1 Dead in Attic and HBO’s Treme

I came late to understanding post-Katrina New Orleans, because I didn’t visit the city again until last winter. But Chris Rose’s collection of essays “1 Dead in Attic” retains its immediacy. Here was essentially a lifestyle columnist one of the few standing–broadcasting from the belly of the beast. It tells you the power of being a trained observer. And the limits–Rose descends into a breakdown, addiction, and divorce.
The dedication says it all: “This book is dedicated to Thomas Coleman, a retired longshoreman, who died in his attic at 2214 St. Roch Avenue in New Orleans’ 8th Ward on or about August 29, 2005. He had a can of juice ad a bedspread at his side as the waters rose. There were more than a thousand like him.”
Which takes me to “Treme”–the wonderful HBO series. My New Orleans informant who recommended it said–it starts three months after Katrina, or as you can see, it might be three years…” Lacking television, I watched the first series all at once, with its elaborate weaving and back weaving of plot worthy of a nineteenth century novel. There is a lot to like–not to mention the music–but the thing I might have found the hardest to understand is the self-destruction of writer/intellectual Cray. However, having read “1 Dead in Attic” I saw it coming.
Of interest to writers, the book was originally self-published. Of interest to us all, the opening quote from Judy Deck: “If there was no New Orleans, America would just be a bunch of free people dying of boredom.”

Friends and Gazillionaires by Joan Logghe

Friends and Gazillionaires
I know that if you are like me, you are probably sick of hearing about my hijinks and exploits of the Poet Laureate life. Sick of all the wonderful appearances I have been party to, sick of hearing me say I rocked them on the Plaza for the Fourth of July pancake breakfast, sick of my excuse that I have five planets in Leo which I translate as five planets in Ego. I am sick of myself, usually and on a daily basis, but I am also rejoicing. Who is this energetic woman who has now been mistaken for a man not once but twice in a week? Who is this poet who sometimes goes on stage with her skirt tucked in her undies (wear good ones)? And why isn’t she sending work off the major literary magazines? Is it because she is still trying to coax a bloom out of her flowers who have pretty much all given up, except the morning glories? Is it because she is in mourning for the fires that burned the canyons and now the black ash in the Rios which the fish can’t survive? How can she think life is a joy and a poem when all of this has just transpired her neighboring watersheds?

I think I got some of my questions answered this week. My friends and co-conspirators at Tres Chicas Books went to the big city, Albuquerque, for a radio interview on WOmen’s Focus and a reading at Acequia books the following day. I think you can hear the interview with Carol Boss, July 23 at noon for two weeks on KUNM.org. Check it out. But even better, check out friendship.

It is truly amazing. I have two friends, Renée Gregorio and Mirian Sagan, who feature an excellent driver with night vision, and women who are as free with money at restaurants and clothing stores as I am. Both of these qualities are great, but not as amazing as friends who listen to all of my plaints and worries, love me anyhow, and give me advice and perspectives. They have even come to realize that I am almost always right. Que milagro! We had a blast and laughed non stop. I had to come home and recover from laughter. I highly recommend finding friends to support your art, publish your work, and run off to a big city with at least once a year. Friends bring joy and endorphins, I know it. Hint: it’s good to have younger friends. Not to be ageist.

For one weekend I needed to forget about the US Budget which is ridiculous and any of us could solve in a heartbeat if not for greed. Do you know that greed causes the same bio chemistry as addiction? Do you hear one single gazillionaire say, “Let’s experiment with altruism. Let’s share. Let’s just kick some green ass with our financial clout? Let’s end a few wars, divvy up the profits, look at taxes as a privilege of our success.” You blog readers know by now that I am an altruistic Scrabble player, and I am watching my husband, who is an altruistic carpenter, and has helped about five people move this month. This includes storing or adopting various things, from a full sized loom to two miniature horses. We have wandering Jews and two Crown of Thorns (altruistic and ecumenical), aloe vera galore, bougainvillea, A combo wine rack.plant stand, a large painting of a woman with two sabertooth tigers which takes up our entire guest room, a Maori mask which hangs over the TV and makes the news look cheerful by contrast, and a Norfolk Island pine which obviously never heard about what happened to our last two Norfolk Island pines.

Anyhow, I hope my second and finale year as Poet Laureate, not to keep dwelling on how cool and groovy it is, I hope this year is of use to people, that we get gentle rains, that my poetry isn’t all way too occasional and derivative, and that we are still friends at the end. I have over 500 Facebook Friends, but they have never driven at night with me or heard my stories more than five times. This is the week of my 40th Anniversary. I think our marriage has a fair amount of altruism, screw Ayn Rand. I hope living a life in poetry has purpose and increases endorphins. Viva la PL, even if it happens to be, just briefly and fleetingly, me.

And finally, we have ten days guys for the budget, get it ungreedily unstuck, get it TOGETHER!!

