for Mary Kalyna, dedicated activist, musician, and dear friend
OM is alive and well in the United States with more people than ever taking yoga and learning to
meditate. OM chanted will vibrate through the body, quivering cells to attention. OM calms us, embracing a sympathetic frequency. In the Bhadgavad Gita it is written, “There is harmony, peace and bliss in this simple but deeply philosophical sound.” The Pentagon in Washington DC spends many millions of dollars on careful research for quality language to sell us the newest, shiny products for the war machine.
While on a residency at Machine Project in Los Angeles I sat with eyes closed and slowly, deeply chanted DRONE, DRONE, DRONE, feeling the ancient tone quiet me. After fifteen minutes I moved from a merely unflustered state to serenity. I chanted, DRONE, DRONE, DRONE. I went out to the corner of Sunset and Alvarado to ask people at traffic lights, “Excuse me, would you please join me in calling drones what they really are: Flying Killer Robots?” Some people thought I was crazy, but MOST PEOPLE wanted to talk, already aware of the power of chanting OM. I asked them to chant DRONE with me to feel how war and greed infiltrate our bodies, trading common sense of justice and love for domination and annihilation. Please join me in calling drones what they really are: Flying Killer Robots.
I have relatives currently serving in Afghanistan, and my family like all U.S. military families worries. Drones answer their suffering. First the sound hooks us, saying drone, feeling drone, but then it drags us into the follow-up sales pitch of how drones save American lives, no soldiers needed. Just let the robots do the killing. It’s a sensible argument. If you can avoid televised footage of the thousands of real live human bodies being obliterated from the sky you can sleep better. The hypnosis of war is being perfected by the hour, but we must resist their language for our murderous sleeper trance. Resist their language, we must RESIST!
I walked into Echo Park and drew a target on my left palm with red ink. I put on headphones to listen to a recording of an Israeli military mission in Gaza called “Pillar of Cloud”, a fleet of drones BUZZING in the sky 24 hours a day mixed with bombs whistling through the sky, exploding targets. Listening to the recording as loud as I could, I chanted drone, drone, drone, taking notes at the water’s edge. At the sound of each explosion I put my lips near the red target on my palm and screamed as loud as I could. SCREAMED while writing notes for my poem. Each explosion snuffing out lives as I SCREAMED into my palm, the red target drawn through my love line, my heart line, my life line, writing, chanting, screaming. How much time do we have left to change?
--for Zoe Leonard
“I’m trying to reclaim the center for weirdness.”
We were given permission from the Chinati Foundation to do a collaborative (Soma)tic with Zoe Leonard’s camera obscura, 100 North Nevill Street, in beautiful Marfa, Texas. (Thank you Rob Weiner!) We arrived a few hours before sunset. The interior of the old ice factory was transformed for
this artwork, so that a carefully installed lens projected an image of the world outside onto the entire back wall of the factory, upside-down and backwards. We took turns, one of us outside burning dried piñon pine twigs and needles while the other was inside dancing dancing DANCING!! Piñon incense was traditionally used for protection, and for exorcism, dancing dancing DANCING!! We then took notes for our poems.
We sang a deep OM together several times. Then we took turns singing to one another, facing the slowly waving grasses and clouds on the wall. We took notes. There is a ladder against the wall inside the projected image that appears to go UP to the ground.
We climbed from sky to earth to read 9 poems on the 9th rung by 9 living poets. We read directly into a bar of dark chocolate filled with roasted almonds and sea salt. The poets were: John Taggart, Elizabeth Willis, Linh Dinh, Mel Nichols, Dolores Dorantes (translated by Jen Hofer), Ed Roberson, Farid Matuk, Peter Gizzi, Hoa Nguyen.
