Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence? -Sathya Sai Baba

Thursday, June 30, 2005

I'm 34 today...

and melancholy. No not one of those typical late-early-middle-age "what does it all mean, what have I accomplished" moments. Fuck that. I gave that one over years ago. No, just sort of a gentle, "God, I wish I still did drugs" day where I feel like the world isn't worth the effort. It comes and goes with me. Mostly goes, of late, thank God. The only thing for it is to do something. Get the routine going just to get moving. I'm supposed to see a movie with Steph tonight, Batman or Land of the Dead (I'm leaning toward Batman, as post-zombie-apocalyptic nihilism, given my mood, seems like bringing coals to Newcastle, as nobody really says anymore). The plan was to go to the beach and hang out watching the sea. Turns out its going to be cloudy and rainy most of the day, "with potential for inland flooding." Lovely.

Did the form slam on Monday, and didn't win, as per usual. Not that I blame the judges. Abena was great, Samantha had some really terrific poems (though not necessarily to my tastes, but that's neither here nor there). My stuff tends to be a little less visceral, and sometimes I have trouble really grabbing the judges. All the people who mattered to me gave me kudos for the sestina, and really, that's all I cared about. Every 2 or 3 months I get a good poem that has both the craft and the inspiration. The rest of the time I just slog through, tightening the screws and polishing the brass, as it were. Occasionally, lightning strikes, and I guess that's about all I can ask for.

During the "Haiku Deathmatch", Abena did a bunch of very erotic haiku (haikus? haikai?) that really got the crowd going. Mine tended to be much more imagistic, but I thought about the possibility of doing an erotic poem. So little in my life is erotic per se and my relationship to sex is so sketchy anyway, that erotic poems seem a little out of reach for me. It would be like making a bulimic a food critic: "The meal was an orgy of flavors and texture, exquisitely prepared and lovingly presented. It tasted almost exactly like battery acid when I forced myself to regurgitate it approximately 15 minutes later in a frenzy of disgust and self-loathing." Yeah, that's sexy.

Anyway. I'm gonna go do yoga, that'll probably relax me and get me out of this funk. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Me and Mia

So there’s this song, right? Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, off the album “Shake the Sheets”. It’s called “Me and Mia”. After I got it, I listened to it over and over, dancing in place on the subway with the iPod blasting. At first, the lyrics seemed to me to be some sort of “don’t lose heart” encouragement song:

Fighting for the smallest goal to
gain a little self-control. I
know how hard you try.
I see it your eyes.

If you believe in something beautiful then
Get up and be it!

I was fighting some battles of my own at the time, and I really needed to hear something like this. It was a blessing to feel understood.

I started listening a little closer, though, and some things started to make me feel a little confused. The opening lyrics made sense, and reminded me of finally giving up drugs:

I was walking through a life one morning
The sun was out the air was warm but, oh
I was cold.
and though I must have looked a half-a-person
to tell the tale in my own version
it was only then that I felt whole.

but there were other things happening here. The song mentioned Mia, and also Anna. Who’s Anna? And what’s this about “fighting food to find transcendence”? What’s going on here? Following a hunch, I started looking up the lyrics online. Ted didn’t spell it Anna. He spelled it Ana. I then found out that Mia and Ana are short for bulimia and anorexia. The rest of the lyrics fell into place. Here they are:

As I was walking through a life one morning
the sun was out, the air was warm, but
Oh, I was cold
And though I must have looked half a person,
to tell the tale, in my own version,
It was only then that I felt whole

But do you believe in something beautiful?
Then get up and be it

Fighting for the smallest goal: to get a little self-contol
I know how hard you try. I see it in your eyes
But call your friends, 'cause we've forgotten what it's like to eat what's rotten
And what's eating you alive might help you to survive.
We went on as we were on a mission, latest in a Grand Tradition
And oh, what did we find?
It was Ego who was flying the banner, and me and Mia, Ann and Ana
Oh, we'd been unkind

But do you believe in something beautiful?
Then get up and be it

Fighting for the smallest goal: to get a little self-control
I see it in your eyes, I see it in your spine.
But call your friends,
'cause we've forgotten what it's like to eat what's rotten
And what's eating you alive, might help you to survive.