Check out Joanie’s blog at http://thepoemdifferent.blogspot.com/

What The Water Took: 7 Torahs And A Piano by Miriam Sagan

What The Water Took: 7 Torahs And A Piano

torah of morning
of noon
of dusk
of midnight
of moonrise
of daytime gibbous moon
flood water

torah of terror
of anarchy
of forgiveness
fire in the water
a dog
a child
bent street signs

torah which unrolls
the story of Noah
an ark
a dove
a raven
streets as rivers

a house
your house
a house
caught in a tree
the army corps of engineers
a pumping station
a levee

torah of glass bottles
dangling blue glass hands
a message
a twisted menorah

torah of brass bands
coronets and horns
twisted shofar
blowing not air
but water
clarinet set with rubies now mute
torah of the broken flute

torah of Jacob
wrestling with the angel
who cheats to win
God’s lie, the rainbow sign
(no more water
the fire next time)
words float away

and the piano of glass
of sand, strings plucked
by fish
how the water took even
our idea of land
and in drowned sleep
spirit moved on the face of this deep.

Photograph by Helen Exner

It’s Been So Hot I’ve Been Reading About Himalayan Disasters

The rain seems to finally be here in Santa Fe, but it has been so hot that I’ve been sitting in the one room with AC reading ONE MOUNTAIN THOUSAND SUMMITS by Freddie Wilkinson, an account of a climbing disaster on K2.This mountain is so difficult and ferocious that it doesn’t even have a name, but like a gangster goes by a moniker. The world’s second highest mountain killed eleven climbers in 2008. Why do I care? I’ve never climbed anything more arduous than crawling out on a fire escape to drink a glass of wine and watch the sunset.
For years I’ve loved accounts of extremis–particularly when my emotional life was difficult. Who dies? Who survives? And why? This book doesn’t really answer these questions. Accounts of survivors are confused and contradictory–typical not just of emergencies but of hypoxia.
Wilkinson says–“History is written by the victors–in mountaineering, it might be said that history is written by the white man with the satellite phone.” The author attempts to rectify this by also focusing on Sherpas–some climbing for pay, some as professional climbers–and the confusion of culture clash that has always marked Himalayan expeditions. This book is not Jon Krakauer’s INTO THIN AIR which by the grace of his writing makes a mythic subject matter somehow even bigger. But it was thrilling in its own way–and very cooling.

TAKI 183

A new book on graffiti prompts me to reblog on Taki 183.

I am afraid that Google Maps will catch me in my own driveway–schlepping my dry cleaning, picking my ear, or worse. It makes me nervous that I can be seen from above, like my house, with its fading stucco, its quorum of neighborhood cats, its blue mailbox. Does my roof need repairing? Can the satellite tell me without charging me for the estimate? Does this tell me where I am?
For years I’ve tried to write a poem about Taki 183, and failed. So I’ll try to write about it here. Taki 183 was a very early–maybe the first–tagger in the NYC subway system. He’d just write–TAKI 183–in black. I’d see his tag when I was a kid riding the A Train. It impressed me so much. He was FROM 183rd Street–Washington Heights–but he wasn’t there anymore–now he was HERE. And, well, so was I. But here was changing–179th St., 125th St., 4th St. These were significantly not the same place. And I was not the same person as I changed place.
Taki, I recently learned, was a nickname for Constantine. He was Greek, and as an adult ran a fancy auto body shop. You can buy an image of his tag on the web for $400.00 if you are so inclined.
And after all, the New York Subway system also has a map, or is a map, the map as good as the territory, a territory of transit, rather than just destination. Taki 183.


Celebrating Forefather of Graffiti

Guernsey’s/Associated Press

A short Greek-American kid named Demetrius who lived on West 183rd Street in the late 1960s was by no means the first teenager to think of writing something in indelible ink on someone else’s property. He never considered himself an artist, and his illicit career of leaving his name and street number on hundreds, maybe thousands, of surfaces throughout the five boroughs of New York City ended after only a couple of years, when he put aside his Magic Marker and went off dutifully to college.
But the sheer ubiquity of his neatly written signature — TAKI 183 — and an article about him in The New York Times in the summer of 1971 combined to transform him into a kind of shadowy folk hero, inspiring hundreds of emulators and, by general agreement among urban historians, making him responsible for starting the modern graffiti movement.
Viewed in some circles as an American art form on a par with jazz and Abstract Expressionism and in others as vandalism, pure and simple, the movement has gained momentum ever since and has spread around the world.
Its pioneer, meanwhile, has been out of sight, absent from the celebrations and exhibitions of old-school graffiti now taking place with increasing regularity. But on Thursday night at a signing party for “The History of American Graffiti,” an ambitious new survey of the movement written by Roger Gastman and Caleb Neelon and published this spring by HarperCollins, a short Greek-American man named Demetrius, now 57, with glasses and a bush of salt-and-pepper hair, arrived, took up a marker and began to sign his name again, this time legally, on frontispieces of the books.
“What does he look like?” a HarperCollins publicist had asked Mr. Gastman earlier in the afternoon, before the arrival of the near-mythical guest of honor.
“He looks like somebody’s dad,” Mr. Gastman replied.

