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Exchange of Values

Exchange of Values
acrylic on board 48'X96'

"Structure of Color Perception"

"Structure of Color Perception"
48'X96' acrylic on board

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Blessed New Year and let’s continue with more travelogue poetry. I looked through my old inventory and I don’t really have a painting that seems to really resonate with this poem.  In any event, I don’t want my painting to function as a pimp to my poetry, or the other way around.  So I just took this picture of my back work room where I discard unsatisfactory work, paintings I’m going to paint over or discard, ideas that didn’t pan out.  It’s also where I experiment, throw paint around, or melted wax, crayons, plastic.  Like that “Pocahontas See N Say” toy on the bottom left.  I exchanged the original pictures with photographs from the murdered Lakota at wounded knee.  Next I wanted to change the original recordings that said things like “Curious raccoons love to play,” or “Corn, the good earth gives us corn to eat,” or “Grandmother willow is a very wise tree,” with actual Native-American voices offering their own words and explanations about their experience with what we call “nature.”  That proved to be too technically difficult for me and so there it sits, still not art, not yet.  Next to it on the right is a Coptic angel of death that the squirrels that live in my studio have chewed some of the paint off of.  You would think that the sword would have kept them at bay, maybe if I was more of a realist I could have saved her?  But I reckon it’s not just painters that have places like this but also writers, poets, sculptors, duck call whittlers, even theologians, and philosophers all have back rooms where poems, theories, dogmas, and screeching duck calls are tossed away and best forgotten.  One step away from becoming more of a life's wreckage.  Behind my studio is a gully that I’m filling in and where I toss all of my organic and compostable matter.  If the squirrels keep at it, that’s where the angel of death is going to end up.    

Jerusalem, Stalingrad, Warsaw, Rome...

Like ships cities need scuppers
Means for whatever is not city to scuttle free
Holy redoubts where prophets weave our future
Sanctuaries in cliff faces, asylums
Where blood-money has no purchasing power
Vengeance is postponed
In the center of the Holy of holies
The manslaughterer purifies his hands
On the wings of cherubim

Because our name comes after the fact
From someplace outside these broken walls
Mothers keening for their children
Who are sacrificed in the bargain
Just as Shiloh and Sodom lost their glory
A women looks back
Whatever appearance held her gaze
The name of G-d still sleeps un-utterable
Encoded within babbles of consonant acronyms:
           Y  --  H  --  W  --  H
Four little peeks under G-d’s skirt

Then the walls were felled by the mean tide
All the guilty are found within--One people finally
For there is no more outside the text
No habitation or vantage to look back at ourselves
Everywhere the center is holding
Virgins were sought, none were found
Who could not be tempted to look back

Anyone with sense could see it
Was a catastrophe in the making
And never one to trust a mob
He preferred his own company and
Selling door to door
Yet after all this time we
Still haven’t given up on messiahs
We’re always searching for just the right kind of
Character, an ‘all things to all’ kind of personage
If there was a contest, a pageant, if there were a vote
At least a majority would have some satisfaction
As it is now no one’s really happy
No one that counts

Looking over the great cities one can imagine
Weeping, but not for the sake of the architecture
Which is all out of proportion to it’s reputation anyway
Stones never stay where you put them
Even when stacked high on the bodies of oracles
Kneel down with a poet’s ear to the mound
The Slightest breath escapes like tears
Between the cracks in the unmortared rubble

The panicked herd worn and exhausted stalls out
They are so beautiful, their lungs
Pumping steam into the cold morning
The lead mare paws the fresh snow, ears pricked
When the frozen trees crack like gun-shots
She bolts leading the murmuration
Instinctively she knows the herd will follow her
All the way to safety or into the abyss

Monday, December 24, 2012

This painting is an older one (48” X 30”).  The medium I used is mostly crushed rock, soils, flowers and plants that I collected at Pine Ridge Indian reservation when me and my wife used to visit and work with the elderly there every year.  We’d do simple things, like driving grandma to bingo at the Catholic church on wednesday nights and maybe fix up the trailer a bit, nothing much really as these things are reckoned.  It was there that I first saw what the Sioux and other plains tribes called a “Winter Count.”  It was a history of the years events painted on animal skins (see Colin G. Calloway, “One Vast Winter Count: The Native American West before Lewis and Clark.”).  About 100 of these old winter counts still survive, but many native artists are reviving the tradition and the work they do is incredible, and they inspired me to do the painting above.  It is interesting to place events recorded in these surviving winter counts, ‘the battle of Little Big Horn,’ for example, in contrast to newspaper reports and the ‘official’ history of the same events.

Then an article by John Crossan got me to thinking about my family’s visit in 1996 to the ‘Altar of Augustan Peace‘ in Rome, another kind of winter count.  Tapestries, paintings, bas reliefs, depicting the victories of Caesar Augustus over the enemies of the empire (the Hollywood of it’s time really).  It’s how a guy could work himself up to becoming a god back in the day, ‘war, victory, peace; war, victory, peace; repeat as often as needed, a proven recipe for success.  Still, among the vanquished, the victims, there are always counter-histories, subversive songs, poems, parables, subtle aposiopesis for those with an ear to hear, spread about by folks labeled rebels or even terrorists.  What actually happened, the official story, the Truth, gets all mixed in with the blood and muck and money so sometimes even now we have a hard time getting our stories straight.  

