From television to shrine

I’m taking a break and highlighting some classic posts from my first full year of blogging, 2004. This one describes the construction of a shrine that still has pride of place in my living room. The somewhat tangential disquisition on Yoruba religion could probably stand to be cut, but what the hell. (Please click through to read the whole thing.)

It’s art, dammit!:

Can the merely cynical be invested with a higher value? And if so, would this stepping outside of a stepping-outside require some leap of faith?


There sits the shrine in my living room, divested of masks and the four cynical words, which quickly warped. The weird thing is, four years ago when I wanted to stop smoking, this shrine to negativity really did seem to help. Through the worst of the craving I kept a half-dozen cigarettes there in the offering bowl, among the plastic fruit. Somehow just seeing them there, day after day, strengthened my resolve.

Desiring Brightness

She touched my jacket admiringly and said we had the same taste,
except she favored black and white, not so much brightness.

I on the other hand was tired of all the overcast shades
in the closet, wanted a shot of lime and vodka, its brightness.

Oh did I say vodka? I meant of course something crisp and light,
not overbearing; something not neon or cloying in its brightness.

The peach and lemony light of summer has swirled away too quickly.
And no one dries their laundry on the line anymore, for brightness.

One-touch and power settings, then time, then start. Then a circuit
shorting, equals a dead microwave. But there’s a stove! Brightness!

Above the clatter of knives and chafing dishes, he said: So when
are you taking me out?
That little swell: fishing for brightness.

I exited the hall as the lights were dimmed, and drove toward the water.
The water was all shades of lilac; the street lamps vied for brightness.


In response to small stone (162).

Vocabulary for a New American Century

I’m taking a break and highlighting some classic posts from my first full year of blogging, 2004. Political posts have always been an occasional feature here, and tend to be personal in nature rather than rants. Here’s one I’m still pleased with, though, in a more satirical mode, written after the disappointing results of the 2004 election, which returned Bush to power for another term. (Please click through to read the whole thing.)

Tyrannosaurus lex:

AMNEIZURE. A paroxysm brought on by the unexpected recurrence of suppressed memories. Example: “On being questioned about parallels with Vietnam, General Richard Myers experienced a sudden amneizure.”


DEBRIEFING. A slight sartorial adjustment made by most foreign nationals within a few minutes after leaving the Green Zone in Baghdad.


SELF-FULFILLING PROFLIGACY. A deliberate plan to run up huge deficits in order to bankrupt the U.S. Treasury, forcing massive cuts in every conceivable non-military program, with the ultimate purpose of disabusing Americans once and for all of the absurd and irresponsible notion that government spending can ever solve anything.


Everyone we listened to had such a gift: if not lightness of tongue, then the language of expansiveness so that we sat, rapt, transfixed in our chairs or as if loosed into the suddenly bright highway of sky beyond the library windows, reeling among the birds that must have said among themselves, What drunken fool just hit me? And what of that gift, that beat of song, restless tattoo that lives beneath the ribcage, wheezing and pleating like a bandoneón in the hands of an itinerant musician? I heard it once and then nothing was the same. Light became the space between the saying of a word and the shape that its sound made, flying in the cave of the throat; became a rain-soaked umbrella, became each quickly vaporizing bead begging to be counted, threaded, tasted, forgiven, fed.


In response to cold mountain (63).

Rabelais, Bakhtin and the Zuni

I’m taking a break and highlighting some classic posts from my first full year of blogging, 2004. One of the biggest differences between my blogging then and my blogging now is in the proportion of prose to poetry, which was almost 180 degrees from what it is now. And I was so much more, um, opinionated back then! But I like to re-read posts like this one from time to time to remind myself of what I believe — or would believe, if I believed more strongly in the importance of belief. (Please click through to read the whole thing.)

Laughing in church:

Whether we flagellate ourselves like the Shi’a commemorating the death of Hussein or ogle the flagellation of Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, our sense of what it means to be compassionate is limited, really, to a single emotion: sorrow. But is it not in shared laughter that people feel most akin? If the goal of religion is, as it proclaims, to promote peace and unite humankind, why is laughter still barred from the churches, temples and mosques?


“…rare, singular, unattainable, but:
here” ~ seon joon

Tonight, after the reading,
someone asked the poet
in the red shirt and black
motorcycle boots which writers
had influenced her the most—
and she replied by recalling
how she had gone to school
during a time when everyone
was lionizing all these great
women poets who had killed
themselves: Plath of course;
and Sexton (who was her teacher).
Then one day a substitute came
and turned on this light—
and she realized one could be
a good poet, even a good,
angry, feminist poet,
and still love life.


In response to cold mountain (61).


I’m taking a break and highlighting some classic posts from my first full year of blogging, 2004. My niece Eva featured in some of my most popular posts that year and the next. I also used to write a lot more posts that mingled poetry and prose, as this one does. Not sure why I ever moved away from that format. (Please click through to read the whole thing.)


The art museum’s smallest room
is filled with miniature landscapes.
I pause in front of each
& hoist my 8-year-old niece by the armpits
for a five-second look.


Later, she watches from
the back seat of the car as
a ten-dollar bill change hands. Giggles.
“They hold the money
as if it were fragile!
she whispers in my ear.