here is the secret of inspiration


A light outside a library at the University of Southern California. We were having a whirlwind tour--had I been able to spend more time, I'd have waited until the center of the light (which moved freely) aligned perfectly with the post behind. That says 'inspiration' to me!


For my recent birthday, a friend gave me "a box full of money" including this $10. Oh, would that it were the real thing!
No music or poetry today. Too much to do, too little brain with which to do it. (And I'm already running a day behind.) Better tomorrow and onward.

[the title quotation is by William Feather, and reads in its entirety: "Here is the secret of inspiration: tell yourself that thousands and tens of people, not very intelligent and certainly no more intelligent than the rest of us, have mastered problems as difficult as those that now baffle you."]


I shall not search your hands But look into your eyes


Sometimes the gift is not so much the thing itself, but the meaning it comes to take on later. Like this bottle of beer, part of the six-pack that Brian brought down from Mad-town for our ill-fated romantic weekend. The beverage itself is fine enough, sure, but the lesson learned--at the time, and sufficient after the fact to make me keep it, even now--was far more potent. 

O.A.R., "The Gift", from All Sides

You ask me what since we must part
You shall bring back to me.
Bring back a pure and faithful heart
As true as mine to thee.

You talk of gems from foreign lands,
Of treasure, spoil, and prize.
Ah love! I shall not search your hands
But look into your eyes.

[Juliana Horatia Ewing, 'Gifts']


not as much A sharper as a higher order eye


my brown furry "Where the Wild Things Are" tail (a gift from a friend)

Not that I lacked an eye entirely,
But give me an oblique enough kiss
To visualize, and my eye said “See ya later.”
A little practice might have sharpened it,
But what was needed here was not as much
A sharper as a higher order eye,
A whole other orb altogether.

[Dan Brown, 'Why I Never Applied Myself to Pool', originally from Poetry, March 2013]


all of this grace and brilliance, such simplicity the self could fail to see

"What You're Doing Now":
searching. trying to figure it out. seeking grace--and goldfish.

Bertrand Russell's Magic 8 Ball of Knowledge.

At the pet store on Court Street,
I search for the perfect fish.
The black moor, the blue damsel,
cichlids and neons. Something
to distract your sadness, something
you don’t need to love you back.
Maybe a goldfish, the flaring tail,
orange, red-capped, pearled body,
the darting translucence? Goldfish
are ordinary, the boy selling fish
says to me. I turn back to the tank,
all of this grace and brilliance,
such simplicity the self could fail
to see. In three months I’ll leave
this city. Today, a chill in the air,
you’re reading Beckett fifty blocks
away, I’m looking at the orphaned
bodies of fish, undulant and gold fervor.
Do you want to see aggression?
the boy asks, holding a purple beta fish
to the light while dropping handfuls
of minnows into the bowl. He says,
I know you’re a girl and all
but sometimes it’s good to see.
Outside, in the rain, we love
with our hands tied,
while things tear away at us.

[Stacie Cassarino, 'Goldfish Are Ordinary', from Zero at the Bone]


nothing worth doing is worth doing For the sake of experience alone


my new necklace!--a birthday present

Howard Jones--"The New Song", from Human's Lib

I was ready for a new experience.
All the old ones had burned out.

They lay in little ashy heaps along the roadside
And blew in drifts across the fairgrounds and fields.

From a distance some appeared to be smoldering
But when I approached with my hat in my hands

They let out small puffs of smoke and expired.
Through the windows of houses I saw lives lit up

With the otherworldly glow of TV
And these were smoking a little bit too.

I flew to Rome. I flew to Greece.
I sat on a rock in the shade of the Acropolis

And conjured dusky columns in the clouds.
I watched waves lap the crumbling coast.

I heard wind strip the woods.
I saw the last living snow leopard

Pacing in the dirt. Experience taught me
That nothing worth doing is worth doing

For the sake of experience alone.
I bit into an apple that tasted sweetly of time.

The sun came out. It was the old sun
With only a few billion years left to shine.

