Friday, March 11, 2016

MARFA Poetry Machine in 36 Things

                  --for Jason Dodge

The Lannan Foundation presented me with a generous fellowship to live and write in beautiful Marfa, Texas for two months.  My working class mother thinks I have pulled off a bank heist rather than anyone would be foolish enough to pay me to write my poems.  I said, “I know Mom I know, it is amazing with all the love our country gives to war and genocide that there is any left over for a poet!”  I did 36 Things a day for 36 days, taking notes between each Thing, the notes harvested later for the poems.  Here is a list of the Things I did each day to create the MARFA POETRY MACHINE:

Burn sage to honor a different living poet each morning, saying the poet’s name out loud while wearing a ceramic hamsa the poet Erica Kaufman gave me.  “This morning as every morning with poetry as my strength, I honor the poet ___________.”

Place the day’s food in a glass bowl surrounded by crystals that have been programed to boost cell proliferation and heighten organic vibrational patterns for greater nutritional gain.  The steady pulse of crystal frequencies saturating plants, beans and grains.

Watch sunrise on Edgar Cayce Institute Meditation Room webcam in Virginia Beach while giving Reiki to myself, preparing for the sun’s arrival in Texas.

An hour later watch sunrise on porch while giving myself Reiki.  Setting my day by the sun plugs me into a natural clock.

(I will have two sunrises a day with two time zones: One online in Virginia Beach, another in Texas.  But only one sunset to cheat the grave.)

While cooking breakfast play the album RISING by Yoko Ono next to the stove, her music finding its way into the fiber of the food as she sings, “Listen to your heart, respect your intuition, make your manifestation, there is no limitation, have courage, have rage, we’re all together.”

Chew each mouthful of breakfast 36 times, meditating on food cells becoming my own cells of Yoko-Crystal infusion.

Meditate on a postage stamp of Elvis Presley (a gift from friend Jenn McCreary) through a clear shaft of flawless citrine, the guardian gemstone of manifestation.

Wearing headphones sitting inside a closet with door closed listening to the length of a different Elvis song each day then as it finishes take notes by flashlight.

Standing in front of the house on Summer Street taking a slow 360-degree view, grateful for the people who make Marfa what it is.  You can surround yourself with the best art in the world, but what actually makes a town is its citizens, and Marfa is home to some of the most thoughtful people I have ever met. 

Sit on log bench in Summer Street Park.  Gaze at the landscape without blinking.  Close eyes and remember what was seen.  Open eyes and look for what was missed.  With each day the contents of the landscape grows more complete inside.  Later while falling asleep I visualize the park, recalling the details clearer and clearer throughout the 36 days.

Watch five and a half minutes of the movie GIANT that was filmed in Marfa (1955), starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean.  (Five and a half minutes times 36 is the length of the film).  “Bick, you shoulda shot that fella a long time ago.  Now he’s too rich to kill.” (A line of Uncle Bawley’s).

Focus on a color outside the Pueblo Market in the parking lot, buildings, or the sky: a yellow car or a bit of pink gum or an orange cat. Then walk the market aisles to find the same color on cans and other packaging and read the ingredients like on a can of peas as if it is the legend to a map.  And ask the label out loud, “HOW are these peas showing the way out of darkness to the sanctioned interior?”

All my life I have made friends with trees.  I take my magnifying glass to study the giant pine growing behind an abandoned building near Pueblo Market.  She is tall and old and Donald Judd must have taken notice of her perfect symmetry of branches holding herself in spaces of green, brown, and angelic exhale of crown.  There was an ant and I think she was the same ant, there most days crawling up the narrow ravines of bark.  I dabbed a little brown rice syrup on the bark, always eaten, always relished.

Place a penny on railroad tracks next to the post office.  Copper is the metal of Aphrodite – the goddess of Love – and we must not forget this, ever, that copper is her element on Earth.  Find flattened pennies from the day before and leave them on the sidewalk, squashed heads-up.

Walk a snake pattern through the long rows of enormous sotol plants at the corner of Oak & High outside Donald Judd’s Chinati Foundation.  This building houses the work of artist John Chamberlain and was originally known as Fort D. A. Russell.  In an essay, Judd wrote of the building and plants, “This large right angle was planted in a corresponding grid of sotol plants, an agave of the area, from which a liquor like tequila is made – just in case.”  (Reader, do you also LOVE the “just in case” at the end?)