For the rest of the article, see The New York Times.

Two Poems by Zachary Kluckman

Zachary Kluckman

How we Water the Garden

Sing the dirty waters through my veins.
Kiss the sky with your breasts and touch me
with everything you have left in your hands.

This is the night, time
we set aside for dancing like children

to the sound of stars falling
and the wicked whisper of sheets
that we hear in one another’s breathless speech.

Sing a song of wicked ways.
Hands that fold in prayer and get lost
on their way to the temple.
Distracted by the offerings
of swollen lips and fevered flesh
around the neck, the rose fired freckles
you wear like a rosary. This road map

of the Netherlands your throat
makes between the breasts when you breathe.

Sing the wolf song of moonlight
that passes from sternum to skylight
when I find myself in the winter of your touch.

For some selfish bite I take from your kiss
exile me to the windless wild places
between your shoulder-blades.

Make maps of starlight with your teeth
when you smile and leave me stray
between your legs, abandon me

to the reckless flesh,
the thoughtless sweat
that taunts my lips with thirsty hints
of rain that smells like the skin
around your navel, sand as smooth
as the bone that lifts from your hips
when we dance, when we lift our lips
to the sweet precipice

and when the sky sings your stubborn name
against the sky for the wind to scrub away
and hide in the hollow tree of my throat,

remember to sift the dirt over my chest
with your fingers and come to me often
with your song of dirty waters.


A Screenplay for the Skin

For every free movement we make
across the frozen tundra
of these rigid bodies, a finger is lost.

Lost to the snow drifts and cracked skin
of hypothermic hands, ungloved
by naive faith in the forgetfulness of fingerprints.

The simple trust we place in a touch,
a hand held too long against the cheek
of lovers whose passions have cooled.

This misanthropic love we sell
like overeager realtors to these bodies.
Taking occupancy with visions of a buyer’s market

where the economy of touch will turn
and the climate change
from Siberian steppes
to mid-summer coastlines.

We refuse to remove our hands
from the windows of these frigid factories
our dreams become, churning out

an endless stream of small talk
and pleasantries. Warming our bodies
too quickly,
moving them against one another

with one last effort
to build a fire from friction
on the packed ice of this bed.
Wondering if they will ever make movies

of this heroic endurance.
Wondering, like the ticket holders
if there will be any survivors to cheer.

A Perfect Day–what is yours?

My husband Rich first turned me on to the writing of New York Times columnist Verlyn Klinkenborg. I think if I could suddenly write like someone else I’d wish to be him. These essays are short, but so lucid. If Basho were writing newspaper essays today, they’d be like Klinkenborg.
But what really captured our interest in this one is the idea of hesitating to call a day perfect. What do you think? What is your perfect day?
In any case, have a nice weekend! I’m off with Tres Chicas–we’ll be on the women’s show on KUNM on Saturday at noon and at Acequia Booksellers in Albuquerque at 3 pm on Sunday. Hope to see you!

Editorial | The Rural Life
One Fine Day
Last week, there was a day I hesitate to call perfect only because I would hate it if the perfect day had already come and gone in my life. But when that perfect day comes at last it will probably resemble the one last week. The western breeze had cleaned the sun and purified the light, which fell moteless on the farm.
I recognized the day. It’s the one that’s inconceivable in mid-winter. It’s also the one in which mid-winter itself is inconceivable — an antipodal day. The entrances to the hives were yellow with pollen rubbed off as the bees came and went, jodphured with the stuff. It was a woodchuck day, too, with all of them out, heads high, looking like grass-otters. As I walked up from the barn, a pair of blond kit foxes — raised on my April chickens — spilled out of the culvert and scampered up the fence line.
Life seems raw and irrepressible on a day like that. Every niche is fully occupied. At dawn, I walk through one spider trap after another, trailing silk. Any object I move, I discover a colony of creatures behind or under or inside it. This is a farm of overlapping settlements and empires, and I plod through undoing the ant and earwig nations just by moving a five gallon bucket or a fence rail.
I take refuge in the chaos of life here. It is what we have — “we” meaning the kinship of all species. The strange part about being human is that “life” so easily comes to mean a quantity of time, an allotment of experience. We note that we are alive, without recognizing that we are, for a time, indomitable organisms sharing a planet with indomitable organisms of every other kind.
These are pure-sun, western-breeze thoughts, steam rising from compost. But on the day I mean, it seemed like a tossup. Either everything was sentient along with me, or we were all sharing a vital insentience. That was the kind of day it was.