Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Matter of Perspective

A Matter of Perspective

Sometimes, I like to imagine that when the first messenger told his story to Job
that Job mistook his words for the punch line to a joke

Futility- the last two crabs having sex in the tank at a seafood place
I have lost my appetite

Because I am thinking about how I went to the hospital at seventeen
Before I met my wife

Before I met my ‘first’ wife ‘cause you don’t know
I might be dumb enough to try that again

Anyway, I went to the hospital before I met Jessica
But after my father, Greg, left my mother, Jamie

I had surgery, my leg, the injury ended my football career
and the medication from the surgery made me vomit at the slightest provocation

I was a good football player
I was lousy husband

My mom, Jaime, and my dad, Senior Dick-For-Brains
They never missed a game

I went to the hospital
Before I met my wife, little Miss Latent-Lez

She left me so did my father, both to start a life
with some woman, but not the same woman. . . I am not that lucky

There were two beds in the room
I shared it with this guy, he was old

I don’t know his name
I never knew his name

But he had Alzheimers: so he didn’t know his name either
He didn’t know anybody’s name

And he happened to be dying of cancer as well
And every day the doctor, David U.R. Fucked, came in and told him he was dying

And everyday he broke down and cried, lying in the bed next to me
And he never had any visitors

So yeah. . .
My life has been good.

Saturday, April 24, 2010



Tick, tock,
     tick, tock,
the last word invented
to rhyme the word “clock”     

Time can be tricky
easily lost in the handbag of language
like when you ask someone if they have eaten
I mean, clearly
they have
they would have had to
at some point
nobody makes it for very long
or take for example
when you come home from work late
and I tell you
that I’ve waited for you
do you know what I mean?

The Countess and the Sculptor

A Countess

      In Italy, at the height of the Renaissance, a beautiful countess hired an artist for a portrait. She stood naked before the man for hours while he labored with brush and hue.
      At lunch, he asked if he could take sometime to eat. He suggested she clothe herself in the interim. The countess’ face moved from beautiful to cruel. She fired him on the spot and ordered his painting destroyed.
     She hired a poet who was to compose a sonnet to her beauty. He visited as she was having her afternoon tea. He spent only a handful minutes and a few drops of ink hastily darted across a scrap of a paper that he had produced from his pocket.
     When he was done, he began to clear his throat and prepare his recitation, but she stopped him and asked, “So soon? My tea is not yet cold.”
     The poet became flustered and bowed and began to write another line and bowed again but she fired him. She tossed his poem into the bin, unread. She bought all his debts and demanded payment immediately and he fled Italy in disgrace.
     She called a composer of chamber music; one who had earned a reputation in the high social circles of Sicily, Jullience Marcus Ernesto the third, I believe was his name. He saw her for only a moment as she was in the bath, and then retreated into the parlor where he drew the curtains. He wrote all day and all night. In the morning, he called musicians to the countess’ household. He commanded the countess be brought from her bedchamber still clad in her nightgown. He played for her his composition. It was beautiful say all who were present in the room at the time. When it finished, there was not a sound. No one said a word.
     On the countess’ face was an expression of contentment. It was a face not reflected in the composer’s. He admitted that this work, his work, was the greatest thing he had ever imagined and he expressed a wish to perform the piece at the grand hall, in the countess’s honor, of course. But the countess denied him, and as he pleaded and argued, she calmly collected the score from the other musicians and then passed them over the a candle flame. The composer left in tears.
     Word of the countess’s cruelty reached the ear of Michelangelo. He heard of the countess’ rudeness and the nuisance she had been to the artists of greater Italy. He called upon her and declared his intention to make of her a sculpture.
     His arrival was devoid of pomp or grandeur. He simply shuffled through the front door with the authority of a beggar.  All day for seven days straight, she stood before the great master. And all day, for seven days straight, he worked against the stone until the form appeared. During that time, she stood silent and perfectly still and neither exchanged but a word. They took food only a night, right before they parted for bed.
    At sunset, on the seventh day, Michelangelo stepped away from his work. His clothes were heavy from dust. He was bent over and struggled to right himself. It seemed as if he had aged a year for each day of work. The countess, on the other hand, was unchanged, and indeed there was a rumor that not a single hair grew or fell from her head during that week.
     Michelangelo slowly revealed the masterpiece. THe heavy white canvas fell with a whisper to the floor. The countess showed her approval.
     Michelangelo had waited for this cue. He stepped up to the statue, climbed the wood lattice wordlessly until he stood head to head with the figure. He held in his left hand a hammer and in his right chisel, and without a second of hesitation stuck the statue squarely on the nose with the intention of removing it. However, my some accident the nose remained. Michelangelo struck it again, and then again, and then chisel snapped in two, and then with the next blow, the hammer itself broke.