Blessed holy days y’all and here’s a little ditty I wrote for Christmas:

Xmas Year Zero

If were just figuring statues and portraits
Jesus is the victor
If it’s the body count that matters
Then It all depends....

Two kinds of coins
Two kinds of kings
Two kinds of gods
It’s a toss up really

We have yet to decide
Between the hand and the heart
There is waiting
And there’s just killing time

Our sympathies are with the straw child of course
The mystic, the martyr, the Jew
The humble one with the unconsolable eyes

But Caesar was a kid once too
‘Novus homo,’ destined for greatness by all accounts
His devout mother was favored by the gods
Guiding his first baby-steps towards divinity
Tested by a serpent in the temple of Apollo
She was marked with a rainbow that never faded
Her womb was assumed into heaven
Signs in the stars confirmed the miracle
Great victories on the battlefields of Thurium 
Slaves, peasants, and the enemies of the law crushed
All the testimony is there in the records
The word conceived on parchment and calf-skins
Scripture in the making

But If we’re just adding up kapital
Shopping days and time off from work
The seasonal consumer index
Then the ‘son of god‘ has triumphed
I mean the one from Palestine
If we're just voting with our lips
Not accounting for feet or dollars
Believers and not actual followers
Then the Nazarene wins by a mile
But if it comes down to swords into ploughshares
What is actually rendered unto
Then it all depends...

There’s what we hail as peace, pax, pacem,
And then there’s order, obedience, pacification
Our hearts lie with the lamb
But we bank among the lions

Blessed Holy days all, much obliged.

( the link to the article: ).

Thursday, December 20, 2012

This painting above is 9 feet wide and 4 feet tall. I wanted to reproduce some of the last surviving words, poetry, names, and art left on the walls of Auschwitz.  I Reconstructed it from photos and charcoal rubbings, etc., all the images I gathered together and then painted there are exact replica’s of the originals to the best of my ability.  Obliged.

Poem of the week:

A Little Ditty of a poem started in 2006 when we were on our way to Beirut from Haifa.  Turns out that the Israeli air force had blown up all the bridges in Southern Lebanon and the car rental place wouldn’t let us take the car over the border.  In any event a big chunk of Beirut had been blasted to smithereens.  But the great thing about religion, myth, poetry, is that it can take routinized destruction and death and turn it into a mythic story of profound meaning.  Like some of the stories in the bible that were shaped and rewritten over hundreds of years, sometimes thousands, before an armistice was agreed upon and one account was declared victorious, for a time.  Nowadays, that whole process takes less than a week of television or chatter in the blogosphere, and maybe just a day on facebook?  Martyr’s square in central Beirut is a place where one can watch this process unfolding.  Locusts, plagues, war, starvation (the end of a world really) killed many Maronite Christians and Muslims as well as a lot of people called “intellectuals.”  Then Revolt, counter-revolt, retribution, execution, etc., Ottomans, Brits, French, Jews, Wahabi’s and what not. It’s hard to keep the whole thing straight in our minds.  Scripture in the making, but it’s going to take some centuries to hammer the thing into shape.  They put up a huge statue of a guy right in the middle of the square to mark the infamous day of slaughter for all eternity but nobody I asked knew who he was or what he did, even wikipedia doesn’t mention who the guy was supposed to be though I can download a picture of the top of his head from outer space.  True, his face has been hacked and shot away over the years by just about every political group imaginable but you would think that folks would be curious about a huge chunk of battered bronze plopped down in the middle of their city.  We’ll just have to wait I reckon, that statue may have started out as a Marxist Baathist like Zaki ai-Arsuzi, and then wind up being a Catholic saint like alfred Delp!  Obliged. 

Tempus Fugit

The end of the world is always now somewhere
For some it was friday last
For others it was 1492 or 1942, whatever,

Still, I’v been to Quitana Roo

Time itself is not the scandal there it is here
It’s not a self at all

Time there is tracked, captured, sacrificed, worshiped,
Bled-out, never escaping it’s captors
There are too many traces left in tears and blood 

Something’s going to get us for sure
Even the ancients knew that much, but
No one has ever won betting against death, not yet 

But you don’t make calendars out of 
piquin chile and chocolate
Not if you want to survive to read your own horoscope
And avoid becoming the laughing-stock of history

Scratch your questions, prayers, complaints

Onto something concrete and don’t be specific
A wise prophet always leaves some wiggle-room
The “Book of Revelations” is a good example 

Deserving has got nothing to do with it

If that means getting what we got coming to us
Revenge has never been something to set our watches by
The gravity of our blunder beckons the heart of god from heaven
It plunges through the exosphere
On a Collision course with the world
Beautiful and terrifying we can only trace its fiery arc
Its downfall 

It’s not too late, there is still time to carve a message in stone

But the coming fire is already hot on our faces  
Hot enough to melt chocolate


Thursday, December 13, 2012

“The skin of the face is that which stays most naked, most destitute....[T]here is an essential poverty in the face; the proof of this is that one tries to mask this poverty by putting on poses, by taking on a countenance. The face is exposed, menaced....The face speaks. It is in this that it renders possible and begins all discourse.... The first word of the face is the “Thou shalt not kill.” It is an order. There is a commandment in the appearance of the face, as if a master spoke to me.” (Emmanuel Levinas, Ethics and Infinity  86-89)

I’m home sick and my wonderful wife is taking good care of me.  I'm watching the TV show  “Criminal Minds,” a group of FBI profilers that track down serial killers.  Adam Kotsko over at “An und fur sich”  <>  wrote a book on why we are fascinated by serial killers, but I haven’t read it.  I think I am afraid of what it might discover about myself.  This killer removes his victims faces.  To solve these crimes constructing intimate profiles of the victims is as important as that of the killer.  Why don’t we give people that much care and reverence before they are murdered, while they still have faces?  A drone strike from the U.S. killed an innocent family in Yemen yesterday.  I wonder what the profile of their killers would reveal?  Meanwhile I’m following some interesting facebook discussions.  One is on whether there is a hell or not.  I don’t think there is a hell, but I haven’t had my face peeled off by anyone yet.

