Friday, November 17, 2017

White Rabbit - for Songbook 9 - at Post 134, Alberta Street

Blogging, first time in a while. Feels weird. Everything's different. Yet nothing has changed.

Maybe I'd like to make this a habit ... idea for a future blog, why have I resisted blogging for such a long time?

Anyway, that's for a future post. Right now I want to share that I'll be reading tomorrow night at Post 134 on Alberta Street, series called Songbook. I'm really excited to be doing this. I think I was at the very first Songbook reading and I thought, holy shit. This is awesome. I want to be included on this dais. And so somehow I managed to introduce myself to Adam Strong, the cat who hosts this series, and even become friends with him. And in fact I'm his regular sub for his digital arts class. (But that too is food for a future blog as well.)

So without further ado, here's the piece I'll be reading tomorrow. Enjoy!


Dad had a Realistic amplifier / tuner. It was all tubes, baby. Bragged about picking it up at the RadioShack – back when RadioShack actually meant radio. We’re talking Hi-Fi here, sound an audiophile might lose their shit over. It had a face that would glow green with AM numbers all the way from the 500’s, and up into the stratosphere. And it had FM too, baby. This thing would play in stereo, with speakers so big, the bass would make your bell-bottom trousers rattle like an actual bell had just been rung.

And Dad would take out the Jefferson Airplane record, Surrealistic Pillow, place the needle down on track number 2. Hear the crackling – that warm analog sound – as the needle digs down deep into the grooves, cleaning out the dust with that popping and static. Hear it …

When the truth is found – to be lies
And all the joy within you – dies
Don’t you want somebody to love?
Don’t you need somebody to love?
Wouldn’t you love somebody to love?
You better find somebody to love …

But this piece isn’t about that.

Flip the record over, side 2, track 5 – “White Rabbit.” 2-1/2 minutes of pure pop sensation, moving from innocence and perception into a crescendo of psychedelic bliss and Lewis Carroll imagery: the Queen of Hearts, that caterpillar smoking hookah, Through the Looking Glass

But we’re not there yet.


In our house, Saturday mornings meant house cleaning, and Saturday Morning Cartoons – something this generation has no concept of. Now they can get their cartoon fix whenever and wherever they are. Whenever that imperious urge strikes, just pull out your device and connect to the nearest Wi-Fi, hotspot, 4G streaming, and view the latest adventures of Gumball, or Steven’s Universe, Teen Titans – parodies of the great shows that we would wake up for early on a Saturday morning. I’m talking the Super Friends, Superman and Wonder Woman, the Adventures of Batman and Robin, all teamed together with Aquaman, the Flash, and of course the Wonder Twins with their monkey sidekick, Gleek. Gems of the Hanna-Barbera canon. Scooby-Doo and the Mystery Gang. Dick Dastardly and Muttley, Speed Buggy and Jabberjaw, Captain Caveman, the Super Harlem Globetrotters. These are some real gems here folks, some of the best writing for any 8 year-old mind!

Then we had the Warner Brother’s cartoons, shows our Dad would actually sit down and watch with us. Bugs Bunny and the Road Runner Show, Wile E. Coyote always trying to procure some device from ACME Inc. to help him catch that Road Runner – a 20 ton anvil to fall on his head, casks of TNT, roller-skates and electromagnets attached to train tracks, getting strapped to the back of a rocket (never a good idea), painting tunnels on cliffsides – and then actually getting steamrolled by a speeding locomotive. Defying Newton’s Laws of Gravity! We just loved it, Dad and all three of us boys.

Then it came time to clean the house. Every Saturday, spick and span. Literally, Dad did a white glove check to make sure that we dusted right. He had a sign in his garage that read CLEANLINESS IS NEXT TO GODLINESS. And he believed it too. But when it came time to cleaning, he knew what we needed. We needed music – especially for the vacuuming – and Dad was our DJ.

