Coffee College: Ten for Yesterday

October 5, 2016

For a change, I am spending my gap time between the two classes I teach on Wednesdays, in a cafe. Usually I flop on the adjunct faculty room couch to grade essays or research for some writing project I’m working on.
 
But today the weather hints fall, a pinch of bite in the temperate weather that makes an overly air conditioned room inside an old brick building edgy-cool. It’s a cold-settling-in-the-bones sort of day, and not just from the weather.
 
I awoke too many times last night, went to bed too late with a question on my mind after a day that went awry. I like my days to hang straight, not all crooked and dangling. Yesterday wobbled and pitched. I thought today was about recovery.
 
And to a degree, it is. The job I thought I lost yesterday is won today. I suspect I undersold myself again. I have no perspective. I simply press ahead, demanding fees and contracts, due compensation. I just keep writing. Somehow I believe I will write myself into something good.
 
Maybe that’s why I craved a cafe today. Writers write in cafes, don’t they? Or is that just hackneyed ones? I write in bars. Same thing. Today’s cafe writing is meant merely to bear the weather, watch the caffeinated crowd rather than the distilled, lilting and tipsy crowd (which I prefer).
 
Coffee intellect collects in the corners of cafes–in game board challenges and earphone mufflers, round table-ettes with stiff aluminum chairs and their hard comforts. I am cool. I sip espresso and write stupid observant shit about the gathered students in Star Wars shirts and floral, short dresses absorbing smoke from the lone cigarette dangling between two fingers of the Vietnamese girl in lipstick and roses.
 
No one else smokes. No one else of the 10 or so, have dressed for a party. They–all but the girl in short dress, leggings and hijab–have dressed like college students, the jeans and tees uniform.
 
And me, the teacher behind the window watch the outside patio group, denim-clad, capped, gum-chewing students of varying interest and attention spans. And as they shoot a glance at me behind my glass shelter, silently speaking aloud, do they wonder a whit about me?

Digital Art and the Word Drop


That poet last night set spin wheeling nouns and verb sighs.

Just one.

His verses coursing by pleasurably permeable, sealed lids,

Just zero.

Shuttering a head hollowed of word, notion or expectation.

Just one.

Emptied, spaciously awaiting fellow travelers’ souvenirs.   

Just zero.

“Hear with eyes closed and you’ll see,” you once told me.

Just one.

Fluff-sniff uttered tears, sentimental notes on napkins, he

Just zero.

Etched lines pressed hard, full hearted and tritely delivered.

Just one.

 

But none, no magical words soothe-slid my ear’s tongue.

Just zero.

Like a sketched sea on an amber lit canvas of indigo waves

Just one.

You once cyber brushed in digital smears, dot and stroke,

Just zero.

In feathered illusion, simulations of depth, heat and space,

Just one.

But shallow and frail–less breath, less truth, less warmth–

Just zero.

Your screen nearly lifted me, lying flat across atoms and time:

Just one.

No light, no touch, no sight, no rhyme, no texture, no heights

Just zero.

The Heart of Empathy Speaks


I fell in love with foreign languages from before I could speak,

From Mother Goose nursery rhymes chanted to childhood,

Singing me through my days in silly lilting jibberish tolling tales–

Mesmerizing wispy wild figures sticking thumbs in plum pies

Or eating mystical morsels named curds and whey on a tuffet.

Then in college, I pined for the secret to unlock the hearts of 

Spanish, French and Russian poets, painters and culture magicians.

I cracked the code to some, forming strained lipped sounds,

Writing winsome words in chipped or open gullet accents  or

Symbols to sounds unmade, unimagined and click ticklish

until I could not remember my own tongue.

But after college, language tore at me, ripped me up

And left me dull, licit and languishing in legal triangles,

Endless geometry of angles, degrees and lines.

The law sandpapered language across imagination’s landscape,

Smoothed my edges in deeper, rounder archetypal paths, pregnancy, 

Until I lost Octavio Paz’s meter sanded out in childrearing recipes

Swapped with Guatemalan nannies.

Pellucid sentences peeled off like shredded wallpaper skin,

Their luster gone with a youthful jaunt, hop, gleam and trigger,

Flashed in skipping stones, falling in love and hopping fences

Round speedways, parks and wood clearings where music moved 

Us, loins and feet to primal noun-less, soundless speech, 

Just to see,  get a glimpse at lip-sung words beyond the barriers, 

Risking liberty and future, impelled by lusty mischief and rush.

