What’s death and destruction got to do with your art?
“From Whitman to WalMart” is a new poem I am writing where I start at Whitman’s doorstep viewing him as head cheerleader of empire with his essays calling African Americans “baboons” and his poem for the western pioneers written during the great extermination of Native Americans. 80% of WalMart stores allow sleeping overnight in their parking lots, which I do, meeting homeless families stretching across America, the true results of Whitman’s love of Manifest Destiny. I show Whitman’s writing as the original TV commercial hiding the true body of unbridled greed that continues to destroy everyone and everything in its path. I refer to myself as an intestinal expatriate poet.
“Resurrect Extinct Vibration” is another new poem. In this one I saturate myself with field recordings of recently extinct birds and animals while taking long naps on the earth across America. I begin writing as soon as I wake, but in the sleeping I return the vibrations of these creatures to my cells, viewing a degraded ecology as vibrational absence along with its poisoned air, water and soil. In September 2014 the World Wildlife Fund’s biennial “planet index report” claims 52% of wild animals have vanished in the past three decades. I am accepting and recording the sixth mass extinction currently underway.
Since 2006 I have stopped cutting my hair as both a reminder that my nation is at war and to use as a measuring device for the latest body count for a long poem now over 3,000 pages long. We are currently bombing six nations simultaneously where we were bombing two when I started.
To directly answer your question: everything. I am a queer American who had a boyfriend I loved but someone bound, gagged, tortured and raped him, then covered him in gasoline and burned him to death. His name was Mark. He changed his name to Earth. He was beautiful. Do not forget this. The artist Jason Dodge published my serial poem about this that you can read to not forget at fivehundredplaces.com
What’s philosophy got to do with your art?
Well I believe poetry is strong enough.The power of poetry has not failed me like it
has failed some poets in recent decades who hoist philosophy to buttress the
poem.It feels misogynistic in a way,
like poetry is too feminine, too weak, needs a man’s ideas to move
forward.Love philosophy -- go ahead,
I’m not an anti-intellectual I simply don’t need it to make poetry appear more
Sigmund Freud said, “Everywhere I go I find a poet has been
there before me.”Not philosopher, but
poet.And you can have whatever feelings
you want about Freud but no one can disagree that he changed how we view the
landscape of human emotion and the origins of feeling.“Everywhere I go” is bold.It’s direct and from a man who was as careful
with his words as a poet.
In a Kansas field
I spent several hours burying my feet in the soil while listening to the
insects, birds and cars on the highway beyond the trees.I was born January 1st 1966 at the
838th Tactical Hospital, Forbes Air Force Base of Topeka
Kansas.My mother said the doctor held
me by my ankles and announced, “ANOTHER FINE SOLDIER FOR JESUS!”And I say FUCK YOU to those first words said
to me!My mother ate food grown on this
land when I was inside her; we drank from the same aquifer, the sky was as big as
it is today.I took notes for the poem.
I dug a hole and deposited shit, piss, vomit, blood, phlegm, hair, skin,
fingernails, semen and tears, and in that order. I apologized for being alive.
I apologized for
the animals I shot and killed to prove I could provide dinner.I apologized for having no answers on how to
stop the hyper-militarized police on the streets of America while the US
military is on the streets of Arab nations. I apologized for paying taxes that
purchase the bullets, bombs and drones.I am a citizen of the United States my nation is guilty of war
crimes.I apologized for not convincing
my queer sisters and brothers that repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was only putting a sympathetic face on a
multi-trillion dollar military industrial complex.I apologized for not finding a way to protect
Chelsea Manning.I apologized for not
preventing my boyfriend Mark from moving to Tennessee where his murderers
awaited.I am a citizen of the United
States my nation is guilty of hate crimes.I apologized for many things for a long while then covered the hole with my offerings and
took more notes for my poem.
MY DIARY IS UP FOR AUCTION AT THIS LINK (a RADAR fundraiser)
A few people have written to me about my “From Whitman to
WalMart” (Soma)tic poetry ritual I am currently doing.
Part of the ritual involves sleeping in my car in WalMart
Some poets have written saying they also want to do this.
Please let me share some information with you.
80% of WalMarts allow parking to sleep, but make sure you
are parking in one of the 80% that allows this.
Always sleep in the drivers seat.
Always have the windows all the way up.