What did sick people do before TV?  Well, I just wrote this poem below and posted it over on the Faith and Theology blog <>   Seems that interest in poetry is growing again and perhaps my advice will be helpful.  Then I put on the movie “Being Flynn” about a failed poet and writer (Robert DeNiro) who (stereotypically) ends up broke, depressed, homeless and living in a shelter without a friend in the world.  At least he’s not a serial killer ripping people’s faces off! (although he does say things that hurt other peoples feelings a lot).  I reckon my real fear is not failing as an artist or poet, but not failing tragically enough to be noticed or make a difference to anybody.  Well, I should get my fever down and then see how this movie ends before I do anything too impulsive or post anymore half-assed poetry or comments around the blogosphere.

Oh, that painting above is a bit of an experiment combining some of my other paintings and icons, I’m not sure what I think about it yet, please offer any criticism.  Be well and obliged.

Instructions On How To Read/Write Poetry:

First, do not get a hold of yourself
Accept unsolicited suggestions from strangers
Deny every syllable of immediacy
Whatever you have been running from your whole life
Turn and face it now
Make a pile of all your dictionaries, thesauri, scrabble boards
even your alphabet cereals, soups and crossword puzzles
Burn them, burn them all to ashes before you even start
This is not pointless destruction but an offering. It proves that
You are now ready to take language seriously
Decide if you believe in free will, then
Load your pistol and give it to someone along with your poems
Focus on the most obvious questions imaginable
Do not take a college course in ‘Poetry Appreciation’
Instead study the mysteries of micro-economics and
Become a collector of things made from alligator skins
Do not look outside the text or inside the text, look for magick
If theory will not save you, neither will punctuation
Deny Christ three times in one night, then wait for grace to come
Be always ready to laugh out load, ready to love, to kill
Ever ready to let a poet break your heart, bear witness
Never pay for poetry, it will entangle you in a cycle of gift/debt to
The poet that will only end when one or both of you is dead
Never try to delve below the surface, poetry is all surface
Think of the person you hate most in this world
Then put a curse on them
Imagine that your words have the power to make them suffer
Think of the person you love most in this world
Then pray for them
Imagine that your words have the power to bless them
Now exchange those two people in your mind, in your poem
Know up front that every word has already been spoken for
So you have to seize for yourself every morpheme available
(you should have all you need by age 8)
Do not “borrow” words from other poems, totally consume them
Make it so that no other poet can ever use them again
Poetry can be made out of almost everything, and almost nothing
Using obscure vocabulary, making oblique allusions depreciates poetry
“Hemopoiesis,” (to make) is the root of “hemaTopoiesis” (to bleed)
But etymology is not poetry, neither is tagmemics or taxonomy
(a real poet would know that instinctively by age 8)
Never take any advice on poetry from a poet
They are always out to scam you
When you think you know what poetry “means,”
Then you do, so quit


Sunday, December 2, 2012

This is my pregnant daughter Alyssa.  I posed her in front of my two paintings that were inspired by the discovery of the “God Particle” (or Higgs Bosun field). 

Two poems today.  The first poem I have been revising for a while.  Perhaps I am seeking absolution for spending so much of my life in “resource extraction industries” like King crab fishing in the Bering sea and logging the high country?  

There is still work to be done on these words, any criticism would be appreciated, much obliged.

The last Supper

The last whale comes to a dead stop
Waft, floating
And not hearing her song return to her
She lies still gray silent
Not accusing her maker for her circumstance
Even the last whale song is beautiful

Watching us from the beginning
Bobbing on the surface,
Splashing, laughing, crying, dying
Not Standoffish at all, for ones so small
Though it turns out that the entire ocean was
Not big enough

Technically speaking
We won’t know for sure when the last whale dies
The whale-killers will return from the sea empty handed
Another venture will be written off as
A loss on the balance sheets
The ships will be refitted to 
Hunt penguins or starfish or angels

Eventually, a marine biologist or 
Responsible government agency
Someone with authority
Simply states the obvious, ‘they are all gone,’ dead
Then it’s back to business as usual
Some family in Osaka or Haugesund will look up from their plates
Saying ‘had we known, we would have savored it all the more!’

One day the gods will come to notice how quiet earth is
No clamor of war, no prayers for more
And after seeing no lights on at night for awhile
Or being annoyed by harpooning rocket bursts they 
Will say something like, “Well, now when did that happen?’



