Saturday, February 27, 2010

Just a city poem

I’m in a strange city. As I emerge from the trainyard, with the tracks stretching ahead and behind me, I’m looking for a landmark, a destination. Nothing is familiar, yet everything is familiar: long blocks of masonry and cornices, long blocks of Lustron and glass block, long blocks of signs and parked cars, long blocks of streetcar rail and cable in the air, disappearing beyond a turn in the boulevard. Nothing seems new, not the buildings, not the dusty road, not the signs or the cars, not even the derelict men lingering and shuffling at the corners. They don’t see me.

I’m running. Fear’s not why I’m running. It’s just that sometimes I feel the need to move fast, to beat it across the pavement, to get somewhere. Only I’m not getting anywhere. I’m on one side of the boulevard, flat and long and dusty. Sepia, almost. Particulate permeating the air. The boulevard has a diagonal turn, an elbow. As I pass it, all I can see is more and more and more city stretching on and on ahead. I run past one striking building, its name immortalized in blue and white tile above the entrance. One landmark in a sea of faceless edifices.

It has no name, this city, and there’s no one here I know. I’m looking for you in the reflections of the shop windows, in the windows of the streetcars as they shudder down the road, in the faces of the walkers as they brush past me on the sidewalk. I stop and stand still for a moment, turning ‘round, breathless, lost. Lost in beautiful decay, its living heart pulsing beneath its deceptive surface. Here I am. I don’t know where I stand. Find some way of telling me.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Interior manifestation

For what purpose this life,
the body a mysterious object;
this particular consciousness,
a mind both whole and opaque;
this particular moment
so strange and yet so ordinary?
Where is its radiance?

Here is a raw geode, unbroken;
I can hold it in my hand and it
appears as simply a stone might—
rough and cool, a weight in my palm.
But from within I can feel the heat
radiating outward—as I
brush the dust from the crevices
I know inside there lies dormant a
glittering core, a heart of vibrant color.
Understanding this, I close my eyes:
you are whole, but transparent to me.
Tell me—do I dare split it open?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

More great gym ideas

Okay, so I work out at the Y, which is a pretty great place, but I have a few ideas which could improve the experience, and also the attendance. The first is environmental in nature. I thought of all the collective workouts happening all over the country and the world, and thought: why can't they hook up the stationary bikes and rowing machines to the power grid, so that we are all generating energy which can be put to good use, and which is made by burning calories instead of coal? I know I'm not the first to think of this--so c'mon! I bet more people would go to the gym if they thought they'd be helping out the planet too.

The second has to do with the very special Expresso bikes. (This reminds me of the time at the University of Chicago when the newspaper editor joked he was going to the Henry Crown Gymnasium to work out on the Lexis-Nexis machines--which incidentally is a law database) Anyway, the Expresso bikes have various scenic routes to ride, and they also have a video game which features Chinese dragons. This is all very good, but I have some better game ideas.

How about "Cyclo Driver: Streets of Hanoi, Vietnam"? Your goal is to drive your cyclo from the university to the No Noodles shop without getting hit by a crazy motorcyclist! Bonus points at intersections.

Or what about "North Shore X-treme Crazy Mountain Bike Ride"? The more jumps, drops, and skinny tracks through the Pacific Northwest terrain, the better!

Or, finally, "2 AM: Ukrainian Village to Lakeview, Chicago." Nothing like a smooth ride down those city streets when the traffic is quiet and last call has just been made.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Three places, with rain

Thirsty desert dust, primeval Sierra mountains behind me,
sitting on the Renault outside a cowboy bar when it starts to rain
big heavy tears, as the Nevada plain stretches out in front of me.

Monsoon in the jungle, tall bamboo, sugar cane and bananas
and a little girl holding the biggest damn grasshopper;
It’s the size of a lobster, and somehow I’m not even fazed.

Sitting on top of a slick wet grave, the one that says “Going.”
The one next to it says “Good,” so depending on which way
you look at them, it’s Good Going or Going Good.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Unspoken [excerpt]

There is no single place: for me there are so many,
like shards of broken glass, shattered across the small planet--
etched into my skin like scars; they form patterns in the
muscle and bone; they are the well-worn synapses.
I think to myself, “hey, that’s in the realm of poetry,
sacred, you know.” You can only give those stories away,
like a song, like a flower left in secret on your doorstep,
like a hand on your shoulder, that moment of warmth.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Hyde Park dream

This dream started very far away from Hyde Park (Chicago), as I was picking up some intermittent work from Leary & Wilson, framing a building which looked a lot like the Shelburne Winery (at the stage where we were standing walls). I said something funny to Crippy, and then I realized it wasn't Crippy, it was just another guy who looked like him. All the crew that I had known in the past was gone. Ben seemed different too, but I really noticed when he lit a cigarette (in real life, Ben doesn't smoke).

But shortly I found myself in Hyde Park, making my way back to my office from class. The quads were green and lush, and the ivy was bright and growing rampantly all over the stone walls. I decided to shortcut through one of the gothic buildings--a large one--but realizing that it was not one which I was very familiar with. On the inside, I discovered that there wasn't an identical set of wooden doors on the other side of the building, but instead a huge open stone or slate staircase. Above and all around were the typical gothic details you find in those buildings. I decided to go upstairs and have a look around. There was a fellow coming up behind me, maybe in his late 50s. He said, "are you on the way to [mumbled] class?" I said no, that I was just having a look around, but then I got curious. On the uppermost floor, I could see where the class was being held, and I went in. It had already started, but it looked like it was being team-taught by the guy who had followed me up the stairs, and another fellow. I gathered it was a philosophy/science class--the philosophy of science? But rather more specific in nature. I sat down and took out my notebook; I thought it might be fun to listen in on lecture.

The lecture started with a discussion of the Litt-Avis Overconverter (if anything should ever be named this, I insist upon credit!). I realized that the second professor was wearing a blue shirt, and his haircut was distinctly Spock-like. After class, the professor who'd followed me up the stairs stopped to talk with me, and we were going on for a bit when I realized that I had missed the lecture I was supposed to attend (the 111 class that I am the TA for here at UMass) and was already halfway into my office hours. I started in a run for Social Sciences (ah you dreamer, thinking your office is in Social Sciences!) and didn't make it before I woke up.