Always have keys in the ignition READY to go.
Please ALWAYS park so you have a straight shot out of there,
and please don’t ever park so that you
need to back out.
I made the mistake of parking at a WalMart among the 20% that
doesn’t allow parking to sleep and I woke to find a group of men (I don’t know
if it was five or six of them) around the car looking in the window at 3 in the
One of them had either a baseball bat or 2X4.
But in just a second I pulled myself forward with the
steering wheel, turned the ignition and floored the gas to get out of there.
Close calls are part of living on the road and should be
Please consider my advice because you never know…
Also it is important to have conversations with the other
people parking to sleep because most tend to want to talk, especially the
The retired folks parking their campers and RVs seem less
interested in talking, but the homeless, especially the homeless families want
to talk because they share information with one another about how to survive out
For the better part of 1970 my mother and I lived in our
I keep trying to think if it was easier then or now and my
conclusion is that it’s a little of both for both.
If you get a WalMart that allows sleeping you are safe so
far in my experience.
In 1970 my job was to take care of the can opener.
The can opener was a valuable tool back then but not so much
for my life today.
Restrooms are much nicer today of course.
In 1970 gas station bathrooms had a kind of abrasive, toxic
powdered soap that came out of a dispenser and it seemed to take a lot of water
to remove the oily film it left on your body.
There were far less cars back then and it seemed easier to
sleep in out of the way locations.
My one cousin in the army is giving me a camouflage net to
throw over my car so I can park off-road and this is not ideal of course, but
might be useful.
I hate to make this JUST about survival because it is a
beautiful thing to be living on the road, meeting new people, stretching across
the belly of the planet.
I went to a sports bar during SUPERBOWL SUNDAY wearing a
Phillies baseball cap and ordered vodka with orange juice. Every once in awhile I would raise a fist and
yell “GO PHILLIES!” At first people
around my table murmured. Then I was told to shut up while taking my notes
for the poem. I was waiting for the
person in the room who would confront me and I finally found him. AG = Angry Man:
ME:WOO HOO PHILLIES
GO PHILLIES GO GO GO!!
AG:HEY BUDDY WHAT
THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU IT’S THE SUPERBOWL!!
ME:YEAH MAN I KNOW,
WOO HOO HOO HOOOOO GO PHILLIES!!
AG:DUDE ARE YOU
ME:What?HEY MAN this is PHILADELPHIA YOU CAN’T DISS
THE PHILLIES WHEN YOU’RE IN PHILADELPHIA!!
AG:I ROOT FOR THE
PHILLIES WHEN IT’S BASEBALL SEASON DUDE!!
Some of the others had been waiting for the brave man to
confront me so they could be louder with their condemnation.THESE were the men I wanted to look at, the
weak ones, the bottom feeders who need someone with more nerve to step forward
and speak for them before they open their mouths.A brave man has never once frightened
me.Weak men are the danger, always seeking
ways to hide their cowardice at the expense of others.And there they were, all around me, and it
was just like old times.I held out my
hand to the brave man and thanked him.“YOU’RE THANKING ME!?”“Yeah,
thank you.”He shook his head, “Okay
man.”I took more notes and my notes
became a poem.
Celebrity Crystals is a (Soma)tic poetry ritual where clear quartz gems absorb several full-length films of a celebrity, and are then stored in a box lined with their photos. Denzel Washington quartz is underway, currently soaking in the images and sounds of the 2010 film THE BOOK OF ELI.
For over a decade I would see her on the bus or in the
vegetable shop near my apartment, always looking at everyone and everything,
never on the phone or listening to music.
One of those rare people who is truly present, I would see her see me
and when I smiled she always returned the smile. We have observed people and things together
for years, but never met, never talked, not once. We have never heard one another speak. In my journals I refer to her as my déjà vu
friend because seeing her destabilizes my reality the way déjà vu will do.
While house sitting in Philadelphia after many months of
being on the road I went to my old neighborhood in search of her.She was waiting for the number 21 bus and it
was the first time I was getting on with her deliberately.I didn’t want to break our pattern and
introduce myself, so instead I occupied the space as a fellow observer of the
world.I took notes for the poem while
studying the many hair wraps, shirt collars, and a myriad of expressions often
in the same face.After a few blocks our
eyes met as usual but she not only smiled she nodded.When I returned the nod my smile was one of
my favorites because it was for my déjà vu friend.She got off the bus at 36th Street and I
continued to write and observe to 69th Street.
