Thursday, November 19, 2015

dial tone

Terms from the last century, artifacts from another age, which if said rapidly, fait la liaison, as the French say (and as Phil Ochs did it in song), sounds like "another rage": dial tone, land line, busy signal, modem hookup, Polaroid, dial, rotary, party line, long distance, directory assistance. What did these words mean in the 20th century? And what do they mean in this age? Each of them meant something. Each has a lexical hangover of some sort or another, masquerading and strutting as if these words could declare, as they used to, quite automatically, "Everyone gets it. Everyone knows what I'm talking about!" Who could not be jealous of such linguistic surety, such bold certitude? Now, these words or phrases are relics, on the shore, verbal driftwood, polished into alien sculptures.

Monday, November 16, 2015

all hung up

On the corner, dangling from a pay phone, a relic from another age, like hardware we left on the lunar landscape, a piece of plastic attached by a metal umbilical cord: the talking and hearing implement. Is there a busy signal? A dial tone? Hello? Hello. Anybody there? Anybody walking by? Excuse me. Hello?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


One measure (the hip and already worn out word is metric or metrics) of my well being and well bearing today is to succeed in avoiding metrics. By that I mean, I will have achieved some measure of serenity if I have enough spiritual stamina to AVOID going to the Createspace website or the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) website, both tentacles of, to feel the pulse of my paperback or e-book sales, more typically, lack of sales. It does me no good whatsoever to gauge the financial or egotistical temperatures of these ventures. It costs me too much in the wages of attachment. I do better to ignore such empty calculi, laden with expectation and self-validation. And stuff like that.

Friday, November 06, 2015

woman down

As I open the door to exit the senior-living facility, I am startled by someone facing me, in my face, more accurately. A thin, frail elderly resident, trying to get in. Do we both scream? We surprise each other. She is falling backward. It is all happening in slow motion, as they say. But it really feels that way. I am somehow summoned out of my slo-mo reverie. By what? I grab her, brace her, sort-of catch her in midair as she goes down. I break her fall. She lands on her rear or her arm or her leg. I cannot say for sure. Does she bounce against the railing? She does not hit her head. I help her up. We were both scared witless. Are you okay? Yes, she says. She says she thought she heard someone (me), from the outside, as if to scold herself for not preventing the incident. She talks about how easily she bruises. She lives next door to my mom. Are you sure you are all right? Yes, she says. We talk some more. As William Carlos Williams put it, "so much depends." Yes, so much depended. Could've been far worse. Phew. Hashtag grateful. You sure you are all right. Yes. Boy, I'm glad I wasn't speeding out that door.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

on the spectrum

surely I am on the spectrum

but whose or of what

spectrum of hues

missed cues

crowded by static

or worse yet stasis

hyperfocused or is it hyperfocussed

socially obtuse

you don't get it
I got it

who doesn't

fumble fear


off the spectrum

floating in dark matter





Tuesday, November 03, 2015

sign, interrupted

I woke up Sunday morning to see a street sign lying on the ground, injured or dead (who can say?). The sign had two messages affixed to its pole: one prohibiting parking from the posted spot to the corner, the other permitting parking on odd-numbered days starting at 6 p.m. How the sign found itself in the prone position, rather than the standard vertical one, is a mystery. It's a mystery to me, but not to everyone. The normally-rooted-in-the-ground metal pole holding the sign's message was severed near the bottom, seemingly sheared. An unbloody stump remained in the ground. How did this happen? It would take some force. A thump was heard in the night, the morning hours. Did a vehicle hit it? I saw no tracks to indicate that. Did Halloween mischief makers make mischief? How? What are we to make of this, if anything at all?

