Jul 29, 2004

Anthony Thomas

"My name's Anthony Thomas," said the 7-year-old black boy standing in the back of my truck.

"You're Keith," said his friend.

"Anthony Thomas," he said.

"Na unh," said his sister, "your mama named you Keith Oliver."

"Anthony Thomas," he said as if it were a dare, as if he were the only authoirity on his name, as if this was his hoisted flag.

"Why you lieing?" said his friend.

They just stood there looking at each other and at the self-proclaimed Anthony Thomas, not knowing what he was talking about.

"I'll call you Anthony Thomas," I said. "It's a good name."
3 disparate mentors
Part of an ongoing series of a weird legend

When I write I think most often of what I've learned from 1) Jack Kerouac, 2) Martin Heidegger and 3) Graham Greene.
These were the times of ugliness when he loved her. - Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter.

Jul 23, 2004

Re-occuring dream sentence: Wicked witch of the west with flowers.

Jul 21, 2004

Briefly taking a technologically enforced hiatus.



Jul 19, 2004

Love and Money 1 and 2

1.
"Does anyone have five dollars?" I say.

"Why?"

"That man's selling roses for five dollars a bunch," I say.

Any maybe they don't have a five or have all loaned me too much money anyway but no one says anything and all of them look at me with a wonder of what, really, I would do with a bunch of cut roses and so we roll past the rose-selling man sitting on his overturned bucket, blue tee shirt stretched to fading over his sagging stomach, ball cap pulled down casting shadows down to his cigarette shedding ashes from the corner of his mouth.

"I've seen my future," I say and they laugh at me, at him.

"You'll be selling bunches for seven," they say.

"Far be it from me, to stand in the way of love and roses," I say, "I'll be selling for three."

2.
They scratch lotto tickets as lovers, in the car in the rain.

He runs in to buy a few and then she runs in to buy a few. He has a little brown goatee and a painter's cap. She has a short shirt showing a smooth midriff and a tattooed bouquet of flowers.

"Trying our luck," he says.

"Trying to hit it big," she says.

"What happens if you hit it big?" I ask and she giggles a lilting giggle.

"I don't know," she says, "I guess we'll see." And she sprints out through the rain and I see her laughing as she takes a penny and rubs off the gaudy greens and yellows and the garish graphics of cash to see if this ticket is it, if this one is the hit.

She sees me watching through the wet windows and smiles, wanting, I think, nothing.

Jul 18, 2004

You know
A Queen of diamonds at an angle upon the sidewalk.

'You've known it all the time I'm learning it these days' Dylan says.

Jul 15, 2004

now show your teeth, bray like a calf/then kill me with your machine gun laugh
New Tom Waits album, Real Gone, due out Oct. 5 with songs about "politics, rats, war, hangings, dancing, automobiles, pirates, farms, the carnival and sinning. Mama, liquor, trains and death.
Pumping gasoline into the collapsed veins of the fading American dream
Thoughts at randomn

Why do people yell at clerks? I make $7 an hour and have nothing to do with your car so go to hell.

Multiple tornados have been sighted in the county and one may be headed towards my gas station.

I never found the question interesting before, but what does it mean artistically to be American?

I want to defend Hillsdale against defamation, but I don't go there anymore and arguing with libertarians is worthless.

Cheney is so evil it's downright steroypical. Edwards is the only candidate I'd actually hang out with.

There are certain people who should try and bring the powdered wig back in style.

National Review's first accomplishment was defining the kooks out of Conservatism. What they failed to understand, then, is that paranoia raises money.

"I'll tell you what's going to happen. This country's going to become part of Spain." "Spain?" "They already have the southwest." "Don't you mean Mexico?" "They're Spanish aren't they?"

I feel bad for Nixon.

I like the colors of Westerns.

My younger brother says, re: his Catholic girlfriend, I should know that girls always make more sense than older brothers.

Another brother of mine has a mohawk.

Mona Lisa is pretty much exactly the same when viewed in person, Pollock's paintings are extremely more interesting when viewed in person.

I'd like to see a literary aestetic based on "exhausting lauguage."

What if Impressionistic works had caused pregnant women to miscarry?

Buckley and Crosby should tour together as cranky old men.

Schaffer was Protestantism's last hope.

I prefer the spellig "tsar" to "czar" even though I like zs. I have no idea how to pronounce "pn" or "kp."

If only dada would save us.

When faced with continuing and excessive rudeness, I become friendly as a form of cynicism.