Poet Kenny Goldsmith invited me to perform at
the Museum of Modern Art, but instead of squandering the time and space on YET
ANOTHER poetry reading I turned it into a writing performance ritual for new
poems.After calling a few talented
friends to help me I went to work.Everything
was invented, including the poem that resulted, titled SLAVES OF HOPE LIVE ONLY FOR TOMORROW. I downloaded the MoMA masthead from an online
press release and created a flyer to hand out in the main lobby:A MoMA
EXCLUSIVE, 12:30pm TODAY!THE
REINCARNATED SOUL OF FUTURIST PAINTER GIACOMO BALLA IN THE JOAN AND PRESTON
GALLERY ON THE 6TH FLOOR!PRONTO!INTRODUCED BY CAConrad.
Two security guards tried to stop me from
handing out the flyers.I said, “But I
work for MoMA’s Office of Paranormal Activities.”They said, “There is NO such office!”I said, “It’s in the basement, a little like
X Files for art.”They were much angrier
than necessary and were ready to throw me to the sidewalk when Kenny intervened
just in time to assure them that this was part of my performance.I am not complaining at all by the way as the
one guard was quite handsome, his beautiful flaring nostrils showing that he was
ready for ACTION, ready to put me in my place!How thrilling!
At 12:30 a large crowd gathered.“Thank you all for coming, my name is
CAConrad and I am the director of the Office of Paranormal Activity at
MoMA.I was first hired after the 2008
Wall Street collapse when many of the paintings in this particular gallery were
found stacked neatly in the corner each morning.Security camera footage shows the paintings floating
across the room, most likely carried by the disturbed souls of recently
departed millionaires.After our
successful exorcism I wanted to preserve the integrity and viability of my
office so I found new projects for my staff.One project was to search for the reincarnated soul of Balla whose
paintings surround us today in this gallery as part of the Inventing Abstraction exhibition.It proved to be our most challenging project
to date.After exhausting the efforts of several
psychics we asked MoMA friend and Andy Warhol Superstar Penny Arcade for
help.”I turned to Penny who waved.“Thank you so much Penny for putting us in
touch with your psychic friend in Belize who was our big breakthrough.He told us that the reincarnated soul of
Futurist painter Giacomo Balla was right here in New York City all along.He is now a poet living in Brooklyn named
Ariana Reines!Please welcome Ariana!”
Ariana walked from the applauding crowd to
join me where I asked her what she thought of her paintings from her previous
life as Balla.She said, “Oh I’m a much
better poet in this life than I was a painter in that one.”A few audience members mumbled their
disapproval of the poet daring to measure her different lifetimes of art in
public.I said, “MoMA Honorary Chairman
David Rockefeller was so excited when we finally found you that he and the
board of trustees have graciously offered to let you take one of your paintings
back home with you.Which one would you
like?”She shrugged and said, “Well I
don’t really like them, but the diamond shaped one is nice I suppose.”I said, “Well let’s get that off the wall and
wrap it up for you.”When I walked
toward the painting the handsome nostril flaring guard shook his head with a
scowl.I said, “Ariana Reines is also a
healer.Is there anyone here today who
needs healing?”The poet Stephen Boyer
popped up in a BEAUTIFUL dress he made with plastic flowers from the dollar
store.Ariana had him lie on the floor
below her painting she painted in 1903.She instructed me to work with her to heal Stephen, doing a beautiful
dance with her hands over his head and body, an energy work not unlike Reiki,
chanting.What a marvelous experience
and I feel very fortunate to know the talented poets that I do, the kind of
people who augment the spirit with their very presence.Notes notes notes, I took notes, and the
notes became a poem.
It is an honor to have been selected as one of the 2015 Headlands resident artists! Click HERE for details on my RESURRECTEXTINCT VIBRATION (Soma)tic poetry project. I love that they used my Montawk Crystal grid for my page's banner. The green and yellow stone to the far left is Peruvian Jade WHICH I ADORE!