At the Travis E. Self Memorial Park climb the sliding board.  Take notes at the top.  Send the notebook down the slide then follow it no matter who watches.

Climb hill near MARFA RAILROAD PEN.  Face across tracks, find three stationary objects then imagine a line connecting them.  Study contents of triangle especially look for the large dark chicken, she lives there and she is a beautiful chicken.

Sing to the large dark chicken even if she is not visible.  But sing like a chicken sing one very large dark chicken serenade she might appreciate.

Stand at intersection of Highland Avenue and San Antonio Street imagining a restaurant with a giant canvas at the entrance with brushes and paints for customers to use.  If a customer adds to the painting they get a free bottle of wine for their table.  The choice to not paint is a thousand dollars for a glass of water, a salad, or cookie, the high price of denying collaboration.

For years I have viewed Donald Judd’s work in museums as an immersed study on chakras, spinal discs aligned and often lit from within.  In Marfa I drive down route 67 South to see Judd’s massive concrete blocks in the desert, like the remains of a fallen giant a kilometer in length, spinal cord fossils with flesh of Texas wind and sand.  One afternoon two coyotes were having sex between the third and fourth vertebrate from the maw of the desert: a burst of pleasure beside the fallen.

Give a stranger a poetry broadside.

Read five pages a day of Marc Simmons’s 180 page book, WITCHCRAFT IN THE SOUTHWEST:  Spanish & Indian Supernaturalism on the Rio Grande.  (I found myself routing for the witches, no matter what misogynistic and bigoted prejudices the author attempted to instill.)

Each day sit on floor to follow Mary Wigman’s Witch Dance like a Jane Fonda workout video for the spirit.  I believe Wigman may be the first contemporary dancer to consciously use dance as trauma release.  In an interview she said, “I was once completely confused and unhappy.  I locked myself in the guest room of my parent’s home and in great consternation I sobbed and cried because I did not know anymore what to do with my life.  There on the spot I discovered suddenly that in all my unhappiness I was moving and I was moving in such a way that I had never moved before.  And also suddenly this moving became an expression, a speaking out.”  --Mary Wigman, dancer and choreographer.

The grocer said my sweet potato is organic, but I love all sweet potatoes, organic or filled with toxic sprays and fucked up genes.  I cradle my sweet potato, breast feed my sweet potato, rock her back and forth, singing her name, Tara, Tara OH MY LITTLE TARAAAAA.  My mother said this would have been my name if I had been born a girl.  I drew eyes, mouth, and painted a purple glitter skirt onto Sweet Potato Baby Doll.  I carry her with me in my bag to show to people I meet.  “Would you like to see Sweet Potato Baby Doll?  She is my avatar potato with a bit of lithium quartz embedded in her head to receive the transmissions of her day which is also our day.”

Close eyes and think of an embarrassment from the past.  Imagine the former self in the middle of the situation shrugging and laughing.

Find one natural item a day, a twig, little stone, feather, a bit of fluff on a breeze, and wind it, twist it into my longest strands of hair.  Leave it tangled in my hair while writing then untangle it.

Arrange found natural items on back porch, a growing machine.

28:  PAGE 36
Read page 36 of different books written by former Lannan Fellows.  For instance, “Expunging Palestinians politically or physically from Israel’s body politic is an idea with broad support within the admittedly narrow Zionist Political spectrum.” (from Ali Abunimah’s book The Battle for Justice in Palestine, from Haymarket Books.)

While cooking supper play the 2007 album YES, I’M A WITCH by Yoko Ono next to the stove, her music finding its way into the fiber of the food as she sings, “Yes, I’m a witch, I’m a bitch, I don’t care what you say, my voice is real, my voice is truth, I don’t fit in your ways...  Each time we don’t say what we want to say we’re dying.”

Chew each mouthful of my supper 36 times, meditating on food cells becoming my own cells of Yoko-Crystal infusion.

Watch sunset over the desert at end of Third Street while giving myself Reiki. 

Have one shot of Jack Daniels at The Lost Horse Saloon to meet people and enjoy this space where one night a woman rode a beautiful white horse INTO THE BAR!   Ask Tim Johnson at the Marfa Book Company, we were having a drink together.  The lost horse always finds its way.