It’s always come easy to me
Thinking about death
I’m every bit afraid as a sinner should be
More than the sky gives me credit for

Part of it is the waiting game
Part is having my number just come up
Whatever can die aught to be called by name
In the vernacular of it’s own life

I would opt for a rapture every Jubilee year
Rather than one big fandango at the end
We need the space and there are people I miss
For some even three days seems an eternity

Mathematically the figures don't add up
We can see to the edge of infinity
Too calculate any farther might be blasphemy
But I’d like to take a crack at it from another angle

The sheer volume of the past is staggering
But the angel of history is not the same as
The angels of death
Only our time-pieces make it seem so

Weary virgins trim their wicks
The watchers seek the sign of Jonas
Far from the sea a pearl comes to light in a plowed field
Vows were made but never kept

We were promised:
‘after the first death there would be no other’
That’s what comes of listening to poets
Without them everything could be what it seems
Instead of all these literalists coming to a tragic end


Saturday, December 1, 2012

‘...after that he determined to only speak in parables.’

i reckon it’s about time I post some of my poetry
see what they look like on a different screen, in other’s eyes
get some things off my mind
you too can lay your burdens down here trusting
no one will ever be any the wiser


On Saturday the old priest waits alone for their sins to arrive
Though he hasn’t spoken directly to god in fifty years
That is, used his own words, not language approved by authorities
Not a soul has stepped inside his dark box for three years

An old women had come in place of her dying husband, an unbeliever
She begged mercy for his sins, wanting to be with him in heaven
I can’t forgive the sins of someone who doesn’t ask directly he told her
Does that go for god too she asked him back

The year before that a man brought his children, but not to confess
“When I was your age I had to go in there an spew my guts out to a priest”
The children gasped, cautiously peeking through the dark curtain
When the old priest whispered “bless you my children” they ran away screaming

The retired old curate was pressed back into service to fill in for priest-less parishes
Lack of vocations, declining membership, criminal abuse, all had left vacancies, holes
Lay people did all the work of running things, keeping the lights on, the money counted
He was just needed to perform certain gestures, without that what use was he?

In 1963 He fell in love with a Sulpician nun, Sister Gemma Calgani, and he knew joy
She loved him too and they made plans to leave holy orders and marry
At the last, Gemma could not forsake her vows, and so god took her back
The old priest too, but he hasn’t spoken to god since

Once in an emergency he was asked to shepherd the ‘teen youth group’
He suggested they kneel and say the rosary together, but all they would say was Oh My God!
But they knew well enough how to talk with those inhabiting unseen worlds
Knew more of the rituals and codes of communicating with the invisible than he did

So mostly now he ministers to the dying in hospital and nursing homes
He is as old as they are, older, so they trust him, more than their children
They sense that he too will soon cross over and be held accountable, face to face
The prayers for the dying are on pages 7 through 34, right in the front of his book

Page eight. “Prayer for a Happy Death.” he knows it by heart:

O my Creator and Father I beg of you the grace of final perseverance and a holy death despite the fact that I have greatly misused the life you have given me grant me the grace to live it well from this moment on and to end it in your holy love Let me die as the holy patriarchs died, leaving this valley of tears without sadness, to go and enjoy eternal rest in my true homeland let me die as did glorious St. Joseph accompanied by Jesus and Mary pronouncing those sweetest of names and in whose company I hope to enjoy for all eternity Let me die as did the Immaculate Virgin in the purest of love and with the desire of uniting myself to You the only object of my love Jesus having accepted death for me, grant me the grace of dying in an act of perfect love for You Holy Mary Mother of God pray for me now and at the hour of my death and protect me from the enemyAmen.

Sometimes during Mass he would unconsciously slip into Latin again, a dead language
Called so because only the Church still makes use of it
He assured the parish council that the words were still authorized, efficacious
They wrote the bishop again asking for a replacement

The new priest was from Goa, dark, young, full of exuberance and fresh ideas:
Growth, outreach to young people, becoming relevant, modernization, fresh paint
The old priest had seen it all before, said something similar in 1951, 1963, 1980,
The new priest spoke with a foreign accent, but no one mentioned it or seemed to mind

As he was packing up news came that Sister Gemma had died, came by e-mail
Her real name was Cindy, but no one knew her by that name but him and god
He cried great heaving sobs in front of the computer, none of the staff knew what to do
The new priest said something about sun beams and energy fields, hard to say really

His last service was officiating at something called an ‘ecumenical celebration!’
Folks from all kinds of churches coming together, “Unity in Diversity” the banner read
He would have to share the altar with a woman pastor, no Eucharist, just a ‘service’
The parish secretary asked if that would be a problem for him, almost hoping it would be

No, the old priest said, I have always loved women


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Poem of the week is form Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos:

"Account of the Events" 

Today, the sixth day of the month of August
of the year nineteen hundred and seventy-nine
as history forewarned
the coffee bitter,
the tobacco running out,
the afternoon declining
and everything in place for
conspiring against the shadows and darkness
which obscure the world and its sun.

Some of you older folk may remember Subcomandante Marcos, the charismatic poet-warrior leader of the Zapatista’s in Chiapas so many of us radical poseurs were infatuated with (and so many others went to visit/vacation with after Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua got himself de-elected by Ronald Reagan’s falangist contras).  Still, they need the money and the media in order to continue to conspire against the “shadows and darkness,” long after our attention has been tweeted elsewhere.  Yet there is still something very inspiring and terrifying about a small community of poor campesinos living, struggling, and caring for one another, whose life together is lived out daily in the simple acts of feeding pigs, grinding corn, hauling water, invoking the Virgin and burying one another’s children.  From the windows of a moving bus heading through such actually existing communities of hope and desperation one can witness *the blessed poor* we so much like to conjure into our intricate and fantastical theologies.  Too much of my own theological ruminations smell more of ivy, new leather, and Starbucks than pigshit, blood, and Ningüijute to be taken seriously by anyone, obligado. 

p.s.  later in the document Subcomandante Marcos goes on to write to his friend Don Fernando: “Greetings from all the zapatista companeros and companeras and from the indigenous communities in resistance. We hope that you, and all of those working alongside you, are in good health and of good cheer. You, as we know, are working alongside other honest men and women in tending to the memory of our people's struggle.”   Then at the end comes this really quite jarring exhortation of commitment to the struggle and to solidarity.  The Subcomandante proposes that his followers sign a contract of sorts that bears a frighteningly amount of similarity to the gospel! 