We then took turns sitting against the wall inside Zoe’s projected image eating our half of the chocolate bar while blindfolded, listening to the other talk a stream of consciousness from across the room. This is what we said to one another:
CA said: Tim you showed me the cave outside Marfa with the ancient petroglyphs it matters that it’s upside-down and backwards in here it’s the right side for time travel the people who drew those paintings a thousand years ago must have come through what is now Marfa the trees are pointing down at you Tim it’s beautiful this building used to be an ice factory back when people had ice boxes a block of ice in the refrigerator but I can’t imagine how the ice was made in the factory chocolate almonds and sea salt were probably harder to find in the store here comes a train the boxcars read Santa Fe Santa Fe Santa Fe upside-down Santa Fe in another dimension this used to be the ice factory they didn’t have penguins to breathe ice the idea of changing an element’s structure taking water and transmuting it to ice solid and cold the clouds at your feet Tim water to vapor heat but it’s often not so warm where they float one thing I really hated about seeing the movie GIANT again recently is the bullshit about the beautiful innocent bright northerner Elizabeth Taylor coming down to teach her rugged stupid Texan husband about his racism to not be racist what a bunch of bullshit I’m so tired of the north for over a century pretending that they are not racist that they were never racist I grew up in Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania is tied with Mississippi for Ku Klux Klan membership that’s not made up that’s a fact and everyone has to admit it’s always been about class it wasn’t poor white people buying giant ships to kidnap African’s from their homeland and bringing them here in chains it was rich white men who didn’t want to have to pay someone to pick their cotton they wanted free labor and it wasn’t poor people in New York City selling the cotton to Europe it was always rich people who were the problem it was the problem back then and it’s the problem now rich people putting factories in the poorest nations to make things next to free laying off workers here because they have demanded fairer wages there must be another planet without rich people exploiting the rest of us it’s like we can feel the possibility inside Zoe’s art
Tim said: Nothing is off topic or unconnected to this work the trains and cars visible in the work and the roads they travel are linked to other places, both North and South, US, Mexico, Canada, farther, and so the work may carry our thoughts to these places. There is a here that is visible, the outbuildings, telephone cross-timbers, power lines, trees, and there is an elsewhere that enters that place and changes it: the trains, cars, their cargo, travelers. There is also the size of this room, and its previous uses of the space: namely, factory uses, storage, rock concerts, exhibitions and their crowds. Two people now, hundreds formerly. Also, and important: Zoe asked to have the interior walls removed, so she could use the whole space, one building for one artist, as it is for the other artists at Chinati. This way she was able to include a large view of what’s outside: a really wide view. Plus the structure of the building is clear. The beams are visible as the floor, doors and windows. Still, the history of the building, it previous uses, such as ice-making, aren’t visible, but they survive in stories, questions and curiosity. Also, the interests of Judd, to bring local materials, light and other natural conditions, plus the history and culture of the immediate surroundings into the art, are perhaps more fully accomplished in the work of Zoe’s. Whereas the Chinati is at an edge of town, congruent to it, but not exactly “inside” it, Zoe’s piece includes the middle of town, and not necessarily the most “picturesque” parts. We see the garages, workshops, and so forth.
The speaker stopped when the chocolate bar eater raised their hand that they had enough and were finished chewing. We finished by reading Larry Eigner poems to the setting sun against the wall. We took more notes, notes, Notes!!
On my back beneath the flowering cherry tree on Spring
Street in Marfa, Texas.Bees,
butterflies, and the magnificent sphinx moths were hard at work pollinating the five-petal blossoms above my head. I
took notes with eyes squinted, making the activities of the tree blurry but visible. When a sphinx moth freshly pollinated a
blossom near me I would wait until she left, then delicately pluck the flower,
smell it, gaze into its newly unfolded star interior, then put it in my
mouth. I did this five times, one for
each element of fire, earth, air, water, then one for the spirit within, slowly
chewing the delicate sweetness while writing notes for the poem.
DAY ONE: I followed an ant back to his nest in the Chihuahuan Desert, a little juniper seed in his mouth. I drew a line on paper, following as he crawled around cactus and over pebbles. The cooperative kingdom of ants has always fascinated and frightened me much the way obedient men and women are when god and country are their foremost concerns. I never envy the ant carrying his seed into the underground food stores, programmed to question nothing, programmed to never run away or kill himself. Carry the seed, climb, burrow, and maybe the angel of death will show mercy and send a hungry bird or tarantula. No one will know you are gone no one will care, every other ant too busy working working WORKING! When Nana Conrad died they had her funeral on a Saturday so no one
would have to miss a day of work work WORK at the factory.
DAY TWO: I took the ant map to a random part of the desert, followed it to a small rock, a kind of oblivion, unexpected but solid nonetheless. I sat on the rock like an egg, wanting to hatch the rebellion! How much straining! I drew the map on my naked body behind shrubs, my third eye the nest entrance, tracing the journey in reverse, taking notes of my every memory of doing what I was told, toward some standard of goodness. HOW do we create a kind, generous, but disobedient world? Later I took a strand of cooked spaghetti, arranged it in the shape of the ant map. When it dried I took it to the entrance of the nest. I said, “I DON’T KNOW WHICH ONE OF YOU GAVE ME THIS MAP, BUT I’M GIVING IT BACK!” I crumbled it around the hole for the industrious little beings to carry it piece by piece to their queen for her approval. Do what you need to do, but I’m writing a poem from my notes.
“Well it’s just that Elizabeth
Taylor’s head keeps getting in the way.But I am there, mostly behind her left ear.”
--Ed Graczyk, Come
Back to the Five and Dime Jimmie Dean, Jimmie Dean
The Lannan Foundation presented me with a generous
fellowship to live and write in beautiful Marfa, Texas for two months. My mother thinks I’ve pulled off a bank heist
that anyone would be foolish enough to pay me to write my poems. I said, “I know Mom I know, it’s amazing with
all the love our country gives to war and genocide that there’s 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 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 my friend Erica
Kaufman gave me.