Jul 14, 2004

Aesthetic wanted:
Punk that’s grown out of the gobbing posturing mohawk-ed juvenilia of angst, but still strips the music to its energy, still kicks out jams. Post-angst punk, what punk should’ve been, with the violence, rage raw and ritual, with the bare aesthetic.

Something that remembers the blues, the spirit of Beethoven's uproar, the palate of the American outlaw. Something like Uncle Tupelo and like The White Stripes:

I can’t explain it.
I feel it often,
every time I see her face,
but the way you treat her
fills me with rage and I
want to tear apart this place.

You try to tell her what to do
and all she does is stare at you
her stare is louder than your voice
because truth doesn’t make a noise.

Jul 13, 2004

Ambler Letters 2
Correspondance exerts from apt. c rear

If writing is taking a piece of steel and turning it into a blade, I'm always over-sharpening, grinding and grinding until I have not a blade but a neddle. Can't cut anything but give damn good tattoos.

A double fisted fear: On the one hand, my philosophy may stagnate. On the other hand, the more I push forward the less I can talk to people. I described the job of philosophy prof. to a 9-year-old girl the other day as “teaching people to ask questions.”

The Muse/Maid division is still in working order, since you’re wondering.
      I don’t even need to send this letter, but probably will.

If I wanted out of this I would become a priest. I would hide in some small town where only old women were pious, pretend not to be very educated w/ my library hidden away in an upstairs closet and live alone w/ a little woodshop where I carved icons. I'd spend a lot of time in a garden and keeping up the graveyard. I'd tell stories without points for homilies and become an old man, if not in peace then in silence.
      But I would know, whe a too-refined young man said too-comforting words over my dirt, when friends of friends commented remarked how well I was doing, when the closest to me thought I'd found finally safety, I would know I had abandoned my priesthood, that I had failed to bleed ink, that the tears and been stilled and the prayers cut off by the priest's collar.

Why am I here, you ask. I don’t know. I guess, because I’m waiting. I’m waiting for something to tell me it’s time to be somewhere else. It’s a wilderness, a desert, a waiting to find something or be found by something. I’m writing a little. Reading a lot. (87 pgs of Pound’s biography today). Reading things I haven’t had the chance to before and trying to write and starting to pay off the $5000 before they’ll give me transcripts. Thought these feel like wilderness work, rather than active preparations. Still, a man must choose his wilderness and this was far enough and strange enough. I don’t know what’s next. “My Life” has gone all vague, sounding more like something I’m telling people so they don’t bother me and less like something I’ll actually do. So I’m waiting for something to break, something to separate the present from the future. I don’t know, maybe it will be an offer, a book, a girl, something I’m writing…
      So I’m just waiting. I don’t know if I’m proving that you can’t run away or that you can. I don’t know if I’m learning more about myself or forgetting what I know.
      It is, I think, a time to break down. So I’m letting everything go to see what comes back. I’m shoving off.


Jul 9, 2004

What I will never resign myself to is pulishing anything other than postcards

What counts then is that it is still up to us to exhaust language.

and here I am again standing up to write you, standing right in the street, so often standing, incapable of waiting.

        - Derrida, The Post Card

Jul 8, 2004

When we were saying shouldsters

There were only a few words to every page because, ostensibly, that’s all a child can read and as reading increases so do the words per page until it doesn’t matter that pg. 134 ends with to be re- and 135 starts membered. Ostensibly. But what children’s books had that we didn’t notice and were hyper-hopping on the couch to get past without knowing what we were throwing away was pacing.

If you remember to ask me what’s the difference between prosaic and poetic, I’ll ask you to remember what we didn’t know then in our books childish with pictures and simple suspended surprises: concern for the pace of a sentence.
Words on the mirror

I don’t remember when I first pushed someone away not from fear but from concern for their well being, when I saw that the same gravity drawing in is a gravity with power to crush and mangle, but it’s become a habit.

How could I accept your forgiveness? You’re willing to, what?, half-erase my faults, leaving them secrets waiting to be re-discovered and actually secrets already known and waiting, holding till tomorrow? What will you do? Forgive me three times before the cock crows?

Up to half my kingdom, the emporer says. And so we friendships value, I think, in what we’re willing to give. But nothing costs so much as walking away. And I’m always walking away.

Jul 6, 2004

And thiry-five cents is your change

When I drop change into a customer’s hand there's this brief brush, a momentary touch as my unfolding fingers rest in their upturned and open palms.

It’s a momentary touch, but in my world of where physical contact consists of a few handshakes a week, it’s almost electrically shocking. I could set the change on the counter or drop it into their hands from above, but find myself, without planning, feeling the texture of palms and fingers. It’s intimate and yet anonymous, strangely ordinary.

