Thursday, December 28, 2006


to people I thought to know

1. hey mist
er zimmer
man behind the sun
glasses hard to believe
that was me
getting tear gassed in DC or that was you
who wasn’t there guess you
didn’t care don’t know what
we’d have done
without you you
said you had things to do
(smirk, giggle) the face of America cracking
apart and darkness flooding
in where have you been
my darlin young man
after the hard rain
of drugs all the words
are empty now without common
ground songs go
round and round if it was just
about sound John Cage
wd really
be profound that’s ok
you didn’t owe
us anything what do we owe where do we go
to pay
the myth of mass the myth of fame
gotta play
the game what’s
in a name you said
you were just trying to get home
at a time when everybody
was trying to get home with drugs
ideals bombs
in their brains trains
of thought fraught
like everybody’s car wreck
of a family when home
was being ripped apart
by the war the traffic the need
for something home never was the paint
and tinsel left on it from the fifties looking
faded and sad the reporters frantic
with a feeling of loss and
betrayal they couldn’t articulate
"Do you have any feeling for the songs
you sing?"
"Do you believe in anything?" "You got
a lotta nerve." you said to their words but not
the tune and so soon
gone, no one ever really there
or aware like tagalong St. Joan all alone
her hand your foot
rest best
you could do in love
with who must be
you cause nobody else was
there we all died
the little room where
you said something
was happening but now it feels
like looking back over notes
from the acid trip more and more
you were leaving us---the way so many
were leaving so smug
and easy the way
Tim Leary left us with gobbledegook
explanations of why he turned his friends in
to the FBI—leaving us with a loss
of intimacy suitcase
full of words and
drugs and Jesus and
abstractions savaging
your characters
become singsong right or
wrong cartoon
hands reaching out and
missing each other
wrapped around the silence
and darkness of the time
and connected to
not much of
anything you say you're just
trying to get home shit
I dunno Bob, you're the success I'm
the failure, but maybe you could try
just being here
with other people

2. Robert Creeley
at the service for you
we seemed somehow
embarrassed like Degaul’s wives &
lovers meeting for the first time at the funeral....SOOO
said the same thing to you too, huh? Not to mention
the embarrassment of suddenly discovering
we also are/have different conflicted selves and how
do we put anything together now? The image of you
taking a leak at the urinal with a sheaf of some poems
somebody shoved at you after the reading
stuffed in the urinal next to you montage that
to the kindly old man going over the urologists’
instructions on how to take a leak & not leak.
What self? I kept asking in the discussion,
and later saw the poem you wrote about your hands
being separate selves. "The kissey huggey thing"
you said was "just awful" As if on cue
Paul Blackburn’s editor & girl Friday
said what did I spend all this time with Paul for
in the service of his poetry and Robert Creeley
treated him so badly and that changed later but
they were both so chauvinistic
and I found them both incredibly sexy and
I came to bury Robert Creeley not to praise him.
And she walked out.
Yes, I thought if there ever was a time this is it to
just get it all OUT.
At the end
we do have just so many shapes & shades of
nothing and that’s
the story but look
(I kept telling you) at our dramatic
characters the SCENE the SILENCE
how their ignorance says more than
their words, but you said I think it’s a good idea
to be as bright as you can at all times, o for god’s
sake of course it’s a GREAT
idea that’s the
problem but don’t you understand
we’re all INSANE? I remember Gil Sorrentino
in the sixties talking about writing, saying over
and over, "It’s not a NATURAL act!" but just take the damn
words away because that’s more than half
the confusion and look at that scenic background ignorance like
it was the dark forest primeval around
a herd of elephants
I remember
standing around a dead patriarch
a young bull
the corpse making
pelvic thrusts as if to say
so long you
free at last you
sonofabitch I
love you

3. (me) getting out of an old
art car into a relatively
new pickup even if
logic & environmental politics and
the need to breathe
clean air led you
to it can give a person
identity problems it
had been weeks of
asking how do I
sustain this deserve it use
it keep from wrecking
it and or being
more of a total
asshole than I
usually am with my sudden
good fortune one day
I drove
into a filling station and met
a short fat man & a tall
skinny woman in an old
Ford pickup they were
broke & I gave them a
ride to get their flat tire
fixed & drove
away wondering
how they survived rattling
around the desert picking up
herbs and selling them how
they found each other & how
I found them
she gave me a bundle of sage
months later it still sits
on the dash saying
I hear
you were wondering
who you are
you silly man