And that was when he would take out the Surrealistic Pillow record. A simple album cover, the band’s logo written in pink with a black and white picture of the group. There’s Paul Kantner sitting with the headstock of a fiddle covering his right eye. And the drummer, Spencer Dryden, holding up a banjo for some reason. And there’s young Marty Balin, holding a flute. And why is Jack Casady staring off to the right for some reason? And there’s Jorma Kaukonen, lead guitarist, looking as heavy as possible, wearing dark shades and striped shirt.

But there in the center, Grace Slick, the ringleader, the lion tamer, looking as pretty as ever, somehow managing to keep this motley bunch of pranksters together. Leader, by default.

But not without contest.

And there’s Dad, pushing that vacuum, singing along. And there’s Pat and me and Timmy, pulling couch away from wall so we can chase the dust bunnies back there.

And now here comes side two of the record, opens with the rocker “3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds,” which is followed by the mellow gold of “DCBA-25.” Takes you right into that zone.

Then “How Do You Feel” – has that Mammas and Pappas groove, sung in harmonies by Paul Kantner, Marty Balin, and Grace Slick. Then that gives way to Jorma Kaukonen’s acoustic masterpiece, “Embryonic Journey.” Beautiful, melodic acoustic guitars.

Which leads then into Jack Cassidy strumming out that bass line, a trance – the exotic, eastern sounds of “White Rabbit’s” intro. It’s in like an invitation, taken up by cadence, now tapped out on snare, a jazzy march – transports us to some other destination, maybe a riverboat, fully shaped now by hypnotic drone of guitar, feeling something like a snake charmer as Grace Slick replies …

One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don’t do anything at all
Go ask Alice – when she’s 10 feet tall

She chants; her vocals informing us now of this ceremony taking place – we are not just spectators.

Her low, lamenting tenor is mysterious, sexy. Grace Slick. She is the Acid Queen, prophetic, and this dance is timeless – the 2-1/2 minute song could last forever, seems to touch infinity; takes up so much presence, says so much in such a brief moment.

The perfect pop song, conjuring Alice in Wonderland – we are all players on this chess board, vacuuming the house, stacking chairs on kitchen table, to run that vacuum under kitchen table, behind curtains and couches and carpets. Cleanliness is next to godliness!

Takes us back to San Francisco – Top of the Mark. Eating dim sum in Chinatown with Aunt Peach and Uncle Dick. Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, now cloaked in fog.

Then hearing the stories before the three of us boys were even born. Dad, driving school bus on the hills in San Francisco, down Lombard Street. Mom riding the bus with her sister at five years old in the 1950’s with Aunt Mable.

Now Mom at Cal, pregnant with my older brother, walking through a protest – as the riot stops and pauses, waits for her to pass, as she goes on to her next class – and then starts up once again and she is safe. Vietnam War and Civil Rights, protests and marches – the 60’s that were just before my time.

Logic and proportion, the Mad Hatter – we’re all mad now! And as we run that vacuum cleaner, Dad singing away, playful gleam in his eye.

And now here we are, five days before Thanksgiving, we can all remember what the door mouse said, stuffing ourselves with turkey and cranberries, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie – hear the ghost of my Dad – spooky, groovy – and sing along with me now:

Remember what the door mouse said,
Feed your head!

Feed your head!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Dark Matter

Originally published in Copyright © July 2015 – This Dark Matter

1 – The Opening: Breakfast

She drops the newspaper on my desk
and tells me 85%

85% of what?
I ask


She drops the newspaper on my kitchen table
and tells me 85%

Between the coffee and the half and half I have left out
and the crumbs from my toast – pumpernickel rye with butter

An article from the Wall Street Journal or some other
reputable news source

85% of what?
I ask

Over 1/4 of the universe
she says, it’s dark matter

I thought you just said 85%
I say

Doesn’t matter – it’s all dark matter
she says

How do we know this?
I ask

Doesn’t matter
she tells me, they’re coming together
1 mile beneath the earth

I ask

The scientists
she tells me, they’re coming together
to conduct experiments
for 300 days

they will congregate
1 mile beneath the earth
in South Dakota
the Black Hills
she tells me