“First. - That the below signed renounce their homes, work, family and studies and all the comforts which have been accumulated in the hands of the few upon the misery of the many.

Second. - That the below signed renounce a future, paid on time, of individual enjoyment.

Third. - That the below signed also renounce the shield of indifference in the face of the suffering of others and the vainglory of a place among the powerful.

Fourth. - That the below signed are prepared for all the sacrifices necessary in order to fight silently and without rest in order to make me, the patria, free and true.

Fifth. - That the below signed are prepared to suffer persecution, calumny and torture, and even to die if it is necessary, in order to achieve what was noted in the Fourth point.

Sixth. - That I, the patria, will know to keep your place in history and to watch over your memory as they watch over my life.

Seventh. - That the below signed will leave enough space under their names so that all honest men and women may sign this document, and, when the moment comes, the entire people shall sign it.
There being nothing left to be said, and very much to do, the below signed leave their blood as example and their steps as guide.

Valiantly and Respectfully, Subcomandante Marcos.”

I gotta say that this Evangelium hits me pretty hard.  And as you can imagine the list of names of those that signed was pretty short (and always has been).  Hasta la victoria siempre, obligado.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Klediments:  “More than at any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.”  Woody Allen.

Interestingly, there has not been much discussion in the election season on concepts like “free will,” “predestination,” “fate,” the “eternal return,” “tzimtzum,” or even “karma” or “kismet.”  Seems like all of a sudden at election time everybody determined that their single, statistically insignificant vote is the most potent expression of human agency and power in history and that it’s potential rivals the very supremacy of God!

Well, thankfully we are reaching the end of the election here in the U.S..  So as a final sabbath reflection on the election let us ponder some words from today’s Talmudic reflection that offers some insight into our own indisputable abilities for self deception, selfishness, vanity and idolatry:  

Here is a relevant teaching from Rabbi Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezritch, on the biblical verse Exodus 33.8,  “Whenever Moses went out to the Tent, all the people would rise and stand … and gaze after Moses until he went into the Tent.”  Rabbi Ber taught, “Everyone sees himself in the righteous one (zaddik or saint) therefore, they suspected Moses was guilty of adultery (since he had separated from his wife). But in fact it was they who were guilty of adultery with the mixed multitude.  When they gazed at Moses they saw themselves in the zaddik and thus suspected him.”  Rabbi Dov Ber suggests this is the core, and tragedy, of a leader: His selfhood is lost in the aspirations, expectations, and limitations of those “who gaze upon him.”

And even more, what is lost of the “selfhood” of the followers/worshipers of these leaders?   Ponder these things sisters and brothers until after the election.

No, that’s not MauMau Obama strangling some white colonist in Kenya, it’s Saint Martin de Porres healing a sick old white dude in Peru (bless you bro!).   Nov 3rd is the feast day of Saint Martin, the first black saint and the patron saint of mixed-race people being the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman and a black former slave (legitimate rape?).   As well as caring for the sick and poor, one of his miraculous abilities was bi-location, appearing in many different places at once around the world where needed (sort of like having a Saint Batman app on your smart phone).  Saint Martin was also good friends with my third favorite saint, Saint Rose of Lima (more about her later, I have some poetry, the beginnings of a screen-play, and an Icon of her in the works).

legend has it that if you pray to St. Martin and see a mouse in an unusual place on his feast day, you will receive an answer to a prayer.  I have saved a mouse in the freezer just for today so if any of you have prayer request let me know.  And yeah I know, these catholic super-stitions can really be bizarre, but at least half my friends (both virtual and in the meat world) voted for Romney and have y’all checked out some of the crazy sh%&it them Mormons believe?  So don't you go rolling your eyes at me!
In 1962, Pope John XXIII remarked at the canonization of Martin: "He excused the faults of others. He forgave the bitterest injuries, convinced that he deserved much severer punishments on account of his own sins. He tried with all his might to redeem the guilty; lovingly he comforted the sick; he provided food, clothing and medicine for the poor; he helped, as best he could, farm laborers and Negroes, as well as mulattoes, who were looked upon at that time as akin to slaves: thus he deserved to be called by the name the people gave him: 'Martin of Charity.'"   This election has made me wonder if “racism” in america has become a sin that almost nobody acknowledges and confesses, like pollution or global warming, racism has become a "sin of the world" that is, it’s everybody's responsibility but apparently nobody's fault?

Finally, I was just sitting around watching C-span and reading from Marx’s “The German Ideology” when ZOOMCRACK!!!  Obama actually  came on the TV and started giving a speech Coincidence??? 