Look for the Marfa Lights at the viewing station on Route 90.  Every night I saw them, sometimes as balls of white light rising from the earth, other nights riding the air sideways and changing colors.  Someone told me they were reflected car lights.  I said, “Oh really, then what were they in 1888 and earlier, long before the metal horse arrived in Marfa?”

Each night I play the CD DUET FOR PEN & PENCIL, ELECTRIC DIRT, composed by Christine Olejniczak.  Then I walk from room to room with a flashlight to study the house designed by architect Kristin Bonkemeyer.  I pause in each room to imagine her original blueprints of the building and say out loud, “THIS is where I write in Kristin’s drawing, THIS is where I play music in Kristin’s drawing; THIS is where I cook, eat and this is where I dream in Kristin’s drawing.”

Sit quietly on front porch hoping to spot the tribe of javelinas who like to eat the prickly pear cactus in the yard.  Several nights THERE THEY WERE, little chattering tusks, hairy, stinky, and glorious to behold.

Burn sage to honor a deceased poet each evening.  “This evening as every evening with poetry as my strength, I honor the poet ___________.”  For instance, R.I.P. Amiri Baraka who died the first week I was in Marfa.

I was raised by people who spent many years of their lives working in factories where they were treated like bad children who needed to be disciplined for demanding health care and a livable wage. They formed unions to combat the company, and local, state and federal governments all poised against them.  I did these 36 Things for them.  Freedom, poetry, and Love for them.  Amiri Baraka said, “A man is either free or he is not.  There cannot be any apprenticeship for freedom.”  The resulting poems are a poetic measurement titled WIDTH OF A WITCH ((SAMPLES of the poems HERE and HERE.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

from (Soma)tic Poetry Rituals I Want To Do But Will Not Be Allowed To Do: Presidential Shoe Transmission

Sit on the president’s shoes under their desk in the Oval Office.  The vibration of their blood pushing into me, their decisions for drone attacks and negotiations costing untold human lives coursing through my body as I write notes for a poem.  I will worry I am too heavy for their feet, but remind myself that they are the president and will not have a problem letting me know if their feet fall asleep.

Peel an orange and offer the first section to the president.  If they accept I must write notes while holding an exaggerated smile in the muscles of my face.  If they decline the fruit I will hold a frown in the muscles of my face.  A poet offering fruit to a president.  What does the orange feed both physically and spiritually?  How are we tied to policies of war and consumption by a president?  Take notes for the poem, waiting for them to leave the room, allowing me to find a bed or bathtub to curl inside for a nap.  When I wake I write more notes.

Sunday, January 10, 2016


Denise Levertov is buried in Lake View Cemetery in Seattle, Washington.  For this (Soma)tic poetry ritual I would first walk through Volunteer Park which is next to the cemetery, one of the most beautiful urban parks I have ever had the pleasure to visit.  Crows are one of my favorite kinds of people on Earth and there are thousands of them in Seattle living like pigeons do in other cities and several in Volunteer Park knew I would feed them and would follow me from tree to tree until I sat in the grass.  In animal spirit lore the crow represents finding our higher authority, choosing a more enlightened direction for our lives.  After feeding the crows I would take notes for the poem, then close my eyes to listen to the world around me for a little while.

I would then walk into the cemetery, giving myself 27 minutes after passing through the gates to locate the poet Denise Levertov’s headstone.  If I did not find it I would spend an hour in front of the grave where I stood.  Bruce Lee is also buried at Lake View and his dedicated super fans would take the pilgrimage.  Throughout the afternoon young men whipped off their shirts to do marital arts moves in front of the headstone while their girlfriends made videos with their phones, those distinct sounds Bruce Lee made with his voice being imitated, echoing throughout the cemetery.  I am certain I am not the only one to read a Denise Levertov poem aloud with Bruce Lee sound effects as the backup vocals.  I would read, “He himself must be / the key, now, to the next door, / the next terrors of freedom and joy.”