I thought I’d learn something about humanity, about types of people by types of hands. But apparently hands are rough or smooth, cold or warm, soft or calloused and without regard to sex or race, class, age, style or occupation. It doesn’t make any sense that the construction worker’s hands are soft and the girl’s are rough, the mom’s hands cold and the old man’s warm, the lawyer’s calloused and the bus driver’s moist. I don’t know, there doesn't seem to be any meaning in it, just these human hands I seem to want to touch.
dollar bill snap
      when you haven't slept

Jul 5, 2004

Re-verb 1

When?
Even.
When even -
      Even when.

Wherein (when?) apology even confession.

When even even when -

Even when...
Thank you, Nabokov, for a simple description of a sick boy trying to discover the pattern of flowers on the wall paper.

Reading Pnin

Jul 4, 2004

Son of a storyteller

I think technically they’re laughing at me, but I’m trying to make their laughter harder.

I probably should have left – the last guest and it’s dark and the coffee’s been gone for an hour. I shifted in my chair. My family’s always had trouble leaving, enjoying people and laughter too much to remember not to overstay.

Tell us a story, she said, short blonde 9-year-old hair falling to her eyes. Yeah, said her brother.

I settle back. Grin. Wink. And started an old one about a riding lawn mower and then went into the runaway horses. Now the father’s bending over with slapping-the-couch-laughter and the kids have big eyes in their little faces with grins they can’t control and the daughter’s telling me to “tell my mom the story about the horses.”

Jul 3, 2004

Brando

Marlon Brando, rest in peace
Staring through an empty water glass

Friends who should have called, haven’t. I owe too much money to too many people. My parents are mad at me. My knuckles are skinned from punching the metal door of my boss’ office after hours. And I can’t write.

The spaces are growing longer between writing and when I do write, what I write comes like a little dirt shaken loose by pounding my head into a wall. It’s been weeks since any writing came easily, weeks since I felt that fire move in my typing fingertips.

I find myself staring through an empty water glass. For no particular reason, I remember waking up in Fargo behind a car wash, smelling of sweat and shaking of cold. The gas station’s coffee curdled in my stomach and clerk looked lonely, lost and bleary.

I squint, and watch these words spider down the screen. Everything seems contrived. It all seems flat. I can’t hear the way these word sound anymore. I think maybe the words on this page are laughing at me, sentences snickering at my pain, chortling at my effort.

This isn’t about compliments or affirmation. The compliments say they’re enjoying it, say write more, say fantastic. But I’m not listening. I’m not reading my sentences over aloud to my dim kitchen, feeling the word rolls off my tongue, watching bugs batter the light bulb and knowing that these words, these words right here, are true.

“Did you see her light up when you started talking?” said my friend. “Did you see her follow every word?” he said.

“Yeah,” I say, tired, staring through the water glass. “It doesn’t mean anything.”

I think this is when people quit writing. When others are praising their words saying things like “top of the game” but they can only hear their keyboards making reverberations dull on the inside of their skulls. I think this is when people decide just to live for a while, to watch a movie and go to bed. To read an old novel again. Get a girlfriend or get a career or buy a bottle.

I don’t know how to do that though. Like a disappointed disciple I’m despairing that the kingdom will ever come, but I have nowhere, really nowhere, else to go.

So, I’m writing out deadlines on the calendar. I’m pushing back.

In the morning I heard the neighbors preaching about our sins being covered in the blood of Jee-zusss (Amen!) and I opened the door of apt. c rear to let in the morning light and the sounds of black gospel preaching. I’d heard what he was saying before, word for word it was lifted from every tangle of four Roman roads, but I listened to the sonorous roll, to the ends of sentences and the lift of words. I heard the amens crowding in and watched his paragraphs sleight from judgment day to today and listened to the name of God’s extended syllables. I remembered how much I love language, returning anew to these reverberations of mine, to the stories, to the colors of the words I want to write.

The church ladies are waiting gossiping in front of the green lotto machine for my shift to begin because, they say, I only sell lucky numbers.

Jul 1, 2004

Stages of life
Outrageous overheard comment of the week

Middle aged woman on a cell:
"Yeah liposuction. It seems every time I turn around one of us is getting something done. I guess we're just at that time in life."


Plastic surgeons were heros of WWI, and cosmetic surgery may be a democratic solution. My sister's writing about a different type of gorgeous old woman.
Intense blue

My dad was starting a church, but he preached his first sermon, an intense thing about communiuty and commitment (and tithing), and no one came back except my mom.

This is our shortest story about the character of my family.

I kind of like the one my blue-eyed father wearing blue-tinted contacts though.