"One has to "leave philosophy aside”  Marx admonished me.  “... one has to leap out of it and devote oneself like an ordinary man to the study of actuality, for which there exists also an enormous amount of literary material, unknown, of course, to the philosophers. ... Philosophy and the study of the actual world have the same relation to one another as onanism and sexual love" (The German ideology, 259).  Hmmm...did Marx just say that all my pseudo-philosophizing here and on facebook was just so much cenobitic malthusianism? (I’ll just let y’all look all that up).  Now I could so see one of the apostles (not the big shots like John or Peter but maybe Thaddeus) saying something just like Marx when they were arguing about who gets what from the common purse.  But I reckon that all those “free” market Kapitalists can thank the Roman Emperor Tiberius for cracking down on and snuffing out that little cabal of upper-room neo-Marxists before their radical ideas caught on!  Alas, like so many other commies, anarchists, and re-distributists, they all spoke in too many “different tongues,” drunk on the Glossolalia of their chichi theories.  Later Marx adds:  “As individuals express their life, so they are.”   

Well, let’s just see if we can tie this all up together with a poem by one of my favorite Nordic poets, Olav H. Hauge:

Don’t Come to Me with the Entire Truth

Don’t come to me with the entire truth.
Don’t bring the ocean when I feel thirsty,
nor heaven if I ask for light;
but bring a hint, some dew, a particle,
as birds carry drops away from a lake,
and the wind a grain of salt.

Blessings and obliged. 

(p.s. Zoomcrack is one of many useful neo-logisms created by my good friend Johnny Van Patten, obliged Johnny) 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Poem of the week will be some song lyrics from Judee Sill.  For those of you old enough to remember her tragically short career, she toured with Nash and Crosby and lots of folks have covered her songs. Judee wrote some extraordinary lyrics, “Jesus Was a Cross maker” and “Crayon Angels” (covered by Fleet Foxes) are among my favorites. I know it seems like such a cliche for a singer/songwriter to die young of a drug overdose, but I think it was more than that for Judee.  From church organist to prison for robbing liquor stores at 15, to writing gospel songs patterned on Bach fugues to then turning tricks on hollywood blvd and then dying of a heroin overdose in 1979.  It seems that starting with the early family deaths of siblings and parents and the trauma of rape and car accidents that the only anchors that Judee could ever set into this world were chained fast by pain and sorrow.

She wrote in “Jesus Was a Cross Maker,”  “Sweet silver angels over the sea / Please come down flyin' low for me / One time I trusted a stranger / Cuz I heard his sweet song / And it was gently enticin' me / Tho there was somethin' wrong, / But when I turned he was gone. / Blindin' me, his song remains remindin' me, / He's a bandit and a heart breaker, / Oh, but Jesus was a cross maker.”  

If there is any recrimination of a god for her tribulations to be found in her songs, perhaps those lines above are the most explicit.  She affirms that ‘the sweet song of the Cross-Maker remains and entices her, but later she writes that “at every turn” she found herself too much alone, that she often felt abandoned and maybe even cursed, as she wrote in “The Lamb Ran Away With The Crown:”  

“Once a demon lived in my brow / I screamed and wailed and I cursed out loud / And I sailed through the clouds on ten crested cardinals / ...But I laughed so hard I cried / And the lamb ran away with the crown. / But I laughed so hard I cried, / And the lamb ran away with the crown.”

These same binary themes of joy and pain, laughter and tears, love and betrayal are repeated throughout the three albums of her short career, especially that of The Heat-Breaker and the Cross-Maker, and I have wondered if Judee is making references to the Jesus of Nikos Kazantzakis in “The Last Temptation Of Christ.”  A Jesus that contends with God, that often desires to escape the anguish of God’s burning love, a Jesus who often feels betrayed and abandoned as Kazantzakis writes:  "The feeling begins. Very tender, very loving. Then the pain starts. Claws slip underneath the skin and tear their way up. Just before they reach my eyes, they dig in. And I remember. First I fasted for three months. I even whipped myself before I went to sleep. At first it worked. Then the pain came back. And the voices. They call me by the name: Jesus." 

Of course, this Jesus never escapes from his chosen-ness or the awful grace of God.  This Jesus earns his living by making crosses, crosses for criminals and rebels, crosses for his disciples, and most significantly, a cross for himself.  Below are the lyrics from Judee Sill’s “The Kiss.”

Love, risin' from the mists
Promise me this and only this
Holy breath touchin' me
Like a wind song
Sweet communion of a kiss

Sun, siftin' thru the grey
Enter in, reach me with a ray
Silently swoopin' down
Just to show me
How to give my heart away

And once a crystal choir
Appeared while I was sleepin' and called my name
And when they came down nearer Eli)
Sayin', "Dyin' is done",
Then a new song was sung
Until somewhere we breathed as one

Stars, burstin' in the sky
Hear the sad nova's dyin' cry
Shimmerin' memory
Come and hold me
While you show me how to fly
Sun, siftin' thru the grey
Enter in, reach me with a ray
Silently swoopin' down
Just to show me
How to give my heart away

And lately sparklin' hosts
Come fill my dreams descendin' on firey beams
I've seen 'em come clear down
Where our poor bodies lay
Soothe us gently and say,
"Gonna wipe all your tears away"

Love risin' from the mists
Promise me this and only this
Holy breath touchin' me
Like a wind song
Sweet communion of a kiss...