Back then, I had to hear them sung in tune-ful missives keyed only to me.

And now, the remaining hash of come and gone, bright and dark, transforms

Acidic intestinal stew to sorcerer’s clairvoyant elixir: my gut tells me.

Among the clamorous hate-filled speeches and cautious creeds non-offending,

Blasted in soldiered lies and political stomps, and on uncivil, anti-social media,

The gurgle steels me listen to us, be your pain, own my heated core as if it were 

The world’s sole lingual ignition; the ravenous merging urge to swallow me up,

The kind you write in erotic type and imagery possessing, owning my pulse–

These are mere smoke signals, the wink-less language of I know you as I am.  

In the aftermath of lived language, word dross, let us, you and me, tutor empathy,

The Esperanza of human kindness,  re-remembered swish and slosh in thickish silent

 womb–connected to another’s rhymes and rhythms, as the song. 

 

Who’s that Knocking at my Door?

 

 

A shadow slumps in the doorway, a darkness hollowed by blazing corners

where the light exhales, squeezing past the hulking figure that is my father.

“What are we having for breakfast?” Code for make me something to eat.

Desires, requests, pleas, all are puzzles to a man who knows no direct say.

“Sure, go ahead and eat without me. You don’t give a shit about me anyway.”

Read: I want to be loved, appreciated and acknowledged as a human being.

He knows no direct. His sentences scrape the underside of a mirror, inverted.

An uneducated master of language manipulates impulses, inherited relations

to move, respond, act, resist and surrender–a force of father-thinned twining.

 
Mother instilled the love of words in those of us who shone in penning letters.

She idled hours in solving crosswords, leafing magazines, and correcting him.

“‘Don’t got’ is a double negative and makes you sound like an illiterate moron.”

Her words sliding by as if unspoken, he ignored her, she, his virtual dictionary,

until Scrabble time, where strategy schooled the unwary wordsmith defensed.

A board game master, card player extraordinaire and pathological liar, he waits.

Convinced long ago she filled me with philologist love, I glance upon his notion;

my words form around the blankness in the doorway, the gamesman stares me

while the muse I wrestled to the ground, a slutty run-around, scampers past him.

 
credit: i2.wp.com

Picture Me Picturing You

Man is the only picture-making animal in the world. He alone of all the inhabitants of the earth has the capacity and passion for pictures . . . Poets, prophets, and reformers are all picture-makers, and this ability is the secret of their power and achievementsy: they see what ought to be by the reflection of what is, and endeavor to remove the contradiction.
Frederick Douglass

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Edward Jean Steichen’s Gloria Swanson

In manipulating the presentation of information in a photographic negative, the Pictorialists injected their own sensibility into our perception of the image—thereby imbuing it with pictorial meaning.

We are all poets for what is a poet but an image maker?
We are all imagists.
We imagine we see in others what is, what will be and what we have always wanted.

The fiance envisions the perfect wife in spikes and aproned pearls,
nymphomaniacal lover and cookie-baking Cleaver mother.
No matter that she is not the one;
he sees those features in her nevertheless, more or less.

She can cook.
She likes children.
She looks great in heels.
He makes her fit the dream of his waking.

Who is a husband but a movie projector to the screen of the chosen one?
He depicts desire–figure framed photo of his ideal in ribbon and steel.
Meanwhile, she is his pocket and his purse, the hand up his sleeve making his jaw move.
Her world spins his above their heads.

What is a lover but someone who ‘shops the photo of her future mate,
rich in charms, clever to the touch,
sexy in her arms, ambitious enough for a sensitive side–
though she has never met him?

What is the unfaithful but a husband who paints his mistress the un-wife?
What is a poet but the mistress of make-me-love, hers for the taking?

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Castell Photography on Vincent Serbin

I generally experiment with ways to artistically illustrate human thought. By human thought I mean- to present an image that expresses the way we perceive the world. The way our visual system assimilates information ( i.e. two eyes see two images and those two images are processed by a brain) and creates an interpretation of a moment. So in my work , when I juxtapose two images ,it reflects the way our visual system works but, in a sense I’m eliminating a function of our visual system by presenting two images instead of one. This I believe offers a fascinating way of reinterpreting the world.