Saturday, October 31, 2015

luxurious decay

Luxurious decay. Obvious name for a punk band. But I'm talking leaves. October. October 31, to be exact. Autumn. Fall. Emerald rust burnt sienna crimson gold amber honey tangerine flame cream verdant straw ad infinitum. Luxurious and ample and lush and abundantly wild colors, textures, shades, hues, intensity. All that. And guess what? It's all from one thing: death. Yet what a carnival! A riotous festival. Swirling rot. Achingly gorgeous life and death cavorting together, or lazily reclining side by side on the welcoming earth.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

stop means stop

You see the signs adorning many corners: an addendum, or gloss, on the larger sign on the same metal post sporting the imperative STOP. (This codicil strikes me as a suburban phenomenon, reflecting a hyperattentive concern for propriety and rectitude one associates with American exurbia.) That STOP surely is a verb, not a noun announcing the type of action required at the junction. STOP MEANS STOP presumably means drivers who are supposed to be stopping are merely pausing. Or not stopping long enough, or not at all. If we are going to parse propriety, let's go further. Perhaps the editorial sign commenting on STOP should instead say: 'Stop' means stop. Or "Stop" [not the single quotes you see in headings] means stop. But let's go further. STOP MEANS STOP actually risks sending the opposite of its presumably intended message. You would never post such a message unless the word "stop" were being routinely ignored. So, how does replicating the word, repeating it, strengthen its force? Does it not weaken the word "stop"? Does it mimic the situation of a parent remonstrating a child, perhaps loudly, as the child clearly knows the word carries no force if not enforced? As a codicil upon a codicil, let me say that I suspect some visitors who read the title of this post arrived here by serpentine paths. They may have twinned STOP MEANS STOP with NO MEANS NO as an expression of sexual consent, or rather its lack. So, how does that alter the arc of the conversation? Or does it? We can milk this; we can explore endless variations. Peace means peace. War means war. Love means love. Hate means hate. Go means go. Walk means walk. Buy means buy. Sit means sit. Listen means listen. Talk means talk. Stop this means stop this.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Man Down

He was sitting on what might be termed a grassy knoll, not far from the arboretum. Sitting on a patch of grass between the curb and the sidewalk. A man with a dark beard, and glasses. Maybe in his forties. Or fifties. Or sixties. Who can tell anymore? Sitting, almost reclining. Not looking ill but possibly so. Not looking anxious; but possibly so; looking tired. Looking like someone with COPD who can only take so many steps. I was driving by. I was on the way to the bank, already late for an appointment scheduled after my stop at the bank. (Actually, my appointment was scheduled for 10, but I was late by virtue, or vice, of squeezing in this bank visit, a visit later deemed beneficial owing to the fact I paid with cash.) I gave a glancing thought to stopping, at least to ask if Man Down was okay. He wasn't writhing. He looked almost comfortable. (What do any of these ludicrous adjectives or perhaps a participle mean or imply? And who is to say?) Still, I fought back feelings of guilt. I even sternly lectured myself, in imaginary, half-comical fashion: "Sure, if it were a lovely damsel in distress you'd stop, wouldn't you?" Would I? What would I say or do? I drove to the bank and conducted my bit of business. I then drove up the hill, in the same vicinity where I had spotted Man Down. This time, however, he was sitting down, almost reclining, looking tired but not injured, on a grassy knoll on the golf course, meaning he had advanced, perhaps a quarter-mile at most. He had seemingly progressed in his journey (was it a purposeless stroll? or a challenging walk toward a destination?), leaving me with a half-ounce less guilt.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

human trafficking

An upside-down neon-orange-red traffic cone, in a hole, in a sidewalk. West Fayette Street near South Geddes Street, Syracuse, New York. Although the traffic cone cannot speak, it evokes questions:
  • How did the traffic cone get there? Did a human or humans place it there after a human or humans fell or tripped at that spot? Did a human call another human at City Hall or at the DPW?
  • How long will the traffic cone reside there?
  • Where does this urban not-quite-infrastructure problem rank amidst the parade of priorities inexorably marching in place?
  • Is the mayor aware of this? Is the Common Council?
  • As with many problems in distressed cities in America, will this problem-concern-issue be ignored, becoming a "cone of uncertainty," or more aptly a cone of neglect, or cone of temporary potential caring, or cone of insouciance?
  • Is this upside-down silent traffic cone a megaphone shouting into the void, its cries muffled by traffic, concrete rubble, and indifference?
 "Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity." Simone Weil