4. (Letter sent to info@leonardpeltier (.org) 9/24/05)
I have followed Leonard Peltier's story for many years, with concern, but as a poor person, there is very little I can do. There are so many emergencies, personal, national and global, sometimes I just don't know where to turn my attention.
But I did write the poem below for him, a year or two ago, and it just lies around, and I pick it up now and then and say,
"What did you write this for, Dennis, to hear yourself talk, or to try to bear witness to injustice, or to talk to Leonard Peltier?"
The answer is, I suppose, all three, and to the extent it was meant as an attempt to communicate to Leonard, I suppose it's time to try to send it to him....and then if the message still can't get through, for whatever reason, at least it won't be because I didn't send it.
Like it says in the poem, I'm sorry, it's the best I can do.

For Leonard Peltier In Prison

Listening to both sides is to hear
the basic solitude
of human communication.
2 FBI agents died for it at Wounded Knee II.
You and Robert Wilson were framed for it.
And a pathological liar
and sex addict who happened to be president
got a lot of money from a crooked fugitive financier to
pardon him instead of you, and so
the money and the motives go
to the loss of history and the
constitution and the rights
go, it
stops the mind
Chief Seattle didn’t understand
that The White Man doesn’t understand
"the dreams of The White Man"
like a blizzard on a mountain, it
stops the mind
to walk the battlefield at Wounded Knee,
December 29, 1890 or
Spring of ‘73 or New York City in 2004
and look at the death
in the faces and not wonder was this the
best we could do? It
stops the mind..
You said your crime was being proud
of being Indian. I think pride is
a dead man
we carry on our backs on a Trail
Of Tears to here
and now, we set him down
and become painfully small
too small for the enemy to see
thru his pride, small enough
to be whole as part
of the intelligence
of nature; but I could never tell you
to set anything down, or to learn
to eat the bitterness of your life behind bars
even if it was the taste of life itself, except for
the children....
The problem is how to say anything at all,
to anybody but especially to the children, how to
tell them how to
see ourselves as nature, beyond cruelty and
(but never give up on)
kindness, tell them
how hard
life will be without
scaring them to death and
how we somehow
out all this incoherent
cruelty called
we could do, it
stops the mind
from birth we go
outward like
rivers to find beauty
in ugly
to become
the world that doesn’t want to come
together so treasure
DISTANCE (where the
constitution and the rights
go) and that’s all
the justice we can afford right now
for now, best
we could do, it
stops the mind
for now and for now and
for now, I try to
pray by touching
a stone a tree
branch, if the water that remembers
nothing of the
best we could do
in a lifetime if the
wind that has already
forgotten I ever had
a face can carve the big
mountain, if so much nothing can be
for now if
the leaves and
dirt underfoot are my body, if
someday the big house falls
in the big time if the big
moment can see the
little ones
maybe I
move on
No-Road Trip
do this hundreds of times
and take all the wrecks to a junkyard
where they sit and return to the earth
under distant mountains
the skies changing forever with their message
that is no message....
after a bad day when nothing gets done
sit in the driver’s seat of one of these
and drive in peace for a change
things going by so fast they’re standing still
take a slug from the empty bottle of cognac
on the floor
the turbocharged Daytona whines on into the nite
of little towns with anonymous little lives
the nite is full of eyes and signs and
sirens people dying people being born
freeways, cities deserts, mountains
break open the NO DOZ
We needed to feel like we were going somewhere,
now we got too much satisfaction.....
SLEEEEEPPPPYYYYY!!!! bang on the steering wheel
bite your lip, clench your jaw
pound the floor SCREAM!
No use! Pull over! We’re not
getting anywhere. Here comes the darkness
in a cop uniform. Where the hell’s my ID? Here
we go again.