[Suzanne Buffam, 'The New Experience' from The Irrationalist]


What defense can one mount against an avalanche?


We may be required to get older, but there's no forcing anyone to grow up. 

R.E.M.--'Ages of You', from Dead Letter Office

A million years ago the earth grew cold. Iowa was covered by twenty-five hundred feet of ice. No one knows why the glaciers formed and spread, or why they eventually retreated.

I blinked and you were gone.

As a boy, he loved the idea of the ice age. Lumbering woolly mammoths and giant sloths. Outside, a vast white edict erasing the landscape. Inside his head, cave paintings of bison leapt in the firelight, their horns spiraling upward, the tips smoking.

Men on skis came to dig you out. Though they worked all night, they were too late.

Waking every day the frost reasserts itself. Its relentlessness a tedium, a closure. The earth must have looked more familiar when all was water. We don’t recognize ourselves amidst this overwhelming winter: static that censors newscasts, cold that burns, incessant dripping as icicles perfect themselves. The night skies are a riot of Chinese silk: bolts of crimson and shadow-blue. The radio crackles faintly.

Medical refuse litters the beaches, spews into the water from a backed up sewer under the pier. Bacteria cavort in the seawater. The weather’s gone haywire all over the globe. The more sensitive you are the earlier you’ll die. Just hold your breath a little longer, dear.

Once you start this medication, you can’t stop. Your life changes. You decide, based on a dearth of information, which force you want to submit to: nature, now less maternal than ever, or her idiot son—modern medicine.

You make an effort to find some grand design in this blindness. If you can’t see well enough anymore to edit your film, perhaps you can still do the music. You set an example.

Lemme outa here.

As a boy, before his mother found out and made him stop, he’d bury the frozen birds he found on the porch after big storms by warming the earth first with his father’s blowtorch.

Being human, we can’t help attempting to arrange events into patterns—the way a sick man sees faces in the stains on his bedroom ceiling. He names them. Months later, they all converse.

The men in the ice-covered radio station play cards and drink bourbon.

What defense can one mount against an avalanche?

Spotless beakers, pipettes, rows of small cages. Welcome to the lab. Here’s the chamber where we run preliminary screenings. Better don these gloves. Why not use two pair, like me? The new man on the night shift nods off over his work, with the radio playing. Its tinny strands of music enter his dream disguised as a dead friend’s hair. He had short coarse hair, like a terrier’s, pleasantly stiff to the touch. The lab is brightly lit to ward off the backwash of night. Under the table the research assistant’s feet twitch spasmodically in his sleep.

A series of blurry black-and-white newsreels flickers on the screen. Martian canals overflow their banks. A lake in Africa exhales a cloud of poison gas, killing thousands of villagers on its shores. Venice sinks. Anchorage, Alaska, is leveled by earthquakes. Pompeii is breaded and fried by its volcano. The swamp swallows another sand bar, then coughs up a tiny island. Subzero temperatures paralyze Acapulco. There have been several ice ages, a female narrator intones. The most recent lasted 90,000 years. A timer goes off and the lab assistant jerks awake. In about the time it takes to drink a glass of water, he remembers where he is.

“This is probably the last time I will write to you...”

The rocks applaud. Summers turn short and cool. The world remakes itself without us now.

[Amy Gerstler, 'The Ice Age' from Bitter Angel]


what calm or one clarity / can I not quite come to


Some souvenirs of the capital-h History part of my life. Hard reading, but good.

Jim Croce--"The Hard Way Every Time"

What words or harder gift
does the light require of me
carving from the dark
this difficult tree?

What place or farther peace
do I almost see
emerging from the night
and heart of me?

The sky whitens, goes on and on.
Fields wrinkle into rows
of cotton, go on and on.
Night like a fling of crows
disperses and is gone.

What song, what home,
what calm or one clarity
can I not quite come to,
never quite see:
this field, this sky, this tree.

[Christian Wiman, 'Hard Night' from Hard Night]