The best rituals are when the unexpected inserts itself.  One day while looking quietly for Levertov there was a young man watching me.  He was dressed in black with thick black eye liner and fingernail polish.  He wanted to know what I was doing, said he had been watching me.  I asked why he was there and he told me he liked to masturbate behind a shrub while watching the half naked young men do karate.  What shrub, I didn’t see a shrub.  He took me to the shrub that was no one where near Bruce Lee, but of course we could hear the super fans making their warrior cries.  We had sex everyday from that point on, and it became part of my ritual and part of my notes for the poem.  When I found Levertov he wanted us to ejaculate on her grave but I vehemently forbade it, stating that we should only consecrate a gravesite if the poet would appreciate a shower of our semen, like Jack Spicer, John Wieners, or some other faggot poet.  I insisted that Levertov needed our tenderness and we kissed instead and held hands while I read the poem “The Broken Sandal” where she says, “Where was I going I can’t go to now, unless hurting? / Where am I standing, if I’m / to stand still now?”  The notes became a poem titled POEM AS STORM NOT AS REFUGE.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Friday, November 27, 2015


I occupied a busy street corner in Asheville, North Carolina to bless children with bubbles that will make them queer.  Not gay and lesbian, but QUEER!  Bubbles of course do not have such powers, bubbles have only the power to be bubbles, and some parents knew that and thought the whole thing was funny and would say, “That’s cool, I will love my children no matter what.”  I took notes for the poem.

But MOST parents were not happy about Queer Bubbles at all, “Ooo bubbles, look at the bubbles sweet heart, look at the pretty bubbles.”  I would blow bubbles for their little hands and say, “These bubbles will assure that your child will grow up to be a healthy, happy, revolutionary Queer who will help rid the world of homophobia, misogyny, racism and other forms of stupidity.”  Parents pulled away nervously saying “Sorry, sorry.”  One mother abruptly yanked her blond son’s hand, “C’mon honey ice cream, ice cream!”  The boy cried, reaching for the bubbles as she refused to look in my direction, pulling him from the queering of the bubbles.  Most parents though just said “Sorry, I’m sorry” as they walked away.  I took notes for the poem.

The fear of queer will not dissolve with sorry, the apology is not acceptable, especially if their children grow up to be queer.  Asheville purports to be a liberal, laid back city, but Queer Bubbles pulled the veil aside for a closer look.  One man said, “Jesus loves you.”  I said, “I don’t think so.”  His face screwed up and he yelled “YES HE DOES!”  Jesus loves the queers, isn’t that nice?  And his angry messenger roams the street to tell us so.  WE MUST INSIST that a redistribution of wealth always include The Love.  How can we be there for one another?  How can we be assured that everyone gets The Love?  Notes from the ritual became a poem.


(Soma)tic Poetry Ritual for the Pulitzer Foundation’s
2014 Exhibit “Art of Its Own Making”

The Mona Lisa was wrapped in fine red satin and sealed in a specially designed wooden box before being transported to the countryside in 1939.  Art in the middle of war needs dedicated stewards to keep it hidden from invaders.  Even with the most trusted well-trained people a museum’s curators and other staff can fall prey to enemy gunfire, poison gas or drone attacks.  You are in the museum alone at night and the staff’s dead bodies are stacked in the basement.  You have a chance to save one piece of art before the looting begins, what do you save?  What are your criteria for choosing which to save, because it’s the most valuable, the most popular, because it’s your favorite, or what?  Take notes.

(Soma)tic poetry rituals provide a window into the creative viability of everything around us, initiating an extreme present.  Documentary notes are not important; in fact the movements we make inside the ritual inform the way the notes come out of us, no need for exacting detail.  Take notes as fast as you can, faster than you can think about what you are writing.  Later type the notes into a single document, print it out then carry it around to extract lines and words to shape your poem.  Approach your chosen work of art, thinking about the safest way to remove it from its mount on the wall or floor.  What tools do you imagine needing?  Stop to take more notes.  You will live with it hidden in your attic or as a lover under the covers next to you.  How will it feel seeing this coveted object each day?  Take notes.

Create a password for your hidden art by first choosing an ancient god or goddess.  What is your favorite home appliance?  Think of the nights you turn them all on to sit and listen in the dark for the most pleasing of the chorus.  Combine the god to the appliance, like Jupiter Egg Beater.  Take notes.  Go into a stall in one of the museum restrooms and write the password onto your naked flesh.  Take notes.  Write it again harder, then harder.  Take more notes.  Walk up to a stranger and say the password.  Just say it.  How do they react?  Take more notes.

