Archives for July 2012

a modest request


the beginning of the end of civilization


Epilogue: Moran Speaks from the Grave

This simpler house provides the meaning
To days and weeks and months and years:
I hear coyotes’ crafty keening
Regale the hills. I watch the bears
Awake in spring to feast and famine
Astride the banks and pawing salmon,
A chance to tip the slippery scales.
I watch the baleful breech of whales
From deep beyond what depth imagines –
An eagle spins a thermal wheel
As heaven hears the loon and teal
Refrain Seattle’s fire legends…
What starts in serendipity –
Is finished in serotiny.

Moran Watches Progress Happen

I watch the snow. It’s falling harder,
Suspended in Seattle’s show
Of lights, diffusing urban ardor
In winter’s industrial glow.
As wind demands a votive candle
To yield, so breezes tease and fondle
A flame to St. Vitus’ dance,
To flick the nave or lick the sconce,
And cast a creep of sullen shadows…
But Seattle’s progress, her mien,
Is set as cold cathedral stone
Against her fiery past. What follows?
A thread of flame, a needled fire,
And stitching brick, electric wire.


Reading the Journals again.  How can I not, when the first line of the first entry is, “In middle age there is mystery, there is mystification”? (I did not remember this, but merely felt impelled to pull the book from the shelf last night.)  When the seventh page yields this:  “As I approach my fortieth birthday without having accomplished any one of the things I intended to accomplish – without ever having achieved the deep creativity that I have worked toward for all this time – I feel that I take a minor, an obscure, a dim position that is not my destiny but that is my fault, as if I had lacked, somewhere along the line, the wit and courage to contain myself competently within the shapes at hand.  I think of Leander and the others.  It is not that these are stories of failure; that is not what is frightening.  It is that they are dull annals; that they are of no import; that Leander, walking in the garden at dusk in the throes of a violent passion, is of no importance to anyone.  It does not matter.  It does not matter…”

I owe his son Benjamin an apology.  I told someone recently that Benjamin published his father’s journals against his father’s explicit wishes, that he had announced as much in the book’s introduction.   This was, in fact, exactly backwards.  His father explicitly requested that the journals be published.  Middle age and failing memory.

How much he had in common with Percy – the Westchester Percy, or Percy the Southern Cheever.  And looky here:  “I remember my father, rising at six.  He takes a cold bath and goes out to play four holes of golf before breakfast.  The links are hilly and there is a fine view of the village and the sea.  He dresses for business and eats a hearty breakfast – fish hash with poached eggs and popovers, or some chops.  I and the dog walk with him to the station, where he hands me his walking stick and the dog’s leash, and boards the train among his friends and neighbors.  The business he transacts in his office is simple and profitable, and at noon he has a bowl of crackers and milk for lunch at his club.  He returns on the train at five, and we all get into the Buick and drive to the beach.  We have a bathhouse, a simple building on stilts, weathered by the sea winds.  there are lockers for dressing, and a fireplace for rainy days.  We change and go for a long swim in that green, dark, and briny sea.  then we dress and, smelling of salt, go up the hill to have supper in the cavernous dining room.  When supper is over, my mother goes to the telephone.  ‘Good evening, Althea,’ she says to the operator.  ‘Would you please ring Mr. Wagner’s ice-cream store?’  Mr. Wagner recommends his lemon sherbet, and delivers a quart a few minutes later on a bicycle that rattles and rings in the summer dusk as if it were strung with bells.  We have our ice cream on the back lawn, read, play whist, wish on the evening star for a gold watch and chain, kiss one another good night, and go to bed.  These seemed to be the beginnings of a world, these days all seemed like mornings, and if there was a single incident that could be used as a turning point it was, I suppose, when my father went out to play an early game of golf and found dear friend and business associate on the edge of the third fairway hanging dead from a tree.”

Today in Porn, Extinction Edition

You guys, I pass hundreds of these things by each day – documenting the seepage of porn into mainstream culture is a little bit like documenting global warming:  a fair portion of the world thinks it doesn’t exist no matter what evidence you bring to bear, and a fair portion of those who do admit it exists disagree about what it means.  And I’m not getting any research grant money out of the whole thing, so.  But this, this combines academia and the British press, so I’m pretty much obliged.

Celtic Sun God taken for granite…

Must have been wearing contact lenses…


Jimmy Goin

“Despite the massive destruction of property only one person was killed by the fire, a young boy named James Goin.” – Wikipedia, “Great Seattle fire”

They say I died that day Seattle’s
Ignited skyline vented sparks
Like starry palimpsests and riddles
Of fire, dispatches from the Sphinx
To night. Such conundrums continue
To linger – the greatest knot to
Untangle, though, is Jimmy Goin –
The other side of mystery’s coin:
How to go about setting fire
To ghosts? First, telegraph the poets
With arson-odes and firebug-sonnets;
Then put Calliope on the wire –
For when she whispered out my name
My pants erupted into flame.

