How to fit in

This entry is part 29 of 39 in the series Manual


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Learn the stars. Everyone around here knows them by their first names.

Drink gin mixed with tears from the visitation room of a state penitentiary.

Who doesn’t enjoy the suffering of the despicable?

Tell jokes in which cats come to a violent end.

Communicate solely through IM and extemporized qasidas.

Wear clothes.

Start an office betting pool for the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

Stockpile dill pickles, ammunition and expurgated bibles.

Paint by the numbers.

When stopping to see a young lady who is not at home, the gentleman caller should leave a handsomely printed card.

Do things in groups that you would never do by yourself, e.g. burning a cross or playing Parcheesi.

Avoid unprocessed foods.

Have a conversion experience, but don’t let it stop you from being the same old asshole.

Read bestselling books, such as Business Secrets of the Zombies and The Joy Luck Sisterhood of the Traveling Hunger Games.

Two words: hand jive.

Two more words: accordion dirge.

When you meet the Buddha, capture the moment on your cellphone.

Wanted to review: poetry audiobooks

Can anyone recommend some good audiobooks or audio chapbooks of work by contemporary poets (or contemporary translations of poetry)? Once again this April I’m going to try to blog about a different collection of poetry every day, but this time I’d like to expand the definition of “book” a little bit. If I’m reading, I still prefer paper to a screen, but I am also interested in multimedia collections of poetry, so I want to make room for a few in the line-up. (I’ll be making a greater effort to read out loud the regular books I blog about, too. More than ever, my emphasis will be on slow reading.)

Incidentally, if you’d like to browse my poetry-book-a-day efforts from past years, they’re tagged Poetry Reading Month 2011 and Poetry Reading Month 2010.


This entry is part 4 of 55 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2012


ap·o·tro·pa·ic – intended to ward off evil; from the Greek apotropaios, from apotrepein, to ward off : apo-, apo- + trepein, to turn.


What have you got, what have you got
to trade for my stash of bitter pains?

A hoard of bitterer greens to test
fortitude and the swallowing reflex.

Garlic for fevers trapped in the limbs.
Comfrey for the womb’s most complex pains.

Eucalyptus for ease of mind: then follow, follow.
Roselle, hibiscus, sorrel: names to brighten the tongue.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


Wind flower
open book

wheel that shares an axle
with the earth

your wild moods
are mead
to a solitary bee

let’s take all spring
to read the road


(after Roberto Bolaño’s “A Stroll Through Literature”)

1. I dream of blood that wells from a cut, uncoils its wavelengths of sequestered light, turns more solid than the furniture in my house.

2. In my dream it is Lent, just like it is right now. Guardia civil are herding babaylanes into yellow Humvees. Their bandannas, knotted under the chin, catch the glow of sunset. The vehicles rev up and head toward the hills. When the dust settles, the townsfolk find they cannot erase the ancient writing that has formed beneath tire tracks. It becomes their new epic poem. They will read it every year. Movie producers will come to film it.

3. In my dream it is still Lent. Which can mean any of a number of things: penitents stripped to the waist, their heads wrapped in sack-cloth, their brows circled with crude vines or barbed wire. Their backs: red labyrinths, ladders gorged with flame.

4. In another dream all the lilies have open vestments. The children come to gather pollen in their cups. Every eyelid will be streaked with gold, every finger outlined with knowing.

5. I dream that in the ruined chapel, above carpets of moss, a cherub ziplines toward me from the belfry. When was the last time you washed your face? I ask my soul. It likes to play in the mud, where it is cool. It hangs its head to one side; it doesn’t like to brush its hair.

6. Donde? Aqui, aqui.

7. In this dream, I knock on the door of room after room until I come to the one where Prinsipe Florante is lashed to a tree, bemoaning his fate. If I turn the right combination of locks hidden in the leaves, we will understand each other perfectly, in monorhyming quatrains filled with lyric and metaphor. And the lion will slink back into the darkness from which it came.