(Aphrodite Microwave was my password.  Nicole Eisenman’s painting Breakup at the ICA in Philadelphia was my focus.  How far are the doors from where it hangs?  There is a subway entrance just outside the exit, but what if, and what if, okay, then here we go THIS WAY instead?  The notes became a poem titled “NOW THAT THE PRESENT IS SO ENDANGERED WE CAN STOP WORRYING ABOUT THE FUTURE.”)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

BEE Alliance

MANY THANKS TO TC Tolbert for publishing this 
new (Soma)tic poetry ritual and resulting poem 

(one of THE BEST THINGS i ever saw in this 
shitty world was a wild horse who never knew
the feel of a buckled saddle on her back)

Friday, October 2, 2015

#123: Bee Alliance

Lavender, roses, dandelions, squash blossoms, honeysuckle, sitting by flowers is where I waited for the bees.  My fingertips to their vibrating furriness, lightly brushing them, giving them some love as they tirelessly work for their queen.  I have been greeting not denying my gray hairs, my wrinkling, loosening skin of my half-century vehicle of flesh.  Dear Fred, I am forever seeking the strength to deserve poetry and if I do not have it some mornings I pretend I have it until I believe I have it and then I have it.  I took notes for the poem.

I pressed the tip of my tongue to the back of a large bumblebee and fell into the grass with eyes closed to savor the taste.  Blotches on my skin, waning sperm count, weakening eye sight, looking in the mirror, “I am made of billions of cells and we are now half way (or more than half way) through the magic of being alive together.  We will leave this world while living by the strength of poems.”  There is a mirror, flowers to smell, bees to pet and taste, and more notes for the poem.

Dear Fred, sometimes trees clear as I drive along rivers and I glimpse the veins of our planet pouring over boulders with green scum and fish.  Anne Boyer taught me the Latin for “learn to die” and I shout to the water “DISCITE MORI!  DISCITE MORI!”  Bloodletting rivers of us cavort downhill in a world of distraction.  Behind a Frito Lay truck, imagining the delicious Frito corn chips in boxes and crates as I pass him on the left to catch his beautiful smile.

Dear Fred, sometimes the bees out here taste like an insecticide a poet wrote the advertising jingle for.  Taking notes for a poem, aging each second.  Horses and new colts race past a patch of wild violets I found on a clump of sun-warmed earth.  This is when I found a hive.  I could hear them at first.  They must have known I was completely at ease, landing on my eyebrows and toes, dancing, but no stings.  My final goal was to have sex near a hive but my boyfriend Rich backed out at the last minute.  I placed an add, “Queer seeks man for sex next to beehive.”  Some responders said they would have sex with me in the woods, but minus the beehive, and one said I sounded weird and he had to meet me.  So I was on my own, masturbating next to the purring honeycomb. They were curious of my activity dancing on my shoulders and thighs, but no stings.  It took me five decades to have sex with bees.  That’s too long to wait.  My notes became a poem about horses titled “Bug I Love You.”

Monday, July 6, 2015

(Soma)tic Ritual Collaborations

We poets have been the ugly cousins of the arts for years, painters asking us to write poems serenading their paintings.   Collaboration can mean creating together, but it can also mean being a traitor and working with the enemy.  Let us honor the first of these definitions.

(Soma)tic Rituals can fuse with any artistic discipline.  For instance, the poet creates half the ritual, the painter the other half.  The two halves are then combined to make one ritual we both perform together to write and paint.  I have created (Soma)tic rituals to collaborate with such artists as Candice Lin, Yuh-Shioh Wong, Jonas Slonacker, and others.

Here is an example.  The poet and the painter deposit letters for one another inside newspaper boxes on opposite sides of a street.  We wave to one another then begin reading the letters, which explain the ways we would like to die.  Found in the morning on the floor of a boat after being impaled in the chest by a swordfish while night fishing.  Or fragment of my bloody shirt found after having sex with lions.  We read our letters then begin writing or painting in view of each other. 

An hour later we meet in the middle of the street to embrace and dance the Foxtrot with the painter leading, then switching with the poet leading.  We return to write and paint within view of one another.  The experiential collaboration of (Soma)tic Rituals has infinite possibilities and there is no reason for poets to ever again subjugate ourselves to other artists.