Kazantzakis wrote that in the Last Temptation “I wanted to offer a supreme model to the man who struggles; I wanted to show him that he must not fear pain, temptation or death — because all three can be conquered, all three have already been conquered.”  I can’t say that Kazantzakis was successful in what he wanted to achieve, or that after reading his Jesus that I lost my fear of of pain and death.  But I think that I agree with him that “If we are to follow Jesus we must have a profound knowledge of his conflict, we must relive his anguish: his victory over the blossoming snares of the earth, his sacrifice of the great and small joys of men and his ascent from sacrifice to sacrifice, exploit to exploit, to martyrdom's summit, the Cross.”  I think that Judee Sills knew something about the snares of this earth and reliving it’s conflicts and anguish.  But I wouldn’t want to argue that she gave us a model of how to avoid or overcome them, but I think that like Kazantzakis she did show us how they could be embodied in words and music, and for that I bless her; be at peace dear sister.  Obliged. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

“...your golden Hair Margarete”

Please open another window and listen to this composition by Shulamit Ran called “Perfect Storm.”  while reading.  Thank you for your cooperation.

I think I may turn into this man sometime soon, if I am not him already.


I bought Roman Vishniac’s book “A Vanished World” at a used bookstore today, it was a steal at 2 bucks.  Vishniac traveled throughout Eastern Europe taking pictures of Jews in Poland, Lithuania, Russia, etc., just before WW II and the holocaust; indeed a vanished world.

Poem of the week comes with a picture that Lynda took of me late one night last week. I was painting outside in the dark, in the cold mist (I don’t have anywhere inside to paint this big). It is another in a series of reproductions of the eroding/disappearing symbols on the walls at the death camp Auschwitz/Birkenau. Sometimes I paint exact copies of the walls to preserve the names, art, poetry, messages, and prayers that still remain. Sometimes, like in this painting, I use some original material written on or carved into the walls and then add some of my own images and reflections or words, phrases, and poetry from people like Hannah Arendt, Mother Maria Skobtsova, Simone Weil, etc., and this poem below by Paul Celan. 

Death Fugue:

Black Milk of Daybreak we drink it at evening
we drink it at noon and morning we drink it at night
we drink and we drink
we dig at a Grave in the Air there one lies unconfined
A Man lives in the House he plays with the Serpents he
he writes while it falls dark over Germany your golden
Hair Margerete
he writes and steps from the House and they’re shining the Stars he
whistles his Jews up to dig at a Grave in the Earth
he commands us to strike up the Dance.

...A Man lives in the House he plays with the Serpents he
he writes while it falls dark over Germany your golden
Hair Margerete
Your ashen Hair Shulamith we dig at a Grave in the
Air there one lies unconfined

He cries dig the soil deeper you there you others sing out and
he grabs the Steel at his Belt he waves it his Eyes are
dig your Spades deeper you there you others play on for
the Dance

Black Milk of Daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at noon and morning we drink you at evening
we drink and we drink
a Man lives in the House your golden hair Margarete
your ashen Hair Shulamith he plays with the Serpents

He cries play Death more sweetly Death is a Master from
He cries stroke the Strings more darkly you’ll rise like Smoke in
the Air
then a Grave you’ll have in the Clouds there one lies unconfined

Black Milk of Daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at noon Death is a Master from
we drink you at evening and morning we drink and we drink
Death is a Master from Germany his Eye is blue
he strikes you with leaden Bullets he strikes you true
a Man lives in the House your golden Hair Margarete
he sets his Dogs onto us and he grants us a Grave in the Air
he plays with the Serpents and dreams Death is a Master
from Germany

your golden Hair Margarete
your ashen Hair Shulamith

Dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden?  “Whatever debases the intelligence degrades the entire human being.” Simone Weil, Letter, March 30, 1936.).  

Is there such a thing as “Jewish Science,” Steven Gimbel asks in his book, “Einstein's Jewish Science: Physics at the Intersection of Politics and Religion.” That is, could we say that there is something about Jewish culture (in a most comprehensive sense) that enabled Einstein to discover the theory of general relativity?  “Jewish science” is the term that fundamentalist nazi’s used for Einstein’s theories.  But the nazi’s rejected the theory of relativity not because they questioned it on logical scientific grounds, but they rejected it on the ideological grounds that Einstein was Jewish (are we moving towards a time where there will be something like “evangelical christian science?” or “republican science”). 

In his review George johnson writes:  “It’s no wonder Nazis hated relativity. They lived in a world of absolutes. There was a master race with one true religion and one true language, with a music and literature that celebrated its glory. There was a true German empire, sliced up by the arbitrary boundaries of concoctions called nation-states. With absolute might the Fatherland would regain its proper position in space and time.”  Nazi Scientist Phillip Lenard argued:  “The Jew wants to create contradictions everywhere and to separate relations, so that preferably, the poor naïve German can no longer make any sense of it whatsoever.”  This kind of political, ideological, and race based rejection of science should not seem unfamiliar to us today.

Those of us studying the Talmud (and who participate in Daf Yomi) understand that the heart of the Talmudic view is that there is absolute truth, but that this truth is not directly and completely available to us in it’s fullness (another aspect of tzimtzum).  Einstein’s proposition is that “...from our blinkered perspective we see qualities called space and time. But in relativity theory, the two can be combined mathematically into something more fundamental: a four-dimensional abstraction called the space-time interval. Time and space vary according to the motion of the observer. But from any vantage point, an object’s space-time interval would be the same — the higher truth that can be approached only from different angles.”

It’s just this kind of “relativism” and mind-stretching questioning that enrages many kinds of fundamentalists who too often choose to believe convenient and simple lies rather than complex and difficult truths.  Then again, no matter how simple Jesus made the Gospel for us (i.e. “love your enemies”) we just refuse to believe that that is just what Jesus wanted us to do!  The Gospel could be called something like  “Jewish Science for  Dummies” (but that may be given us too much credit!).