8. In this dream I gently cover the woman’s mouth with my hand, lead her into a room which has temporarily been stripped of all reminders of her sons; I bathe her fevered brow with water. If you lived her story, you too would be crazed. Later in the night, the oil lamp that should have ignited the revolution the first time, will burn down the governor’s house.

9. In this dream it is many years since you have touched me. By this I mean the premises have fallen silent. Sometimes it is not a dream.

10. The poet leaves: she is outcast from her hometown. Does she drink? Chew betel nut leaf? Swear like a cargador at the pier? Gamble away her children’s inheritance? Smoke cigars with the lit end in her mouth? Take lovers, including her maid? Wear only pants? Burn her bra? You have no imagination if you think this is all it takes to be a poet.


In response to small stone (71).

Ground Wires

“…let everything you own ascend to a heaven of pure abstraction” ~ D. Bonta


When a child is frightened to tears, no matter the cause, pull on her ears and recite several times, Maykan, Maria Luisa, di ka agbut-buteng.

When there are too many bundles of paper stashed in the attic, remember that any of them can be used for kindling.

When there are pins and needles on the soles of your feet, forego putting them through the ceiling.

Instead, put some spit on your index finger and mark each instep, saying Kurus, padi, di ka agkut-kuti.

When in doubt, offer one more piece of fruit, one more unblemished egg, to the gods.

How many times has weather been forestalled by such gifts?

It’s not just mackerel: admire the smoky blue swirl of their sleek bodies lying side by side in the pan before heat transforms them.

The soul can be hailed with the sound of little bells; with bright pennants of color whipping madly from a string; with cooling beds of taste.

Squint to the left and you will see the row of guardians perched on one side of the pagoda roof. No one remembers to take pictures of them.


In response to How to teem.

How to teem

This entry is part 28 of 39 in the series Manual


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When you go outside, bring the inside with you—a book, a magazine, a mobile phone—until the sky becomes the lid on a petri dish.

Let the Rapture play out in reverse: let everything you own ascend to a heaven of pure abstraction, leaving you only your solid bodies and the close proximity in which you find yourselves.

Alternatively, give all you have to the rich, who will know what to do with it so much better than you do.

It’s essential to be as poor as possible.

Surrender your personal space but not your personal agendas. You’re going for chaos, not collective action.

Avoid engagement with the natural world, to the extent that it persists in flaunting its pollen and its noisy card-shuffles of wings.

Pullulate. Flocculate. Agglomerate.

Whenever someone from another world appears among you, searching for proofs of his superiority, be sure to swarm in your best Brownian motion.

How to cast a shadow

This entry is part 27 of 39 in the series Manual


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Do not emit light yourself. You can glow, but only with radiance borrowed from elsewhere.

Take corporeal form. Acquire inertial mass.

Become at least partially diurnal, or failing that, inhabit a city that never sleeps.


Contrary to popular belief, it is not necessary to have a soul in order to have a shadow.

Maintain proximity with another body or surface, e.g. the ground, if you want visual evidence of your shadow.

Do not subsist mainly or entirely on a diet of blood.

If your shadow becomes inky, or disappears into Stygian darkness, you may need to dispense with the fedora and trenchcoat.

If you’re new to shadow-casting, work on getting a crisp, dark umbra before advancing to a penumbra and—for advanced students only—an antumbra.

To make your shadow dance, dance. To make your shadow talk, stand on a streambank.

Learn from your shadow. Broken glass won’t cut it, barbed wire can’t stop it, mud doesn’t stick.

Whether or not you have a dark side, you can do your part to keep the world from becoming a desert, blasted by the implacable light of reason.

At noon on the equator, your shadow will stretch into the earth like a vein of pyrite.

If your shadow is crossed by the shadow of a black cat, throw pepper over your shoulder.

Keep your friends close and your shadow closer.

Do not attempt to make love to your shadow. That’s been shown to cause amnesia in laboratory rats.

Don’t share your shadow with strangers. Ideally, everyone should cast his or her own.

If you see nothing, say nothing. The shadow government appreciates your cooperation.