In 1998 my boyfriend Mark Holmes gave me a clear quartz
crystal before he went to Tennessee to tend gardens with a community of
artists.It was the last time I would
see him alive.He was bound, raped,
covered in gasoline and burned to death.I spoke with him on the phone several days before his murder and he told
me about a cave he found for meditation, the very cave where his murderers
would kill him.The police ruled his
death a suicide and refused to investigate, and many of our mutual friends
believed the police, but the coroner and paramedics have always disagreed which
is why the word “victim” is on his death certificate.
Delinquent Films is making a documentary about my books and
life and they also agree that Mark was murdered.More than fifteen years after his brutal
death it is a documentary about POETRY that will now force an investigation so
that Mark’s murderers can finally be brought to justice.The day I left the filmmaker’s apartment
after being told they agree with me about Mark’s homicide I felt lighter and burst
into tears on the train ride home.For
years people thought I was crazy, that the police would never act the way they
In 2013 I was accepted into the MacDowell Colony.Each day before writing I would smear sage
ashon my forehead and meditate with the crystal Mark gave me. Alone with the vivid falling leaves I would
sit on a rock with my crystal and notebook, staring into the forest, locking eyes
on the trunk of a distant tree.Suddenly
after a few minutes of staring, every falling leaf could be seen moving at once.This is how I would write in the shadow of
Mount Monadnock.One day I saw something
other than leaves move; it was a bobcat watching me from a boulder.We sat looking at each other for a few
minutes before she walked into the forest.That night I dreamed I woke inside a tree, the wood surrounding me was a
warm, fibrous silk and I could hear the sap moving inside a soft steady
On the full moon my dear friend Elizabeth Kirwin communicated
with me hundreds of miles away through rose quartz under the moon.She also knew and loved Mark and wanted to
visit me during the writing ritual on a shaft of light.I had made dinner for the three of us the
night he gave me the crystal.I love and
miss him and the rogue gardens we planted in abandoned Philadelphia lots and
riverbanks.After his murder I had a
movie in my head, one that I played over and over on a loop of a courtroom
where the murderers were standing trial.In the movie I’m always angry while staring at the backs of their heads,
angry at the police, angry with everyone who said Mark’s death was a suicide no
matter how ridiculous and impossible the idea of his death being a suicide had
The most unexpected thing happened after several weeks of my
crystal meditation.The angry courtroom
fantasy movie in my head vanished, it suddenly stopped, and it continues to be
a relief to no longer vent anger toward anonymous, faceless people the police
refused to track down.From 1988 to 1998
I was macrobiotic, but when Mark was murdered in 1998 I stopped taking care of
myself.I was still a vegetarian, but a
very unhealthy one.My low-grade
depression is lifting and I am happier and have since returned to being vegan
and healthier.My notes from this
(Soma)tic poetry ritual became a serial poem titled SHARKING OF THE BIRDCAGE.I am grateful to everyone who is helping heal
this inconceivably brutal injustice.
On a long flight I created a (Soma)tic ritual
for my extraordinary friend Anne Boyer, but I only allowed myself 10-minutes to
come up with the ritual once I boarded the plane AND I was forbidden to use
former ideas I’ve developed on planes.In the rear of the jet was an EXIT sign, the letters cut into a metal
plate with a red light shining from behind.Throughout the flight I would walk to the sign and SLAM my head against
the letters, starting with E.Each time
I would steal a beverage or almonds or cookies and I had to share them with the
stranger next to me.
It was my lucky day as the man next to me
never shut up and no matter what I threw into the conversation he was
game.At first he annoyed me, but soon
enough I became fond of his long stories about asbestos.SLAM the E, “When E was first invented why
did they shape it like that?”He
answered, “E is for Elephant!”I said,
“E is for ELVIS!”YES we both said YES
ELVIS.He enjoyed my theft of cookies
and tiny bottles of rum.SLAM the X,
SLAM the I, missed the I, did it again, SLAM the T.He answered T was for the crucifix.Why, I asked.“Because Christ is our savior.”“Oh, I see, it’s like that is it, JESUS, we need to bring him up DO
WE?”We both laughed because in the end
it was clear I didn’t mind his flux of Jesus as we drank our rum and talked of
asbestos and Elvis and the shapes the alphabet has rendered us all for
centuries FULLY COOKED HUMAN BRAINS.My
notes became a poem titled, "HE CALLED ME A MORBID SON OF A BITCH AND IT GAVE ME PAUSE"