor Is In

The Doctor Is In
December 30, 2009
#2 Pencil on Index Card

[click to enlarge]

Also, in case you missed it:
That Which Is Left Unsaid
A silent sequence of drawings

Note: The Doctor Is In is the last drawing I made in 2009. I haven’t drawn anything yet in 2010. Time to sharpen those pencils again...

Recently Linked: My thanks to FCT and thesecretinprogress, who have signed on as followers of this blog.

In the Forum: New Year’s general injunctions.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Rose Is a Rose Is a Rose

Even as I feel my way into 2010, I’m aware that the number is but an arbitrary designation, useful on the surface, but silly as well, as silly as the meaning we’ve assigned to the relentless, hollow ticking of the clock — an evil monster, it seems, that we’ve created only to serve. As necessary as it is to be somewhere on time, what we think and do on the way and after we arrive is what really matters. It is often said, “Stop and smell the roses.” But if I have any resolution at all this year, it would be to imagine them instead. A rose is a rose is a rose, until you’ve climbed one into the clouds and lived in its scent for a while, and perhaps even found your true love there.

I’ve made many resolutions over the years, kept some, and broken most, more often than not in the course of a single day. For me the waking hours have a strange, familiar trajectory: I wake up in a cannon, crawl out just before the fuse runs down, cover my ears until the explosion has passed, and then write my way through the debris, sifting and cataloging as I go. This is my life — the one that I was given, the one that I have fashioned, the childish revolution that I have never quite outgrown.

One thing I have decided, though, is to see if I can learn how to be a little more lenient with myself. I know I will work just as hard this year, probably even harder, but as work is my play that’s something I relish and look forward to. At the same time, though, I’m beginning to realize that my worst failings are, more likely than not, only failings of perception — things beyond my control that I habitually feel responsible for. I’ve made my share of mistakes, as we all do, but it has finally occurred to me that everything can’t be my fault — I must be willing to share the blame with others. Taking responsibility for our actions is one thing, but there’s a point where nobility turns into selfishness, a hiding place, and one big bore.

We speak of generosity; some of us even know what it means; but our lives are incomplete until we’ve learned to be generous with ourselves. A shortcoming is not a sin, and even if it were, it can still serve as a bridge to understanding. Sin itself is a sinful term, passed down through fear from one generation to the next without being carefully examined. But this is not to preach. This is to say we cannot be free if we keep ourselves in chains, be they patriotic, theological, or philosophical.

Like my writing, I am a work in progress. What I really want to do this year is sing.

January 1, 2010

Recently Linked: It’s a pleasure to welcome Neha_Aghi and Kathryn as followers of Recently Banned Literature. Thank you both!

“A Rose Is a Rose Is a Rose” is my newest Notebook entry. Old notes are archived here.

In the Forum: dog resolutions.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Auld Lang Syne

I haven’t been this drunk
in a long time,

said the poet
to his dog

who had


But the story really begins when daylight licks his face.

(first publication)

Recently Linked: A new year’s greeting to nmo kur, who signed on as a follower of this blog yesterday morning, shortly after I’d posted the day’s entry. Welcome!

Thanks also to Annie Wyndham for her kind mention of yesterday’s post in her “Burnt Toast” entry at Jottings of an AmeriQuebeckian.

“Auld Lang Syne” added to Poems, Slightly Used.