    The countess laughed and declared the master a fool.
Beauty is your god and you would perform deicide. Truth is your lover and you would betray her. The imitations of heavenly things you are privileged to create but it is not your right or entitlement, simply, your contract.
There are four things other than man: the Earth, the Truth, the Sacred and the Secret. Each attracts man but each defies him. As man reaches to touch these things with grasping fingers, they vanish and reveal the folly of such arrogance.
What the Holy Scriptures does not tell of is that the Earth first asked God to create man. It was the Earth that gave the idea to God so that she might have someone who would admire her beauty, delight in her spring waterfalls and snowy winters.
And when the Truth heard this idea, it also spoke up. The Truth thought it was a wonderful opportunity. It longed to pass down its genius, its honesty, because what the Truth wanted more than anything else was a pupil to teach.
And the Secret spoke and gave her agreement, asking God to create man so that she might have a pursuer, a lover of her mysteries.
And so God agreed. And the Earth labored before the dawn to ready herself. She filled her oceans with fish and sea life. She planted forests, tilled up mountains, and populated each with creatures of all kinds.
And the Truth set up the invisible rules that would govern man’s world. It reviewed its calculus and physics and double-checked the math. It invented the sonic boom on the spot. Finally, It wound up the sun like a pocket watch and set the planets into motion.
The Secret came last, hiding the workings of things, sweeping up the footprints and odd ends the others had left. She gave lightning and thunder to the clouds and lit the fires at the core of The Earth. She set the limitations on how long man could expect to live and made that magic that is called love.
Everything was prepared. The whole world was ready and waiting. The Sacred chose this moment to speak. He requested a single condition be added to the world, a single addendum to the work of the others. He asked that God limit man. He asked that man be kept from perfection, so that he might never rule of the Earth, might never claim exclusive ownership of Truth so that he would never discover the heart of all secrets.
By these means, man was denied rest, for while he might spend his life pursuing the three others, he could never claim himself master of any of them.

And God agreed.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Excerpt from Stewart Goes to the City

Excerpt from Stewart Goes to the City

“Try not to follow politics, for obvious reasons. Maybe make a sign instead, one that says nothing and then hang it where no one sees it.” Maybe make a sign instead, one that says nothing…”

Inevitably, making something that says nothing or the creation a “content-less symbol” is impossible. The act of creation requires self-definition. Aesthetic self-reflection must take place. What kind of sign? What color? What material? What size? Even if language elements are absent, action is definition. Even pragmatism is not with out a design philosophy, no matter how austere. Preference is substance. Just as the act of interpretation required by a Rorschach test reveals the interpreter, the act of invention intimates a meaning.

If one would attempt evade or circumvent the questions of Aesthetic self-reflection by being indifferent or with some tool of randomization, one would have simply misunderstood what it means to “make” a thing. The acting subject has still not become a creator because creation requires agency. As an artist and philosopher, I would claim that in the absents of agency, the subject’s “agent statues” should fall into question. A subject “void of agency” is inanimate, inhuman, the biological equivalent to the astrological phenomenon commonly referred to as a black hole.

“Try not to follow politics . . . Maybe make a sign instead, one that says nothing and then hang it where no one sees it.”

Hanging a sign where no one sees it is absurd. A sign is meant to convey public knowledge. But this action is no more absurd than making a sign, which while saying something, incidentally means nothing and parading through the street with it. This analogy was in my mind at the time.

Finally, and this occurs to me only after I originally wrote this line. There is a comfort in this secrecy: this hanging a sign in a clandestine place. I believe that there is a compass at the heart of us that always points us to us. A silent pray on our lips at every moment. We may never say this prayer aloud. We may never confess its content or purpose to anyone. Sometimes, we may not even know its meaning ourselves. But it is there. Its sweetness can sustain us as we walk amounts the bustling crowds. Its guidance can preserve us, save us from losing our way.

Thank you Marianne for bringing these lines to my attention. I really enjoyed taking a second look at them.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

If You Love Me

If You Love Me

John quoted Jesus saying,
“If you love me, keep my commandments.”

But I am a poet
so if you love me, quote me.