5. hello me again, awake
this morning at 3 AM
my big empty so called
mind echoing
who else have I offended by saying
too much failed by saying
too little or not just exactly
right how can I have so
little power and intelligence and feel so
responsible does the night
what am I
afraid of that the darkness
will remember
too much or
nothing now there’s
out there just
the sound of the traffic the roar
of some distant relentless surf
flood forest fire swarm
of insects
no cop
to stop
it no
compassion no
direction just infinite
expansion LOGOS logic the word that
was always there making manifest by
MIMESIS love of
some invisible
community of
the future in
TELEOS the end
seeking in
telligence of
nature with
no language just
a mind
of its own

6. How I
got to be
I went to El Paso in 1956
for a high school
Future Farmers Of America
grass judging contest
and I saw Andy Griffith
he was in some little 1 or 2 man
putting on his pants, talking
to some guy in the play
some kind of timebomb
hit all of us
years went by
the bumper cars still went
round and round
but Andy left and went to
a place beyond sadness where old
actors go
and become sheriff of a small town
and always win
and we went back over
the old two lane highway
going over Guadaloupe Pass
the moon shone the stars
were so close you
couldn’t touch them but they
could touch you
and make you

7. hello mouth my
dentist sees crossing the border
there’s a dirty little triangular piece
of concrete and ground
beside a building where
like a premoniton of the beggars blind musicians street
peddlers and
whores to
follow there is
a young boy
in bronze
one foot on the ground the other flung back
school books flapping beside
mouth open face flung up and back
no inscription no artist credits no explanation
of what he is running from or to
the dentist asks if I’m nervous
I say yes
because your teeth grind at night he says as HE
grinds my teeth
to put buildup on them
my legs & arms sweat
he offers novocaine
I refuse I figure I’ve done too much
escaping and pain is one of the few
real things left he
grinds away laughing
at the face I make he makes
a nightguard for me shakes
hand looking right thru my
teeth to my dream self that lives in the same
impoverished country
he does I walk
back across the border feeling
nameless unimportant the guard
doesn’t even bother
questioning me
back in Tucson I ask the woman working
the juice bar why people
grind their teeth she says
it’s all the little things
we stuff and carry
what can you do about it I ask
the fat woman on my left says
prayer and meditation
points and says the left side of her teeth
is worn down from it I think
of all the things I could not and can not say
in relationships piling up until
they hang off me like books
I can’t read
for running in
the stress of life the substance of
human disagreement so
impossible to argue
it turns to
stone in our dreams and we
destroy our teeth trying
to eat it

8. hello young idealists seen
thru a dog's
life IT’S
for Toby to get to his food dish, these days, his back legs sway
from side to side independently like they belonged to another dog,
strange to think
he used to howl because he needed more space to walk and run in,
especially when I left the basement of the arts center you were rebuilding
and I used to avoid thinking what that meant about
what you meant about
sending me to the soup kitchen to pick up laborers
leaving them back on the street worse off
than when they started---you caught two of them
smoking grass and fired them but let Bernie the plumber live there hooked
on Heroin. At the party for him when he OD’d
you showed up in your motorcycle jacket and boots
hoping someone would ask so you could say
you used to race dirt bikes---
sending me to pick up some A/C units with a check lower
than the amount you agreed on with the seller, and said,
"Have fun."
leaving me to shore up the morale of the guys on the roof---when
I asked Roger why the workers were forced to bear the entrepreneurial burden
he quoted Kissinger’s "Economic Imperative" maybe not knowing
that was Henry’s rationale for imposing dictatorships and genocide
in Latin America---
while you schmoozed and dreamed
flouncing up and down the hall in your new suit
with shaving cuts on your face
getting ready to go to the city council
and tell them you were adding a cultural asset to the city...