Hiding from Cosmic Rays
these scholars will study and chant
and pray and search
for some proof of this Dark Matter

Burning incense
with vows of silence and secrecy
in a trance-like state
on the gravitational pull

It brings things together
she says, it’s like the glue of the Universe

And then what?
I ask

And then you can finish
your pumpernickel toast
she tells me

2 – The Conjuring: Invitation

I see you looking over your shoulders
what were you doing out there in South Dakota

1 mile below those snow capped
Black Hills, burning incense

Chanting the names of your idols
over and over –

Darwin, Dawkins
Hawking, Voltaire

In a trance-like state
for three hundred days they’ve gathered

These mystic priests of science
hiding from cosmic rays

Shooting out gamma rays
to find this elusive stuff

This Dark Matter
what is this stuff that makes up

More than 85% of our known universe?
they haven’t got a clue

But now they’re saying it’s destroying itself
inside the Milky Way’s core

This has now become urgent!

3 – The Gathering: Banquet

How would you describe your sense of vision to someone who cannot see?
How would you explain the Grand Canyon to a blind man?
How would you describe the taste of a Granny Smith sour apple
to a person without a tongue, or a cappuccino to someone who cannot taste?
That sensation … how would you describe Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique
or Brian Eno’s Ascent to a deaf man?

What are they doing down there?

That sensation … to feel, to smell, the scent of fresh bread
or an apple pie cooling in a window sill.
How would you describe that
to a person who cannot –
who cannot?

What are they doing down there?

You can see them working feverishly in the shadows of their gamma rays
hiding from all light and cosmic rays and other high energy particles
and weakly interacting massive particles – we only know they’re there
by measuring the gravity released, absolved, acquit, annul, void

What are they doing down there?

Dispersed, displaced, relegate,
supersede, supplant, unmake,
usurp, uncrown, exiled, banished, deposed,
it’s keeping me up at night
I cannot sleep – this dark matter is affecting me
this dark matter – it has affected me …

You can see the silhouettes of these mystics
dressed in robes with cokebottle lenses
in a trance chanting to their gods
these monks of science in white labcoats and pocket protectors
stuffed with a cargo of pens and mechanical pencils, a sliderule

Clutching scientific calculators and iPads
reams of yellow legal paper
with calculations and inscriptions
searching for proof of this dark matter
proof of their very existence – of their soul
and of God himself

What are they doing down there?

These pujaris ripping off their clothing
dancing to the firepit and to the drums
and to the gravity
bringing everything together
existence and consciousness and other worlds
and otherworldliness

In vows of celibacy
in prayer and meditation
in study and in trance
burning, burning, testing procedures and hypotheses
experiments and research
burning and burning the midnight oil
that fragrant incense

How would you describe that smell to someone who wasn’t there
to someone who could not smell
who did not have the ability
olfactory system gone
no taste, no scent
those shadows bouncing off the stone wall
deep within the cave

1 mile beneath the earth
the snow capped Black Hills of South Dakota
how would you describe this scene
to those who cannot see
to those who cannot discern
the colors, the shadows
bouncing off each other

What are they doing down there?

The orange light, the fires
the green flames, the blue core
the white, the hellish red
those men of science
these mystic bodhisattvas
these priests of Algebra and of quantum theory
these searchers

How would you describe this scene to those who were not there
to those who cannot feel the immensity of the universe
of the gravitational pull
of the longing
of the pull of the dance
and the rhythm and the chanting

How would you describe this scene to those who cannot feel
who cannot know that there is something else out there
that there is something beyond the gravity
beyond what we know

Only 15% of the universe is not dark matter, for Shiva’s sake
for the wrath of Ganesh –
oh holy Krishna, oh mighty Vishnu
how can we describe this scene to those
who were not there
and do you think that these 5 senses
are the only ones?