Friday, April 16, 2010


Lullaby by TobinJohnston


Hush, my little darling one
Oh hush, my little darling one
I’m going to sing a song to you
so you can fall asleep

I know the shadows of night are long
The sounds of laughter of days are gone
I will stay beside you tonight
and be here should you wake

The sun will rise tomorrow dear
And with it, you’ll forget this fear
you’ll walk out into the light
and you'll know the night has passed
you’ll know the night has passed

Becuase You Are Eight

Because you are Eight by TobinJohnston

Because You Are Eight

It is Saturday and the mother fucker is hot
but you don’t say that, because
are eight
and words are mysteries still
and you are still suspicious and enthralled by their secret power
and beside was if your mom overheard you
what if your tattletale sister found out

‘cause you know at the sagacious age of eight that you can flick
red stop lights green
by quietly saying under your breath

(Remember: This knowledge, and the burden of the responsibility it brought, was too great for shoulders so young and on one Sunday before church you guiltily wished your power away)

But today, this day is a hot, impatient Saturday
no school for two days
while the sun burns down this match stick city
and the streets sizzle like an oiled skillet, tar-baked, rubber-burned
the murder rate doubles, on a day like this, faster than a hopscotch beat
the seat-leather burns your young thighs and sticks to the skin on your arms
your dad’s car has no AC and the window don’t roll down
remember again how light dances through the thin translucent skin of neon water-balloons
I can’t believe you ever forgot that; it was only a summer ago
don’t tell me you forgot how fast ice cream melts, faster than you can run home
and you can run home pretty fast

Your mother’s suggestion to go outside is a death sentence
‘cause you in Los Angeles now, son
where the red ants are big and fat
and the black kids ask why your skin is so fucking white
and your best friends Hugo and Valetino think
its funny when you try and fight them
because they
are the descendants of the Mayan kings
are round, and sweaty and have already at the ages of eleven
and twelve
full adult mustaches
and you are eight

(Remember: Hugo’s mother was without papers. When she was rear-ended, Hugo’s dad said he was driving and they moved away after that. He was your first best friend)

But that Saturday was a hot worth remembering in a summer heat wave
painting faces sticky and glossy
turning the black boys blacker
sweatin’ the shit out the brown boys
and the wedos- go pink
earn for you the name lobster
even though no one you know had ever even seen a real lobster

Your mom has mercy—Finally!
she takes you and snitch of a sister to the pool
the water is warm, the air a touch warmer
you come up for breath
into a world composed entirely of laugher and splashing
your white skin swims with the black and brown
mother says she could pick you out of the pool even with her eyes shut
your eyes are shut too peekers are cheaters
and your friends can tell, so you keep them tight
you want to play by the rules



Fish out of water?

From the call and response
from the choir and chatter
you pick out a single voice
Su nombre es Maria
her name is Maria
of course, it is
they are all named Maria
how can this one be different
but it is
her voice admits it
her eyes speak of the secrets you don’t understand yet
of the words you don’t yet know
you couldn’t describe it even if you wanted to
you are just eight years old

With tightly closed eight years old eyes now
fingers unsighted and un-aimed
extending into the water
two hands with palms outstretched and searching
for that voice, for hers
you hear it as if it is the only one spoken
and move toward it
your adolescent body struggling blindly against the viscous water of that summer afternoon

the sun can’t
shine forever
cool shadows
pool and run together

(Remember: you heard you mom’s call to get out but kept to the bottom, hoping you could hold your breath forever, hoping she’ll somehow forget and leave you there to walk the seven big city blocks home. She’s crossing her arms now and using your middle name like a pull of a leash, so you get out)

Your eyes are cloudy from the pool water
your feet are raw from the concrete
your feet are cool on the tile
you shower off
you towel off
walk to the car passed the chain link fence
separating you and them
and she is there still
you hear her voice
but not daring to look back
but not daring to look
but not daring to

Afraid she is not watching
just as afraid if she is
you count the crack in the pavement
if the number is even she will see you walk by and wave
if the number is odd you will never see her again
and you look. . .

