Lost, found, whatever

A shark is a compass
that always points toward blood.
This may not seem of great utility
if you’re lost at sea.
But cut yourself & wait —
you’ll be found soon enough.

These lines came to me in a dream, which goes to show that remembering your dreams doesn’t automatically make you a poetic genius. Yeah, I’m in touch with my subconscious… and my subconscious is an idiot.


This entry is part 34 of 41 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2012


And what is to be visceral, if not to lead with the deeper mind of the body’s insides? The gut is often wiser than the radio which sits in its alcove in the attic (keenly wired to the world and its signals but only for as long as its battery acids have been replenished). So cold today… Seen from the high oriel window that juts out of brick: a skein of dark glyphs over gray-draped fields, the quarrelsome racket of crows. I’ve learned not to believe everything that purports to bring forward an accounting. In our ledger of days, the hills might be pages crammed with previous scripts— And yet, even the lopped-up limbs of dead trees twitch back to life in the fire.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Words on the Street: A timeless holiday classic

cover of Words on the StreetYes, that’s right. Nothing says “Joyeux Noël” better than a collection of sayings from an embittered, wise-cracking homeless guy on the streets of New York City. Imagine the pathos of Tiny Tim combined with the misanthropy of Ebenezer Scrooge (and perhaps a soupçon of bad-assery from the Artful Dodger).

Actually, you don’t have to imagine it — you can simply browse the Words on the Street archives here at Via Negativa (where I recently took an afternoon to go through and restore the old cartoons that had long ago vanished from the servers of their original host, because I am a librarian’s son and I believe in archiving everything forever). All the cartoons that my publisher and I selected were re-lettered for the book, at a much larger size and higher quality than what I posted here. A significant number of Diogenes’ comments were re-written, and a couple are brand-new. I even re-drew the sketch especially for the book.

Knowing of its relevance to the holidays — especially to the holiday shopping season — my publisher and I strove mightily to get it done in time for Christmas last year, but ran into unanticipated technical difficulties, so it didn’t appear until January. You can order the print version (£9.99/$17.47) directly from the printer, Lulu.com, and 100% of the profits will go to support the upkeep of this website.

The introduction is by Kaspalita Thompson, because frankly, if you can’t trust the word of a ukulele-playing Pureland Buddhist priest, you’ve got a hole in your soul, my friend. He writes:

Bonta’s words are given another layer of meaning by their fixed context, the unchanging homeless character whose placard they grace. “Friend Me” takes on a completely different significance seen here, as opposed to on one’s favorite social networking site.

Each page I flick to raises a smile and then asks me to come back to it and think, and then to think again. In this book Dave moves towards cementing his reputation as satirist and as an important contemporary gadfly.

Now, the “important” part might seem like a bit of a stretch, but it doesn’t have to be. If you buy a copy for everyone on your list, and they buy copies for everyone on their lists, and so on, not only will this “inaction comic” be granted automatic cultural relevance by the capitalist arbiters of taste, but even the part about a timeless holiday classic might come true. A Christmas miracle! And my publisher, my blog and I will be able to afford a much-needed, rejuvenating holiday strategy session in Aruba.


This entry is part 15 of 22 in the series Alternate Histories


Panicked by the headlights, the cottontail turned back at the last second. My two-ton vehicle barely registered the thump under the right front tire. I am become death, destroyer of rabbits, I muttered. The rest of the way home I avoided looking at my hands gripping the wheel, so pale & fleshy. But when I left the car in its dark house of concrete & walked downhill to mine, the crisp night air tasted only of moon.

A few hours later, I was awoken by a slight vibrating of the mattress, followed by the touch of small clawed feet on the back of my head. I had become not death but a speed bump for mice running along the gap between headboard & quilt — a comforter stuffed with the breast feathers of geese.

…there is no end to the kindness of this world

For the worm in the breast is still, though the slug
beneath the stone may have shredded the leaf to lace—

For the square of grass has brightened gradually
in the sun, and the smell of burnt toast and coffee

mingles with the morning air— For the jellyfish
stabbed more than fifty times in its petri dish

has miraculously come back to life,
for the aging scientist to feed by hand—

For paper lanterns have lifted into the sky,
tiny fires ablaze in their bellies, allowing a sea

of faces to look straight up into the dark— For our
tired feet and fumbling fingers, uncertain hearts,

our clumsy, uncombed foliage: the only flags we know
to hoist with the halyard each anointed day.


In response to thus: no end to the kindness of this world.

New Sun Rising

New Sun Rising coverSpeaking of boxes, I have a brief essay about bento boxes in the new anthology New Sun Rising: Stories for Japan, available in paperback (Amazon.com link, Amazon UK link) and for the Kindle. That’s not the main reason to get it, though. Think of it instead as a donation to the Japanese Red Cross to support survivors of the 2011 tsunami, for which you get a book as a reward. None of the editors, authors, or illustrators make a penny for this, and neither does the Aussie publisher. It’s a beautiful book with a great diversity of contributions — a feel-good gift for all the readers on your Christmas list.

(There’s a bit more on my personal website. Also, I have a new recipe up there: Mugwort Spicebush Stout. If you’re looking for a gruit ale to brew for the holidays, that’s one to consider.)

Two Kinds of Boxes

This entry is part 14 of 22 in the series Alternate Histories


A black box originally meant a coffin. A light box was a bed for waking up in or a garden full of unmarked snow. The black box would be opened & its contents subjected to ritual examination — a kind of haruspicy to divine the past. We would stand around making small talk in the presence of the dead & see what made their eyelids twitch. The light box couldn’t be opened because on closer inspection, it turned out to include everything. To examine its contents, you started with yourself.

Thanks to John Miedema and Rachel Rawlins for the inspiration.