Place the day’s food on my crystal altar, 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.
Watch sunrise on porch while giving myself Reiki.Setting my day by the sun plugs me into the
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 one Elvis song different each day then as it
finishes take notes by flashlight.
9: MARFA GRATITUDE
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, seeing the details clearer and clearer
through the weeks.
Watch five and a half minutes of the movie GIANT that was
filmed in Marfa, starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean.
Focus on a color outside the Pueblo Market on cars,
sidewalks, buildings, or the sky. Then walk the market aisles to find the color
on cans and other packaging.Read the
ingredients of canned peas as if it is the legend to a map.
All my life I’ve made friends with trees.I take my magnifying glass to 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.
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 her element in our lives.
Walk a snake pattern through the long rows of enormous sotol
plants at the corner of Oak & High outside The Chinati Foundation.
16:SHUT UP AND SLIDE
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’s not
visible.But sing like a chicken, 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 add to.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’ve viewed Donald Judd’s work in museums as an
immersed study on chakras, spinal discs aligned and lit from within.In Marfa I drive down South 67 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.
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 prejudices the
author attempted to instill.)
23: WITCH DANCE WORKOUT
Each day I 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
turn dance into a trauma release ritual.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, speaking out.”--Mary
Wigman, dancer and choreographer.
24:SWEET POTATO BABY
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.My mother said this would have been my name
if I had been born a girl.
Close eyes and think of an embarrassment from the past.Imagine the former self in the situation
shrugging and laughing.
26:WE ARE ALL COGS
OF A BEAUTIFUL MACHINE
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
27:COGS OF A MARFA
Arrange found natural items on back porch, a growing
Read page 36 of a book by a different Lannan fellow each
INFUSION PART TWO
While cooking supper play the 2007 song YES, I’M A WITCH by
Yoko Ono.“Each time we don’t say what
we want to say we’re dying.”
Chew each mouthful of supper 36 times, meditating on food
cells becoming my own cells of Crystal-Yoko infusion.
Watch sunset over the desert at end of Third Street while
giving myself Reiki.(I’ll have two
sunrises a day but only one sunset to cheat the grave.)
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?”
ARCHITECTS WE LIVE WITH
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 note 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 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.
36:SAGE POETS PART
Burn sage to honor a deceased poet each evening.For instance, R.I.P. Amiri Baraka who died
the first week I was in Marfa.
Seeking potential conversations with the dead in grocery
stores?Lacking the respect of a
churchyard, stacks of chopped bodies wrapped in plastic and styrofoam, stamped
with dates and prices, the refrigerator is not the grave the human stomach is
the grave.Grocery store refrigerators
are like any morgue awaiting someone to claim the body.Take a deep breath, close your eyes and
listen.There is a particular and very
noticeable chatter beneath the clear plastic shrouds, making the listener enter
a quiet, cold meditation.Stand before
the hacked animal joints, stomach and shoulder fat, and cut the tarot deck nine
times, then read the cards.
Memories stored in flesh all flesh all humans and other
animals on the prairie, by the bay, in the city, or incarcerated in prisons or
zoos (which are prisons built to amuse children and their nescient
parents).Memories of joy and suffering,
anyone who has received extensive massage or acupuncture knows the body can
release feelings long secluded in muscle and other tissue.It’s a glorious thing such freedom.Give this to grocery store animals with their
fur ripped away, their tongues removed, their bones cracked and sawed from
ligaments.Pull the cards, pull them,
see how they walked and felt the touch of sunlight.Unfetter a bit of the pain.One, two, three cards pulled for chops,
roasts, and hamburger patties.Take
notes about love you have known for those who were shown none.Notes from taroting at the display of
conformist serial killing will become a poem, another communiqué, one for
humans loosening their impediments of ignorance of suffering.
At the MacDowell Colony painter, artist Kristin Cammermeyer
invited me to her Votive Chapel studio for a type of collaboration.She invited me to respond to her installation
painting by writing a poem for her studio opening.I fell in love with her three dimensional
installation painting immediately and took notes on the shapes and colors, took
a few photographs, then left to get to work on it.
Outside my studio I found a group of collapsed trees holding
each other in place, creating the diamond and V shapes found in Kristin’s
Votive Chapel installation.I placed a
chair in front of the trees to mimic the shapes with my legs, then arms,
standing, sitting, then on my back in the freshly fallen leaves.Then the notes, taking notes between physical
movements, moving legs in and out of V patters while writing, then holding one
arm overhead, craning a V pattern moving into wider, then narrower patterns,
writing all the while.FUTURE BACK OF A
HAT is the resulting poem from my notes.It was a pleasure working with such a brilliant artist!