On the way home
in the front seat
it’s your mom’s car so you can roll down the window and you do
putting your arm out into the tepid wind
you feel the warm remembering of sun on your face
you will be called names tomorrow but you don’t care today
The smell of chlorine perfumes your skin
you shut your eyes
It is a pink and yellow world
you think of her and recall her voice
you don’t know why
you don’t know how come
you are so young
only eight

once home
you walk up stairs
to your room as your mother begins dinner
you turn the radio on
it is still light out even though it is seven-fifteen
and still hot
and the radio begins to sing
into the held-breath stillness of your room
it suggests mysteries
names longing
reveals to you the true meaning of words
the radio sings

Ooh boy, I love you so
Never, ever, ever gonna let you go
Once I get my hands on you

Ooh boy, I love you so
Never, ever, ever gonna let you go
I hope you feel the same way too

(Remember that for a moment, even though you didn’t notice, you were no longer

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Keyhole

A Keyhole

Agony is that muted and even murmur-less affection
without gesture,
that friends do by contradiction share
when that friendship is blind to recognize itself
And hearts closest takes for granted the bonds of their amity
-A conversation spoken through a closed door

It is not only the youth whose hopes are unrequited
who find themselves speaking to silence what they can not say
but old men, tweed jacketed and leather patched at the elbow, rehearse
the lines of this always play
the notes of this ever present song
and old women made young by this ardent foolishness appraise themselves
in window glass
-They say, keep my secrets shadows but tell my beloved in their dreams

Who recognizes gentleness and does not fall in love with it?
They touch and laugh and say with these errant touches and light laugher
ever so boldly and so fecklessly
-I have been struck in my heart by your kindness

Love is only, for all its windy verbiage,
a plea for meaning, a desire for definition
-Define me and let me be define by the number of all the days against all the unsaid things

It declares before death and the void
this person knew my clandestine heart
they heard what I whispered at daybreak
I trust the remembrance of me to this one other soul
To say before the lonely hours
-I will stand with my beloved and my beloved will stand with me
Before all the lonely hours

Monday, April 5, 2010

Stewart Goes to The City

Stewart Goes to the City

Stewart was a Bear. He was a young bear, a cub really, and he decided to get a job in the city with the humans. Naturally, his parents were concerned, and they sent him to the elder of their sleuth. The elder was a big, gray haired bear that smelled like maple syrup and butter. His name was Smiley. This was the name his trainer had given him, before he had escaped from the circus. Smiley sat the cub down on a log in his den and spoke frankly with him. He said,

Stewart, I see you are determined to leave so I will waste no time persuading you otherwise. Regardless, hear me out.

Try not to sit too close to other people at cafes and bars. You might over hear them, find out their secrets. You might notice that they don’t know what you know, that they do not notice the seasons, that they think highly of things you find trivial. You might discover you are alone amounts them and, perhaps, always will be.

Try not to drive in traffic. Some people wear their rage as we wear fur. They feel safe in their car to hate you and others. Most of them will not say to you what they will say in their minds. They are not like we bears.

Try not to follow politics, for obvious reasons. Maybe make a sign instead, one that says nothing and then hang it where no one sees it.

Try not to stare at pretty girls too much. There is always another worth seeing and it is really somewhat endless. When done enough, you are liable to forget they are girls, that they have parts beside the part you notice.

Try not to read too much of the bible. I find the practice only makes God more frightening and implausible. Many people who think the bible is easy to read are frightfully illiterate. Moreover, the other people who prefer to doubt but do it too easily are fools. Do no spend too much time in the company of either.

Worry only about yourself. Don’t worry about them. You have to find out
if you have been given the gift of faith. Not every one receives this gift and you must test your faith to know if it is yours. If you were not given this gift, then let it go. If you were, then count it a blessing.

If you ever are doubtful or sad, go for a walk in the park, or scratch at a tree, or kill a small animal. Just make sure it is not someone’s pet. Remember the old adage,
if it has a harness
do not harm it
if it has a leash
leave in peace

Eat berries when you can get them, but no fast food. I cannot stress how important it is that you eat right. Nothing makes humans more nervous than a hungry bear.

Work hard not to forget who you are and where you come from, but don’t be afraid to become what you become. You will always be a bear of this sleuth, always.

The great gray bear, signed and was silent, and Stewart rose because he thought the great bear was done talking. He was anxious to enter into the city and was afraid he would miss his train. He started to thank Smiley when the great bear unexpectedly continued.

This is my final word. You are free to go but for this single obligation I place on you.

Years from now, when you have received word that your parents have died, you will return to us and go through the period of mourning with us. You will recite the mourner’s prayer for each parent in the great hall of our sleuth, the hall that holds the stories of our kind.

And when this oath is complete, you may return to the life that is yours, from the life is ours.

The cub waited a moment longer but the old bear was done, and the cub thanked him and hurried to catch his train.