And even the nights, they could get better
And even the days ain't all that bad
And after a week of fighting, as more and more it seems the right thing

But do you believe in something beautiful?
Then get up and be it

Fighting for the smallest goal: to gain a little self-control
Won't anybody here just let you disappear?
Not doctors, nor your mom nor dad, but me and Mia, Ann and Ana
Know how hard you try. Don't you see it in my eyes?
Sick to death of my dependence, fighting food to find transcendence
Fighting to survive, more dead but more alive
Cigarettes and speed to live, and sleeping pills to feel forgiven
All that you contrive, and all that you're deprived
All the bourgeois social angels telling you you've got to change
Don't have any idea. They'll never see so clear.
But don't forget what it really means to hunger strike
when you don't really need to
Some are dying for a cause, but that don't make it yours.

And even the nights, they can get better.

So then I found out about a whole group of people who call themselves pro-ana or pro-mia. Go ahead, google it. They have websites and communities and livejournals and blogs and… and let me tell you, those websites are NSFW, or anywhere else for that matter, some of them. Pictures of anorexic women and razor thin models as “encouragement”, tips and tricks for keeping your friends and family in the dark, a whole ideology built up around the concept of eating-disorder-as-lifestyle-choice. Wow. I sort of became a little obsessed.

Now, I had been struggling to find the subject for a sestina I’d been hoping to write (sestinas have a repetitive, almost hypnotic quality well suited to obsessive contemplation and to the voice of the monomaniac). I had almost settled on writing a persona poem from the point of view of Iggy Pop (I may still, if my heart is in it), but this blew me away. Here was obsession, a voice, a whole set of images, all just waiting for me, based on the research I had done (and my understanding of addictive/obsessive behavior from the inside). Anyway, here’s what came out.

for Ana

I know my mother lies,
when she tells me I am beautiful.
The pain of hunger
is only ugliness melting from my bones;
in this body I will fall asleep
and awaken, a delicate dragonfly.

I will molt, from nymph into dragonfly
and shed the blubbery carcass that now lies
upon me like a heavy sleep.
I must peel this flesh to find a beautiful
white cage made from my bones.
It cradles my heart, a prisoner of hunger.

My parents try to infect me with their vacuous hunger
and I dart into hiding like a dragonfly.
They note with fear my growing bones
so I blunt my angularity with heavy coats and thin lies.
They cannot bear my becoming beautiful
because their hearts are flabby and thick with sleep.

Sometimes, I have trouble falling asleep
and I bustle about in the small hours to soothe my hunger.
I clean and scrub and make my world beautiful
until it shines like the iridescent wings of a dragonfly.
Afterwards, I stare at the ceiling above the bed where I lie
all night fingering the delicate points of my bones.

How I long for a world of bones,
clean and slender, far from the feverish sleep
of my parents and friends and the larded lies
they vomit and swallow and still they hunger.
They would pull the wings from a dragonfly,
fat-slick eyes hating everything beautiful,

and I am so close to being beautiful,
so close to exposing the strong purity of bone
like the shiny carapace of a dragonfly
the armor of grace that does not sleep.
I will soon be shut of their mindless hunger,
purging the lonely weakness of comforting lies.

I will charm a dragonfly to sew shut my mouth while I sleep
using a needle of bone, and I will embrace my lover, hunger.
This body will fall away like a cocoon. Leave it where it lies.


Let me know what you think.

Friday, June 3, 2005

Kids, Don't Blog Drunk

Seriously. I almost posted this weird little rant after reading Roger Bonair-Agard's blog entry from Jamaica. Somehow I got in my head that racial tension could actually be a good thing, that somehow that tension created some of the most fruitful and amazing hybrids (rock and roll, the current New York poetry scene, hip-hop). I also managed to tie it all together with references to Mars, the God of War, and the concept of sacrifice and blood (all Gods demand sacrifices, but if you give them the right sacrifice, all Gods come bearing gifts). I think, with a little bit of effort and a good bit of time to meditate, I could have had a pretty good entry, but drunk? Fuhgedaboudit. I sounded like a racist nutjob with a hard-on for Roman Mythology.

Maybe some other time.

I'll be in Chicago next week. My company thinks I'm responsible enough to send there to help open up a new office. Amazing. Anyway, they'll put me up in hotel, and that'll be fun. But what will I do when I'm not at work? Write, read, walk, drink, visit some friends and family, eat some food, and think about Home (specifically, my wife, my friends, my band, my cat - and somehow, my city of New York).

BTW the magazine proceeds apace. We should have the first draft out to the poets soon! You'll love it, I promise. Subscriptions are available. Just leave a comment, or email me.