What are they —

4 – The Closing: Maintenance

Please don’t forget
she tells me, to clean up the crumbs
from your pumpernickel toast
and kisses me
on the forehead

Friday, October 9, 2015

Death Is Like a River

Originally published in Perfume River Poetry Review  Issue 3: Night Terrors, Copyright © 2015 – Tourane Poetry Press


Death is like a river, the color of burgundy wine
flowing down the mountain toward the ocean, vast and wide
so much potential

Pinewood boxes carry dead soldiers
convoys of ships going down
never to be realized, planted
fruits of their achievements

There’s a revival happening right now
in my living room, daughter singing the blues
carving pumpkins – O Death, do your worst!

Ghosts of our past haunt our present
howling rattling chains we ignore
these ghosts move through our lives unnoticed

O Death, you visit me each morning, embrace me at night
the dew on the grass soaks through my stockings, mud clings to my knees

Your boney fingers embrace my neck
tighten around my throat
this honeymoon of death
this funeral of eternity
this sleep

He comes to us when we do not expect him
this black-cloaked phantasm
he comes when we aren’t ready
and visits our loved ones

I carve your white skull
empty it of its contents
light a candle to shine
from your eyes


So much potential wasted
young men and women returning
in a pinewood boat, sailing
that burgundy river
draped with a flag

It’s getting colder these nights
I walked by two people
on the street holding a sign
on my way to the theater

You can go deeper into the unknown if you choose
turning back from what is safe and comfortable into something else

I saw Anthony Bourdain kill a goat on TV last night
suffocated under watchful eye of the tribal king
to keep in the blood

Ignore it, pretend it does not exist
Death comes when it comes
it does not know fair
it does not have principles
or ethics

You don’t have to go to Syria or Afghanistan
you can sit by a parking structure, hold a cardboard sign
meet Death there too

Death does not discriminate
that cold chill lurks, returning
into nothingness

Sunday, May 10, 2015

New Blog Post

Sunday may 10, 2015

What a weird day. Okay, well it's Mother's Day. And so I'm finally blogging again. And that's not the weird part. But today I was assistant pastoring at church for the 8:30 service, and so I got up at 5:30 this morning. And then I took an allergy pill. But I've been sneezing all day!

I should have taken it at night.

Then the kids woke up as I was finishing writing my prayers. And they were like - were going to make mom breakfast in bed ...

So we'll see if that happens.

And then at church today Noris had to be helped out with a wheelchair. And I gave Elain a hug after helping her husband sit in the chair. It's though getting old; it's tougher watching your husband get old.

And more ...

I need to take Teare out to lunch/brunch somewhere. Cameo? Heathman Lodge? Hudson's Bar and Grill?

We will see ...

Sunday, June 22, 2014

World Cup Sonnet

It was the summer of ’94 and
I remember it because it was the
year the U.S. was hosting the World Cup –

and up in Palo Alto the Brazilians
were dominating the games to the
rhythm of their metal drums & djimbés

and we could feel the energy coming
down from Stanford to where I lived in San
Jose, in the barrio and farther south

into Los Gatos – they were dancing &
celebrating : the pulse of the salsa
and the hard hard rhythms,
and the futbol.

And I would stay up all night in those days
& stand bare-chested on my balcony
overlooking El Salvador’s house and

he, waking up early, drinking canned beer,
watering his plants & shouting up to me,
Did you see the game last night? Beautiful!

In Los Gatos – all night, man! – the women
and Brazilians wearing the yellow and
the green – the colors of true champions

Monday, January 20, 2014

Me English Degree

My English degree
is great at teaching me
to think for myself;
exactly what's discouraged
in this modern business world

#tanka #micropoetry
8 August 2013

Funny How When

Funny how when
the boss says, have a good evening
it sounds as if
he truly means it; that is
until I look at my paystub

#tanka #micropoetry
8 August 2013