However, an Italian scientific study found that penises are on average around 10 percent smaller today than 50 years ago. The study cited weight gain, pollution, stress and smoking as possible factors in the shrinkage.  But Rush Limbaugh on reading about the study characteristically stressed the evil power and potency of feminism on penis size in his radio show. Rush claimed that the shrinkage should be attributed to feminists (“feminazis” as he puts it) who have the power to determine the size of male genitalia.  Scoffing at the idea that air pollution might influence one’s dickishness, he stated, “I think it’s feminism… it’s tied to the last 50 years — the average size of [a male's] member is 10 percent smaller than 50 years — it has to be the feminazis, the chickification and everything else”  (The article doesn’t mention it but perhaps the male brain has shrunk by 10% as well?).  

“Whatever debases the intelligence degrades the entire human being” (Simone Weil).

When the first cro-magnon human drew a picture of the sun on a wall, the cave became a church and that artist became a priest, and then the hunters feared her because she took for herself some of their power.  And so the hunters came to her before every hunt to bless them.  She drew pictures of the hunters, and then drew a great beast on the wall with a spear through it’s heart, then she drew the people dancing and feasting; and the hearts of the hunters were filled with courage and the hearts of the people were at peace.  But when the beast escaped or some hunters were killed and the people went hungry then the priest proved just how much power she really wielded!  I am an artist, but art can be a way of claiming power over the imagination of those who fear, over those who rule, over the god of nature, even over death.  That is the great temptation that the artist should resist.  The artist must let death end the artist’s will to power and break her hold on simulacra and illusion.  Is there an impulse behind every simple snapshot we take that is a will to power and a denial of death?  Say cheese.

“Whatever debases the intelligence degrades the entire human being” (Simone Weil).

This brings us to the “Malleus Maleficarum,” or the "Der Hexenhammer” (available on-line here:;cc=witch;view=toc;subview=short;idno=wit060  ) which I have mentioned before.  It is a treatise on the discovering and prosecution of witches, written in 1486 by Heinrich Kramer, a German Catholic clergyman and first published in Speyer, Germany in 1487 (see wiki).  Basically Kramer traveled throughout Germany teaching form his handbook on how to hunt, capture, prosecute, punish, and kill witches.  It was the Wikipedia of the inquisition for the 15th to the 17th centuries. 

In Chapter VII. Titled: “How, as it were, they [women/witches} Deprive Man of his Virile Member,” is an expansive section on the phenomenon of ‘disappearing penises’ (could Rush be on to something?).  There are some cases recorded where all the men in a particular town would have there penises disappeared!  Here are some narrations from the MM by a ‘venerable Father from the Dominican House of Spires,’ a man well known in the Order for the honest of his life and for his learning. "One day," he says, "while I was hearing confessions, a young man came to me and, in the course of his confession, woefully said that he had lost his member. Being astonished at this, and not being willing to give it easy credence, since the opinion of the wise it is a mark of light−heartedness to believe too easily, I obtained proof of it when I saw nothing on the young man's removing his clothes and showing the place. Then, using the wisest counsel I could, I asked whether he suspected anyone of having so bewitched him. And the young man said that he did suspect someone, but that she was absent and living in Worms. Then I said: 'I advise you to go to her as soon as possible and try your utmost to soften her with gentle words and promises'; and he did so. For he came back after a few days and thanked me, saying that he was whole and had recovered everything. And I believed his words, but again proved them by the evidence of my eyes” (now I rightly pass for a Roman Catholic, but am I the only one that thinks that if an outbreak of disappearing penises occurs that maybe priests in confessionals are not the ones who should be in charge of the examinations?). 

Now a great deal of discussion in the MM occurs around whether “...such members are really torn right away from the body,” or if they are merely “hidden by the devil through some prestidigitory art so that they can be neither seen nor felt.”  Either way, it seems that torturing, drowning, and burning women usually offered an effective remedy for disappeared penises (whether the same thing will work for a more gradual shrinkage the Hexenhammer doesn’t say, so perhaps we should wait for fundamentalist christian scientists to weigh in on this before actually burning anybody).  

The MM continues:  “..and what, then, is to be thought of those witches who in this way sometimes collect male organs in great numbers, as many as twenty or thirty members together, and put them in a bird's nest, or shut them up in a box, where they move themselves like living members, and eat oats and corn, as has been seen by many and is a matter of common report? It is to be said that it is all done by devil's work and illusion, for the senses of those who see them are deluded in the way we have said. For a certain man tells that, when he had lost his member, he approached a known witch to ask her to restore it to him. She told the afflicted man to climb a certain tree, and that he might take which he liked out of the nest in which there were several members. And when he tried to take a big one, the witch said: You must not take that one; adding, because it belongs to a parish priest.”  

“From each according to their ability, to each according to their need,” apparently not, so at least these witches don’t appear to be Marxists.

The photo above is of three members of Pussy Riot awaiting trial in Russia for blasphemy and hooliganism in an Orthodox Church (but can a ‘church’ be defiled from the outside? ).  Yet the Orthodox Church in Russia is growing in power, wealth, and influence.  But in Europe and america a constant lament from church authorities is the decline of their members.

“A Vanished World” Indeed. 

“your golden Hair Margarete
your ashen Hair Shulamith” 

(btw, Shulamith is Hebrew for Solome).