Melissa Moran

Melissa, memory keeps on buzzing
My head. I climb the stairs and take
A look inside our chambers, gazing
At darkness, empty, raw, awake.
The dawn begins to set the windows
On fire – eviscerating shadows.
“Oh, poor old Mr. Back,” you said
Upon discovering he’d fled
The city. “Only one casualty –
His soul, now burnt away from blood
And kin….” My love, you died in bed,
Our bed, my barren patrimony…
So cools the flame – and I endure
Your fading shade, another year.

On Pilgrimage

Last weekend, The Onion‘s AV Club took a trip to San Diego for a little gathering of 125,000 pop-culture devotees.  Todd VanDerWerff has been keeping a journal, and his final entry contains this little gem:

“For an instant, it becomes ever more clear why those evangelists have set up camp outside the convention center all weekend long. We’ve taken the language and reverence of religion and turned it into something else. Whether that’s entirely healthy is a question I’m not qualified to answer. But there is no doubt when you’re sitting in Hall H. Everything is carefully made to stimulate you in a certain fashion, and when the moment comes, it’s easy to give in to rapture. The media coverage of the event strikes me as ever sillier, simply because everything is so strenuously created to provoke the desired reaction. And when you’re sitting in a crowd of nearly 7,000, all of whom are raising their voices in joy at what they’ve just seen, it’s hard not to be affected by that. It’s an ocean to pour your hope into, a place where pop culture really can save.”

That’s a remarkable claim there at the end, the notion that simply having an ocean to pour your hope into is itself salvific.  It’s also a fine admission at the beginning.  The conclusion is equally worth attending:

“I’ve got all these little geek islands I live on, and when I come to a place like this, it feels good to walk across bridges to other ones. Comic-Con may be big and unwieldy and ultimately pointless, but it’s also continental drift in reverse, bringing all of the pieces back together toward Pangaea.”

Many members, one body.  The love that moves from one lonely soul to another. The difference that Christians profess, of course, is that the Body of Christ, while big and unwieldy, is not ultimately pointless.  That’s the hilariously loopy claim at the heart of faith, Mr. VanDerWerff:  that the best stories are true.

The horror, Part II.

The horror.

Walker Percy, cover your eyebones:

Speaking of Barbie…

…them Sirens loved me up and turned me into a heady toad!

9:09 in the morning

A Poem is a City
by Charles Bukowski

a poem is a city filled with streets and sewers
filled with saints, heroes, beggars, madmen,
filled with banality and booze,
filled with rain and thunder and periods of
drought, a poem is a city at war,
a poem is a city asking a clock why,
a poem is a city burning,
a poem is a city under guns
its barbershops filled with cynical drunks,
a poem is a city where God rides naked
through the streets like Lady Godiva,
where dogs bark at night, and chase away
the flag; a poem is a city of poets,
most of them quite similar
and envious and bitter …
a poem is this city now,
50 miles from nowhere,
9:09 in the morning,
the taste of liquor and cigarettes,
no police, no lovers, walking the streets,
this poem, this city, closing its doors,
barricaded, almost empty,
mournful without tears, aging without pity,
the hardrock mountains,
the ocean like a lavender flame,
a moon destitute of greatness,
a small music from broken windows …

a poem is a city, a poem is a nation,
a poem is the world …

and now I stick this under glass
for the mad editor’s scrutiny,
and night is elsewhere
and faint gray ladies stand in line,
dog follows dog to estuary,
the trumpets bring on gallows
as small men rant at things
they cannot do.

From The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over the Hills

Why we do what we do.

Because someday, if we’re very good and we’re very lucky and we work very hard and we somehow manage to reach the very top and do something new, something so new that people notice, and not just notice, remember, why then, we might see our work immortalized by Barbie.

What Time Is It?

“Appletini? Chocolatini? — Craptini…”

I drank another drink.

Catalogue of Ships, Chits and Tricks

The city quickly rebuilds from the ashes, thanks in part to credit arranged by banker and entrepreneur Jacob Furth, as well as brothel owner Lou Graham.- Alex DeVeiteo, “This Month in Cascadian History”

From waterlines to forward fo’c’sles
From lumbered wood to dry-dock slips,
From mast and rudder’s groaning axles,
Moran, mighty maker of ships!
Securing lucre, bread and lolly,
From dynamo and lengthened trolley,
From credit lines to bottom lines,
Furth, fantastic fixer of loans!
From silks and stays unleashed and peeling
Lou Graham the gracious madam, pimp!
Her kneeling, laying products tempt
With plunging neckline, mirrored ceiling…
From lines thus counted proud, erect,
Seattle’s fortunes resurrect.