O I kno you didn’t mean nothing
Nothing toward me or anybody really
You just had a great idea
And artists are just into themselves
And power brokers are all just a little twisted
And that’s just the way the game is played
And if luck had gone the other way
We coulda all had it made
But what you gotta understand is sometimes
The stupidity of the alpha males and alpha females
And leaders in general
Just gets really depressing
It’s the cognitive dissonance see
Between flying the flag of art
And really being about money and power
And between our genes telling us to follow
The pretty faces and powerful bodies
And what real wisdom would say

Toby sinks down on his haunches and waits for his strength to come back.
Shit hangs off his hair. I have to cut that out, I
tell myself…
I was the best sucker for the ideal within a fifty mile radius,
you said "International Art" and I saw the foment of NYC in the fifties,
Paris at the turn of the century, Italy in the Rennaissance,
glossed over the fact
of our Medicis ordering you to tear down my water sculpture
on the back wall by the alley
"Wrong place, wrong time" you said, but
I was sent to fix the roof drain and I fixed it and tested it
and it worked, bright splashes of water down the spills and switchbacks
"What a beautiful Rube Goldberg" a passerby said,
but April had a tantrum because things weren’t going exactly
as she pleased, "It won’t work" she said, as authoritatively
as Brother Green saying my A/C precoolers wouldn’t work
after they’d been working for years, and his daughter wouldn’t believe
anything I proposed would work until another A/C tech
verified it, and they always did,
"Maybe next year." Was your answer to everything
and I said, "Yeah, it’s Alice In Wonderland, ‘jam yesterday
and jam tomorrow but never jam today.’" And you said,
"I’ll get you some jam." But you were already being squeezed out
by Roger, and exiled to Kansas City---Cheeto, another adopted
dog tries to egg Toby on toward the food, Toby snaps at him but
can’t hurt him anymore---and Karen
threw my performance piece out of the pool and then didn’t use the pool
for anything, and the props decayed in the yard and the videographer
taped over the tape with a soap opera…like something like the evil
of banality was out there that hated
consciousness, that over & over got us to Auschwitz again by holding the ideal,
the flag of art and personal power,
in front of our faces. Any one of those "maybe next years"
the course, consciousness & resources of the center
could have been righted by an artists’ community advisory board
but that would have involved sharing power. You sued Roger and you both
punished US in the process
the sheriff’s truck drove up to seize equipment, we took down the police
tape and moved on dragging the baggage of your affair behind us
Toby still won’t go,
I grab his collar and pull him upright, walking, talking to you, "Thanks,
for leaving me with these decisions about what is kindness
in a situation like this?" Roger’s dad died, Roger had a nervous breakdown and
repeat migraines because of the overuse of over the counter remedies for
symptomatic relief, so he was laid up in bed and his friends came out,
fired Brother Green because he was a crook but he was a crook with money
(and he defended us from the other power mongers)
and they were pissed at Roger’s wife so they withdrew their financial support,
they didn’t talk to me, wanted me
not to talk to you, it all made sense as the same negative politics
we always had
Toby gets to his food dish and falls on his side
can’t quite make it up to reach over and eat,
vitamin C and Glucosamine helped for awhile,
but he is failing like the arts center---from your big deals and big
sculptures which, to me were just flag draped
hardons, we’ve gone to big holes and just listening
to the wind blow.---it’s called MUSE now but it should be called
USE because it’s about art as Utility, Decoration, History and Teaching Aids---
There is a famine here in the land of plenty
a certain poverty of the human spirit we have been trying to feed with junk
food, a brokenness in an embarrassment of riches we tried to fix
by tacking up old signs on our cultural shacks to serve as
doors and windows
Sometimes I wish Toby would die
and end his suffering, then I remind myself
it is me who is suffering
because I have an idea about how things ought to be
that he and others at the arts center don’t share
because now I know I let myself be played and used
for a cause because I have an emptiness inside
like gamblers, addicts, crooks, religious fanatics, unfaithful
lovers, and other dreamers.
I have to remember to be more realistic about
what kind of art can be real and done and remembered
without being sick from a dependency on money rampant
in this third world country where there is
dictatorship, terror and genocide, and always plenty of words
for the ideal, no words left
for atrocity and pain.


o I kno you didn’t mean nothing
nothing bad toward nobody
but sometimes you just get tired
of the willful stupidity of big shot leaders
the lies they tell themselves and others
their little boy bravado
covering their childish fear
and mostly you just get
tired of your own rage
that comes from fear
as they lead us bravely, stupidly
to our deaths

(this pome is under construction
more versus follows and other chorus
(of chorus))


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